Anyone Using the Nikon D3100 Camera?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Apr 21, 2012.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    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.
  2. S&MLL

    S&MLL LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 751

    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
  3. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276

    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.
  4. Alan B

    Alan B Sponsor
    Male, from tampa, fl
    Messages: 447


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



  5. jana

    jana LawnSite Member
    Messages: 75

    Or just dl the .pdf file from Cast here. 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.
  6. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276

    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.
    Last edited: Apr 22, 2012
  7. Zohan

    Zohan LawnSite Member
    Messages: 136

    Do you guys think its worth it to jump up to the d5100 which has bracketed shooting?
  8. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,187

    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?
  9. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    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!
  10. steveparrott

    steveparrott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,276

    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.




Share This Page