Taking Advantage of the Nikon D5100 Autofocus System

Learn How to Use the Nikon D5100 Autofocus System

The autofocus system of the Nikon D5100 may not be quite as complicated as the 39 point AF system of the Nikon D7000, but it does offer many of the same capabilities and options, and can be a little confusing to figure out.  The autofocus system includes not only the three Focus Modes used in various combinations with four Autofocus Area Modes, but also includes a few Custom Settings as well as the optional AF-L or Autofocus Lock Button.

Nikon D5100 autofocus system AF focus mode autofocus area mode
Image by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

You will first want to set up the autofocus Custom Settings so that the AF system functions how you desire.

a1: AF-C priority selection – This setting determines if attaining focus is top priority when you are in Continuous-servo AF mode (AF-C autofocus mode), or if you just want the shots to be taken even if exact focus is not attained for each shot.  If exact focus is your priority, set on Focus.  If getting the shots at all costs is the priority, set for Release.

a2: Built-in AF-assist illuminator – This is used to enable or disable the autofocus assist light, to assist you in autofocusing in low light.  Note that the AF-assist lamp only works in AF-S mode or when the camera is in AF-A and choosing single-servo (not always under your control), and when in Auto-area AF area mode or only with the center AF point in other AF area modes.

a3: Rangefinder – This setting is used to help obtain focus when you have turned off autofocus and are using Manual Focus mode (MF) and manually focusing.  (Be sure to also set the autofocus switch on your lens to M)  The exposure indicator in the viewfinder is used to indicate if the subject is correctly in focus.

f2: Assign AE-L/AF-L button – This is to assign the function of the AE-L/AF-L Button., which gives you the option to use this button to lock focus or to initiate focus, and this separate those functions from the Shutter Button.

This should get you started, and I go into more detail about each of these Custom Settings, as well as all the other D5100 Custom Settings in my e-book guide Nikon D5100 Experience.

Using Autofocus
The information below is also excerpted from my e-book user’s guide Nikon D5100 Experience, so I hope you have a look at the guide in order to learn more about the AF system as well as all the other functions and controls of the D5100.

One of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to autofocus by choosing its own Focus Point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object or human subject.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on.  So you should choose where the camera focuses using the autofocus Focus Points and selecting a specific AF point.  This does not mean you have to manually focus the camera, it means you tell the camera exactly where to autofocus.  But you also need to select the desired Focus Mode and Autofocus Area Mode, based on your subject and its type of movement (or lack of movement).

Focus Modes

The D5100 has three different Focus Modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving.  It also has four different Autofocus Area Modes (see below) to specify how many of the AF points are active and how they track a moving object.  You can set these two functions in various combinations.  First the Focus Modes.

Single-Servo AF (AF-S)
Use this mode when your subject is stationary, or still and not going to move, or if your subject is not going to move very much, or if the distance between you and the subject is not going to change between the time you lock focus, recompose, and take the shot.  Lock focus on the subject and recompose if necessary.  When using AF-S, you can select from two Autofocus Area Modes, either Single-Point AF where you select the AF point, or Auto-Area AF, where the camera selects the AF point(s) for you.  I suggest you nearly always select your own desired AF point so that the camera focuses exactly where you want it to.

Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C)
Use this mode when your subject is moving.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you, the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance, as long as the Shutter-Release Button is kept half-pressed.  You will need to use this in conjunction with the Autofocus Area Modes to determine if and how the camera tracks the subject laterally to the surrounding AF points, or if it will only track the subject if it remains at the initially selected AF point.  Single-Point AF will only track the subject’s distance as it moves near or far if it remains under the selected point.  It will not track lateral movement if the subject leaves the selected AF point.  If the subject is going to be moving somewhat unpredictably and may leave your selected AF point before you can react, use the Dynamic-Area AF mode so that the surrounding AF points are used to maintain focus while you realign your selected AF point with the subject.  If the subject is going to be moving across your field of view, set the AF-Area Mode to the 3D-Tracking mode so that the camera tracks it in any direction as it moves to the other AF points.

Focus on the moving subject with the selected AF point when using Dynamic Area Mode or 3D-Tracking Mode, or let the camera select the AF point in Auto-Area AF Mode, and then as long as the Shutter-Release Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject to the other focus points if it moves to them and as it moves closer or farther in distance.

Auto-Servo AF (AF-A)
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in Single-Servo AF (AF-S) mode then changes to Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, if you are focusing and then recomposing, as you may often be doing, your movement of the camera may fool it into thinking that the subject is moving and your resulting focus may not be where you want it to be, or may not be as accurate as it might be if you are using Single-Servo AF.

Manual Focus
Sometimes you may be taking several photos of the same subject from the same distance, or for some other reason want to keep the same focus distance and not have to keep re-focusing and re-composing.  Or you may be taking multiple photos for a panorama.  In these situations, turn off the auto-focus with the autofocus switch on the lens itself (set to M) and change your camera’s Focus Mode to MF (Manual Focus).  Just remember to switch them back when you are finished.  You may also wish to do this if you want to precisely manually focus with the focus ring on your lens.  (Note that for lenses with “full time manual focus” you don’t need to switch to M in order to manually override when slightly tweaking the autofocus with the lens focus ring.  These lenses will have M/A and M on the lens focus mode switch instead of A and M.)  Use the Rangefinder feature of the D5100 to assist with manual focus – Custom Setting a3.

Autofocus Area Modes

The Autofocus Area Modes are used to set if just a single AF point is active or else how many AF points surrounding your selected AF point will be used to track a moving subject if you are using AF-C or AF-A Focus Modes.

Nikon d5100 autofocus af auto focus system lock point area mode
Selecting an AF Point using Single-Point AF and locking focus

Single-Point AF
Only one AF point will be active, and surrounding AF points will not become active to track a subject that moves away from the one selected point.  This is typically used along with Single-Servo AF (AF-S) to focus on a stationary or still subject, or in a situation where you will be reframing the shot after you lock focus at a specific distance.  It can also be used with accuracy with AF-S mode for moving subjects if you take the photo quickly or if you recompose and take the shot quickly after locking in focus, especially if the camera-to-subject distance does not change at all or very much in that period between locking focus and taking the photo.  Use the Multi Selector to choose your active AF point as you look through the viewfinder and use the OK Button to quickly select the center AF point.  If you choose Single-Point AF with Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A) for tracking moving subjects, it will only track the subject as long as it is positioned at the selected AF point, and it will not be tracked laterally to the other, surrounding points.  As noted above, the single AF point you select will track a subject if it moves closer or farther away, but the AF system will not track the subject if it moves left, right, up, or down and away from your selected AF point.  To do this, you use Dynamic-Area AF mode or 3D-Tracking mode.

Dynamic-Area AF
With the Dynamic-Area AF Mode, you select an AF point to tell the camera where to autofocus, and if your subject briefly moves away from that point to a neighboring point or if you lose the subject from your AF point while panning, the camera will use the surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on it.  Select Dynamic-Area AF when you are photographing moving or potentially moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  These modes are ideal for a subject moving closer or further from the camera but which may also move laterally away from the selected AF point faster than you can react in order to keep it located at that point, or for when you are panning and following the subject and attempting to keep it located at the selected AF point, but may have a little or a lot of difficulty doing so.  Remember that you need to keep the Shutter Button half-pressed in order for the continuous focusing at the initial point or the surrounding points to occur.  Note that the camera may pick up and start tracking a new subject that falls under the selected AF point if you lose your initial subject.

The Dynamic-Area AF Mode is not used to track and maintain focus on a subject that is moving across the various AF points in the frame, but rather is used to stay focused on a moving subject that you attempt to keep located at your selected AF Point.  To track a subject that is moving across the frame, intentionally passing from one AF point to the next, use 3D-Tracking.

3D-Tracking
This mode is used for subjects moving across the frame in any direction, or subjects moving erratically from side-to-side in the frame, and they are tracked by areas of color.  This is used when you don’t wish to necessarily pan or follow the subject to keep it located in the same part of the frame, but rather when you wish to keep the camera relatively still as the subject moves across the frame.  You may select this option when you are tracking and photographing moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  Again, you choose the initial AF point to locate the subject and begin the tracking.  If the area of color you wish to track is too small or if it blends into the background, this mode might not be very effective.

