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DSLR newbie
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Evan Parker
(ecp12) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
DSLR newbie on 10/24/2011 11:02:02 MDT Print View

I recently got a Nikon D3100 with the 18-55mm kit lens for my birthday (finally 21!) and I've been scouring the internet for instructions and lessons on DSLR basics and what I should get to outfit myself further. I graduated from a P&S and did so for the better quality and haven gotten so frustrated with the inability of my camera to take low light photos. I will be shooting a wide variety of subjects, but this is just for a hobby and to get some good pictures! Any suggestions of what I should read or what I should purchase would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance!

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: DSLR newbie on 10/24/2011 12:43:34 MDT Print View

I'm sure there are several Nikon DSLR camera forums which are much more active than the photography section here on BPL. They are a great place to pick up hints and get positive criticism of your shots. I've joined the Ricoh forum recently, and they seem a friendly, helpful bunch.

Dirk Rabdau
(dirk9827) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: DSLR newbie on 10/24/2011 12:52:26 MDT Print View

Congratulations on the new camera. It is capable of taking some outstanding photographs.

I would recommend a book that has less to do with the functions of a particular camera, and more about the theory of making photographs.

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is an excellent start. He explains the Holy Trinity of photography - that is the relationship between ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. This is the most critical thing to understand. One of the wonderful aspects of Digital Photography is that you can experiment with these things at no cost - just take a photo of the same object (preferably using a tripod, but failing that, start with a reference point) and change the settings to see differences.

As to the D3100 specifically, David Busch's Field Guides are well regarded. You can find those on Amazon as well.


Edited by dirk9827 on 10/24/2011 12:54:47 MDT.

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: DSLR newbie on 10/24/2011 14:26:05 MDT Print View

The Joe McNally Life Guide to photography is good:

The Freeman Patterson book, Photography and the Art of Seeing, is terrific. Looks like there is a new edition coming out next month:

Good luck.

Mark Cashmere
(tinkrtoy) - M

Locale: NEOH
Ken Rockwell on 10/24/2011 17:15:51 MDT Print View

and more specifically for you...

Good luck and have fun!

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
accessorizing on 10/24/2011 18:24:42 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/18/2015 04:22:06 MDT.

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: accessorizing on 10/24/2011 18:29:18 MDT Print View

I agree with Rick 100% on the 35 f1.8 lens. It's a steal and a gem. As he suggested, it's the primary lens for my D7000 (and also was on my D40 and D5100 previously).

You may also want to add the 55-200 VR or 55-300 VR (your choice) to your list at some point.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
DSLR newbie on 10/25/2011 00:50:29 MDT Print View

I would second the recommendation for John Shaw's and Galen Rowell's books. Tim Grey's books are a good place to start with photoshop.


Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Re: DSLR newbie on 10/25/2011 02:43:24 MDT Print View

Seconding everything said about getting out there and playing with it. The digital advantage is test shooting without development costs.

For inspiration:

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
35mm 1.8 DX on 10/25/2011 02:50:48 MDT Print View

+2 on that lens once you can afford it. Before you go for that, or if you can't afford it, get the SB-400 flash. I had that for my D90 and it was fantastic. You don't need the bigger flashes most of the time.

Go through Ken Rockwell's D3100 guide first, its a simple one, but the D3100 is a simple camera and does a lot of things well by itself, so Ken doesn't need to write as much as he does for other cameras.

My sister in law has same set up as you and has issues in low light sometimes with AF; camera not focusing on what she wanted. I changed the AF zones on it to centre point only, and taught her how to use that. Basically, once you've set it to centre point, you point the centre at the subject that you want in focus, press and half hold the shutter button, re-frame the shot, continue to press the rest of the way. This makes focusing much easier in many situations with the D3100.

Having a good UV filter is a good idea too, for lens protection and outdoor use. If you get a good one there is no problem in leaving it on for indoor shooting (good ones have almost 100% light transmission and don't have issues with aliasing). I've found Hoya HD UV filters the best in my experience so far. They are tough too and will probably outlast your 18-55mm lens.

Great pic on a camera. The D3100 has excellent image quality, and is very light and compact. Its excellent value, I've recommended it to three people now who have wanted their first DSlR, along with the 35mm 1.8DX

Edited by oysters on 10/25/2011 02:51:53 MDT.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: DSLR newbie on 10/25/2011 07:11:51 MDT Print View

I would suggest a tripod and circular polarizing filter. has a Nikon forum and Thom Hogan has a good set of books for Nikon bodies. IMHO take a grain of salt when reading Ken Rockwell's site. I suggest you use what you have and learn the limits before buying another lens.

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: DSLR newbie on 10/25/2011 08:22:17 MDT Print View

I started with a D40, 18-55, and 55-200 VR and it makes for a very light, compact, versatile kit. If low light performance bothers you the most, I'd suggest either a tripod if most of your subjects are stationary or a fast prime if your subjects are more mobile. I've never used the 35/1.8 DX recommended above, opting instead to go the manual focus route with a 50/1.8 Series E. I ended up getting sucked in by manual focus glass and the two kits lenses are actually the only autofocus ones I own. I wouldn't say a flash is necessary, even now that I have a couple I don't use them all that often, preferring a fast prime and natural light in most instances, YMMV. When you get one make sure it can tilt or swivel so you can bounce it.

When you get a tripod, get the little $20 IR remote too. Its super handy, tiny, and about the cheapest accessory you can buy for the camera :D. Don't skimp on a tripod either. I never imagined I'd be looking at a Mamiya RB67 when I bought my legs but I'm glad I went a little overboard with them. If I do get the RB, I'm going to need a new head because I did skimp there. Live and learn...

As far as reading, Understanding Exposure seems to be the standard for, well, understanding exposure and is a great first book. I really the The Photographer's Eye by Michael Freeman and many of Galen Rowell's books as well. But the best way to learn is to put you camera in Manual mode and start figuring out for yourself how different combinations of shutter speed, aperture, and ISO change the image. Learn to read the histogram and figure out when your meter is lying to you and you'll be off to a great start!


daniel B
(dbogey) - F - M

Locale: East Coast
Site to subscribe to and post questions on 10/25/2011 09:12:44 MDT Print View

Make sure to look into and for Nikon related questions about your camera visit within the same site

Evan Parker
(ecp12) - F

Locale: Upstate NY
Thank you! on 10/25/2011 09:25:36 MDT Print View

Thank you everyone for such an overwhelming response! I'll be sure to check out some of the books mentioned and I'll definitely be reading up on the websites listed. I was considering the 35mm lenses since it was so cheap, maybe a Christmas present? And I will definitely have to get a tripod of some sort, what is the price range of a good one? Thanks again for all of the help guys! I look forward to taking and sharing some good photos.

Gregory Stein
(tauneutrino) - F

Locale: Upper Galilee
practice on 05/23/2012 05:59:17 MDT Print View

0) practice
1) practice
2) even more practice
3) +1 practice
and... Have I mentioned you should practice?
Yeah, read a little theory. I would suggest to keep the heavy books for later read. Read basics and practice a lot. After 2-3-4-5 moths or so read the rest and you will understand that better.
Just IMHO. Such was my way toward amateur photography.