Recently I took an informal poll on my FB page asking what folks felt they needed to learn that I could help with. I was rather shocked when the request for camera settings kinda poured in, so much so I even received emails asking for help. I’ve had my D3 Settings posted since day one but I got the distinct feeling more was needed. I can’t see making a video on this topic, but sure can write about it easy enough. Now here’s the deal, these are the setting I use that work for my style of photography. Are these the magic settings for you? Sure, maybe…no clue! We all see, communicate and operate differently with the biggest factor, time behind the camera, all being different so read this with that filter on your mind.

These are the top five settings that I think are essential. Since each camera tends to have these in slightly different places, I can only speak on where to find them on the D3x but your CIM will tell you where to find them in your model. The #1 setting I feel is Color Space (Shooting Menu > Color Space > Adobe RGB) which should be set to Adobe RGB, PERIOD (don’t know why, start searching the web). #2 is Sharpening (Set Picture Control > Standard or Vivid > Sharpening > 5) and I don’t care what anyone says, shooting Jpeg or Raw, this is a MUST! #3 Matrix Metering is what I’m always in! I use the Exposure Compensation / EV button zealously in combination with the Matrix Metering to capture the EMOTION I want from the light and for me, it works. #4 Exposure Mode A = Aperture Priority so I’m in control of DOF which, other then photographing flying aircraft, is the mode I’m ALWAYS in. #5 NEF (RAW) recording is set to 14bit (Shooting Menu > NEF (RAW) recording > NEF (RAW) bit depth > 14-bit). I know, I’ve read, I’ve had many a discussion that switching this to 12bit should have no real impact yet….every time I do and I make the 24×30 print I swear it’s not the same, at 12bit it’s just lacking…something. So I always shoot at 14bit despite the drawbacks (slower firing rate/bigger files).

After these, there is a lot of fine tuning one can do to make the machine work better for your style of photography. For example I’m always in CS firing mode and C focus, shooting in 21 Dynamic all the time except flying aircraft when I switch to Auto Area AF (don’t know what that is…grab the old CIM). In Custom Settings I switch the EV, Metering & ISO to 1/2 increments which I prefer in the 5 stops world digital works. I’ve been doing it that way for 11yrs and just recently I’ve been playing with going back to 1/3 increments (the only constant in my photography is, I have to be behind a camera). And White Balance, what do I use? I am all over the map there because there is NO ONE setting that does it all the time for every subject. White Balance as far as I’m concerned is just as important a quality as exposure when speaking the language of light.

What’s left? Actually there’s a lot, things like Sensor Wrap, GPS setting, World Time, LCD Brightness, the list goes on and on. The D3 Settings PDF has all that listed. Like I’ve already mentioned, these are what work for me, doesn’t mean they will work for you and that’s perfectly fine. If you don’t understand why I use the settings I use, don’t ask and write, rather go out and read and experiment and learn for yourself if they are right or wrong. How do you think I figured them out?

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