Friday, April 3, 2015

My Camera Settings - Nikon D3300 DSLR

Little, Big - San Luis Obispo, California
1/80, f4.5, ISO 3200, Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens
I've had a few different discussions recently with people about what camera settings I use on my Nikon D3300 DSLR. I thought it might be worthwhile to share them here. Perhaps this will be useful to someone.

Now I've been asked many times before about camera settings. This is not new. In fact, almost two years ago I published a post entitled Camera Settings Don't Matter. In that post I said:
"The only thing important about camera settings is knowing what they do. You cannot control the outcome of your photographs if you don't know how to control your camera. You must learn the basics. Beyond that, though, it doesn't make any difference whatsoever what settings someone used to create an image. The photograph matters, the way it was achieved doesn't."
I don't want anyone to use certain camera settings simply because that's how I have them set. You should choose the settings that are most appropriate for whatever it is you are trying to photographically accomplish. This is called photographic vision.
Sunset At Morro Rock - Morro Bay, California
1/125, f8, ISO 100, Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens
With all of that said, here's what I use 90% of the time: aperture priority mode, auto ISO (with 1/125 as the minimum shutter speed and ISO 3200 as the maximum ISO), auto-white-balance, auto-focus (auto-area and auto-focus-automatic), matrix metering, +0.3 exposure compensation, Active D-Lighting and auto distortion correction enabled, standard color, saved in RAW.

If I want a large depth-of-field, I use a small aperture life f11. If I want a shallow depth-of-field, I use a large aperture like f2.8. Beyond that, I let the camera do the work. Nikon has done an excellent job with auto-features on this camera.

Occasionally those settings don't work, and so I dig through the menus and adjust them. Sometimes I use shutter priority mode or even manual mode. It all depends on the image. It's important to understand what everything does and how everything should be set to achieve what you want.
Pacific Dudes - Avila Beach, California
1/250, f10, ISO 100, Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8G Micro lens 
I never use the scene modes. I never set the camera to be fully automatic. The #1 thing I want control over is the aperture, which affects depth-of-field and sharpness. Because I've set up auto-ISO, the camera will keep the shutter speed and ISO within the parameters that I've given it. Because I save in RAW format, white-balance doesn't matter (same with the color).

The JPEGs from the camera are good, but I save in RAW because the software that I use also does RAW conversion. It's the same number of steps and the saw amount of time to post-process a RAW file as a JPEG, so it would be silly to not take advantage of that. If extra steps were required to use RAW, I'd just have the camera save the images as JPEGs.

The most common settings that I adjust (besides aperture) are exposure compensation (when the light meter doesn't get the exposure right) and auto-focus (when the camera doesn't automatically focus where I want it to). Less common adjustments are to the shutter speed and ISO, which (typically) requires a mode other than aperture priority (such as shutter priority or manual). Every once in a while I'll use "live view" or shoot a panorama.

And that's it! Those are the settings that I use on my Nikon D3300. Simple enough, right? Hopefully you'll find the settings that work best for you and the images that you are trying to create.

1 comment:

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