Nikon D3500 For Dummies book cover

Nikon D3500 For Dummies

By: Julie Adair King Published: 01-14-2019

Use your Nikon D3500 camera like the pros

Capturing frame-worthy photos is no easy feat — until now! Inside, author Julie King shares her experience as a professional photographer and photography teacher to help you get picture-perfect landscapes, portraits, action shots, and more with your Nikon D3500 digital SLR camera. 

It takes more than a good eye and an amazing camera to get shots like the pros. With the help of Nikon D3500 For Dummies, you’ll find all the expert advice and know-how you need to unlock your camera’s capabilities to their fullest potential. From working with the basics of lighting and exposure to making sense of your camera’s fanciest features, you’ll be snapping professional-grade photos in a flash!

  • Learn the five essential options for shooting quality photos
  • Understand the settings that control exposure
  • Take charge of color and focus features
  • Put your skills together to shoot portraits, close-ups, and action shots 

Whether you’re shooting in automatic mode, scene mode, or manual mode, you’ll get all the guidance you need to take photos you’ll be proud to share.

Articles From Nikon D3500 For Dummies

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Nikon D3500 For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 01-20-2022

For times when you don't have access to your copy of Nikon D3500 For Dummies, this Cheat Sheet offers a handy reference guide. It offers a map to the camera’s exterior controls along with basic information about exposure modes and the functions played by each button, dial, and switch.

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Nikon D3500: Adjusting Your Camera’s Flash Output

Article / Updated 08-26-2021

In the P, S, A, or M exposure modes, you have control over flash power on your Nikon D3500 via two options. The first setting, Flash Compensation, also works in the Portrait, Close-up, and Night Portrait Scene modes, but only if your Nikon D3500 thinks that flash is required. Applying Flash Compensation on your Nikon D3500 When you set the Flash Control for Built-in Flash option on the Shooting menu to TTL, which is the default mode, your Nikon D3500 determines how much flash power is needed. But if you want a little more or less flash light than the camera thinks is appropriate, you can turn on Flash Compensation. Flash Compensation settings are stated in terms of exposure value (EV) numbers. A setting of EV 0.0 indicates no flash adjustment; you can increase the flash power to EV +1.0 or decrease it to EV –3.0. As an example of the benefit of this feature, look at the carousel images. The first image shows a flash-free shot. Clearly, a flash was needed to compensate for the fact that the horses were shadowed by the roof of the carousel. But at normal flash power, as shown in the middle image, the flash was too strong, creating glare in some spots and blowing out the highlights in the white mane. By dialing the flash power down to EV –1.0, a softer flash was achieved that straddled the line perfectly between no flash and too much flash. As for boosting the flash output, you may find it necessary on some occasions, but don't expect the built-in flash to work miracles even at a Flash Compensation of +1.0. The built-in flash simply isn't capable of illuminating faraway objects. Flash range varies depending on your ISO and aperture setting; for example, at ISO 100 and an aperture of f/5.6, the flash range is just 2 to 5 feet. If you raise the ISO to 400, the flash range extends to nearly 10 feet. You can find a chart listing all the variables in the full version of the camera manual, which is downloadable from the Nikon support site. But if you don’t care to dive that deep into flash specifics, you should be okay if you assume a flash range of about 2 to 10 feet. Of course, taking a few test shots before you shoot your final images is always a good idea. Back to Flash Compensation: The current setting appears in the Information display, as shown on the left below. In the Live View display, you see only a symbol indicating that the feature is enabled, as shown on the right side. Note that if the feature is turned off (set to EV 0.0), the symbol doesn't appear in the Live View display. In the P, S, A, and M exposure modes, use either of these tricks on your Nikon D3500: Use the two-button-plus-Command-dial maneuver. First, press the Flash button to raise the built-in flash, if it’s not already up. Then press and hold the Flash button and the Exposure Compensation button simultaneously. When you press the buttons, the Flash Compensation value becomes highlighted in the Information and Live View displays. In the viewfinder, the current setting takes the place of the usual Frames Remaining value. While keeping both buttons pressed, rotate the Command dial to adjust the setting. Use the control strip. Just press the i button to activate the control strip, and then use the Multi Selector to highlight the Flash Compensation setting, as shown on the left below. Press OK to display a screen where you can set the compensation amount, as shown on the second screen of the figure. In the Portrait, Close-up, and Night Portrait Scene modes, you can take advantage of Flash Compensation when the Flash mode is set to a Flash mode other than Off. But remember that in those Scene modes, the only other available Flash modes have “Auto” attached to their name – which means that the camera decides whether flash is needed to adequately light the subject. Press the shutter button halfway, and if the flash pops up, you can use the same techniques just outlined to set the Flash Compensation amount. (You can set the Flash Compensation amount via the control strip regardless of whether the flash is up, but doing so doesn’t accomplish a darned thing if the camera dictates that flash isn’t needed for the shot.) Any flash-power adjustment you make in P, S, A, or M mode remains in force until you reset the value, even if you turn off the camera. So be sure to check the setting before you next use the flash. With the Scene modes, the Flash Compensation setting is returned to EV 0.0 if you change exposure modes or turn off the camera. Controlling flash output manually on the Nikon D3500 If you're experienced in the way of the flash, you can manually set flash output via the Flash Cntrl for Built-in Flash option, found on the Shooting menu. This feature is available only in the P, S, A, and M exposure modes. The normal setting is TTL (for automatic, through-the-lens metering), but if you select Manual, as shown on the right above, and then press the Multi Selector right, you can access the power settings, which range from Full to 1/32 power. When flash is set to manual control, the TTL icon that normally appears in the upper-right corner of the Information display is replaced by the letter M. In the viewfinder and Live View display, you see an icon that looks just like the Flash Compensation symbol (lightning bolt with a plus-minus sign). But when manual flash power is engaged, the symbol blinks. Exposure metering modes and flash output on the Nikon D3500 When the camera calculates how much flash power your subject requires, it does so based on your exposure metering mode. The metering mode determines which part of the frame the Nikon considers when making exposure decisions: In matrix (whole frame) and center-weighted modes, flash power is adjusted to expose the picture using a balance of ambient light and flash light. Nikon uses the term i-TTL Balanced Fill Flash for this technology. The i stands for intelligent; again, the TTL means that the camera calculates exposure by reading the light that’s coming through-the-lens. The balanced fill part refers to the fact that the flash is used to fill in shadow areas, while brighter areas are exposed by the available light, resulting (usually) in a pleasing balance of the two light sources. In spot-metering mode, the camera assumes that you’re primarily interested in a single area of the frame, so it calculates flash power and overall exposure based on that point, without much regard for the background. This mode is Standard i-TTL Flash. Check out these other Nikon features when you’re stuck inside on a rainy day.

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Using Your Nikon D3500: Familiarizing Yourself with Nikon Lenses