Auto-Area AF
The camera uses all 11 AF points to detect what it thinks is the subject and automatically choose the appropriate AF point(s).  Typically, the camera will select the nearest subject or a human in the frame, so it may not focus on exactly what you wish to focus on.  That is why it is best to use one of the other modes and select the AF point yourself.  However in certain situations such as quick sports or action scenes you may have to make use of this.

Locking Focus

The next step is to learn to lock focus independent of locking exposure, typically through the use of the AE-L/AF-L Button as noted in the f2 Custom Setting above.  But for that, and numerous other important functions of the D5100, you are going to have to have a look at my e-book, Nikon D5100 Experience!
Nikon D5100 book user guide manual download ebook

I’ve put together a video introduction to the D5100 autofocus system to compliment this article:

To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, see the related post:

Don’t Let the Locations of the AF Points Dictate Your Composition

What do you do when, with your desired framing, your subject is not located exactly under or near an AF point? Even with all the AF points of an advanced Nikon D5100 or D7000, this will often be an issue.  Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons below, linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks! 

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Taking Advantage of the Nikon D810/ D610 / D7100 / D5300 Autofocus System

This was originally written for the Nikon D7000, but as the Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D610 / D600, the Nikon D810 / D800, and the Nikon D5200 / D5300 all share a similar Autofocus system, most of this information will apply to all of them.  And even though some of the models have 51 AF Points instead of the 39 AF Points of the other cameras, all the same settings and actions apply.

The Nikon D7100, the Nikon D7000, the Nikon D610 / D600, the Nikon D810 / D800, and the Nikon D5200 / D5200 dSLRs all share very similar, and quite sophisticated autofocus systems – especially if you are coming from a D90, D5100, or earlier camera.  With their 39 AF points or 51 AF points that can be used independently or together in a variety of ways, its Autofocus Custom Settings that affect many of the functions of the AF system, and the three different Autofocus Modes that are used in various combinations with the four different Autofocus AF-Area Modes, it is no wonder that users are having difficulty figuring it all out. (Plus the D810 offers an additional Group Area AF Area Mode!)

Nikon D600 D7000 autofocus af system 39 point auto focus control learn use how to dummie book guide manual
Some of the Autofocus controls of the Nikon D600, located near the base of the lens (to the left of the FX badge and below the Lens Release Button).

First, the Autofocus Controls on the D810/ D800, D610/ D600, D7100, and D7000 are a bit different than previous cameras.  You can change the Autofocus Mode and AF Area Mode by pressing the AF Mode Button (located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch) and then use the Command Dials to adjust the settings as you view them on the top LCD Control Panel or in the Viewfinder.

Focus Mode Selector – This switch is used to turn on or off autofocus. Set to AF for autofocus and M for manual focus. Be sure to set the similar switch on the lens as well. If your camera does not seem to be autofocusing, be sure to check this switch and the one on your lens.

AF Mode Button – This button, located inside the Focus Mode Selector switch, may be confusing at first to those who have not previously seen or used it on the Nikon D7000 or D600, though you should quickly find that it is a convenient design. It is used to select the Focus Mode as well as the autofocus AF-Area Mode. Press this button and turn the rear Main Command Dial to select the Focus Mode, such as AF-A or AF-C, while viewing the setting on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder. Press this button and turn the front Sub-Command Dial to set the AF-Area Mode, such as Single-Point AF or 39-Point Dynamic-Area AF. Again, you can view the selected setting on the top Control Panel or in the Viewfinder. The autofocus system including the Focus Modes and AF-Area Modes will be explained below.

Next you will need to set up some of the autofocus Custom Settings to begin to customize how the AF system functions for your needs (Some of these options may not be available with the D5200):

AF-C priority selection – This setting determines if attaining focus is top priority when you are in Continuous-servo AF (Auto-Focus) Mode (AF-C), or if you just want the shots to be taken even if exact focus is not attained for each shot.  If exact focus is your priority, set on Focus.  If getting the shots at all costs is the priority, set for Release.

AF-S priority selection – This is similar to above, except that this setting is for when you are working in Single-servo AF Mode (AF-S), typically used when your subject is not moving.  Since AF-S is typically used with subjects that are not moving, it makes more sense to make sure focus is attained, thus you should typically select Focus for this setting.

Focus tracking with lock-on – This setting determines how the autofocus system reacts to sudden, dramatic changes in the distance of the subject when you are working in AF-C or AF-A modes.  Decide if you wish to have the camera quickly refocus on a new or closer subject (1-Short), wait awhile until it ideally picks up the intended subject again (5-Long), somewhere in between, or immediately refocus on a new subject at a large distance from the initial subject (Off).  Keep this option in mind with the various AF-C and AF Area Mode configurations, as it may change depending on your subject and situation.  Sometimes you don’t want the camera to quickly refocus on a closer or more distant subject, while other times you do.

AF point illumination – This is used to set whether or not the selected autofocus point (AF Point) is illuminated in the viewfinder.  Since you pretty much always want to know where your camera is focusing, this should be set for On.

Focus point wrap-around – This determines if the AF Point selection will “wrap around” to the other side of the screen when you reach an edge.  In other words, if you are selecting your AF Point (as you should be doing at almost all times) and you reach an AF Point on the far right, when you click right again, do you want to “wrap around” to a focus point on the far left, or do you wish to stop at the edge and not continue to the other side?

Number of focus points – This setting determines the number of autofocus points that are available for selection in your viewfinder.  If you are always selecting your AF Point (as you typically should) you may find that it is quicker and easier, at least at first, to limit the number of AF Points to 11 – AF11.  If you prefer to have all the AF Points available for your selection, set this at AF39 (or AF51 with the D7100).  If you set to 11 AF points your selection will be limited to those 11 AF points, but the additional surrounding AF points will still be active to be used by the camera in the AF-Area Modes and in subject tracking, so the camera is still taking advantage of all the AF points of the autofocus system.

Built-in AF-assist illuminator – This is used to enable or disable the autofocus assist light.  Turn this On to assist you in autofocusing in low light, but be sure to turn it Off if you are working in situations where it will be distracting, unwanted, or unnecessary.

and

Assign AE-L/AF-L button (f4 on the D600 and D7100) – This is to assign the function of the AE-L/AF-L Button.  You may want to use this in conjunction with the Function or Fn Button and use one to lock exposure and the other to lock focus.  In that case, you would typically set this to AF lock only to use this button to lock focus.

I go into much more detail about each these Custom Settings, how you may wish to set them up, and recommended settings in my e-book guides for all the current and previous cameras including Nikon D600 Experience, Nikon D7100 Experience, and Nikon D5200 Experience – but this should get you started.

Nikon D600 book ebook camera guide download manual how to dummies field instruction tutorial     Nikon D7100 book ebook manual tutorial field guide how to learn use dummies

 

Using Autofocus
Now on to using the AF system.  (All of the information below is also adapted from my e-book user’s guides, so I hope you will have a look at them to learn more.)

One of the essential steps in taking a successful photo is controlling where the camera focuses.  If you allow the camera to autofocus by choosing its own Focus Point(s), it typically focuses on the closest object or a person in the scene.  This may or may not be what you want to focus on.  So you should choose where the camera focuses using the autofocus Focus Points.  But first you will need to select an appropriate Autofocus Mode and an Autofocus Area Mode, based on your subject and situation.

Autofocus Modes
The D7100, D7000, D600, and D5200 each have three different Autofocus Modes to choose from, typically depending if your subject is still or moving.  They also have four different Autofocus Area Modes (see below) to specify how many of the AF points are active and how they track a moving object.  You can set these two functions in various combinations.  First the Autofocus Modes:

Single-Servo AF (AF-S)
Use this mode when your subject is stationary, or still and not going to move, or if your subject is not going to move very much, or if the distance between you and the subject is not going to change between the time you lock focus, recompose, and take the shot.  Lock focus on the subject and recompose if necessary.  When using AF-S, you can select from two Autofocus Area Modes, either Single-Point AF where you select the AF point, or Auto-Area AF, where the camera selects the AF point(s) for you.  I suggest you nearly always select your own desired AF point.

Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C)
Use this mode when your subject is moving.  If the subject is moving towards you or away from you, the camera will keep evaluating the focus distance, as long as the Shutter Button is kept half-pressed.  You will need to use this in conjunction with the Autofocus Area Modes to determine if and how the camera tracks the subject laterally to the surrounding AF points, or if it will only track the subject if it remains at the initially selected AF point.  If the subject is going to be difficult to follow or is moving across your field of view, set the AF-Area Mode to one of the Dynamic-Area AF modes or to the 3D-Tracking mode.  Focus on the moving subject with the selected point if using Single-Point, one of the Dynamic Area Modes, or 3D-Tracking, or let the camera select the AF point in Auto-Area AF, and then as long as the Shutter Button remains half-pressed the camera will track the subject as it moves closer or farther in distance.  Depending which AF Area Mode you are using, the camera may also maintain focus or track the subject to some or all of the surrounding focus points if it moves away from the initially selected point.  More about this in the Autofocus Area Modes section just below.

Auto-Servo AF (AF-A)
This mode is a hybrid of the two other focus modes.  It starts in Single-Servo AF (AF-S) mode then changes to Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) mode if your subject starts moving.  Why shouldn’t you use this all the time, then?  Well, if you are focusing and then recomposing, as you may often be doing, your movement of the camera may fool it into thinking that the subject is moving and your resulting focus may not be where you want it to be, or may not be as accurate as it might be if you are using Single-Servo AF.

Nikon D600 autofocus 39 point af system use learn tutorial how to auto focus mode area
The arrangement and position of the 39 AF points of the Nikon D600, shown with the optional viewfinder grid display.

Manual Focus
Sometimes you may be taking several photos of the same subject from the same distance, or for some other reason want to keep the same focus distance and not have to keep re-focusing and re-composing.  Or you may be taking multiple photos for a panorama.  In these situations, turn off the auto-focus on your lens by switching from AF to M with the camera’s Focus Mode Selector switch and with the A/M switch on the lens itself.  Just remember to switch them back when you are finished.  You may also wish to do this if you want to precisely manually focus with the focus ring on your lens.  For lenses with “full time manual focus” however, you don’t need to switch to M in order to manually override the autofocus with the lens focus ring.  These lenses will have M/A and M on the lens focus mode switch instead of A and M.

Autofocus Area Modes
The Autofocus Area Modes are used to set if just a single AF point is active or else how many AF points surrounding your selected AF point will be used to maintain focus or to track a moving subject if you are using AF-C or AF-A Autofocus Modes.

Single-Point AF
Only one AF point will be active, and surrounding AF points will not become active to maintain focus or to track a subject that moves away from the one selected point.  This is typically used along with Single-Servo AF (AF-S) to focus on a stationary or still subject, or in a situation where you will be reframing the shot after you lock focus at a specific distance.  It can also be used with accuracy with AF-S mode for moving subjects if you take the photo quickly or if you recompose and take the shot quickly after locking in focus, especially if the camera-to-subject distance does not change at all or very much in that period between locking focus and taking the photo.  Use the Multi Selector to choose your active AF point as you look through the viewfinder and use the OK Button to quickly select the center AF point.  Also, remember that Custom Setting a6 allowed you to choose between having all 39 AF points available or to limit the camera to 11 AF points.  If you are just starting out with manually selecting a single Focus Point, you may wish to limit them to 11 now, and when you get the hang of it or when you are using one of the other AF Area Modes described below, increase it to 39 to take full advantage of all the AF points of the D7000 autofocus system.  If you choose Single-Point AF with Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A) for tracking moving subjects, it will only track the subject as long as it is positioned at the selected AF point, and it will not be tracked laterally to the other, surrounding points.  In other words, the single AF point you select will track a subject if it moves closer or farther away, but the AF system will not follow or track the subject if it moves left, right, up, or down and away from your selected AF point.  To do this, you use Dynamic-Area AF Mode or 3D-Tracking.

Dynamic-Area AF
With the Dynamic-Area AF Modes, you select an AF point to tell the camera where to autofocus, and if your subject briefly moves away from that point to a neighboring point or if you lose the subject from your AF point while panning, the camera will use the surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on it.  Select one of the Dynamic-Area AF options (below) when you are photographing moving or potentially moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  These modes are ideal for a subject moving closer or further from the camera but which may also move laterally away from the selected AF point faster than you can react in order to keep it located at that point, or for when you are panning and following the subject and attempting to keep it located at the selected AF point, but may have a little or a lot of difficulty doing so.  Remember that you need to keep the Shutter Button half-pressed in order for the continuous focusing at the initial point or the surrounding points to occur.  Note that the camera may pick up and start tracking a new subject that falls under the selected AF point if you lose your initial subject, in part determined by your setting for Custom Setting a3.

9-Point Dynamic-Area AF will use the immediate surrounding AF points to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  This can be used with predictably moving subjects, like a runner or vehicle moving towards you or one that you can easily follow laterally by panning.

21-Point Dynamic-Area AF will use even more of the surrounding AF Points, more than half the total AF Points, to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  This should be used for more unpredictably moving objects, like sports players on a field, which may quickly move further away from your selected AF point before you have a chance to realign that point over the subject.

39-Point Dynamic-Area AF (or 51-Point Dynamic-Area AF with the D7100) will use all of the 39 AF points (or 51 points) to help maintain focus on a subject that briefly leaves the selected AF point.  It can be used for very quick and unpredictably moving subjects, like pets, birds or other wildlife, and all 39 AF points will be used to maintain focus on the subject as you attempt to realign the selected AF point with the subject.

The Dynamic-Area AF Modes are not used to track and maintain focus on a subject that is moving across the various AF points in the frame, but rather are used to stay focused on a moving subject that you attempt to keep located at your selected AF Point.  To track a subject that is moving across the frame, intentionally passing from one AF point to the next, use 3D-Tracking.

Nikon D5200 autofocus af system viewfinder 39 point how to use learn manual guide book instruction dummies tutorial area mode dynamic
A simulated image of the Nikon D5200 viewfinder, showing the autofocus focus points active with 9-Point Dynamic Area AF area mode, when the center AF point is selected. (Image shown at 50% opacity to better view AF points.)

3D-Tracking
This mode is used for subjects moving across the frame in any direction, or subjects moving erratically from side-to-side in the frame, and they are tracked by areas of color.  This is used when you don’t wish to necessarily pan or follow the subject to keep it located in the same part of the frame, but rather when you wish to keep the camera relatively still as the subject moves across the frame.  You may select this option when you are tracking and photographing moving subjects using Continuous-Servo AF (AF-C) or Auto-Servo AF (AF-A).  Again, you choose the initial AF point to locate the subject and begin the tracking.  If the area of color you wish to track is too small or if it blends into the background, this mode might not be very effective.

Auto-Area AF
The camera uses all 39 AF points to detect what it thinks is the subject and automatically choose the appropriate AF point(s).  Typically, the camera will select the nearest subject or a human in the frame, so it may not focus on exactly what you wish to focus on.  That is why it is best to use one of the other modes and select the AF point yourself.

Group Area AF
The Nikon D810 and D4s include the Group Area AF autofocus area mode, which makes use of a group of 5 AF Points arranged in a cross-shaped pattern. And instead of selecting a primary point with the surrounding points being “helper points,” you will actually be selecting the group of five points, which will all be used to attempt to focus on the subject. Unlike the other AF Area Modes with multiple points, the Viewfinder will actually display the four outer points of the group, but for some reason not the central point – perhaps so that you can better view the subject.

Keep in mind that with the other somewhat similar Dynamic Area AF modes, you choose a primary point and attempt to keep the subject located at that point, and the surrounding points act as “helper” points if the subject happens to move away from the primary point. But with Group Area AF you select the entire group of AF Points, and they all work equally to focus on the subject. This mode can be used similar to Single Point AF but when it might be challenging to locate the subject under an individual point. When working in AF-S Focus Mode and using Group Area AF, the selected AF points will give priority to faces if they are present, otherwise they will focus on the closest subject.

 

The next step is to learn to lock focus independent of locking exposure, and customize the camera’s controls to perform these functions how you wish.  But you are going to have to have a look at my e-book guides Nikon D7100 Experience, Nikon D7000 Experience, Nikon D600 Experience and Nikon D5200 Experience to learn about this and many other important functions of your sophisticated Nikon D600, D5200, or D7000!

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To learn about another important reason why you need to take control of your autofocus system, see the related post:

Don’t Let the Locations of the AF Points Dictate Your Composition

What do you do when, with your desired framing, your subject is not located exactly under or near an AF point? Even with all the AF points of an advanced Nikon D7000 and D600, this will often be an issue. Have a look at the above post to learn why this is an issue and how to resolve it.

