Learning how to use a Nikon D3100

Use a Nikon D3100

A few years ago I got into photography and learned how to shoot my P&S in manual mode. It wasn’t easy to learn, but with the help of photography forums I was able to gain some knowledge and started making progress with my images. Then I purchased a new P&S camera. The manual settings on this Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ35 were harder to figure out and I resorted to shooting in auto only.

Fast forward a few more years and I finally had enough money to purchase a DSLR and was excited to get back into manual shooting. My options were between the Nikon D3100 and an entry level DSLR Canon*. I chose the Nikon D3100 for a few reasons: cost was definitely one. Being my first DSLR, I knew I wanted an entry level camera because of the affordability. I also received an additional lens with this particular camera making it even more appealing.  I also wanted the ability to record videos. I ultimately chose the Nikon over the Canon because of the extra lens. The Canon also had video capabilities and the price was comparable.

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Then, I opened the box and the manual controls were even more confusing than the last. I read the manual multiple times and tried to refresh my mind on what each setting was for, but let me say, I have had this camera a few months shy of a year and have not shot in manual mode yet. Learning how to use a Nikon D3100 in manual mode has been way more difficult for me than it probably should be. It has been so much easier to flip the switch to auto and let the camera take control.

I like the ease of auto, but I prefer to be able to manipulate the settings and get the desired image. Today I took my camera to my niece’s birthday party…. and shot in auto.

Learning how to use a Nikon D3100 by LifeAsAConvert 3

Learning how to use a Nikon D3100 by LifeAsAConvert

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I am ok with these images as “snaps”. But I want to take my images to another level. I want to be able to shoot in manual with this camera and do it quickly. After the party, I came home and devoured some information about the settings.

There were a few problems in particular that I wanted to learn how to fix. I’ve always had a problem with what seemed like shutter speed, white balance, and auto focusing in auto mode. It seemed to lag and jump around on the faces. Even when I tried to force it elsewhere, the focus would shift to the face. I am still not really sure how to turn the face recognition off, but I learned more about how to help combat the other issues.

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Most importantly I have learned that I should be looking through the viewfinder (For one, it helps me fix the face recognition problem). My previous camera didn’t even have a view finder. Weird, right? This is going to take some getting used to. Next up is learning how to manually focus.

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What kind of camera do you use? And have you found it easy shooting in manual mode?

All images in this post were shot today with the D3100.

*Except for the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ35, I have always been a Canon girl. I have also broken every Canon camera I owned. They were all retractable lens and each was dropped to the point of the lens no longer working, some of them dropped only one time. I will say the FZ35 Panasonic camera has been dropped a million times and still works great. The lens is retractable, but at the same time protected. I definitely recommend that camera to anybody wanting something more than a P&S but not quite a DSLR.

27 thoughts on “Learning how to use a Nikon D3100

  1. Robin (Masshole Mommy)

    I had a big DSLR and ended up getting a Canon point & click, which I like much better. It;s much less bulkier and takes awesome photos.

  2. Jaime

    I have a Nikon D3000. I bought it shortly after my son was born 3 years ago and took a class on how to use it about 9 months later. I’m SO glad I took the class, and I need to trust myself to shoot in manual more often.

  3. Amanda Love

    I have a Canon Rebel SL1 and I so don’t know how to take pics manually. I still shoot everything in auto and it seems to work for me.

  4. Jennifer Williams

    I have a Cannon and am still in the learning phase but love it. I also have a point and shoot but it does not work for me as it is too slow between pushing the button and the photo being taken.

    1. LifeAsAConvert Post author

      The iPhone takes some good pictures though. It’s amazing how far phone technology has come since I got my first digital camera. The phones these days are better than it.

  5. Paula Schuck

    I don’t actually have a DSLR camera. I shoot everything with one of my two phones I have an LG G3 that takes beautiful pictures it has 13 megapixels on it and I have an iPhone and honest to God that’s all that I ever use I would love love to have a really good DSLR though. This is a great reference for me if I ever get one or if Santa brings one this year thanks so much.

    1. LifeAsAConvert Post author

      I hope Santa brings one for you. I wanted one for so long, but just couldn’t justify spending the money on it. I am glad I did, but now really wanting to get my moneys worth :)

  6. Melissa Smith

    How sad is it that I don’t even have a camera?! I so want one, but I can’t seem to decide which one to choose for the life of me!

  7. Angela

    I recently got a Nikon D3200 and have not really taken the time to learn it yet. Luckily, it takes pretty good pics on auto, but I totally need to learn it for even better pics.

  8. Babita

    I had Panasonic Lumix and tried the whole manual thing and gave up. I also have a Nikon D50 which I used very sparingly. Nowadays I mostly use sony point and shoot as I don’t think I have the time to use learn and use manual modes.

  9. Melanie

    I have a Panasonic, mostly use it in manual mode cause auto is always messing shots up! Should be easy but I find using it the way regular camera were made works best ;)

  10. Onica {MommyFactor}

    I use the camera on my smartphone. It’s just enough for the type of photos I take. But I’ve seen the photos taken with a Nikon pro camera and there is a big difference sometimes.

    1. LifeAsAConvert Post author

      I think I saw that you just got a new one? Your prior one was a Nikon too, right? Your pictures are always lovely. I do try to use sunlight when I can as I think that gives a better picture.

  11. Rosey

    I am intimidated by the cameras more complex than the point and shoot I have. My oldest son and his wife have one though, and their pictures really are so much better than mine. Like you, my son devoured the instructions,went through a lot of trial and error, bought lenses and flash thingies, and to him using that camera is second nature now. :)

    Your pictures are all great. That last one is my favorite though, little man is just shining he looks so happy. Great shot!

  12. Vicki F

    Those are great photos! You’ll get more used to the settings as you try different things. Good for you for giving it a go!

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