Article / Updated 08-26-2021

Because you may vary which Nikon lens you are using, the following does not contain full instructions on every Nikon lens operation. But the following list provides general information on working with standard AF-P and AF-S Nikon lenses. You should explore the lens manual for specifics, of course, but keep reading for general tips on using a lens with your Nikon D3500. Extending/retracting the lens: If you have a retractable lens like the AF-P kit lens, press the retractable-lens barrel button while rotating the lens barrel to extend and retract the lens. The camera won't take a picture with your Nikon’s lens in the retracted position. Zooming: If you bought a zoom lens, it has a movable zoom ring. The location of the zoom ring on the kit lens. To zoom in or out on this lens, rotate the ring. (Some lenses instead use a push/pull setup, where you push and pull the lens away from you or toward you to zoom.) You can determine the current focal length of the lens by looking at the number that’s aligned with the white dot that’s labeled focal-length indicator above. Setting the focus method (manual focusing or autofocusing): How you switch between autofocusing and manual focusing depends on whether you’re using an AF-P lens or an AF-S lens, which is the other type of lens that works with your Nikon camera. Here’s the scoop: AF-P lens: Change the focusing method via the Focus Mode setting. The fastest method is to use the control strip, but you also can access the option from the second page of the Shooting menu, as shown on the right. Either way, to switch from automatic to manual focusing, select the MF (Manual Focus) option. To go back to autofocusing, revisit the Focus mode setting and choose one of the AF (autofocus) options. How many AF settings are available depend on your exposure mode and whether you’re working in Live View mode or using the viewfinder to frame your images. The default settings are AF-A (Autofocus Auto) for viewfinder photography and AF-S (single-servo autofocus) for Live View and movie photography. AF-S lens: These lenses for your Nikon typically offer an exterior switch for shifting from automatic to manual focusing. You move the switch to the A position for autofocusing and to M for manual focusing. On some lenses for Nikon camera, the switches may instead be marked AF and MF; some lenses have a switch position labeled AF/M, which means that you can use autofocusing to set initial focus and then fine-tune focus manually without changing the position of the switch. Even though you set the basic focus method via the switch, you control the behavior of the autofocusing system via the Focus mode option described in the preceding paragraph. AF-P lenses also offer the option of autofocusing with manual override. But instead of moving a lens switch to activate or disable the feature, you use the Setup menu option. By default, this option (Manual Focus Ring in AF Mode) is enabled, so you can tweak focus manually after autofocusing. The only potential problem with the feature is that you can accidentally move the focusing ring, changing the focus point without realizing that you did so. It’s up to you to decide which setting you prefer. If the menu option is dimmed, your Nikon’s lens doesn’t support this feature. Focusing: With either type of lens, use these techniques to set focus: Autofocusing: Frame your shot and press and hold the shutter button halfway down to establish the focusing distance. Manual focusing: Rotate the focusing ring on the lens barrel. The position of the focusing ring varies depending on the Nikon lens you choose. Enabling Vibration Reduction: Many Nikon lenses, including the kit lens, offer Vibration Reduction, which compensates for small amounts of camera shake that can occur when you handhold the camera. Camera movement during the exposure can produce blurry images, so turning on Vibration Reduction can help you get sharper handheld shots. When you use a tripod, however, check the lens instruction manual to find out whether you should turn off the feature. With some lenses for you Nikon, you need to disable VR so that the camera doesn’t try to compensate for movement that isn’t occurring. On an AF-S lens, turn Vibration Reduction on or off by using the VR switch, found near the focusing-method switch. The available VR settings vary depending on the lens, so see the lens manual for details. (Some lenses for Nikons offer one setting for normal shooting and one for situations in which you anticipate lots of camera movement, such as when photographing from a speed boat.) With an AF-P lens, turning Vibration Reduction on and off is a menu-based affair. Enable the feature via the last page of the Shooting menu, as shown on the left below. After you do so, you see a shaking hand symbol in the Information screen and Live View displays. Look for the symbol on the left side of the Live View display. Vibration Reduction is initiated when you depress the shutter button halfway. If you pay close attention, the image in the viewfinder may appear to be a little blurry immediately after you take the picture. That’s a normal result of the Vibration Reduction operation on some lenses and doesn’t indicate a problem. Removing a lens: After turning off the camera, press the lens-release button on the Nikon camera and turn the lens toward that button until it detaches from the lens mount. Put the rear protective cap onto the back of the lens and, if you aren’t putting another lens on the camera, cover the lens mount with its cap, too. Always switch lenses in a clean environment to reduce the risk of getting dust, dirt, and other contaminants inside the camera or lens. Changing lenses on a sandy beach, for example, isn’t a good idea. For added safety, point the camera body slightly down when performing this maneuver; doing so helps prevent any flotsam in the air from being drawn into the camera by gravity. Focal length and the crop factor on your Nikon D3500 The angle of view that a lens can capture is determined by its focal length, or in the case of a zoom lens, the range of focal lengths it offers. Focal length is measured in millimeters. According to photography tradition, a focal length of 50mm is described as a “normal” lens because it works well for the type of snapshots that users of those kinds of cameras are likely to shoot. A lens with a focal length under 35mm is characterized as a wide-angle lens because at that focal length, the camera has a wide-angle view, making it good for landscape photography. A short focal length also has the effect of making objects seem smaller and farther away. At the other end of the spectrum, a lens with a focal length longer than 80mm is considered a telephoto lens and is often referred to as a long lens. With a long lens, the angle of view narrows and faraway subjects appear closer and larger, which is ideal for wildlife and sports photographers. Note, however, that the focal lengths stated here are 35mm equivalent focal lengths. Here’s the deal: For reasons that aren’t important, when you put a standard lens on most digital cameras, including the D3500, the available frame area is reduced, as if you took a picture on a camera that uses 35mm film negatives and cropped it. This crop factor varies depending on the camera, which is why the photo industry adopted the 35mm-equivalent measuring stick as a standard. With the D3500, the crop factor is roughly 1.5x. Here, the red line indicates the image area that results from the 1.5 crop factor. When shopping for a lens, it’s important to Remember this crop factor to make sure that you get the focal length designed for the type of pictures you want to take. Just multiply the lens focal length by 1.5 to determine the actual angle of view. Not sure which focal length to choose? Nikon offers a Lens Simulator tool that shows exactly how different focal length lenses capture the same scene. (If the link doesn’t take you to the simulator, just enter the term Nikon Lens Simulator in your browser’s search engine. Nikon has a way of moving things around on its websites.

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Nikon D3500: How to Use Your Camera’s Flash