Still need to purchase your D7100, D7000, D5200 or D600.  Please use my links to have a look at them on Amazon:

Nikon D7100 24.1 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

Nikon D7000 16.2 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

Nikon D600 24.3 megapixel full-frame FX format dSLR camera

Nikon D5200 24.2 megapixel DX format dSLR camera

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Ten Tips and Tricks for the Nikon D5100 / D5200

edit 3012-05-07: While this post was originally written for the Nikon D5100, all of these tips also apply to the D5200.  So while I work on an updated Nikon D5200 Tips and Tricks post, start out by making use of these tips.  And of course, they all still apply to the D5100.

nikon d5100 autofocus af system use learn tips tricks how to
Detail of the Nikon D5100

nikon d5200 autofocus af system use learn tips tricks how to dummies guide manual instruction tips tricks
Detail of the Nikon D5200

I’ve spent quite a bit of time with the Nikon D5100 as I researched and wrote my eBook user’s guide Nikon D5100 Experience (and now Nikon D5200 Experience also!), and here are some of the handy “tips and tricks” I’ve learned that may prove useful for you as you set up and use your D5100.  This camera has many features, Menu settings and Custom Settings you can use to make it operate how you want it to and to match your needs and shooting style, so it is worth-while to learn them and/ or to set them up according to your preferences.  For example, in no particular order:

1. Change the Flash Mode and Flash Exposure Compensation Quickly: You can quickly set your desired Flash Mode and then adjust the amount of Flash Exposure Compensation with the press of a button or two and the Command Dial.  Press the Flash Mode Button to raise the flash in P, A, S, or M mode, then press and hold it and turn the Command Dial to change the Flash Mode (Fill Flash, Red-Eye Reduction, Rear-Curtain Sync, etc.).  Press the Flash Mode Button (also the Flash Compensation Button) and the Exposure Compensation Button and turn the Command Dial, and you can quickly change the Flash Compensation as you view it on the Information Display Screen.

Nikon D5100 tips tricks book guide manual instruction user guide for dummies experience
Top of the Nikon D5100 with flash settings controls

2. Assign the Function (Fn) Button: You can use Custom Setting f2 to assign a different function to the Function (Fn) Button than the default Self-Timer setting.  Figure out which setting you change most often or need handy at your fingertips.  Some that I think are most useful are ISO Sensitivity, White Balance, or Auto Bracketing. You can also assign it to +RAW so that if you are shooting in JPEG but have a great image you want an NEF(RAW) copy of also, press the Fn Button first then take the photo, and you will save a copy of the image in both formats.

3. Adjust the Auto Off Timers: Use Custom Setting c2 to set how long the various displays stay visible on the rear LCD Monitor.  Though it may be convenient for them to stay on a long while, that will drain your battery more quickly.  But if they turn off too soon, it is annoying and could affect your shooting in a demanding situation.  So find a happy compromise.  You can set them all to stay on for a reasonable length by setting for NORM, or you can adjust them individually.  My preference is Playback/ menus 20s or 1min; Image review 4s or 8s; Live View 3 min or 5 min; Auto meter-off 20s or 1 min.  The first person to leave a comment on this post correctly telling the difference between Playback and Image Review will get a FREE copy of my latest eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D5100 called Nikon D5100 Experience! See later in this post for more info on this user’s guide – the only guide currently available for the Nikon D5100!

Custom Setting c2 – Auto-off timers

4. See if You Have Over-Exposed Your Highlights: You have to tell the camera which playback views you would like the option of seeing when you look at your images on the rear LCD Monitor, and thus be able to view your histograms and over-exposed highlights.  In the Playback Menu under Playback Display Options, check the ones you want to be able to view.  Two of the most important ones are Highlights and Overview.  These two will let you know if you’ve blown-out (over-exposed) your highlights.  The Highlights view will do this by having those areas of your image blink.  The Overview view will show you by displaying the histogram, which will show you if your highlights or shadows have run off the graph, indicating that those areas of the image contain no detail in the highlights or shadows other than pure white or pure black.

Overview playback view showing the histogram – (note you should set your JPEGs for FINE not NORMAL as I realized the camera default is set at)

5. Set a Precise Fluorescent White Balance: When you change the White Balance (WB) setting using the i Button and Information Display Screen, you can choose from several white balance options including Fluorescent White Balance.  However, there are several types of fluorescent light bulbs ranging in temperature from perhaps 3,000K to 6,5000K.  To tell the camera which one to adjust for, you have to go behind the scenes to the WB options in the Shooting Menu.  There you can set which fluorescent option to use, such as Warm-white or Cool-white.  You can also access this menu item to set your own custom Preset White Balance using a couple different methods.

6. Put Your Most Used Settings in My Menu: Instead of digging into the menus and Custom Settings all the time to find your most used settings, such as the White Balance settings just described, you can create your own custom menu called My Menu, which is then quickly and easily accessed with the Menu Button.  You can even decide what order to list the items in.  Some possible items to add could be perhaps auto bracketing or HDR if you often make use of those.

Brief Commercial Interruption: How did I learn all these useful and convenient settings?  I just completed an eBook user’s guide for the Nikon D5100 called Nikon D5100 Experience. (and now Nikon D5200 Experience also). Following in the footsteps of my bestselling Nikon D7000 Experience, these guides cover all the Menus, Custom  Settings, functions and controls of the Nikon D5100 and D5200, focusing modes, exposure modes, shooting modes, white balance, etc., PLUS when and why you want to use them when shooting.  As one reader has said of my previous D7000 guide, “This book, together with the manual, is all you need to start discovering all the camera’s potential.” It will help you to take control of your camera and the images you create!  Learn more about the features and settings discussed in the tips and tricks here and much more.  To read more about them, preview them, and purchase, see my Full Stop bookstore website here!

Nikon D5100 tips tricks book guide manual instruction "for dummies" Experience Douglas Klostermann     Nikon D5200 tips tricks book guide manual instruction dummies Experience Douglas Klostermann
Nikon D5100 Experience eBook user’s guide

7. Lock Your Focus and/ or Your Exposure Settings Before Recomposing Your Shot: When you press and hold the Shutter-Release Button, the focus distance is locked (or you start tracking the subject in AF-C and AF-A modes), but the exposure is determined when the photo is taken. You can customize how this button and the AE-L/AF-L button function so that you can do back-button focusing, lock the exposure, swap the function of the two buttons, or several other options dealing with focus and exposure.

8. Create Images with More Impact Without Photoshop, Using Picture Controls: If you are not going to be processing all your images in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture, etc, you can set or create a Picture Control so that your JPEG images (and videos) have the look you want.  Boost the contrast and saturation, or sharpen them a bit.  You can even shoot in black and white or sepia (though it is best to shoot in color and capture an image with all the original information first).  You can save your custom Picture Controls, create your own with the included software, or find ones online then load them on your camera.  Some available online include Picture Controls that mimic the look of roll films such as Kodachrome or Velvia.  But be careful with setting or adjusting Picture Controls if shooting in RAW.  Find out why in my user’s guide!

Adjusting the Picture Control settings

9. Set the ISO Sensitivity Control to Help you out in Difficult Situations: Of course you can adjust the ISO setting on the fly, but you can also set up the camera to automatically adjust some settings if you are in a situation where the lighting changes and the camera determines you will not be able to get the shot without some adjustments to the ISO and/ or shutter speed.   You can set this in the Shooting Menu under ISO Sensitivity Settings, where you can turn this option on, then tell the camera the maximum ISO and minimum shutter speed to use in these situations.  I suggest you set the ISO no higher than 3200 or 6400 if you are willing to accept some noise, and the minimum shutter speed for around 1/30, which you can still hand-hold if careful.  However, if you are carefully metering and adjusting your settings and you don’t like the camera making these types of settings changes without your expressed permission, be sure to turn this setting off.

Setting the ISO Sensitivity Settings

10. Have the Camera Assist You with Manual Focusing: Although digital SLR cameras are designed to be used with their sophisticated autofocus systems, some users prefer to manually focus or are using older manual focus lenses.  And situations such as close up and macro photography sometimes require precise manual focusing.  If you are going to be turning off the autofocus on your camera and lens, you can have the camera assist you in focusing with the Rangefinder.  The camera uses the exposure indicator in the viewfinder to tell you if you are focusing in front of or behind your subject, or if you are in focus.

