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View Full Version : Anyone Using the Nikon D3100 Camera?


JimLewis
04-21-2012, 12:37 PM
I could use some help with settings for taking night lighting photos. I've been able to take some decent photos, but I'm just getting lucky. I'm taking a ton of photos from all different angles and trying out different settings on the dial as I go. Then I just go home and filter through all the photos to find a few that actually turned out nicely. But I'd rather get some knowledge on exactly what settings I should be using. I was just hoping someone here had that same camera, or one of the similar models of Nikon D-SLR and could help me with the settings.

S&MLL
04-21-2012, 01:15 PM
Jim if you search the forum there are a bunch of posts from guys over the years posting settings.

I think Steve from Cast is the one who takes 3 pictures to make 1 good photo. 1.Over exposed 2.normal 3. Under exposed. Then he puts them in photoshop and makes it look amazing

steveparrott
04-21-2012, 03:06 PM
I could use some help with settings for taking night lighting photos. I've been able to take some decent photos, but I'm just getting lucky. I'm taking a ton of photos from all different angles and trying out different settings on the dial as I go. Then I just go home and filter through all the photos to find a few that actually turned out nicely. But I'd rather get some knowledge on exactly what settings I should be using. I was just hoping someone here had that same camera, or one of the similar models of Nikon D-SLR and could help me with the settings.
Hi Jim,
Congratulations on buying a very nice camera. I looked through the specs on the Nikon site and there are some great features. Here's some notes that might be helpful.

Take advantage of the One-Touch Live View function. Before taking the shot, preview the image and check that it has the exposure you want. If the camera allows you to zoom into the preview image, use that to blow up critical areas.
Turn off the image stabilizer function on the lens - that will lead to blurry images from a tripod.
Set ISO to 100 and leave it there for best resolution. However, in situations where you are trying to pull detail out of extremely dark areas, you can increase the ISO up to 400 or 800 - that will allow you to use a 30-sec. exposure with an f-stop between 5.6 and 11 (best for sharpness). Stay away from the minimum 2.8 f-stop because that gives a shallow depth-of-field, less sharpness, and may result in red or blue rimming at the edge of the shot.
Do not use automatic modes - stay with manual.
Always use timer shutter release.
Use "Spot" metering. This gives you a very narrow circle in the center of the frame for the camera's metering. This allows you to aim the camera at an illuminated area to set your exposure.
When aimed at that target area, the in-camera meter shows you a vertical line that travels along a horizontal line with tick marks. With your shutter speed at 30 secs., adjust your f-stop until the meter is at the zero point on the line. After re-framing your image, take the first shot.
Without moving the camera, change the f-stop so the meter is at -1.5 for the second shot, then +1.5 for the third shot. If I'm trying to pull detail out of utter blackness, then I shoot a frame at +2.5.
The above point is bracketing. Keep in mind that you can move the meter line by doing any one of three things - changing f-stop, changing shutter speed, and changing ISO. If you have a choice, changing shutter speed is the best because the image stays the same. Changing f-stop affects depth-of-field and sharpness. Increasing ISO reduces sharpness and adds graininess (especially visible in black areas).
Don't use the "Active D-Lighting mode.
Don't use autofocus.
don't use flash
Learn to use the manual white balance setting. After dark, set white balance to color temp of light source.
Use RAW image capture.
I should add that George Gruel (the master!) teaches a method that's simpler than having to make manual changes to all settings. It involves using the aperature priority mode (set f-stop to F8 or above), pointing your spot meter at the brightest area in the scene, depressing the aperature exposure lock button (AE or AE-L), then taking the shot. The camera will set the shutter speed.
Final point. Your camera has an excellent preview screen. After each shot, check it carefully - use the zoom tool.

Alan B
04-21-2012, 11:11 PM
Steve,

Great response and very helpful advice. This could be a photography sticky on how-to-take-landscape-lighting-pics.

Sincerely,

Alan

Hi Jim,
Congratulations on buying a very nice camera. I looked through the specs on the Nikon site and there are some great features. Here's some notes that might be helpful.