Article / Updated 05-03-2019

One basic picture-taking option to consider is whether you want to add flash to your Nikon D3500 to illuminate your subject. With the D3500, you can use the built-in flash or attach an external flash head to the hot shoe. However, flash options depend on the exposure mode of your Nikon D3500, as follows: Flash disabled: Flash isn't available in Auto Flash Off mode and in Sports Scene mode. All Effects modes except Pop, Super Vivid, Toy Camera Effect, and Photo Illustration also prevent you from using flash. (Some modes set the flash to off by default, but you can override this setting by changing the Flash mode.) Minimal flash control: In Auto mode as well as in the Portrait, Close-Up, and Night Portrait modes, you can enable or disable flash, and you may be able to choose from a couple different flash modes, such as Red-Eye Reduction mode. You also get some flash flexibility in Effects modes that allow flash. Advanced flash control: In P, S, A, and M modes, you can enable or disable flash, choose from a variety of flash modes, and even control flash power. Enabling and disabling flash on the Nikon D3500 In certain exposure modes, flash is set by default to fire automatically if the Nikon D3500 thinks that the ambient light is insufficient. In other modes, you must manually enable the flash. Here's the breakdown: Auto mode and all Scene and Effects modes that permit flash: Flash is set to Auto by default. After you press the shutter button, the camera assesses the available light and automatically raises the built-in flash if it finds that light lacking. If you don't want to use flash in these exposure modes, you may be able to disable it via the Flash mode setting, however. P, S, A, and M modes: There's no such thing as automatic flash in these modes. Instead, if you want to use the built-in flash, press the Flash button. Don't want flash? Just press down gently on the top of the flash to close the unit. The Nikon D3500 does give you a little flash guidance, though: You see a blinking question mark or a flash symbol, or both, in the displays if the camera thinks you need flash. Press the Zoom Out button (the one with the question mark next to it), and a message appears, recommending that you use flash. Choosing a Flash mode on your Nikon D3500 The Flash mode setting determines how and when the flash fires. Sorting through your Nikon D3500 Flash mode options Your camera offers the following flash modes, represented in the Information and Live View displays. Auto: The camera decides whether the flash fires. This mode isn't available in the P, S, A, M modes. Flash Off: In Auto exposure mode or the Scene and Effects modes that permit flash, choose this Flash mode to prevent the flash from firing. (In the P, S, A, and M modes, simply close the flash unit if you don't want to use flash.) Fill Flash: You can think of this mode, available in P, S, A, and M modes, as normal flash. You may also hear this mode called force flash because the flash fires no matter the amount of available light. Although most people think of flash as an indoor lighting option, adding flash can improve outdoor photos, too. After all, your main light source — the sun — is overhead, so although the top of the subject may be adequately lit, the front typically needs additional illumination. small pop of light provided by the built-in flash is also beneficial when shooting subjects that happen to be slightly shaded. For outdoor portraits, a flash is even more important to properly illuminate the face. Shooting with flash in bright light involves a couple of complications. Red-Eye Reduction: Red-eye is caused when light from the flash bounces off a subject's retinas and is reflected back to the camera lens, making the subjects appear possessed by a demon. This flash mode is designed to reduce the chances of red-eye. When you use Red-Eye Reduction mode, the AF-assist lamp on the front of the camera lights briefly before the flash fires. The subject's pupils constrict in response to the light, allowing less flash light to enter the eye and cause that glowing red reflection. Be sure to warn your subjects to wait for the flash, or else they may step out of the frame or stop posing after they see the light from the AF-assist lamp. In Auto exposure mode as well as in certain Scene and Effects modes that permit flash, Red-Eye Reduction flash is just a variation of the regular Auto flash setting. That is, if the camera sees the need for flash, it fires the flash with Red-Eye Reduction engaged. In this case, you see the word Auto next to the red-eye symbol. Additionally, a few Scene modes use a variation of red-eye reduction, combining that feature with a slow shutter speed. This flash mode displays the little eye icon plus the words Auto Slow. It's important to use a tripod and ask your subject to remain still during the exposure to avoid a blurry picture. Slow-Sync and Rear-Sync: In the flash modes listed so far, the flash and shutter are synchronized so that the flash fires at the exact moment the shutter opens. Technical types call this flash arrangement front-curtain sync, which refers to how the flash is synchronized with the opening of the shutter. Here's the deal: The camera uses a type of shutter involving two curtains that move across the frame. When you press the shutter button, the first curtain opens, allowing light to strike the image sensor. At the end of the exposure, the second curtain draws across the frame to once again shield the sensor from light. With front-curtain sync, the flash fires when the front curtain opens. Your camera also offers these special sync modes: Slow-Sync: This mode, available only in the P and A exposure modes, also uses front-curtain sync but allows a shutter speed slower than the 1/60 second minimum that's in force when you use Fill Flash and Red-Eye Reduction flash. Because of the longer exposure, the camera has time to absorb more ambient light, which has two benefits: Background areas that are beyond the reach of the flash appear brighter and less flash power is needed, resulting in softer lighting. The downside of the slow shutter speed is that any movement of your camera or subject during the exposure can blur the picture, and the slower the shutter speed, the greater the chances of camera or subject motion. A tripod is essential to a good outcome, as are subjects that can hold very, very still. The best practical use for this mode is shooting nighttime still-life subjects. However, if you're shooting a nighttime portrait and you have a subject that can maintain a motionless pose, slow-sync flash can produce softer, more flattering light. Note that even though the official Slow-Sync mode appears only in the P and A exposure modes, you can get the same result in the M and S modes by simply using a slow shutter speed and the normal, Fill Flash mode. In fact, those modes are great when you want the slow-sync look because you can directly control the shutter speed. You can use a shutter speed as slow as 30 seconds when using flash in those modes. (In M mode, you also can set the shutter speed to Bulb or Time, which permit even longer shutter speeds.) Rear-Curtain Sync: In this mode, available only in shutter-priority (S) and manual (M) exposure modes, the flash fires at the end of the exposure, just before the shutter closes. The classic use of this mode is to combine the flash with a slow shutter speed to create trailing-light effects. With Rear-Curtain Sync, the light trails extend behind the moving object (my hand, and the match, in this case), which makes visual sense. If instead you use slow-sync flash, the light trails appear in front of the moving object. Slow-rear: Hey, not confusing enough for you yet? This mode enables you to produce the same motion trail effects as with Rear-Curtain Sync, but in the P and A exposure modes. The camera automatically chooses a slower shutter speed than normal after you set the f-stop, just as with regular Slow-Sync mode. Slow-sync with red-eye reduction: In P and A exposure modes, you can also combine a slow-sync flash with the Red-Eye Reduction feature. The symbol that represents this mode is the normal red-eye eyeball combined with the word Slow. Flash timing and shutter speed on your Nikon camera To properly expose flash pictures, the camera has to synchronize the firing of the flash with the opening and closing of the shutter. For this reason, the range of available shutter speeds is limited when you use flash. The maximum shutter speed is 1/200 second; the minimum shutter speed varies, depending on the exposure mode. Here's how things shake out for the exposure modes that permit you to use flash: Auto and Effects and Scene modes that permit flash, except Night Portrait: 1/60 second Nighttime Portrait: 1 second P, A: 1/60 second (unless you use one of the Slow-Sync Flash modes, which permit a slower shutter speed) S: 30 seconds M: 30 seconds (you can exceed that limit if the shutter speed is set to Bulb or Time.) Remember, flash isn't available in certain Scene and Effects modes and is also off-limits when you use the Continuous (burst shooting) Release mode. Setting the Flash mode on your Nikon D3500 You can view the current Flash mode in the Information and Live View displays. (In Live View mode, press the Info button to cycle through the various data-display modes to get to the one shown here.) The symbol shown in the figures represents the Auto flash mode. In the viewfinder as well as in the lower-right corner of the Live View display, you see a single lightning bolt. This symbol simply tells you that the flash is ready to fire. (You can't view the Flash mode in the viewfinder.) As for the TTL symbol at the top of the Information screen, it appears only if the flash is raised. The symbol represents the current setting of the Flash Cntrl (Control) for Built-in Flash option on the Shooting menu. TTL, which stands for through the lens, represents the normal flash metering operation: The Nikon D3500 measures the light coming through the lens and sets the flash output accordingly. Your other option is to set the flash output manually. If you take that route, the letter M appears in place of TTL. To change the Flash mode on the Nikon D3500, you can go one of two ways: Flash button + Command dial: As soon as you press the Flash button, the Flash mode option in the Information display becomes selected. The same thing happens in the Live View display, but the related symbol is at the top of the screen. Either way, keep the Flash button pressed while rotating the Command dial to cycle through the available Flash modes. Luckily, a text label lets you know what mode is in force so that you don’t have to memorize all the flash-mode symbols. i button: Press the button to activate the control strip in the Information and Live View displays. Highlight the Flash mode option, as shown on the left below, and press OK to display a screen listing the mode settings, as shown on the right. Remember that the available Flash modes depend on the exposure mode; the figure shows modes available in the Auto exposure mode. Using your camera’s flash outdoors Adding flash can often improve outdoor photos. But be aware of two “gotchas” when mixing flash and sunlight: Colors may need tweaking. When you combine multiple light sources, colors may appear warmer or cooler than neutral. For outdoor portraits, the warming effect is usually flattering, and is often the result with nature shots as well. You can adjust white balance only in P, S, A, and M exposure modes. Keep an eye on shutter speed. Because of the way the Nikon D3500 needs to synchronize the firing of the flash with the opening of the shutter, the fastest shutter speed you can use with the built-in flash is 1/200 second. In bright sun, you may need to stop down the aperture significantly or lower the ISO to avoid overexposing the image even at 1/200 second. As another option, you can place a neutral density filter over the lens; this accessory reduces the light that comes through the Nikon’s lens without affecting colors. Of course, if possible, you can simply move your subject into the shade. On the flip side, the Nikon D3500 may select a shutter speed as slow as 1/60 second in the P and A modes, depending on the lighting conditions. If your subject is moving, it's a good idea to work in the S or M mode so that you control the shutter speed.

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10 Special-Purpose Nikon D3500 Features to Explore on a Rainy Day