There are numerous other cool settings you can take advantage of with your D5100 or D5200, including things like Auto Bracketing for Exposure, in-camera HDR, reversing the direction of your Command Dial or exposure indicator, changing the format and color of your Information Display, adjusting your file sizes and types to maximize your maximum continuous burst rate, and determining your best settings for video shooting.  All of these and more are discussed in my e-book user’s guides, Nikon D5100 Experience and Nikon D5200 Experience, both available now.  Learn more about the books, preview them, and purchase at my Full Stop website here. Learn to take control of your camera and the images you create!

Also, please know that there aren’t really any tips or tricks for better photography.  To improve your photography, simply learn your camera inside and out and learn the techniques of dSLR photography (with my e-book!) and then practice, practice, practice taking images, study the results, and look at and learn from the work of talented photographers.

I put together a video and a more in-depth article to introduce and further explain the D5100 autofocus system:

For more detailed information read the article Taking Advantage of the Nikon D5100 Autofocus System.

Still haven’t purchased your Nikon D5100, or need a better lens? Check them out on Amazon below.  I appreciate it if you use these referral links to make your purchase – Amazon will give me a small referral bonus which helps support this blog!  Or use the other camera store links on the left side of this page.  Thanks!

See and buy the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon

See and buy the Nikon D5100 – Body Only on Amazon

Look for a new Nikon Lens on Amazon – I suggest considering the high quality, versatile, all-purpose
Nikon 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6G VR

Was this post helpful?  Please let others know about it by clicking the Facebook or Twitter sharing buttons below, linking to it from your blog or website, or mentioning it on a forum.  Thanks!

Nikon D5100 Experience e-book user’s guide Now Available!

Nikon D5100 User’s Guide

My latest eBook user’s guide, Nikon D5100 Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Nikon D5100, is available for purchase!  This guide will not only help you to learn the functions, controls, and custom settings of the D5100, but also when and why to use them.  As one reader has said of the Nikon Experience guides, “This book, together with the manual, is all you need to start discovering the camera’s full potential.”

Go beyond the Nikon D5100 manual and take control of your camera, the image taking process, and the photos you create.

Learn more about it, view a preview, and purchase it on my Full Stop ebook website:

http://www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/Nikon_D5100_Experience.htm

Nikon D5100 manual download book guide tutorial how to for dummies instruction Nikon D5100 Experience ebook

Go Beyond the Nikon D5100 Manual with this D5100 e Book User’s Guide

Nikon D5100 User’s Guide

My latest e-book, a user’s guide for the Nikon D5100 digital SLR, is called Nikon D5100 Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation.  This guide goes beyond the manuals to help you set up and learn the camera, plus more importantly when and why to use the various controls, features, and custom settings when photographing.  As one reader has commented about my previous Nikon D7000 guide, “This book, together with the manual, is all you need to start discovering the camera’s full potential.”

Nikon D5100 book guide manual tutorial how to for dummies instruction Nikon D5100 Experience ebook

This instant download Nikon D5100 e book is for those who wish to get more out of their camera and to go beyond Auto and Program modes and shoot in A mode and S mode. To get you started, it includes explanations and recommended settings for all Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, Custom Settings, and Movie Mode settings of the D5100.  It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and utilizing dramatic depth of field for professional looking photographs.  This guide builds on the information provided in the manuals and explains essential settings and information to help you get out there shooting in the real world.

You can preview Nikon D5100 Experience at the following link. The preview shows the Table of Contents and Introduction, a sample D5100 Menu Settings page, a sample Custom Settings page, and a sample text page.

http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/Nikon-D5100-Experience-Preview.pdf

Nikon D5100 Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of the Nikon D5100, but it also explains when and why to use them for your photography. The guide focuses on still-photography with a brief introduction to the movie menus and settings to get you up and running with video. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D5100 – All of the D5100 Custom Settings and Playback, Shooting, and Setup Menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of your dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (A) and Shutter Priority Mode (S) – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field or to freeze or express motion.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Area Modes and Release (Drive) Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Nikon D5100 – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations, and setting custom white balance.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including accessories specific to the D5100.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started

This digital guide to the Nikon D5100 is a 70 page, illustrated PDF document that expands upon the information found in the D5100 manuals, to help one begin to master their dSLR and learn to use the Nikon D5100 to its full capabilities!  It is packed with helpful information applicable to the new and intermediate dSLR photographer – to begin to turn you into an advanced digital photographer!

Author: Douglas Klostermann
Format:
PDF – Instant Download – read on your computer, print on your printer, transfer to your iPad, Android, or other tablet, transfer to your Kindle, Nook or other e-reader.
Page Count: 70 pages, illustrated
Price: $10.99

(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy Now with PayPal! or Buy Now

This PDF version is 8.5″x11″ and can be read on your computer, printed, or loaded to your tablet, e-reader, or iPad or iPhone following these instructions on the FAQ page

Other versions of Nikon D5100 Experience e-book:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon.com
The Nook edition is available on BarnesandNoble.com
The iPad and iPhone version is available through Apple’s iTunes or through the iBooks App on your mobile device.

What Readers are Saying about Nikon D5100 Experience:

I read it from front to back in one sitting, playing with the camera as I went along, and I found it covered all the major things I was having trouble with.  It left me much more confident about focusing and exposure issues particularly.  If you are new to DSLRs or want to bypass hours of hunting through manuals, this is great.  There are many sensible real-world suggestions for configuring the camera that are very helpful, the author writes clearly and concisely, and his approach is accessible and friendly.  If you’re having trouble getting going with your new camera, I think this is well worth it.
Jay M.

Great manual! This book made it much easier to operate my new Nikon D5100.  It basically expands on the manual that comes with the camera and tells you what each setting is and what you should set it at.  It also gave me some great pointers on Aperture priority mode, Shutter and ISO. Highly recommended!
-GK

From beginners to experienced users: This guide is very useful for beginners to experienced users.  When you buy this kind of camera you want to understand the best ways to freeze moments which is exactly explained in this book.  This book is written in a human way by an experienced photographer who gives you the tips you need to create a beautiful picture – how to prepare your camera, create shortcuts, or activate such options to make you efficient in the field.  I would recommend this e-book to every new Nikon D5100 buyer!
-Oliver

What Readers are Saying about Doug’s previous guide, Nikon D7000 Experience:

This book, together with the manual that came with your camera, is all you need to start discovering the full potential of the D7000.
-Max M.

It’s the first guide I’ve read which has taken me through all the settings in an understandable way. I now feel that I have control over the camera.
-Peter S.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get a quick start to using the D7000.  Manuals are nice, but this eBook highlights the important information and gives a quick easy to understand explanation of most all of the functions and controls.
-Ray M.

I found the Nikon manual good for understanding how to set things up but not much on the why – this book really focuses on the “why.”   I would like to thank you for saving me time – now I’m confident  that my camera is well tuned!
-Benoit A.

This manual is a clearly written, concise and useful explanation of the rationale for the seemingly infinite and often confusing settings options for the D7000. Used in conjunction with the Nikon manual I feel a bit more confident in understanding how to at last proceed in getting better photographs.
-WLS

It’s clear, concise and gets to the heart of the camera’s multiple and often confusing options. Very highly recommended – for experienced user and beginner alike. As previous reviewers have remarked, the official manual is very good on what to do, but not so clear on why.
-GSA

Learn to use your D5100, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. The Nikon D5100 is a sophisticated and customizable tool, and this guide explains how to start to use it to its full capability.  It will help you begin to take control of your camera, the image taking process, and the photos you create.

See and buy the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon $899

See and buy the Nikon D5100 – Body Only on Amazon $799

Any other purchase on Amazon.com (use this link or any of my Amazon links to help support this blog.  Thanks!)

I have also created a video introduction to the D5100 autofocus system:

Nikon D5100 Unboxed – Hands On

The Nikon D5100 has arrived!
Nikon D5100 dslr camera photo dummies preview review book how to user guide unbox box manual compare vs
Photo by author – copyright 2011 – please do not use without permission!