Take advantage of the One-Touch Live View function. Before taking the shot, preview the image and check that it has the exposure you want. If the camera allows you to zoom into the preview image, use that to blow up critical areas.
Turn off the image stabilizer function on the lens - that will lead to blurry images from a tripod.
Set ISO to 100 and leave it there for best resolution. However, in situations where you are trying to pull detail out of extremely dark areas, you can increase the ISO up to 400 or 800 - that will allow you to use a 30-sec. exposure with an f-stop between 5.6 and 11 (best for sharpness). Stay away from the minimum 2.8 f-stop because that gives a shallow depth-of-field, less sharpness, and may result in red or blue rimming at the edge of the shot.
Do not use automatic modes - stay with manual.
Always use timer shutter release.
Use "Spot" metering. This gives you a very narrow circle in the center of the frame for the camera's metering. This allows you to aim the camera at an illuminated area to set your exposure.
When aimed at that target area, the in-camera meter shows you a vertical line that travels along a horizontal line with tick marks. With your shutter speed at 30 secs., adjust your f-stop until the meter is at the zero point on the line. After re-framing your image, take the first shot.
Without moving the camera, change the f-stop so the meter is at -1.5 for the second shot, then +1.5 for the third shot. If I'm trying to pull detail out of utter blackness, then I shoot a frame at +2.5.
The above point is bracketing. Keep in mind that you can move the meter line by doing any one of three things - changing f-stop, changing shutter speed, and changing ISO. If you have a choice, changing shutter speed is the best because the image stays the same. Changing f-stop affects depth-of-field and sharpness. Increasing ISO reduces sharpness and adds graininess (especially visible in black areas).
Don't use the "Active D-Lighting mode.
Don't use autofocus.
don't use flash
Learn to use the manual white balance setting. After dark, set white balance to color temp of light source.
Use RAW image capture.
I should add that George Gruel (the master!) teaches a method that's simpler than having to make manual changes to all settings. It involves using the aperature priority mode (set f-stop to F8 or above), pointing your spot meter at the brightest area in the scene, depressing the aperature exposure lock button (AE or AE-L), then taking the shot. The camera will set the shutter speed.
Final point. Your camera has an excellent preview screen. After each shot, check it carefully - use the zoom tool.

jana
04-22-2012, 11:01 AM
Or just dl the .pdf file from Cast here (http://www.cast-lighting.com/learning/articles/10_article_landscape-lighting-photography). It's been there for a while.


Without moving the camera, change the f-stop so the meter is at -1.5 for the second shot, then +1.5 for the third shot. If I'm trying to pull detail out of utter blackness, then I shoot a frame at +2.5.

I don't think the D3100 will do bracketed shots, at least I can't find it if so.

steveparrott
04-22-2012, 03:11 PM
Or just dl the .pdf file from Cast here (http://www.cast-lighting.com/learning/articles/10_article_landscape-lighting-photography). It's been there for a while.


Without moving the camera, change the f-stop so the meter is at -1.5 for the second shot, then +1.5 for the third shot. If I'm trying to pull detail out of utter blackness, then I shoot a frame at +2.5.

I don't think the D3100 will do bracketed shots, at least I can't find it if so.

It's not automatic, you need to change the settings manually for each bracketed shot.

Also, I forgot to mention that when you move the camera to get a reading on the illuminated spot, then move it back to frame your shot, the meter reading in the viewfinder will change (its not pointed at the correct spot anymore). That's ok for the first shot because you set your exposure while aiming at the spot. For the next bracketed shots, however, you need to change the exposure without moving the camera (re-aiming on your target spot).

The way I do that is a little complicated to explain. An example: I aim at an illuminated spot and adjust exposure so the meter rests on the zero line. I then re-frame the picture the way I want it. I take my first shot. Now, I'm ready for the second shot. I look at where the meter reading is. Say it's at +1.0. I adjust shutter speed to reduce it by 1.5 = -0.5. My third shot will be 1.5 above 1.0 = +2.5.

Keep in mind that bracketing shots (and then manipulating those images in PhotoShop) is an advanced technique and is only necessary if you are looking to get fine-art quality images. You can still get excellent highly effective images by just getting one shot properly exposed for the illuminated regions.

Zohan
05-06-2012, 09:41 PM
Do you guys think its worth it to jump up to the d5100 which has bracketed shooting?