Article / Updated 05-02-2019

Consider the following information about your Nikon D3500 to be the literary equivalent of the end of a late-night infomercial — the part where the host exclaims, “But wait! There’s more!” The features covered here aren’t the sort that drive people to choose one Nikon over another, and they may come in handy only on certain occasions. Still, they’re included at no extra charge, so check ’em out when you have a few spare moments. Adding hidden image comments on your Nikon D3500 Through the Image Comment feature on the Setup menu, you can add hidden text comments to your picture files. Suppose, for example, that you’re traveling on vacation and visiting a different destination every day. You can annotate all the pictures you take on a particular outing with the name of the location or attraction. The text doesn’t appear on the photo itself; instead, it's stored with other metadata (extra data, such as shutter speed, date and time, and so on). You can view the comment during playback in the Shooting Data display mode or along with other metadata in Nikon ViewNX-i and Capture NX-D. Some third-party photo programs and apps also may be able to display the comments. Start by selecting Image Comment from the Setup menu, as shown on the left. Press OK, highlight Input Comment, as shown on the right, and press the Multi Selector right to display the keyboard screen shown on the left below. Use these text-entry techniques to create your comment on the Nikon D3500: Enter a character: Use the Multi Selector to highlight the character in the keyboard and then press OK. Your comment can be up to 36 characters long. To switch from capital letters to lowercase letters, highlight Aa& in the lower-right corner of the keyboard and press OK. Press OK again to cycle to a screen of special symbols. Press OK one more time to return to the initial set of capital letters. To enter a space, bring up either of the alphabetical keyboards, highlight the empty box to the left of the Aa& box, and press OK. Move the text cursor: Rotate the Command dial. The cursor appears as a gray box. Delete a letter: Move the cursor under the letter and press the Delete button. After entering your comment, press the Zoom In button to display the screen. You should see your text comment underneath the Input Comment line. Highlight Attach Comment and press the Multi Selector right to put a check mark in the box and then press OK. The Image Comment item on the Setup menu should now read On. To disable the feature, revisit the Setup menu, select Image Comment, highlight Attach Comment, and press the Multi Selector right to toggle the check mark off. Press OK to make your decision official. Adding a copyright notice to your Nikon photos Just as you can add miscellaneous comments via the Image Comment feature, you can embed copyright information within your image and movie files. Again, the copyright information is stored as metadata and can be viewed on the Nikon D3500 in some playback modes and also when looking at the photo or movie in some photo programs and apps. Including a copyright notice is a reasonable first step to prevent people from using your pictures without permission. Anyone who views your picture in a program that can display metadata can see your copyright notice. Obviously, that won’t be enough to completely prevent unauthorized use of your images. And technically speaking, you hold the copyright to your photo whether or not you mark it with your name. But if you ever come to the point of pressing legal action, you can show that you did your due diligence in letting people know that you hold the copyright. To add a copyright notice, choose Copyright Information from the Setup menu, as shown on the left below. You then see the screen shown on the right. Select Artist to display the same keyboard screen provided for adding image comments. Use the techniques outlined in the preceding section to enter your name. Then return to the Copyright Information screen and select Copyright to display a keyboard where you can add that information. The Artist field can hold 36 characters; the Copyright field, 54 characters. After you enter your data, it appears on the Copyright Information screen. If everything looks good, select Attach Copyright Information and press the Multi Selector right to turn on the check mark in the accompanying box. Press OK to finalize things. While Attach Copyright is selected, the copyright data is embedded into every new photo or movie you shoot. To disable the copyright embedding, revisit the Copyright Information menu option and turn the Attach Copyright Information setting off. Creating custom image folders on your Nikon D3500 By default, your camera stores all images in one folder, which it names 100D3500. Folders have a storage limit of 999 images; when you exceed that number, the Nikon D3500 creates a new folder, assigning a name that indicates the folder number — 101D3500, 102D3500, and so on. You're also given a new folder if a file in the current folder is numbered 9999. If you choose, you can create your own folder-numbering scheme. For example, perhaps you sometimes use your Nikon D3500 for business and sometimes for personal use. To keep your images separate, you can set up one folder numbered 200D3500 for work images and use the regular 100D3500 folder for personal photos. To create a new storage folder on your Nikon D3500, follow these steps: Display the Setup menu and select Storage Folder. The number you see along with the Storage Folder option reflects the first three numbers of the folder name (100). During playback, you see the entire folder name (100D3500, for example) in playback modes that show the folder name. Choose Select Folder by Number, as shown on the right above. You see the screen below, with the current folder number shown in the middle of the screen. A folder icon to the left of the folder number indicates that the folder already exists. A half-full icon like the one above shows that the folder contains images. A full icon means that the folder is stuffed to its capacity (999 images) or contains a picture with the file number 9999. Either way, that full icon means that you can't put any more pictures in the folder. Assign the new folder a new number. Press the Multi Selector right or left to select a number box; then press up/down to change the number. When you create a new folder, the little folder icon disappears because the folder doesn't yet contain any photos. Press the OK button. The Nikon D3500 creates your new folder and automatically selects it as the current storage folder. Each time you shoot, verify that the folder you want to use is shown for the Storage Folder option. If not, select that option and then choose Select Folder by Number to enter the folder number (if you know it) or choose Select Folder from List to pick from a list of all available folders. Customizing filenames on your Nikon D3500 Normally, picture filenames begin with the characters DSC_, for photos captured in the sRGB color space, or _DSC, for images that use the Adobe RGB color space. Movie files are always captured in the sRGB space, so their filenames always begin with DSC_. You have the option of replacing the letters DSC with your own characters for both movies and stills. For example, you could replace DSC with BOB before you take pictures of your friend Bob and then change the prefix to SUE before you shoot Sue's wedding. To enter a custom filename prefix, choose File Naming from the Setup menu. On the next screen, shown on the right below, you see the current file prefix for sRGB and Adobe RGB files. (Both use the same three letters; you can’t set up different prefixes for each color space.) Select File Naming from that second screen and press the Multi Selector right to display the keyboard screen shown below. The keyboard works the same way as the one presented for entering comments and copyright notices: Rotate the Command dial to move the cursor under the first character you want to replace, use the Multi Selector to highlight the replacement character in the keyboard, and press OK. Repeat the process to replace the other two characters. When you’re happy with the new file prefix, press the Zoom In button. You’re returned to the Setup menu, where the File Naming option displays the updated prefix, as shown on the left in the image below. Choose that option to display the second screen you see below, where the new example filenames are shown for sRGB and Adobe RGB files. Turning off the AF-assist illuminator on your Nikon In dim lighting, the Nikon D3500 may emit a beam of light from the AF-assist light on the front of the camera. If that light could be distracting to your subject or others in the room, you can disable it via the Shooting menu. You may need to focus manually, though, because without the light to help it find its target, the autofocus system may have trouble. Adjusting automatic shutdown timing on your Nikon D3500 When the Nikon D3500 is in shooting mode, its standby timer feature saves battery power by putting the Information display and viewfinder display to sleep after a period of inactivity. Similarly, the camera limits the Image Review period (the length of time your picture appears immediately after you press the shutter button), the length of time the Live View display remains on when no camera operations are performed, how long a picture appears in playback mode, and how long menus remain onscreen. You can control the auto-shutdown timing through the Auto Off Timers option, found on the Setup menu and shown on the left below. You get four choices, as shown on the right. The first three rows in the table below show the shutdown times that result when you select Short, Normal, or Long. (Normal is the default.) Select Custom to adjust the shutoff times for the various features separately; the range of delay times for each feature appears in the last row of the table. Auto Off Timers Options for the Nikon D3500 Option Name Standby Timer Live View Image Review Playback/Menus Short 4 seconds 5 minutes 4 seconds 20 seconds Normal 8 seconds 10 minutes 4 seconds 5 minutes Long 1 minute 20 minutes 20 seconds 10 minutes Custom 4 seconds to 30 minutes 5 minutes to 30 minutes 4 seconds to 10 minutes 8 seconds to 10 minutes To disable Image Review altogether, head for the Playback menu and set the Image Review item to Off. Changing the look of the information display on your Nikon D3500 By default, the Information display in the P, S, A, and M exposure modes. Other exposure modes use the same design but use a light gray background instead of the darker version used in the P, S, A, and M modes. One helpful aspect of this display is the graphic that shows the aperture setting, or f-stop — the middle circle, set to f/4. As you change the f-stop, which widens or narrows the aperture to allow more or less light into the Nikon D3500, the graphic updates to give you a visual reminder of what’s happening. For obvious reasons, this default design is called Graphic display mode. If you prefer, you can switch to the simpler design — Classic mode — shown on the right. The benefit to this display is that the critical exposure settings (f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO) appear at a larger size, which is always a plus for those in the “where did I leave my reading glasses?” age category. (Hint: They’re probably on top of your head.) With either design, you also can set the background color to teal, black, or gray. To make the change, select Info Display Format from the Setup menu. You then see the screen shown on the right. Choose the option that includes the exposure modes you want to affect and then select a design from the next screen. Keeping the information display hidden on your Nikon Just below the Info Display Format option on the Nikon D3500 Setup menu, the Auto Info Display option offers another way to customize the Information display. When this option is On, as it is by default, the Information display appears when you press the shutter button halfway and release it. If you disable the Image Review feature (via the Playback menu), the Information display also appears after you take a picture. Turn off the Auto Info Display option, and the Information screen appears briefly when you first turn on the camera, but after that, you must press the Info button to display it. because the monitor is one of the biggest drains of battery power, you may want to change it to Off if the battery is running low. Customizing the AE-L/AF-L Button on your Nikon Set to the right of the viewfinder, the AE-L/AF-L button enables you to lock focus and exposure when you shoot in autoexposure and autofocus modes. By default, the button is set to lock autofocus and autoexposure together and to keep them locked as long as you keep your finger on the button. But you can also set things up so that the button locks exposure only or focus only. Change the AE-L/AF-L button behavior by choosing Buttons from the Setup menu (refer to the left screen below, and then selecting Assign AE-L/AF-L Button (the right screen). Press OK to display the available settings. The Nikon D3500 options produce these results: AE/AF Lock: This setting is the default. Focus and exposure remain locked as long as you press the button. AE Lock Only: Autoexposure is locked as long as you press the button; autofocus isn’t affected. (You lock focus by pressing the shutter button halfway.) AE Lock (Hold): A single press of the button locks exposure only. Exposure lock remains in force until you press the button again or the Standby Timer delay time expires. AF Lock Only: Focus remains locked as long as you press the button. Exposure isn’t affected. AF-ON: Pressing the button activates the camera’s autofocus mechanism. Whether focus is locked or continuously adjusted depends on the Focus mode setting. If you use the AE-L/AF-L button to set focus, pressing the shutter button activates exposure metering only. Using the shutter button to lock exposure and focus (or not) your Nikon D3500 You also can customize the behavior of the shutter button as far as the button’s impact on the autofocus and autoexposure systems. Again, start by opening the Setup menu and choosing the Buttons option. On the next screen, shown on the right below, the second and third settings relate to the shutter button. Here’s what you need to know about each Nikon D3500 setting: Shutter-release Button AE-L: This option determines whether pressing the shutter button halfway locks focus only or locks both focus and exposure. (AE-L stands for autoexposure lock.) At the default setting, Off, you lock focus only when you press the shutter button halfway. Exposure is adjusted continually up to the time you take the shot. If you change setting to On, your half-press of the shutter button locks both focus and exposure. AF Activation: At the default setting, On, pressing the shutter button halfway initiates autofocusing. If you change the setting to Off, pressing the shutter button halfway fires up the autoexposure system only. As with the AE-L/AF-L button adjustment, it’s recommended that you leave both options set to their defaults when you start out. Otherwise, your Nikon D3500 won’t behave as described here (or in the camera manual, for that matter).

