Getting Started With My New DSLR – Which Shooting Mode?

Nikon D7000 shooting modes

I was playing around with my new DSLR camera to be able to make a smoother move from mobile phone photography. Until now, I was shooting with a mobile phone camera. I was basically shooting in auto mode all the time. All I had to do is just tap on the screen to capture a shot and that’s about it, in most part.

With a DSLR is a completely different story, I mean, kind of. I can put the Nikon D7000 on ‘Auto’ mode and let it do everything automatically. However, from my experience with camera phones, you can only benefit from having more control over the camera settings.

For example, I was shooting in the late afternoon. I wanted to capture the low-light atmosphere of the streets. What my OnePlus 6 did at some occasions is increasing the ISO sensitivity and brightening up the image move that I wanted to. I could tap and hold to lock the exposure at a certain point on the screen. However, this was slow and very inconvenient. I wasted a lot of time and missed special moments because of that.

“P” (Programmed Auto) Shooting Mode

I was testing the Nikon and I saw that I have plenty of options to control the exposure. I can choose to use “P” (Program) shooting mode that is like auto but it doesn’t pop up the flash automatically and doesn’t touch the ISO. It just controls the shutter speed and aperture automatically, it also doesn’t apply and scenes mode settings.

That seems like a good mode to start with. Changing the ISO sensitivity is easy. I just hold a button on the left side of the camera and use the front dial to rotate and change the ISO values. For example, if I see that the image turned out too bright, I can just dial it down. The caveat of that is that shooting at higher ISO leads to higher image noise.

“A” (Aperture Priority) Shooting Mode

Having a VR lens means that I can shoot at slower shutter speeds but still maintain a sharp image. So if I just put the ISO at 200, I can control the aperture using the “A” (Aperture priority) shooting mode. This way, I know always what ISO I am using and all I need to do is to change the aperture to control the exposure. However, when shooting in low-light, the shutter speed might fall to a very slow shutter speed below the recommended one for getting a sharp image. With auto ISO, I can trust the camera to increase the ISO so the image won’t get blurry due to slower shutter speed.

So again, I am kind of confused. I want to be able to set up one setting quick. Should I go all manual?

Well, I dug into the setting and I found out that I can set up the ISO Auto range. This means that I can tell the camera the minimum and maximum ISO sensitivity that it would work within the auto mode.

So for example, I can tell the Nikon camera to shoot in auto mode but only choose values between 100-800. This is much better than before. I know that in terms of high ISO performance, the Nikon D7000 can produce satisfactory and relatively noise-free images up to ISO 800. If I shoot in bright light it will choose the lowest ISO, so I won’t need to worry about anything. If it’s low-light, I’ll need to bump up the ISO anyways, because the VR on the lens isn’t that good to help me shoot at 2-3 seconds without blurring the image.

“S” (Shutter Priority) Shooting Mode

So in terms of shooting in daylight, this seems like a good option. I know more or less what I’ll be shooting, and this is mostly nature and street photography. This means that I don’t shoot action, and having a super-fast shutter speed isn’t a high priority. If that was, I would have to probably use the “S” (Shutter priority) shooting mode. Which means that I have control over the shutter speed but not on the aperture. This like the name suggests gives priority to the shutter speed, which means it’s the most important value for the particular shooting that the photographer needs (e.g. shooting sports, kids, etc.).

So for my particular shooting, “S” shooting mode isn’t needed. Fully automatic doesn’t give me the control I need. For example, aperture priority seems like a good choice. The reason for that is that I want to be able to tell the camera to NOT increase the aperture, so I can have control over the depth of field. Or if I shoot landscape, I want to be able to set the aperture higher to get sharper results (having longer depth of field). If I shoot in daylight, which most of my photos will be. There can be a situation where the camera will reduce the aperture opening to compensate for the increase in light that can lead to overexposure. If I shoot landscape, I don’t want that, and aperture priority might be better for me.

Going “M” Manual

To be honest, I don’t want to use the manual shooting mode. I want to be free of continuously maintaining the right values of the shutter, aperture, and ISO for good exposure.  I might use it in particular instances where I want to get very specific results and I’ll use trial and error until I get the perfect shot.

However, most of the time, I just do some casual shooting. I thought about it and I came to a conclusion that eventually, I’ll have to switch between the different modes depends on the subject.

I am using the Nikon Nikkor AF-S DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens. That lens doesn’t have a very bright aperture. So when it comes to getting that creamy Bokeh, those shots will probably get blurry to a satisfying degree when I shoot closeups or macros. This is unless the camera decided to close the aperture to a degree that I get very little shallow depth of field effect. I don’t see that happening considering the scenes that I intend to captures photos of.

So What Shooting Mode To Choose?

I’ve decided that I’ll set an auto ISO to 100-800 or maybe 100-1600. The image quality is good even at 1600 with little noise (I checked it today in the house).  Then I’ll use aperture priority so I can get control over the aperture when taking landscape pictures and when shooting objects that I want to get a very shallow depth of field effect, as much as possible. When shooting in daylight and even in the afternoon, I think that the Vibration Reduction of the lens will help deliver sharp results.

OK, I stopped for a minute writing and I wanted to know for how many stops the lens that I am using can compensate for. I’ve read on the web that the Nikon AF-S 18-105mm VR lens has only 3-stop compensation for its vibration reduction (VR) feature.

It’s not a lot, and this might put more limitations on what I thought. If I shoot in daylight, that’s probably OK in most part. In the afternoon, I probably want to increase the auto ISO sensitivity range or shoot in full auto to ensure a sharp and well-exposed image.

Decisions, decisions…

Oh well, this is the time to learn how to shoot with a DSLR. As you can see, I am quite a beginner. Trying to find out the best settings. The Nikon D7000 has a neat feature which allows me to create two custom settings. So I can create on for daylight and one for the afternoon. This is cool because I don’t need to dive into the menus again every time I want to make a change. It’s a convenient feature.

The best thing to do is just go out there and see what works for me. That being said, it’s not bad trying to figure out those shooting modes so it’s easier to make changes once you are outdoors with nor pressure.

I’ll continue to explore the world of DSLR  photography. I am glad that now I at least have a high degree of control over the settings.

Shooting Manually with a Phone

I just want to add,  that some cameras, including mine, have the option to shoot manually.  It is called ‘Pro mode’ on the OnePlus 6. This gives me control over the ISO, WB, Shutter speed, exposure compensation and more. It doesn’t give me control over the aperture though. Still, a DSLR camera has many benefits compared to a phone.

For me, I get better high ISO performance, higher dynamic range, great RAW conversion support in photo editing software, optical viewfinder which is great when shooting in bright daylight, comfortable ergonomics, bracketing option, optical zoom with optical image stabilization (was very important for me), beautiful natural shallow depth of field effect, quick access to camera settings using physical buttons, ability to change lenses, etc.

The more I dive into DSLR, the more features I’ll discover that I can get the advantage of and use them to improve my creativity and be able to capture the shot without being limited by the camera. It’s all about experience and I’m pretty positive that in a few months, I’ll have much more experience and I’ll be able to capture more interesting photos that I couldn’t capture before that with my mobile phone.

I’ll share more the more I’ll learn. Thanks for reading.

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