Lite4
05-07-2012, 08:03 AM
I've shot some decent photos with a cheap Nikon D40x DSLR. The key is the lense and knowing what manual settings to use. Most importantly is having (or knowing) how to compose your photos so they are interesting to look at. (I am still working on this part)

My goal is to buy the D7000 this year with a nice piece of glass. A lofty 4k goal, but hey, we all have to dream right?

JimLewis
06-07-2012, 09:09 PM
Thanks everyone! Especially to Steve! I never got a chance to even read over this stuff very carefully until tonight. I'm going to try a few of these settings tonight at a night time photo shoot and see if I can get it right.

Thanks again for all your time in creating a great response, Steve!

steveparrott
06-09-2012, 12:27 PM
Thanks Jim,

A few photos from a recent shoot (lighting design by Meeka Asayag). I include a couple you might not think to take - a shot including the homeowners (they love it), and a detail shot including a favorite part of the landscape (in this case an antique fence). Your portfolio should include a variety of subjects.

JimLewis
06-09-2012, 02:23 PM
Thanks! Those are things I wouldn't have thought of.

The photo shoot the other night went really well. Although I'm still such an amateur that I couldn't figure out how to adjust half of the settings you were talking about. But I'm going to sign up for a 1 hour one-on-one instruction class at my local camera dealer where you can have them teach you anything you want about your camera and photography. So during that time, I'll make sure the instructor shows me how to adjust all of those other settings that I couldn't find.

But just by doing a few of the things you mentioned (changing to manual mode, using a remote button to take the photos, adjusting the ISO, turning off image stabilizer) made all the difference in the world! I never knew how to get my camera to take those slow shutter speed photos. In the past I always just took photos in the auto mode and it was always a quick snap and done. Now I am able to take photos where the shutter opens for a long period of time and I get the exposure I was always looking for! Love it!

Unfortunately, that night I realized my camera battery was dead 30 minutes before the photo shoot. So I charged it on the way over in my car but that only gave me enough juice for about 15 minutes of use before it died again. (taking these longer exposure photos eats up a TON of battery, really quickly!) So then right when it was the perfect time at dusk, I had to run back to my truck and charge it again for 10 minutes. Then I was able to get another 10 minutes of photography in before it was too dark. But I only got about 25% of the shots I wanted to take, because of the damm dead battery. So I'll have to go back another night and take more. There were a lot that I never got a chance to take. But I did end up with a good 8-10 really nice photos, which is great for me! And the quality of the photos were way better than I've ever been able to do in the past. So I'm learning! Slowly.... but learning! Love it. :)

Zohan
06-16-2012, 09:19 PM
Picked up the d5100 kit with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lenses the other day. Man, this thing has a shitload of settings. Hoping to learn how to go through and change settings before tuesday, im going back to a project from last year to hopefully get some good shots...

steveparrott
06-17-2012, 08:54 AM
Picked up the d5100 kit with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lenses the other day. Man, this thing has a shitload of settings. Hoping to learn how to go through and change settings before tuesday, im going back to a project from last year to hopefully get some good shots...

Congrats, you should get some great shots with this camera!

A few pointers on the lenses.

Be very careful changing lenses in the field - even a few specks of dust in the body of the camera or the inside end of the lens can deteriorate the images. Also, if the air is humid while changing the lens, you can have problems with condensation. Condensation is one of the biggest problems with nighttime shooting - combine high humidity with dropping temps of early evening and your lens will fog - it's bad enough to keep wiping away moisture on the outside of the lens, if you have humid air inside the camera then fogging on the inside end of the lens and on the collector itself is impossible to deal with. Never change lenses in high humidity conditions.

Avoid extreme wide angles (~18 - 40) on architecture - vertical lines will diverge and distort the architecture. When shooting architecture, it's best to move as far away as possible.