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Photo Editing and Organizing with Nikon's Free Photo Software

Article / Updated 05-02-2019

To move pictures and movies from your Nikon D3500 to your computer, you need some type of software to download, view, and manage the files. If you don't have a favorite photo program for handling these tasks, Nikon offers the following free software solutions: Nikon ViewNX-i: Shown below, the Nikon ViewNX-i program offers basic photo organizing and editing tools. In addition, a tool built into the program, Nikon Transfer, simplifies the job of sending pictures from a memory card or your camera to your computer. Your program may not initially look like the one you see above because the screen layout was customized. You can do the same via the options on the View and Window menus after opening the program. Two ViewNX-I features you’ll want to check out are as follows: Viewing picture settings (metadata): You can display a panel that shows the settings you used when shooting the picture. The settings are stored as metadata (extra data) in each picture's file. Although other photo programs can display some metadata, they often can't show all the detailed information that you can see in ViewNX-i. Don’t see the panel? Open the Window menu at the top of the program window and choose Adjustments/Metadata. You may then need to click the triangle labeled Click to hide/display shooting data to expand the panel. One other note: You can toggle between the full list of metadata and a small graphic that contains just the basics. (The graphic looks similar to the Information screen displayed on the camera.) Click the button labeled Click to view minimal shooting data to switch between the two views. Displaying focus points: Click the button labeled Display focus point to display one or more red rectangles on the photo. The rectangle(s) indicate which focus point (or points) the camera used to establish focus, which can be helpful for troubleshooting focus problems. If the focus point is over your subject but the subject is blurry, the cause is likely not due to focusing at all, but to subject or camera movement during a too-long exposure (slow shutter speed). You don’t see the focus point if you used manual focusing, and it also may not appear if you used continuous autofocusing. Nikon ViewNX-i also contains some photo-editing tools; access them by clicking the Edit tab near the top-left corner of the program window. For more sophisticated editing tools, use Nikon Capture NX-D, described next. You can send the current photo directly to that program from ViewNX-i by clicking the Capture NX-D icon that appears with the other icons along the top of the program window. Or open the File menu and choose Open with Capture NX-D. Nikon Capture NX-D: Shown below, this program offers pro-level photo-editing tools, including a good Raw processing tool. You also can view camera metadata in this program. Click the tabs to toggle the panel display between the Information tab, which displays shooting data, and the Editing tabs, which contain editing tools. Like ViewNX-i, Capture NX-D can display the focus point or points used to set focus when you took the picture. Toggle the focus point display on and off by opening the program’s Image menu and then selecting Show Focus Point. You can download both programs from the Nikon website. Head for the Support section of the website, where you'll find a link to camera software. Be sure to download the latest versions. You’ll need to use ViewNX-i Version 1.3.0 and NX-D is Version 1.5.0. Older versions of the software lack support for D3500 files. Also make sure that your computer meets the software operating-system requirements. (The program is available for both Windows-based and Mac computers.) Getting help with Nikon software For years, you could access a built-in user manual via the Help menu found in Nikon’s photo programs. But things work differently now: You can go online and download a copy of the user manual or simply check the online help pages for answers. (You might want to download a copy of the manual so that you don’t need an active Internet connection to get help.) To take advantage of these options the first time, you do need to be online. When your Internet browser is up and running, launch the Nikon program whose Help system you want to access. In that program, open the Help menu and then choose Help from menu. Your browser then displays a window that offers two options: Click Go to Help Site to jump to the program’s pages at the Nikon website or click Get PDF Manual to download the instruction manual. The manual is provided in the PDF format (Portable Document Format), so you can read it in Adobe Acrobat (available free from the Adobe website) or any program that can display PDF documents.

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How to Shoot Landscape Photography with Your Nikon D3500

Article / Updated 05-02-2019

Providing specific Nikon capture settings for landscape photography is tricky because there’s no single best approach to capturing a beautiful stretch of countryside, a city skyline, or another vast subject. Most people prefer using a wide-angle lens, for example, to incorporate a large area of the landscape into the scene, but if you're far away from your subject, you may like the results you get from a using a telephoto or medium-angle lens with your Nikon D3500 (learn more about lenses for your Nikon D3500). When shooting the scene below, for example, the photo was taken from across the street from the buildings, so the shot was captured using a focal length of 82mm. Additionally, one person’s idea of a super cityscape might be to keep all buildings in the scene sharply focused. But another photographer might prefer to shoot the same scene so that a foreground building is sharply focused while the others are less so, thus drawing the eye to that first building. That said, here are some tips to help you photograph a landscape with your Nikon D3500 the way you see it: Shoot your landscape photo in aperture-priority autoexposure mode (A) so that you can control depth of field. If you want extreme depth of field so that both near and distant objects are sharply focused, select a high f-stop value. For shallow depth of field, use a low f-stop value. Keep in mind that the lens focal length and the camera-to-subject distance also affect depth of field: The background becomes blurrier as you increase focal length or get closer to the subject. For dramatic waterfall shots, consider using a slow shutter n your Nikon to create that “misty” look. The slow shutter blurs the water, giving it a soft, romantic appearance. Shutter speed for the image was 1/5 second. In very bright light, you may overexpose the image at a very slow shutter, even if you stop the aperture all the way down and select the camera’s lowest ISO setting. As a solution, consider investing in a neutral density filter for your lens. This type of filter works something like sunglasses for your camera: It simply reduces the amount of light that passes through the lens, without affecting image colors, so that you can use a slower shutter than would otherwise be possible. If the exposure requires a slow shutter speed, use a tripod. If you try to handhold the camera, you may very well end up with a dud of a photo because any movement of the camera during the exposure blurs the entire frame. If you don’t have a tripod and can’t find any other way to stabilize the camera, try turning on the Optical VR feature, found on the Shooting menu. This option helps to compensate for slight camera movement (the VR stands for vibration reduction) when you use certain lenses. Some lenses, including Nikon’s AF-S lenses, have an external switch for enabling and disabling a similar feature. (On Nikon lenses, the switch is marked VR.) At sunrise or sunset, base exposure on the sky. The foreground will be dark, but you can usually brighten it in a photo editor, if needed. If you base exposure on the foreground, on the other hand, the sky will become so bright that all the color will be washed out — a problem you usually can’t fix after the fact. You can also invest in a graduated neutral-density filter, which transitions from dark to clear. You orient the filter so the dark half falls over the sky and the clear part falls over the dimly lit portion of the scene. This setup enables you to better expose the foreground without blowing out the sky colors. Also experiment with Active D-Lighting; it’s designed to create images that contain a greater range of brightness values than is normally possible. may be able to brighten shadows using the D-Lighting feature found on the Retouch menu. For cool nighttime city pics, experiment with slow shutter speeds on your Nikon D3500. Assuming that cars or other vehicles with their lights on are moving through the scene, the result is neon trails of light like those you see in the foreground of the image seen below. Shutter speed for this image was about 10 seconds. Rather than change shutter speed manually between each shot, try setting the shutter speed to Bulb. Available in M (manual) exposure mode, this option records an image for as long as you hold down the shutter button. So just take a series of images, holding down the button for different lengths of time for each shot. As is the case for other slow-shutter photos, using a tripod is a must for this type of shot; any camera shake will blur the stationary objects in the scene. And note that enabling vibration reduction isn’t sufficient for the very slow shutter speeds used for this type of image. If your lens offers vibration reduction, you may need to turn it off when you put the camera on a tripod; check the lens instruction manual to find out. For the best lighting, shoot during the magic hours. That’s the term photographers use for early morning and late afternoon, when the light cast by the sun gives everything that beautiful, gently warmed look. Can’t wait for the perfect light? Tweak your camera’s White Balance setting to simulate the color of magic-hour light. In tricky light, bracket exposures. Bracketing means to take the same picture at several different exposure settings to increase the odds that at least one of them will capture the scene the way you envision. Bracketing is especially a good idea in difficult lighting situations, such as sunrise and sunset. In the M exposure mode, it’s best to bracket exposures by changing the shutter speed between each shot rather than the f-stop. That way, depth of field — which is in part determined by the f-stop — remains consistent throughout all your shots. In P, S, and A exposure modes, you can bracket exposures by using different Exposure Compensation settings for each shot. For example, take one image using no compensation, a second with Exposure Compensation set to +1.0, and a third at –1.0. To set the Exposure Compensation value, press and hold the Exposure Compensation button on top of the camera as you rotate the Command dial. In wide-angle landscapes, include a foreground subject to provide a sense of scale. The bench below serves this purpose. Because viewers are familiar with the approximate size of a typical wooden bench, they get a better idea of the size of the vast mountain landscape beyond.

