Five simple drills to move you up the ranks from recruit and put you in
control of your camera.
Your camera has lots of settings -- don't sweat 'em 'til you master the basics of the drills. but, there are some things to take care of at the start. Dial these settings in once, then forget about 'em:
Metering: Select what's called Evaluative Metering (it's called Matrix on Nikons).
White Balance: Stick with Automatic (a.k.a. AWB). It's so good, we often find it gives better results on our Certified Lab Tests.
Color Space: If you're planning to color manage your print process and tweak your pictures in an image editor, go with Adobe RGB. If not, you're better off sticking with sRGB, which is normally the default anyway.
Focusing: Use Auto and pick Center. That way, when you're shooting, you can zero in on what you want sharp, hold down the shutter slightly, and then recompose -- just like with your point-and-shoot.
Use Your Flash for More Flattering Outdoor Portraits. When the sun is causing unsightly shadows on your subject's face, switch into program mode and turn on the flash. You might find that the flash is too much, so use flash-exposure compensation (not to be confused with regular exposure compensation). You can bump the flash power down to cast your subject in a flattering light. Note: You'll often find flash-exposure comp among your camera's LCD menu items.
Control your shutter speed or your aperture to make your picture look the way you want it.
Fire the flash: Sun-cast shadows don't flatter anyone (left). Your flash can fill out the dark areas, but here it blew out half the detail (middle). Flash-exposure comp powered down the flash for a natural-looking portrait (right).
Up Your ISO to Handhold in Dim Light. Nothing ruins a picture faster than unnecessary flash. When you've got nice, natural -- albeit low -- light, get into program mode, and turn up your ISO to 800, 1600, or even 3200 if it's really dark. Then start shooting handheld pictures that beat the flash any day.
Kill the flash: When you have beautiful light, don't let the flash pop up, ruin the photo, and startle your subject (left). A high ISO gets good exposure, flash-free (right).