Keep in mind that the longer the focal length, the shorter the depth of field. This works to your advantage when you're trying to keep one item in focus (like a statue or flower) with an out-of-focus background. But it is a disadvantage if you want both the foreground and background in focus - for shots like that, keep you focal length in the normal (55) range. (For those reading this post with less expensive digital cameras, note that depth of field remains fairly constant throughout focal ranges).

starry night
06-17-2012, 09:56 AM
Kudos to you guys who are trying to take your own photos. But, for me,
I have enough technical stuff to learn about lighting so I don't have time for the technical aspects of photography. I have an excellent young professional on call for my photo shoots. He has the equipment. He knows photoshop for some touch-up. I don't have the cost of a camera, etc. and I avoid the frustration of trying to get the correct photos although, granted, I don't get the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Zohan
06-17-2012, 11:52 AM
Thanks a ton Steve, that is really good to know stuff

Lite4
06-17-2012, 04:04 PM
Steve, are you using a prime lense (55) for most of your photo shoots. I am going to pick up a D7000 this month and thought a prime lense would give me less apperation on the edges than a variable lense would such as the 18-105, which is not a terrible piece of glass in its own right, but may not be the best for our type of low light photography.
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JimLewis
06-18-2012, 12:14 PM
Picked up the d5100 kit with 18-55mm and 55-300mm lenses the other day. Man, this thing has a shitload of settings. Hoping to learn how to go through and change settings before tuesday, im going back to a project from last year to hopefully get some good shots...

Awesome camera. I believe that's the one that is the step up from mine. Wish I would have purchased that one. But the one I have is plenty nice.

A few tips from what I've learned with these cameras for night lighting shooting. First, get a nice tripod. Second, get a remote shutter release for your camera (like this one from Vivitar on eBay (http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vivitar-Infrared-Wireless-Shutter-Release-Remote-Control-for-Canon-DSLR-Cameras-/280839742793?pt=Camera_Camcorder_Remotes&hash=item41635a6549). It will work with your camera). This is one cool option your camera has that mine doesn't - the ability to use a WIRELESS shutter release. Awesome option. Then place your camera in the right vantage point and put the camera to the "P" setting. That's like the 'custom program', from what I've been able to gather. It allows for a slower shutter and programmable ISO, etc. Then use the remote to snap your photos. Even if you do nothing more than these 3 things, you'll be able to take a lot nicer photos than you ever did before.

I'm still learning the rest. But these are some tips I wish I would have known a year ago when I bought this camera. These three little things make all the difference in the world when taking night photos. To get even better night photos, follow Steve's advice above.

rlitman
06-18-2012, 04:44 PM
. . . First, get a nice tripod. Second, get a remote shutter release for your camera . . .

If you don't have a remote shutter release, use the self-timer. That way, by the time the shutter releases, the vibrations from your finger pushing the button will have died down.

Zohan
06-18-2012, 06:01 PM
I already picked up the wireless shutter release....i have a tripod....all i have to do now is learn where the 4000 settings all are within the menus.
I will be going there tomorrow night, if i get some decent shots i'll post them here for critique
thanks guys

steveparrott
06-19-2012, 02:17 PM
If you don't have a remote shutter release, use the self-timer. That way, by the time the shutter releases, the vibrations from your finger pushing the button will have died down.

Wireless shutter release is a great idea (wish I had one).

Reason to have one:

Some of the best shots I've taken are from higher elevations (I've used ladders, pickup trucks, even rooftops). After setting the camera, you might need time to get off the truck or climb down the ladder - sometimes the autotimer is too short.

Also, while you're waiting for the autotimer, someone might walk into the frame - or maybe you're waiting for a gust of wind to subside - it's nice to choose the exact moment to release the shutter.

It's also possible to extend your exposure time past the 30-sec. max, but that requires keeping your shaky finger on the shutter release - better if you just had a remote shutter.

shovelracer
06-19-2012, 09:14 PM
I went with a Canon T2i this year as my first DSLR. My uncle is an enthusiast and he basically told told me your pictures are only as good as your equipment. His words were more like a $10K camera takes a $10K picture and a $500 camera takes a $500 picture. To an extent there is truth to that. Kit lenses are functional, but once you figure out what focal length works best for you then plan on dropping large on a lens or two. Everything else mentioned is good. Steve was right on and obviously has way more experience than I so not much else I can say. Get out there and take pictures. I try to get out several days a week to just shoot whatever I can. I've taken about 800 pictures so far and have about 20 good ones and 4 keepers worth showing off. Some night shots, but I'm not sure what I did other than use a tripod, remote, low iso, and play with shutter speeds. I'm more into general nature scenes.