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Taking Action Shots on Your Nikon D3500 Using Fast Shutter Speeds

Article / Updated 05-01-2019

Your Nikon D3500 allows you to adjust the shutter speed to take action shots. Using a fast shutter speed is the key to capturing a blur-free shot of any moving subject with your Nikon D3500, whether it’s a flower in the breeze, a spinning Ferris wheel, or, as you see below, a racing cyclist. Try the techniques in the following steps to photograph action with your Nikon D3500: Set the Mode dial to S (shutter-priority autoexposure) on your Nikon. In this mode, you control the shutter speed, and the camera takes care of choosing an aperture setting that will produce a good exposure. Rotate the Command dial to set the shutter speed on your Nikon D3500. The correct shutter speed to freeze motion depends on the speed of your subject, so you need to experiment. But generally speaking, 1/320 second should be plenty for all but the fastest subjects (race cars, boats, and so on). For slow subjects, you can even go as low as 1/250 or 1/125 second. The subject in the image above was zipping along at a pretty fast pace, so a shutter speed of 1/640 second was used. Remember, though, that when you increase shutter speed, the camera opens the aperture to maintain the same exposure. At low f-stop numbers, depth of field becomes shorter, so you have to be more careful to keep your subject within the sharp-focus zone as you compose and focus the shot. You also can take an entirely different approach to capturing action shots: Rather than choosing a fast shutter speed, select a speed slow enough to blur the moving objects, which can create a heightened sense of motion and, in scenes that feature very colorful subjects, cool abstract images. This approach was used when shooting the carnival ride below. For the left image, the shutter speed was set to 1/30 second; for the right version, things were slowed down to 1/5 second. In both cases, a tripod was used, but because nearly everything in the frame was moving, the entirety of both photos is blurry — the 1/5 second version is more blurry because of the slower shutter speed. Consider raising the ISO setting to permit a faster shutter speed. Unless you’re shooting in bright daylight, you may not be able to use a fast shutter speed at a low ISO, even if the camera opens the aperture as far as possible. Raising the ISO does increase the possibility of noise, but a little noise is usually preferable to a blurry subject. Raising the ISO may also force the camera to choose a narrower aperture, producing a greater depth of field and making it easier to capture the subject within the region of sharpest focus. Why not add flash to brighten the scene? Well, adding flash is tricky for action shots, unfortunately. First, the flash needs time to recycle between shots, which slows the capture rate. Second, the built-in flash has limited range, so don’t waste your time if your subject isn’t close by. And third, remember that the fastest shutter speed you can use with flash is 1/200 second, which may not be high enough to capture a quickly moving subject without blur. For rapid-fire shooting of the action shot, set the Release mode on your Nikon to Continuous. In this mode, the camera captures a continuous series of frames as long as you hold down the shutter button. On the D3500, you can capture as many as five images per second. Here again, though, you need to go flash-free; otherwise, you get one shot per press of the shutter button, just as in Single Frame release mode.The fastest way to access the Release mode setting is to press the Release Mode button on the back of the camera. Select speed-oriented focusing options on your Nikon. When dealing with a subject that’s moving unpredictably, such as a bird in flight or a soccer player moving the ball across the field, you can typically rely on autofocus, using the following two autofocus settings: Focus mode: AF-C (continuous-servo autofocus). AF-area mode: Dynamic Area. At these settings, the Nikon D3500 sets focus initially on your selected focus point when you press the shutter button halfway but looks to surrounding points for focus information if your subject moves away from that selected point. Focus is adjusted continuously until you take the shot. However, if you know where your subject will be when you want to capture the action shot – for example, the finish line of a marathon – another trick is to set focus on that spot ahead of time. That way, you can capture the shot the instant the moment occurs, without spending any time focusing before releasing the shutter. If you use autofocusing, you need to use different settings: Focus mode, AF-S; AF-area mode, Single Point. With that combination, focus is set on your selected focus point when you press the shutter button halfway and remains set at that distance as long as you keep the button halfway down. You may find it easier to switch to manual focusing in this scenario, however, so that you don’t have to keep the shutter button pressed halfway or use other autofocus-locking techniques while waiting for the subject to hit its mark. Compose the subject to allow for movement across the frame of your Nikon D3500. Frame your shot a little wider than you normally might so that you lessen the risk that your subject will move out of the frame before you record the image. You can always crop to a tighter composition later. It’s also a good idea to leave more room in front of the subject than behind it. This makes it obvious that your subject is going somewhere.

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Shooting Portrait Photography on Your Nikon D3500

