"Knowing" your camera

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by rogersmj, Feb 19, 2008.

  1. rogersmj macrumors 68020


    Sep 10, 2006
    Indianapolis, IN
    I've had my Nikon D40 for several weeks now and have shot a lot of pictures with it, just to try and familiarize myself with the camera, its features, and how different settings affect the final result. However, I don't feel like I've gotten all that far. I still wind up fiddling for awhile and messing with metering, white balance, exposure compensation, etc. I generally shoot in 'P' mode (Programmed Auto, where I set a minimum shutter speed [1/30s] and the camera chooses ISO and aperture), but I've also tried Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority while experimenting.

    I know this is kind of a nebulous question, but does anyone have any advice on what I can do to get better at picking the right settings (or closer to the right settings, so maybe I take two pictures instead of five before I get what I want)? Is this just something I'll have to learn by taking thousands of shots and developing an instinct for it over time, or is there some particularly good resource I can take advantage of to help out? Particularly the aperture setting, I'm having a hard time getting my head around that.
  2. compuwar macrumors 601


    Oct 5, 2006
    Northern/Central VA
    Learn to read the histogram and use exposure compensation. Manually set white balance if you're not getting good results on auto. You may also get some success if you look at hyperfocal distance calculators and play with the settings on a computer or phone to see what should be in focus at what settings- then vary the settings and record what you did and what you get.

    You can also set the camera on manual, chimp and use the histogram and try to figure out the settings yourself.
  3. Doylem macrumors 68040


    Dec 30, 2006
    Wherever I hang my hat...
    Well... it's only a nebulous question if you don't know what to do. Your camera will get to you to 85-90% of the optimum exposure; it's up to you to do the rest, But it's quite a skill; don't expect to know it all, any more than you'd excect to learn to play the guitar over a long weekend. You're adding experience to experience... hoping to learn what you did right when a photo comes out like you want it.

    You're probaby learning more than you realise. Keep at it. Trust your judgement. Have fun... :)
  4. poopyhead macrumors 6502a


    Jan 4, 2004
    in the toe-jam of greatness (Fort Worth)
    you might download the free trial of camera control pro from nikon. it allows you to tether your camera and quickly and easily change settings for your camera on your computer (instead of going through all of the d40's menus). you can take a number of test shots while easily changing apature, iso, and shutter speed in between each shot to see exactly how it affects the final picture.
  5. Abstract macrumors Penryn


    Dec 27, 2002
    Location Location Location
    If you tough it out and start using Manual first, you'll learn it by next week and would need to take a max of 2 shots to get the one you want: 1 shot at the settings you want, chimp (ie: look at the screen after every shot), and then another shot at the settings that actually make the photo work. ;)
  6. apearlman macrumors regular

    Aug 8, 2007
    Red Hook, NY
    Trial and error, one setting at a time.

    I can't tell if you have the basics or not. In case not, I'd suggest reading about the aperture-shutter-ISO tradeoffs, or use this handy cheat sheet:

    To learn what each setting does, leave everything else unchanged while you mess with (for example) the aperture. Then go look at the images on your computer and see how this ONE setting change affects things. (Don't use the camera LCD for this; it's too small to see some changes like noise or sharpness.)

    If I were you, I'd master the ISO-shutter-aperture settings first, and only when you're totally comfortable with those move on to white balance.

    If all else fails, read a book:

  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    I think the key thing is not really so much technical. The key is having a clear idea of how you want the final print to look. For example if yu are taking the classic sports shot where the motion is frozen and the background is soft. If you know that is the look you want then what setting to use is just a "money work" simple choice. The problem is that when you are not sure of what you want there are 1,000 "correct" settings and none are wrong and none are best. But with a clear goal, "best" then has a meaning

    To put numbers on this f/2.8, 1/100 and ISO 200 is just as good as f/5.6, 1/100 and ISO 800. Which to use. We can't decide. no way. The only way to know which is best is to know how yu want the image to look. F/5.6 gives more DOF and noise. Maybe you need the DOF?

    So, in my opinion it helps a lot to know what you are after before you press the shutter release if you do know then your setting are likely forced, leaving only one option
  8. rogersmj thread starter macrumors 68020


    Sep 10, 2006
    Indianapolis, IN
    Thanks for the tips everyone...you've given me a lot to think about :)

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