I've been reading the book "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson and it is helpful. If you have not yet get yourself a nice case. I went with 2 Lowepro ones. A large carry all and a smaller hiking case.

Zohan
06-20-2012, 07:51 PM
So, I was onsite and took probably 100 pics. Here are a few that didn't come out too bad, but i'd like some feedback not only on my first time pics, but the lighting job was one of my first last year...thanks

Here is a link to the pics

http://s1171.photobucket.com/albums/r543/zohan9000/

cgaengineer
06-20-2012, 07:56 PM
So, I was onsite and took probably 100 pics. Here are a few that didn't come out too bad, but i'd like some feedback not only on my first time pics, but the lighting job was one of my first last year...thanks

Here is a link to the pics

http://s1171.photobucket.com/albums/r543/zohan9000/

Just glanced at them on my phone:

House pictures look pretty good but the tree lighting photo could use a longer exposure. Your timing with ambient light looked to be pretty close, I'm no expert but I've taken thousands of pictures with my Nikon D80 an D200...both great cameras.
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JimLewis
06-20-2012, 10:36 PM
I liked #6 and #7 the best. I'd probably use those. The rest I wouldn't use.

Then again, I'm still totally new at all this night photography too. So my opinion should be considered with a grain of salt.

Zohan
06-21-2012, 07:43 AM
Thanks guys....yeah once i spent most of the time photographing the house the battery was almost gone and i kinda rushed through the rest. It was very dark in the backyard where those pics were around the pool, which you cant even tell from the pics there was a pool.
While I dont think the pics are terrible for a first timer, I know I can improve a lot. Was just hoping to get a decent shot for new cards and shirts.....

Lite4
06-21-2012, 08:02 AM
The ones of the house where it is still light enough to see the foreground are the best. The ones around the pool are a little dark. The darker ones would have been good candidates for bracketing shots and layering in post. Pretty good for your first time though. You only get better the more you shoot. Quick question: does your 3100 allow mirror lock up for shooting?
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rlitman
06-21-2012, 09:26 AM
Quick question: does your 3100 allow mirror lock up for shooting?
Posted via Mobile Device

I have a D300. I know that camera has the option.
Looking at the D3100:
http://www.nikonusa.com/Nikon-Products/Product/Digital-SLR-Cameras/25472/D3100.html
The specs mention "One-Touch Live View shooting". In the Live View mode, the mirror is locked up, and the display acts as the viewfinder.

Zohan
06-21-2012, 11:46 AM
I have the D5100, not the 3100. I do have live view mode so I assume it does?

Lite4
06-21-2012, 12:03 PM
The tech specs says that the D3100 has mirror lock up, but in parenthesis it says (for sensor cleaning), so not sure you can use it for active photography or not.

rlitman
06-21-2012, 01:43 PM
The tech specs says that the D3100 has mirror lock up, but in parenthesis it says (for sensor cleaning), so not sure you can use it for active photography or not.

As I said, the Live View mode locks the mirror up.

It's just like an old-timey mirror lock mode, except that since light is hitting the sensor, it uses that to operate the display too.

Oh, and one neat feature of Live View in mine (I have the D300, but most of the Nikon DSLR's work in a similar way), is that in "S" focus mode, you can half-kock [dang, the site won't let me spell this correctly] the trigger to focus. It will snap the mirror back down, and use the phase-detection sensor grid under the penta-whatever (better cameras use a penta-prism, cheaper ones use a penta-mirror, but the concept is the same), for critical focus, then snap the mirror back up when you release.

Zohan
06-21-2012, 07:23 PM
Thanks for the input guys. I like the #6 pic also, but I just uploaded 2 more and named then new-1 and new-2.
Let me know if either one beats out the #6 pic, in your opinion.
Thx

http://s1171.photobucket.com/albums/r543/zohan9000/

Lite4
06-21-2012, 10:07 PM
#2 and #8 are your best ones in my opinion. The others seem to underexposed and dark.

Zohan
06-22-2012, 06:32 AM
#2 and #8 are your best ones in my opinion. The others seem to underexposed and dark.

Thanks....