Article / Updated 04-26-2019

Your Nikon D3500 will take a mean still portrait if you handle your camera correctly. By still portrait, this means that your subject isn’t moving. Assuming you do have a subject willing to pose, the classic portrait photography approach is to keep the subject sharply focused while throwing the background into soft focus using your Nikon camera. This artistic choice emphasizes the subject and helps diminish the impact of any distracting background objects. The following steps show you how to achieve great portrait photography with your Nikon D3500: Set the Mode dial to A (aperture-priority autoexposure) and select a low f-stop value. A low f-stop setting opens the aperture, which not only allows more light to enter the camera but also shortens depth of field, or the distance over which focus appears acceptably sharp. So dialing in a low f-stop value is the first step in softening your portrait background. For a group portrait in which people aren’t all at the same distance from the Nikon D3500, you typically need a higher f-stop than for a single portrait. At a very low f-stop, depth of field may not be large enough to keep people in the back row of the group as sharply focused as those in the front row. Take test shots and inspect the results at different f-stops to find the right setting. To adjust f-stop in A mode, rotate the Command dial. As soon as you set the f-stop, the Nikon D3500 selects the shutter speed for you, but you need to make sure the selected speed isn't so slow that movement of the subject or camera will blur the image. Check the lens focal length on your Nikon camera. A focal length of 85–120mm is ideal for a classic head-and-shoulders portrait. Avoid using a short focal length (wide-angle lens) for portraits. It can cause features to appear distorted — sort of like how people look when you view them through a security peephole in a door. On the flip side, a very long focal length can flatten and widen a face. To further soften the background: Increase focal length, get closer to your subject, and put more distance between subject and background. Zooming to a longer focal length reduces depth of field, as does moving closer to your subject. And the greater the distance between the subject and background, the more the background blurs. Check composition on your Nikon camera. Two quick pointers on this topic: Consider the background. Scan the entire frame, looking for distracting background objects. If necessary and possible, reposition the subject against a more flattering backdrop. Frame the subject loosely to allow for later cropping to a variety of frame sizes. Your camera produces images that have an aspect ratio of 3:2. That means your portrait perfectly fits a 4-x-6-inch print but requires cropping to print at other proportions, such as 5 x 7 or 8 x 10 inches. For indoor portraits, shoot flash-free if possible. Shooting by available light rather than flash produces softer illumination and avoids the problem of red-eye. During daytime hours, posing your subject near a large window can produce results similar to what you see below. In A exposure mode, simply keeping the built-in flash unit closed disables the flash. For outdoor portraits during daylight, try using flash. A flash can add a beneficial pop of light to subjects’ faces. A flash is especially important when the background is brighter than the subject; when the subject is wearing a hat; or when the sun is directly overhead, creating harsh shadows under the eyes, nose, and chin. In A exposure mode, raise the built-in Nikon flash by pressing the Flash button (back of the camera, just left of the viewfinder). For daytime portraits, set the Flash mode to Fill Flash. (That’s the regular, basic Flash mode.) For nighttime images, try red-eye reduction or slow-sync flash; again, see the flash tips at the end of these steps to use either mode most effectively. The fastest shutter speed you can use with the built-in flash is 1/200 second, so in bright light, you may need to stop down the aperture to avoid overexposing the photo, as you see in the bottom image. Doing so, of course, brings the background into sharper focus, so if that creates an issue, move the subject into a shaded area instead. Press and hold the shutter button halfway to initiate exposure metering and autofocusing. Or, if you're focusing manually, set focus by rotating the focusing ring on the lens. Press the shutter button the rest of the way. When flash is unavoidable, try these tricks for better results: Indoors, turn on as many room lights as possible. With more ambient light, you reduce the flash power that’s needed to expose the picture. Adding light also causes the pupils to constrict, further reducing the chances of red-eye. As an added benefit, the smaller pupil allows more of the subject’s iris to be visible in the portrait, so you see more eye color. Pay attention to white balance if your subject is lit by both flash and ambient light. If you set the White Balance setting to Auto, enabling flash tells the camera to warm colors to compensate for the cool light of a flash. If your subject is also lit by other light sources, such as sunlight, the result may be colors that are slightly warmer (more golden) or cooler (more blue) than neutral. A warming effect typically looks nice in portraits, giving the skin a subtle glow. Try using a Flash mode that enables red-eye reduction or slow-sync flash. If you choose the first option, the Nikon D3500 emits a preliminary light from the AF-assist lamp, which constricts pupils to lessen the chances of red-eye. Warn your subjects to expect that preliminary light and to keep smiling until after the real flash fires. Slow-sync flash uses a slower-than-normal shutter speed, which produces softer lighting and brighter backgrounds than normal flash. Using a slow shutter speed increases the risk of blur due to camera shake, so use a tripod. Remind your subjects to stay still, too, because they’ll appear blurry if they move during the exposure. Remember that you can adjust flash power through Flash Compensation. To do so, hold down the Flash button and the Exposure Compensation button while rotating the Command dial. You also can change the setting via the Information display control strip (press the i button to access the control strip). For professional results, use an external flash with a rotating flash head. Aim the flash head upward so that the flash light bounces off the ceiling and falls softly down onto the subject. External flashes can be pricey, but the results make the purchase worthwhile if you shoot lots of portraits. Compare the two portraits below for an illustration. In the first example, using the built-in flash resulted in strong shadowing behind the subject and harsh, concentrated light. To produce the better result on the right, Nikon Speedlight external flash was used to bounce the light off the ceiling. The subject was also moved a few feet farther in front of the background to create more background blur. Make sure that the surface you use to bounce the light is white; otherwise, the flash light will pick up the color of the surface and influence the color of your subject. Invest in a flash diffuser to further soften the light. A diffuser is simply a piece of translucent plastic or fabric that you place over the flash to soften and spread the light — much like how sheer curtains diffuse window light. Diffusers come in lots of different designs, including models that fit over the built-in flash.

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How to AutoFocus Your Nikon D3500 Camera with Different Focus Modes