I’ll be putting together a user’s guide ebook for the D5100, Nikon D5100 Experience, following in the tradition of my popular and well received Nikon D7000 Experience ebook.  See here to learn more about the new book, and be sure to check back in the upcoming weeks to see when it will become available!

The Nikon D5100 Reference Manual is available online here.  My Nikon D5100 Experience user’s guide builds upon the information found in the manual to help you learn the features, settings, and controls of your camera, plus when and why to use them in your photography!

I wrote a post comparing the new D5100 with the D7000, D90, and D3100, which can hopefully help you decide which model is the right dSLR for you.  Below are some brief hands on notes from the first couple days of use.  I leave the image quality reviews to the pixel-peepers, or better yet DPReview and dxomark.

Nikon D5100 Hands on Experience: The camera body of the D5100 fits nicely in the hand, and is a little bit taller than the D3100, so the pinky doesn’t fall off the grip quite as easily.  The rubber gripping surface and rubber thumb spot work nicely, and help retain the grip on the body, even when holding it at your side or carrying it around without a strap, and the light weight of the camera also adds to this ease of portability.  Those who prefer the ergonomics of a larger, more solid feeling camera body will have to look at the D90 or D7000.  The Live View switch, placed on the top of the camera at the mode dial, feels and sounds a little plasticy, but works find, and the record button for movies is conveniently placed on the top of the camera, near the shutter button.  The FN button, on the front near the lens mount, can be customized to adjust one of a number of settings quickly, like image quality, white balance, HDR, or +RAW (to take a RAW file in addition to a JPEG if set on just JPEG).  I prefer to make it an ISO button.  The side mounted rear LCD screen is a definite improvement over the bottom mounted, limited screen of the D5000, and rugged and durable.  The view through the viewfinder is a bit tiny and cramped, as is typically the case in this level of dSLR.  Changing settings is quick and easy with the “i” button and rear LCD screen.  Overall, the body, feel, controls, and LCD screen of the D5100 make for a great image taking experience.

See and buy the Nikon D5100 with 18-55mm Lens on Amazon $899

See and buy the Nikon D5100 – Body Only on Amazon $799

First images from the D5100, unedited:
Nikon D5100

Nikon D5100

Celebrate “Read an E-Book Week”

To celebrate “Read an E-Book Week” (March 6-12) as well as the release of my newest eBook Canon T3i Experience, some of my previous e books are on sale, including Your World 60D for the Canon 60D and T2i Experience for the Canon T2i / 550D.

Just go to my Full Stop ebook bookstore, (www.dojoklo.com/Full_Stop/) where you can learn all about the eBooks.

Canon EOS 60D book user guide Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D book user guide

Also available, the brand new Canon T3i Experience as well as Nikon D7000 Experience.

Canon T3i book Canon 600D book Canon T3i Experience by Douglas Klostermann Nikon D7000 book Nikon D7000 Experience ebook

Learn how to set up and customize the menus, settings, and functions of your Canon T3i / 600D, Nikon D7000, Canon 60D, or Canon T2i / 550D.  Then start to learn to use your powerful dSLR to its full potential so that you can improve your photography and consistently take better photos!  Download your ebook instantly and start learning right away.

Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D e Book User’s Guide

Go beyond the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D manual with my new book, now available!

T3i Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation – an eBook user’s guide and tutorial for the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D.

Learn to use your Rebel T3i / EOS 600D, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. The T3i / 600D is an advanced tool, and this guide explains how to use it to its full potential. Take control of your camera, the image taking process, and the photos you create.

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D book manual download for dummies Canon T3i Experience Douglas Klostermann book guide tutorial how to instruction

This instant download Canon T3i / 600D book is for those who wish to get more out of their camera and to go beyond Full Auto and Program modes and shoot in Av mode and Tv mode. To get you started, it includes explanations and recommended settings for all Menu settings, Movie Mode Menu settings, and Custom Function settings of the T3i/600D. It covers basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, and explains more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and utilizing dramatic depth of field for professional looking photographs.

You can preview T3i Experience at the following link. The preview shows the Table of Contents and Introduction, a sample T3i/600D Menu Settings page, a sample Custom Functions Settings page, and a sample text page.

http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/Canon_T3i_Experience-Preview.pdf

Canon T3i Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of this digital SLR, but it also explains when and why to use them for your photography. And it describes every T3i / 600D Menu setting and Custom Function setting, with recommended settings to get you started quickly, including Movie Mode menu settings. Note that it focuses on still-photography and not video except for a brief introduction to video menus and settings to get you up and running. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your Camera – All of the Menu settings and Custom Function settings for the T3i / 600D, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of this dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (Av) and Shutter Priority Mode (Tv) – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field or to freeze or express motion.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Canon T3i / 600D – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography including those specific to this camera, plus recommended photography books.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started.

This digital field guide to the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D is a 60 page, illustrated PDF document that builds upon the information found in the Canon Rebel T3i / EOS 600D manual, and will help one begin to master their dSLR and learn to use it to its full capabilities!

Author: Douglas Klostermann
Format:
PDF – Instant Download – can be read on your computer, printed on your printer, transferred to your iPad, Android or other tablet, Kindle, Nook, or other e-reader (see here for iPad/ iPhone transfer instructions).
Page Count:
60 pages, illustrated
Price: $9.99 Available Now!
(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy Now with PayPal! or Buy Now

 

Other versions of Canon T3i Experience e-book available for purchase:

The Kindle version is available on Amazon.com
The Nook version is available at BarnesandNoble.com
The iPad and iPhone version is available through Apple’s iTunes or through the iBooks App.

What Readers are Saying about Doug’s Previous Guide, T2i Experience:

Best Guide to using a T2i – I don’t know how I could fully take advantage of all the features the T2i has to offer without this publication! It’s well-organized, easy to understand, and succinct enough to keep your attention while still containing a wealth of tips and tricks to get the most out of your camera. I’m very happy that I found this guide.
-Nathan K.

Essential Travel Companion – Alas, a comprehensive and concise guide for hobbyists who desire to enhance their photography experiences. I highly recommend this guide to anyone who wants to ease out of auto mode and learn how to take high-quality photos. It brilliantly explains how to apply advanced techniques and tips, walks you through the daunting task of menu settings, and smoothly guides you through the image-taking process. The instructions and brief explanations are easy to follow and well organized. The guide is a portable class on digital photography! A must-have if you want to learn how to use your camera to its fullest advantage.
-Elizabeth J.

A Fantastic Book For Beginning T2i Users – This book has exactly the no frills condensed practical advice on camera settings that I was looking for. The author has a gift for separating the wheat from the chaff. I didn’t have a clue how to operate a digital camera, let alone know the definition of the technical terms. After reading this book, I now understand all the critical functions of the Canon T2i and how to take advantage of them. This is a book I plan to keep handy for years to come.
-TP

What Readers are Saying about Doug’s other dSLR User’s Guides:

This book, together with the manual that came with your camera, is all you need to start discovering all the potential of this camera.
-Max M.

It’s the first guide I’ve read which has taken me through all the settings in an understandable way. I now feel that I have control over the camera.
-Peter S.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get a quick start to using their camera. Manuals are nice, but this eBook highlights the important information and gives a quick easy to understand explanation of most all of the functions and controls.
-Ray M.

I found the (camera’s) manual good for understanding how to set things up but not much on the why – this book really focuses on the “why.” Prior to reading the book I was setting up my metering on Spot Metering thinking it was much better than Matrix (Evaluative) – the guide helped me understand why to use specific settings for specific needs. The Custom Settings sections helps to make firm decisions on how to apply settings by understanding the usage of each in addition to knowing how to set them up. I would like to thank you for saving me time – now I’m confident that my camera is well tuned!
-Benoit A.

This manual is a clearly written, concise and useful explanation of the rationale for the seemingly infinite and often confusing settings options. Used in conjunction with the (camera’s) manual I feel a bit more confident in understanding how to at last proceed in getting better photographs.
WLS

Canon Rebel T3i EOS 600D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction

Go Beyond the Nikon D7000 Manual with this D7000 e-Book User’s Guide

Nikon D7000 User’s Guide

I have completed a Nikon D7000 e book user’s guide, Nikon D7000 Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation that goes beyond the D7000 manual to help you learn when and why to use the various controls, features, and custom settings of this powerful camera.  As one reader has said, “This book, together with the manual that came with your camera, is all you need to start discovering the full potential of the D7000.”