Zohan
06-22-2012, 07:24 AM
Wait, I think the numbers and the new ones are confusing so I just renumbered 1-9....
Please take a look now to see which looks good..thanks

Lite4
06-22-2012, 08:03 AM
Yep, still 2 and 8

JimLewis
06-22-2012, 05:54 PM
#2 & #8 are the ones I liked. They used to be #6 and #7 before, I believe. But now #2 and #8 are the ones I like.

JimLewis
06-22-2012, 06:05 PM
Here are a few of the first batch I took with my new camera settings. Unfortunately, the camera battery ran out of juice within 15 minutes of when I started. So I wasn't able to mess with the settings too much or take several different photos under different settings. I was only able to get a few. I'll return to this job later and get a lot more, since there were way more areas that I could have taken pictures of but never got to them before the battery died.

I think my photo taking skills and lighting design skills are improving over time. But still learning.... Let me know what you all think of these. Any tips are appreciated.

Zohan
06-22-2012, 06:08 PM
Ok thanks guys.
The lighting looks better in person, but im happy with the pics at this point.
Any suggestions on the lighting?

Lite4
06-22-2012, 06:56 PM
Looks Good Jim,

I like the trachycarpus you lit. Good to see you pushing the envelope of plant material a bit. I planted some back in Idaho and they did fine with winter protection. Probably 2 climate zones difference.

Zohan
06-22-2012, 07:00 PM
Nice.....Good pics too

starry night
06-22-2012, 07:33 PM
Looks Good Jim,

I like the trachycarpus you lit. Good to see you pushing the envelope of plant material a bit. I planted some back in Idaho and they did fine with winter protection. Probably 2 climate zones difference.

I saw that palm and I thought that Jim must have taken the photo when he was on vacation in the south. I wasn't acquainted with the trachycarpus until now. So I went scurrying for my etymological dictionary. "Rough fruit" ? Does that palm get fruit?

Lite4
06-22-2012, 08:00 PM
Trachycarpus fortunei, Chusan palm or Chinese windmill palm... Goes by many names. One of the hardiest trunked palm varieties on the planet. It may fruit in more southernly climates but never in zone 6-7 that I saw.

JimLewis
06-22-2012, 11:04 PM
It may fruit in more southernly climates but never in zone 6-7 that I saw.

No. That's not true. They produce fruit around here when they get mature enough and if they are happy. There are many around town that have the beautiful yellow fruit stuff hanging from just under the frawns. I'll take some photos of some as I see them in the next few weeks.

Palms aren't super popular around here because they don't really fit in with the NW planting scheme very well. But there are a few varieties that do grow up here. The Windmill Palm and the Mexican Fan Palm are the two most common around here. I know one guy who has a really nice big Blue Palm. Some in the Portland area are upwards of 25-30' tall even. But most are in the 5-12' range.

You can't grow them everywhere in your landscape. They need to be protected from cold winter winds. So in the corner of a house where they are protected on two sides is a great place to plant one around here.

All of the McDonald's in the SW Portland / Beaverton / Washington County area were all landscaped by one of my competitors who loves the tropical look. So all of those McDonald's restaurants have half a dozen good sized windmill palms and at least as many Italian Cypress as well (which also aren't very common around here, because they're problematic.) They've done a really good job of making each of the McDonald's around here look almost like California. And these guys do a really nice job of keeping the palms really happy and the Italian Cypress sheared very tightly so the can resist damage from the heavy rain, wind and occasional snow.

I wish we could grow Queen Palms and King Palms here. I'm still waiting for all the global warming to start kicking in so that Oregon can be more like California! But that damm AlGore is full of spit, as far as I can tell. :laugh: Because there ain't no warming here.

I actually planted some Windmill Palms up at my cousin's house that is 20 miles North of Seattle. That was 5 years ago and we planted 5 of them. 2 or 3 are still alive and doing pretty well. But at least 2 didn't make it. But they can have them as far North as Seattle and still do okay.

Lite4
06-23-2012, 09:10 AM
Wow, that's cool Jim. I never would have imagined you would see fruiting. although, Portland is quite a bit more temperate than Boise. Portland is such a beautiful city. I miss the PNW.

starry night
06-23-2012, 09:16 AM
Tim, You mean you don't like the flatlands of central Indiana?

Did you get the email sent to your new address?