Article / Updated 04-26-2019

The most important thing to remember about autofocusing is that how the Nikon D3500 sets focus is determined by the two settings, Focus mode and AF-area mode. Here’s the short story for autofocusing your Nikon D3500: Focus mode: This setting determines whether the camera uses automatic or manual focusing. In some exposure modes, the Focus mode setting offers you a choice of autofocusing options: You can set the camera to lock focus when you press the shutter button halfway; to adjust focus continually up to the moment you depress the button fully to take the picture; or to decide for you which option is best. AF-area mode: This setting determines which focus points the camera uses to establish focus. You can tell the camera to choose a point for you or to base focus on a specific point that you select. Symbols representing both settings appear in the Information display. The symbols in the figure represent AF-A for the Focus mode and Auto Area for the AF-area mode, which are the default settings for most exposure modes. At these settings, the camera decides whether to lock focus when you press the shutter button halfway and also selects the focus point for you. Read on to discover the effect of each Focus mode and AF-area mode setting and offer advice on which combination of the two works best for different subjects. Following that, you can find step-by-step focusing recipes for shooting stationary subjects and moving subjects. Changing the Focus mode setting on your Nikon D3500 The D3500 offers the four Focus mode settings described in the following list. But you can access all four only in the P, S, A, and M exposure modes. In other exposure modes, you can choose only the AF-A and MF options. (The exception, again, is the Night Vision Effects mode, which limits you to manual focusing when you use the viewfinder.) Here’s how things work in each of the Focus modes: AF-S (single-servo autofocus): Designed for shooting stationary subjects, this setting tells the camera to lock focus when you depress the shutter button halfway. Focus remains locked at that distance as long as you continue to hold the shutter button down halfway. AF-C (continuous-servo autofocus): Geared to photographing moving subjects, this mode adjusts focus continuously as needed while the shutter button is pressed halfway. AF-A (auto-servo autofocus): This mode, which is the default, gives the camera control over whether focus is locked when you press the shutter button halfway or is continuously adjusted until you snap the picture. The camera bases its decision on whether it detects motion in front of the lens. AF-A mode works pretty well but can get confused. If your subject is motionless but other people are moving in the background, the camera may mistakenly switch to continuous autofocus. By the same token, if the subject is moving only slightly, the camera may not shift to continuous autofocusing. Want some advice? Forget about AF-A mode and instead choose AF-S or AF-C when you shoot in the exposure modes that give you the choice (P, S, A, and M). MF (manual focus): Choose this setting to shut off the autofocusing system and focus manually. On Nikon AF-S lenses, moving the switch on the Nikon lens to M automatically sets the Focus mode to MF. However, the opposite isn’t true: Choosing MF as the Focus mode does not free the lens focusing ring so that you can set focus manually; you must set the lens switch to the M position. For other lenses, check the lens instruction manual for focusing details. You have two ways to set the Focus mode on your Nikon D3500: Control strip: After pressing the i button to activate the control strip, use the Multi Selector to highlight the Focus mode option, as shown on the left. Press OK to display the available settings, as shown on the right. Highlight your choice and press OK to lock it in. Press the i button to exit the screen without making a change. (This trick works whenever the i-button symbol appears in the lower-right corner of the display.) Shooting menu: Select Focus mode, as shown on the left below. Then choose Viewfinder, as shown on the right in the figure. Press the Multi Selector right to display a screen that lists the available Focus modes. Highlight your choice and press OK. Choosing an AF-area mode on your Nikon D3500: One focus point or many? The Nikon D3500 has 11 focus points, which are represented by tiny rectangles in the viewfinder. The AF-area mode setting tells the Nikon D3500 which autofocus points to consider when establishing focus. You have these choices: Single Point: This mode is designed to quickly and easily lock focus on a still subject. You select a focus point, and the camera bases focus on that point only. This option is best paired with the single-servo (AF-S) Focus mode, which is also geared to still subjects. Dynamic Area: Dynamic Area autofocusing is designed for capturing moving subjects. You select an initial focus point, but if your subject moves away from that point before you snap the picture, the camera looks to surrounding points for focusing information. To use Dynamic Area autofocusing, you must first set the Focus mode to AF-C or AF-A. In fact, the Dynamic Area option doesn’t even appear as an AF-area mode option when the Focus mode is set to AF-S. 3D Tracking: This one is a variation of Dynamic Area. As in that mode, you start by selecting a single focus point and then press the shutter button halfway to set focus. But the goal of the 3D Tracking mode is to maintain focus on your subject if you recompose the shot after you press the shutter button halfway to lock focus. The problem with 3D Tracking is that the camera detects your subject by analyzing the colors of the object under the selected focus point. If not much difference exists between the subject and its background, the camera can get fooled. And if your subject moves out of the frame, you must release the shutter button and press it halfway again to reset focus. As with Dynamic Area mode, if you want to use 3D Tracking autofocus, you must first set the Focus mode to AF-C or AF-A. Auto Area: At this setting, the camera automatically chooses which of the 11 focus points to use, usually locking on the object closest to the camera. Although Auto Area mode requires the least input from you, it’s typically the slowest option because of the technology it uses. First, the camera analyzes all 11 focus points. Then it consults an internal database to try to match the information reported by those points to a huge collection of reference photographs. From that analysis, it makes an educated guess about which focus points are most appropriate for your scene. Although it’s amazingly fast considering what’s happening in the camera’s brain, it’s slower than the other AF-area options. Frankly, many experienced photographers don’t use Auto Area mode unless they’re handing the camera over to someone who’s inexperienced and who wouldn’t know how to use the other two modes. Otherwise, stick with Single Point for still subjects and Dynamic Area for moving subjects. The Miniature Effects exposure mode always uses Single-Point mode. For all other modes that permit viewfinder autofocusing — that is, all modes except Night Vision mode — you can select from the full complement of AF-area mode settings on your Nikon D3500. Here’s how to dial in the setting you want to use and specify a focus point on your Nikon D3500: Selecting the AF-area mode setting: You have two options: Control strip: Press the i button to get the job done via the control strip. Shooting menu: You also can access this setting from the Shooting menu on your Nikon D3500. After selecting the option from the menu, press OK to display the screen shown on the left in the image below. Then choose Viewfinder and press the Multi Selector right to access the screen shown on the right. Highlight your choice and press OK. Remember that Dynamic-area and 3D-tracking only appear on the menu (and in the control strip settings screen) when the Focus mode is set to AF-A or AF-C. After you select the AF-area mode and return to the Information display, notice the graphic labeled Selected autofocus points symbol. This symbol gives you information about which focus points are active. A solid square indicates the selected focus point. A fuzzy square indicates that the point is active, meaning that if the camera can’t establish focus based on the selected point, it may consider the other active points. Any other points are inactive. In the image, the symbol reflects the Dynamic Area setting, with the center point selected as the initial focus point. Selecting a single focus point: To choose a focus point in the Single Area, Dynamic Area, or 3D Tracking modes, look through the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway and release it. When you press the button, the selected focus point turns red. Use the Multi Selector to cycle through the available focus points until the one you want to use turns red. For example, the top-center focus point was selected in the image below. (The selected point turns from red to black after a second or two.) You can quickly select the center focus point by pressing OK. A couple of additional tips when using your Nikon D3500: When you use spot metering, the camera bases exposure on the selected focus point. The point you choose affects the way the camera calculates flash exposure as well. In any exposure mode except P, S, A, or M, the camera resets the AF-area mode to the default setting if you change exposure mode. So check this setting before every shoot if you aren’t using the P, S, A, or M modes. Choosing the right autofocus combo on your Nikon D3500 You get the best autofocus results if you pair your chosen Focus mode with the most appropriate AF-area mode, because the two settings work in tandem. Here are some combinations for your Nikon D3500: For still subjects: AF-S and Single Point. You select a focus point, and the camera locks focus on that point when you press the shutter button halfway. (It helps to remember the S factor: for still subjects, Single Point and AF-) For moving subjects: AF-C and Dynamic Area. You still begin by selecting a focus point, but your Nikon D3500 adjusts focus as needed if your subject moves within the frame after you press the shutter button halfway to establish focus. (Think motion, dynamic, continuous.) Remember to reframe as needed to keep your subject within the boundaries of the autofocus points, though. The following sections spell out the steps you use to set focus on your Nikon D3500with both autofocus pairings. Autofocusing with still subjects on your Nikon D3500: AF-S and Single Point For stationary subjects, the fastest, most precise autofocus option is to pair the AF-S (single-servo) Focus mode with the Single Point AF-area mode. The symbols you see below represent these settings in the Information display. After selecting these options, follow these steps to focus your Nikon D3500: Use the Multi Selector to select a focus point. To see which point is selected, look through the viewfinder and press the shutter button halfway and then release it. The active point briefly turns red. Use the Multi Selector to cycle through the points until the one you want to use lights up. (It remains lit only for a second.) After selecting a focus point, press the shutter button halfway to set focus. When focus is achieved, the camera displays a green focus light in the viewfinder. Unless you’re using the Quiet Shutter Release mode, you also hear a beep. (You can disable the sound through the Beep option on the Setup menu.) In addition, the Shots Remaining value at the right end of the viewfinder changes to show you how many frames can fit in the memory buffer (24 in the image below. This number is important only if you set the Release mode to Continuous. Because you’re using AF-S Focus mode, focus remains locked as long as you keep the shutter button pressed halfway. If you’re using autoexposure (any exposure mode but M), the initial exposure settings are also chosen at the moment you press the shutter button halfway, but they’re adjusted as needed up to the time you take the shot. In M exposure mode, the meter indicates the camera’s take on your exposure settings but the Nikon D3500 doesn’t fool with those settings even if it thinks they’re way off base. Press the shutter button on your Nikon D3500the rest of the way to take the picture. If needed, you can position your subject outside a focus point. Just compose the scene initially so that your subject is under a point, press the shutter button halfway to lock focus, and then reframe to your desired composition. Be sure that you keep the camera at the same distance from the subject when you recompose the shot, or else focus may be off. Also, if you’re using autoexposure, you may want to lock focus and exposure together before you reframe, by pressing the AE-L/AF-L button. Otherwise, exposure is adjusted to match the new framing, which may not work well for your subject. Focusing on moving subjects with your Nikon D3500: AF-C and Dynamic Area To autofocus on a moving subject, select AF-C for the Focus mode and Dynamic Area for the AF-area mode. The image below shows the symbols that represent these settings in the Information display; you can select both options via the control strip or the Shooting menu. The focusing process using this autofocus setup is the same as just outlined, with a couple exceptions: When you press the shutter button halfway, the camera sets the initial focusing distance based on your selected autofocus point. But if your subject moves from that point, the camera checks surrounding points for focus information. Focus is adjusted as needed until you take the picture. You see the green focus indicator light in the viewfinder, but it may flash on and off as focus is adjusted. The beep that you usually hear when using the AF-S Focus mode doesn’t sound in AF-C mode, which is a Good Thing — otherwise, things could get pretty noisy because the beep would sound every time the camera adjusted focus. Try to keep the subject under the selected focus point to increase the odds of good focus. But as long as the subject falls within one of the other focus points, focus should be adjusted accordingly. Note that you don’t see the focus point actually move in the viewfinder, but the focus tweak happens just the same. You can feel and hear the focus motor doing its thing if you pay attention. Getting comfortable with continuous autofocusing takes some time, so it’s a good idea to practice before you need to photograph an important event. Understand, too, that you can pair continuous autofocusing (AF-C Focus mode) with Single Point AF-area mode. You may want to try this combo if you’re tracking a single subject that’s moving in a crowd — a runner in a marathon, for example. Restricting the Nikon D3500 to a single point ensures that it won’t accidentally lock onto one of the surrounding runners when adjusting focus. However, you have to be careful to pan the camera so that your subject remains under the selected focus point because the camera will ignore all the other points in Single Point mode. Locking focus on your Nikon D3500 during continuous autofocusing When you set your camera’s Focus mode to AF-C, focusing is continually adjusted while you hold the shutter button halfway, so the focusing distance may change if the subject moves out of the active autofocus point or you reframe the shot before you take the picture. The same is true if you use AF-A mode and the camera senses movement in front of the lens, in which case it operates as already described. Should you want to interrupt continuous autofocusing and lock focus at a specific distance, press and hold the AE-L/AF-L button. Focus remains set as long as you hold down the button. Keep in mind, though, that by default, pressing the AE-L/AF-L button also locks autoexposure on your Nikon D3500. You can change this behavior, however, setting the button to lock just one or the other. Check here for additional composition tips for your Nikon DSLR camera.

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