Nikon D7000 book guide manual download tutorial how to instruction Nikon D7000 Experience ebook

The Nikon D7000 is an incredibly powerful and customizable image-making tool, and in order to get the most out of it you will need to learn how to take advantage of its features, controls, and custom settings.  Like my previous ebooks, including the bestselling Your World 60D, Nikon D7000 Experience not only covers the various settings, functions and controls of the Nikon D7000, but it also explains when and why to use them for your photography. And it describes every D7000 Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu Setting and every Custom Setting, with recommended settings to get you started quickly, including Movie Mode menu settings. Note that it focuses on still-photography and not video except for a brief introduction to video menus and settings to get you up and running. Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your D7000 – All of the D7000 Custom Settings and Shooting, Setup, and Playback Menu settings, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the powerful advanced features of your dSLR to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Area Modes and Release (Drive) Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (A) and Shutter Priority Mode (S) – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field or to freeze or express motion.
  • Exposure Metering Modes of the Nikon D7000 – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography.
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started.

This digital guide to the Nikon D7000 is a 63 page PDF document (also available in Kindle and Nook formats) that builds upon the information found in the D7000 manual, to help one begin to master their dSLR and learn to use the Nikon D7000 to its full capabilities.  The guide cuts through all the information thrown at you in the manual and focuses on essential settings and information to help you get out there shooting in the real world. It is packed with helpful information applicable to the new and intermediate dSLR photographer – to begin to turn you into an advanced digital photographer!

View a preview of it here.  The preview shows the table of contents, a bit of the intro, a page of the Menu Settings, a page of the Custom Settings, and a couple text pages.

Author: Douglas Klostermann
Format:
PDF – Instant Download – read on your computer, print on your printer, transfer to your iPad, Android, or other tablet, transfer to your Kindle, Nook or other e-reader.
Page Count:
63 pages, illustrated
Price:
$9.99
(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy Now with PayPal! or Buy Now

This version is a PDF format e-book, 8.5″x11″, which can be read on your computer screen, printed on your printer, taken with you on your laptop, and can also be read on the iPad, Android or other tablets, Kindle, Nook, or other e-readers.

 

Other versions of Nikon D7000 Experience e-book are available:

The Kindle edition is available on Amazon.com
The Nook edition is available at BarnesandNoble.com
The iPad and iPhone version is available through Apple’s iTunes or through the iBooks App

What Readers of Nikon D7000 Experience are Saying:

It’s the first guide I’ve read which has taken me through all the settings in an understandable way. I now feel that I have control over the camera.
-Peter S.

I would recommend this to anyone who wants to get a quick start to using the D7000.  Manuals are nice, but this eBook highlights the important information and gives a quick easy to understand explanation of most all of the functions and controls.
-Ray M.

This manual is a clearly written, concise and useful explanation of the rationale for the seemingly infinite and often confusing settings options for the D7000. Used in conjunction with the Nikon manual I feel a bit more confident in understanding how to at last proceed in getting better photographs.
-WLS

I found the Nikon manual good for understanding how to set things up but not much on the why – this book really focuses on the “why.”
-Benoit A.

This book, together with the manual that came with your camera, is all you need to start discovering the full potential of the D7000.
-Max M.

It’s clear, concise and gets to the heart of the camera’s multiple and often confusing options. Very highly recommended – for experienced user and beginner alike.  As previous reviewers have remarked, the official manual is very good on what to do, but not so clear on why.
-GSA

See and buy your D7000 on Amazon and help support this blog!

Nikon D7000 with 18-105mm kit lens on Amazon.com

Nikon D7000 body only on Amazon.com

Any other purchase on Amazon.com

T2i Experience – Canon Rebel T2i / 550D User’s Guide and Tutorial

My second eBook and Canon dSLR camera user’s guide is now available! In addition to Your World 60D, the eBook guide for the Canon 60D, I have also written a Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D book:

T2i Experience – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation With the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D

Canon Rebel T2i EOS 550D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction T2i Experience

Looking for a Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D book to help you learn and begin to master your new dSLR? T2i Experience will help you learn how to use your digital SLR, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. This camera is an advanced tool, and the guide explains how to use it to its full potential. Begin to take control of your camera, the image taking process, and the photos you create.

This instant download eBook guide is for those who wish to get more out of their T2i / 550D, and go beyond Auto or Program mode and shoot in Av mode and Tv mode. While it explains basic dSLR camera functions and exposure concepts for those new to digital SLR photography, it concentrates on teaching more advanced camera controls and operation, such as using the various metering modes and exposure compensation for correct exposure of every image, controlling autofocus modes and focus points for sharp focus of still or moving subjects, and utilizing dramatic depth of field for professional looking photographs. Learning to get the most out of a dSLR can involve a steep learning curve, and I believe my book can help you speed up that process.

You can preview it at the following link. The preview shows:
-the Table of Contents
the Introduction
-a sample Menu Settings page
-a sample Custom Functions Settings page
-and a sample text page.

Preview: http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/T2i_Experience-Preview.pdf

See below for where to purchase.

Purchase T2i Experience through PayPal here! (or click the PayPal or Credit card check-out button below)
This version is in PDF format, text-only, 8.5″x11″, which can be read on your computer screen, printed on your printer, taken with you on your laptop, and can also be read on the iPad.

Format: PDF – Instant Download
Page Count:
48
Price:
$9.99 now on Sale: $7.99
(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy now from PayPal! or Buy Now

__________

The Kindle Edition of T2i Experience is also available, at Amazon.com and the Nook Edition is available at BarnesandNoble.com.

__________

T2i Experience is a PDF guide that builds upon the information offered by the camera’s manual. In addition to covering the various settings, functions and controls of the Canon T2i / 550D, its lessons explain when and why to use them. It also describes every Menu setting and Custom Function setting, with recommended settings, including Movie Mode menus. Note that it focuses on still photography and not video except for a brief introduction to menus and important video settings to get you started.

Sections include:

  • Setting Up Your T2i All of the Menu settings and Custom Function settings, including movie mode menus, with brief descriptions and recommended settings for practical, everyday use. Set up and customize the advanced features of the T2i to work best for the way you photograph.
  • Aperture Priority Mode (Av) and Shutter Priority Mode (Tv) – How and when to use them to create dramatic depth of field or to freeze or express motion.
  • Auto Focusing Modes and Drive Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them to capture sharp images of both still and moving subjects. Also how and when to use focus lock and back-button focusing.
  • Exposure Metering Modes – How they differ, how and when to use them for correct exposures in every situation. Also how to make use of exposure lock.
  • Histograms, Exposure Compensation, Bracketing, and White Balance – Understanding and using these features for adjusting to the proper exposure in challenging lighting situations.
  • Lenses – Explanation of Canon lenses and choosing your next lens.
  • Composition – Brief tips, techniques, and explanations, including the creative use of depth of field.
  • The Image Taking Process – A descriptive tutorial for using the settings and controls you just learned to take photos.
  • Photography Accessories – The most useful accessories for day-to-day and travel photography
  • Introduction to Video Settings – Some basic settings to get you started

This digital field guide to the Canon Rebel T2i / EOS 550D is a 48 page, PDF format text-only document, full of helpful information.

It can also be purchased through PayPal on my website bookstore, Full Stop – good writing for better photography.

Master your Canon T2i and learn to use it to its full capabilities! And if you have a Canon 60D, be sure to check out Your World 60D – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation with the Canon EOS 60D.

Your World 60D eBook Now Available!

My eBook user’s guide and tutorial on using the new Canon 60D, Your World 60D – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation is now available! Learn how to use the 60D, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. The Canon 60D is an advanced tool, and this guide explains how to begin to use it to its full potential.

Click here to learn more about the eBook

You can preview it at the following link. The preview shows the Table of Contents and Introduction, a sample Menu Settings page, a sample Custom Functions Settings page, and a sample text page.

http://www.dojoklo.com/writing/Your_World_60D-Preview.pdf

Purchase information is below.

Canon EOS 60D book guide manual tutorial how to instruction Your World 60D

Purchase Your World 60D through PayPal here!
This version is in PDF format, 8.5″x11″, which can be read on your computer screen, printed on your printer, and can also be read on the iPad.
Price: $9.99
(plus 6.25% sales tax for residents of Massachusetts)
Secure payment with PayPal or Credit card

Buy Now with PayPal! or Buy Now
_____________________

The Kindle Edition is available at Amazon.com here and the Nook Version is available at BarnesandNoble.com.

