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How to Use Guide Mode on Your Nikon D3200

Your Nikon D3200 offers six automatic Scene modes, which select settings designed to capture specific scenes in ways that are traditionally considered best from a creative standpoint (Portrait, Landscape, Child, Close Up, Sports, Night Portrait). But if you want more, the Advanced Operation option available in Guide mode makes it easy to play around with depth of field and motion blur to a greater extent than the Scene modes allow.

Guide mode enables you to adjust the amount of background blurring, whereas the Scene modes set the depth of field for you. Additionally, whereas Sports mode always tries to use a fast shutter speed to freeze action, Guide mode lets you use a slow shutter speed to intentionally blur a moving object, which can create a heightened sense of motion. And a few of the advanced Guide mode settings also help you manipulate overall exposure. You can select a setting that ensures that sky colors remain vivid in sunset pictures, for example.

The following steps show you how to explore this Guide mode feature.

  1. Set the Mode dial to Guide.

    You see the initial Guide Mode screen on the monitor, as shown on the left in the following figure.

    Select Advanced Operation to access settings that enable you to adjust depth of field and motion bl
    Select Advanced Operation to access settings that enable you to adjust depth of field and motion blur.
  2. Highlight Shoot and press OK.

    You see the screen shown on the right in the preceding figure.

  3. Highlight Advanced Operation and press OK.

    The screen shown in the following figure appears. On this screen, you choose the type of photo effect you want to produce — softer background, sharper background, and so on.

    Use the Multi Selector to scroll through the list of available picture options.
    Use the Multi Selector to scroll through the list of available picture options.
  4. Use the Multi Selector to scroll up and down through the list of picture options.

    You have these choices:

    • Soften Backgrounds: Select this option to create a short depth of field, meaning that your subject will be in sharp focus but objects at a distance will appear blurry. Remember that despite the name of the option, objects at a distance in front of the subject will also appear softly focused.

    • Bring More into Focus: Select this option for any shot where you want a large depth of field so that both foreground and background objects appear sharp.

    • Freeze Motion (People): Choose this setting to capture any subject — human or not — that's moving at a moderate pace, such as a trumpet player in a marching band or a duck swimming across a pond.

    • Freeze Motion (Vehicles): Select this option for any fast-moving subject, whether it's a passing car, a soccer player kicking the ball across the field, or a running dog.

    • Show Water Flowing: Choose this option to get help setting the camera to blur motion. Why Show Water Flowing as the setting name? Well, when you photograph a waterfall (or any flowing water), a slow shutter speed blurs the water enough to give it a misty, romantic look. But you can use this setting to blur any moving object, not just water. With colorful subjects, blurred motion can create a fun abstract effect.

      Using a tripod is a must when you use a slow shutter speed. Otherwise, camera shake can blur the whole picture, not just the moving objects. Remember to turn off Vibration Reduction when you use a tripod. For most people, shutter speeds slower than 1/60 second create problems.

    • Capture reds in sunsets: This setting chooses a White Balance setting that helps ensure that the red hues of a sunset are emphasized in the shot.

    • Take bright photos: The camera screen suggests that you use this setting to photograph food or small objects. This setting is also helpful when you're shooting a scene dominated by white objects, such as a white plate on a white tablecloth — a type of picture known in photography circles as a high key image.

    • Take dark (low key) photos: This one is the opposite of Take Bright Photos; the camera purposely underexposes the image to create a darker picture. Again, the feature used to produce the exposure change is Exposure Compensation.

      The low key in the setting name refers to the fact that the key objects in the image are toward the dark end of the brightness spectrum. Try this setting when shooting dark subjects, such as a black cat on a gray rug. (And don't ask why the Take Bright Photos setting doesn't have high key in its name.)

    • Reduce blur: This mode is designed for times shooting in dim lighting or when you use a long (and possibly heavy) telephoto lens and you don't have a tripod handy. The camera increases the light-sensitivity of the image sensor automatically to allow a faster shutter speed. That faster shutter speed can help eliminate the blur that can occur due to camera shake.

  5. Highlight your choice and press OK.

    A screen with some basic information appears.

  6. After reading the information screen, press OK.

    You see a second screen that offers an adjustment related to the scene option you selected in Step 5.

  7. Use the Multi Selector to adjust the picture setting as instructed by the message on the screen.

    As you do, the little picture preview updates to illustrate how your picture will be affected. (The change to the preview can be pretty subtle, so don't drive yourself crazy if you can't see much difference when you change the setting.)

  8. Press OK.

    In the next screen that appears, choose Use the Viewfinder and press OK to exit the guided menus and take the picture. Or, to play with additional options, select More Settings, press OK, and follow the onscreen prompts until you eventually get back to the screen to make your adjustments.

As you can see from exploring these steps, the statement in the first paragraph of this article that Guide mode "makes it easy" to adjust picture settings uses "easy" as a relative term. You have to wade through a lot of menu screens, some of which aren't completely user-friendly. That said, any time you need a reminder of what setting you should change to produce a desired creative goal, these Guide mode screens can offer a handy assist.

When you do use Guide mode, remember these final two points: First, if you turn the camera off, all Guide mode settings are restored to their defaults. Second, some settings that you establish for Guide mode, such as Image Size and Image Quality, affect Guide mode shooting only.

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