Begin to master your Canon 60D and learn to use it to its full capabilities!

(Since my subsequent guides have been called Canon T3i Experience and Canon 7D Experience, this one should perhaps be called Canon 60D Experience.)

Canon 60D Tutorial

I have completed an eBook tutorial and user’s guide for the new Canon 60D, called Your World 60D – The Still Photographer’s Guide to Operation and Image Creation. Learn to use your 60D, quickly and competently, to create the types of images you want to capture. You can learn more about the Your World 60D eBook and how to purchase it here.

(The eBook was originally, briefly called Real World 60D – it is the same book.)

Becoming a Humanitarian Photograper – After the Self-Assignment

I wrote a popular previous post about How to Start Out as a Humanitarian Photographer. It discusses one of the important initial steps of this endeavor: the Self-Assignment. The self-assignment – a volunteer trip to work with and photograph an NGO or non-profit – should help you determine if humanitarian or travel photography is something you really wish to pursue. And if so, it helps you to gain experience working in the field, collaborating with NGOs, and preparing for future assignments. Once you’ve completed and returned from that trip, there is much more to be done!

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Editing: Your first task is to select the best images out of the hundreds or thousands of digital images you took, and then to edit and optimize those images. If you are not already adept at working with Photoshop and/ or Lightroom you need to learn the programs and begin to gain proficiency. There are numerous books for this, so try to find the ones that work best with your learning style. Some of the ones I’ve found most helpful are the books by Scott Kelby and by Chris Orwig:

The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

Adobe Photoshop CS4 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques by Chris Orwig

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques by Chris Orwig

These and other helpful photography related books can be found in my post on Essential Digital Photography Books. Don’t worry about learning every feature of the programs but concentrate on the basic color, contrast, and sharpening features, as well as layers and adjustment layers. As you gain proficiency, move into masking, retouching, advanced sharpening and black and white conversions. Develop good editing, metadata, storage, and workflow habits from the start because it becomes hard to undo bad habits later on. Begin to learn how to use actions and batch processing to more quickly process numerous images.

Contests: When you’ve finished selecting and editing your best images, begin to enter them in contests. The reason for entering contests is not to gain sudden fame, riches, and an instant professional career. Few, if any contest will lead to this, no matter what they promise. Instead, the purpose of contests is to start to develop credentials. Being selected as a finalist or winner of a photo contest will enable you to add that accomplishment to your CV, and winning will allow you to add that coveted phrase in front of your name: “Award winning photographer.” Many contests lure you with the promise of exposure to those in the photo industry or the greater public, but in reality there is very little chance that this will lead anywhere, even if you win. Photographers who are regularly published in magazines and whose name is often in front of industry insiders still struggle to obtain their next gig, so don’t expect your single photo to bring you much. Also, participating in contests will help you to see what others think of your photos. Of course you think they are great, and your friends and family rave over them, but what about others out there? It also helps to see your photos side by side with countless others to see if your images truly stand out among the masses. However, it comes back to you to be the best judge of this. The images that are chosen will often confuse and annoy you and the other entrants, and it is often difficult to understand why the judges chose particular images. It helps somewhat to look at the winners of the previous years to see what types of images catch the judges’ eyes, but it is impossible to second-guess what they are looking for year to year. Stick to entering the images you like best, but detach yourself emotionally from your photos’ subjects and the experience of taking them, and view them as an impartial observer. If contests ask for captions, descriptions or short essays to go with the photos, take time to carefully write them. Look into guidelines and recommendations for writing newspaper captions, and please, avoid saying amateurish phrases like, “I took this photo while standing…”

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There are a few contests (and grants) that cater to humanitarian photography, such as those run by Photoshare, Focus for Humanity, and PhotoPhilanthropy. There are countless other photography contests so search on the Internet to find some current ones. Many of your photos will likely fit well in travel photography contests or the travel category of a contest. Also be sure to look at other categories that might apply such as people or portraits. It is best to stick to the well know, reputable contests, like those run by National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, airline magazines, travel magazines like Conde Nast Traveler, travel guidebooks like Rough Guides and Viva Travel Guides, travel websites like Peterman’s Eye, contest sites like Travel Photographer of the Year, and newspapers. Be wary of contests that charge entry fees. You can quickly spend a lot of money entering multiple photos to multiple contests in the hope of gaining notoriety. But remember that the likelihood of you winning the grand prize is small, no matter how amazing your images are, and even if you did win, it will not lead to sudden fame and an instant professional career. While some of the contests you have to pay for are well respected and legitimate, such at the International Photography Awards, and it may be worth it to enter a couple, keep in mind that the most you can expect is to be able to use this credential in your bio and descriptions. Also note that some of the prestigious contests with entry fees attract professional and commercial photographers or very highly talented amateurs, and the quality of the entries exceptional. Determine if it is worth your time and money to enter, or better to wait a few years until your skills and images improve. But also remember that, despite thousands of entrants, it is possible to win photo contests. I’ve been recognized in several contests, have won a dSLR, and had my photo selected for a travel guidebook cover.

Be sure to carefully read the fine print of a contest’s rules and guidelines, especially to determine if you are signing away the rights to your photos. Contests are often tools for a company to gather a large pool of free photos to use in their books or website, and you may be surrendering lifetime, or even exclusive rights to them just by entering. You never want to surrender your copyright or give them exclusive rights and just give away your photos for free for them to use however they wish. Recent examples of this which greatly upset many photographers including well respected professionals were a National Trust contest in the UK and a Frommer’s cover contest. If you are still determined to enter and feel that the potential benefit outweighs the cost, consider entering a photo that is similar to your best photo, but not the exact same one that you may wish to use, exhibit, and sell later.

Grants and Fellowships: In addition to contests, you should also consider applying for grants and fellowships. There are very few of these, but if you were to win, they would allow you to travel and pursue an in-depth project. I’m sure you’ve begun to think about personal projects and places you would like to travel to and photograph, so turn your idea into a compelling story. Most grant and fellowship applications require both a sample photo essay or story and an essay or proposal. Hopefully on your self-assignment you documented your project in a manner that tells a story of a place, organization, or person. If not, careful editing and captions might create a good photo essay. Some grants or fellowships require a project already in process, so keep this in mind as your travel and work. Writing the proposal is very time consuming and takes a lot of careful thought, so start working on yours well in advance of the deadline, and follow their requirements precisely.

Many of the contests, grants, and fellowships occur annually, so be sure to add them to your calendar, giving yourself a few weeks to prepare for each of them. Some online sites which list many of them are:
http://jasminedefoore.com/resource-photo-contests-and-grants-calendar/
http://www.lightstalkers.org/
http://www.lightstalkers.org/
http://photographygrants.blogspot.com/
http://photojournalismlinks.com/awardsgrantsandcompetitions/

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Website: This is pretty self-explanatory – build a website to share your work with others. There are countless sites which are designed to host photo portfolio websites, such a PhotoShelter and Fluid Galleries, or templates you can incorporate into your own website. Try to strike the best balance you can between do-it-yourself, cost, functionality, and professionalism. Domains and hosting are very cheap through places like GoDaddy, but portfolio templates and hosting can start to add up to hundreds of dollars a year. Try to keep the costs to a minimum until you start making money from your photography. Just make sure your site looks clean and professional, functions quickly and intuitively, and that your images are large and easy to navigate. Here is a list that can get you started.

Exhibitions: Print and frame your photographs and exhibit them so that you can share them with a wider audience. Look for unique opportunities of places and events that might be eager to incorporate your photos, such as travel agency offices, local festivals, performances, and movie screenings that relate to the culture or country where your images are from, local stores, and restaurants (although I am wary of this last one as I would prefer to sell my images to them and am afraid of damages to the prints from exposure to constant cooking air).

Read: Continue to read and learn about the humanitarian issues and the countries that most interest you. A good place to start is any of the books listed in the Humanitarian Books section of the Amazon.com site I put together. Get them from your library, or purchase them through that site and help support my work! This post also has information about books, and this post talks about other resources for learning about humanitarian issues.

The next step in the process is to learn the business aspects of becoming a professional photographer. I’ll save that lesson for another time!

For related posts, be sure to check out the other entries in the Humanitarian Photography category.