Nikon D7000, Active D-Lighting

Your camera provides a function that can automatically make your pictures look better: Active D-Lighting. It works this way: The camera evaluates the tones in your image and then underexposes for the highlight areas while lightening any areas that it believes are too dark or lacking in contrast (Figures 11.12 and 11.13). Active D-Lighting is automatically applied to images that are shot in any of the automatic scene modes except for High Key, Low Key, and Silhouette.

Without Active D-Lighting
Figure 11.12 Without Active D-Lighting, the shadows are very dark and lack contrast.
With D-Lighting set to Normal you will see shadows become lighter
Figure 11.13 With D-Lighting set to Normal you will see shadows become lighter. Notice how we can see more detail in the vendor’s face and within the booth.

You can choose from six levels: Off, Low (L), Normal (N), High (H), Extra High (H*), and Auto (A). You will need to evaluate the strength of the effect on your images and change it accordingly. I typically leave it set to Normal so that I have brighter, more detailed shadow areas in my photographs while still maintaining good exposure in my skies. You should know that Active D-Lighting can only be adjusted when using one of the professional modes. Also, you will want to turn it off if you are using flash exposure compensation since it will work against you when you alter the flash strength.

Setting up Active D-Lighting

Setting up Active D-Lighting

  1. Press the Info button twice to activate the cursor in the information screen, then navigate to the Active D-Lighting setting by using the Multi-selector (A).
  2. Press the OK button and then move the Multi-selector up or down to select the level of Active D-Lighting that you desire (B).
  3. Press the OK button to lock in your changes and resume shooting.

The Active D-Lighting setting can also be changed in the Shooting menu.

 

 

Nikon D7000, Macro Photography

Put simply, macro photography is close-up photography. Depending on the lens or lenses that you got with your camera, you may have the perfect tool for macro work. Some lenses are designed to shoot in a macro mode, but you don’t have to feel left out if you don’t have one of those. Check the spec sheet that came with your lens to see what its minimum focusing distance is.

If you have a zoom, you should work with the lens at its longest focal length. Also, work with a tripod because handholding will make focusing difficult. The easiest way to make sure that your focus is precisely where you want it to be is to use manual focus mode.

Since I am recommending a tripod for your macro work, I will also recommend using A (Aperture Priority) mode so that you can achieve differing levels of depth of field. Long lenses at close range can make for very shallow depth of field, so you will need to work with apertures that are probably much smaller than you would normally use. If you are shooting outside, try shading the subject from direct sunlight by using some sort of diffusion material, such as a white sheet or a diffusion panel. By diffusing the light, you will see much greater detail because you will have a lower contrast ratio (softer shadows), and detail is often what macro photography is all about (Figure 11.11).

good macro shot is all about details
Figure 11.11 A good macro shot is all about details. I want you to meet my very own lady slipper orchid, which I’ve been nursing along for more than two years since her last bloom. Using a low ISO and high f-stop allowed me to capture the great details of the bloom.

Nikon D7000, Bracketing Exposures

So what if you are doing everything right in terms of metering and mode selection, yet your images still sometimes come out too light or too dark? There is a technique called bracketing that will help you find the best exposure value for your scene by taking a normal exposure as well as one that is over- and underexposed. Having these differing exposure values will most often present you with one frame that just looks better than the others. If I am in a tricky situation when I have to get the exposure right, such as an outdoor wedding, then I’ll use bracketing. I’ll start by spacing my exposures apart by one to two stops and taking three images: one normal exposure, one underexposure, and one overexposure. (Figure 11.7).

control panel shows you just how much bracketing
Figure 11.7 The control panel shows you just how much bracketing is being applied on an over/under scale in the upper right corner of the screen. The number and letter to the left tells you how many frames you’re shooting; here, it’s three frames, shown as 3F.

As you are viewing the control panel and holding the exposure button, you can decide how much variation you want between bracketed exposures. You can choose from one-third of a stop all the way to two full stops of exposure difference between each bracketed exposure. If I am in a particularly difficult setting, I will typically bracket in two-stop increments to help zero in on that perfect exposure, and then just delete the ones that didn’t make the grade (Figures 11.8–11.10). Remember, your lighting will dictate how many stops you want between exposures.

Two stops of exposure below normal
Figure 11.8 Two stops of exposure below normal, creating a much darker image.
Normal exposure
Figure 11.9 Normal exposure, as indicated by the camera meter.
Two stops of exposure above normal
Figure 11.10 Two stops of exposure above normal, creating a much lighter image.

Setting auto-exposure bracketing

Setting auto-exposure bracketing

  1. You can quickly set your bracketing by holding the BKT button (on the front of your camera directly below the flash button) while rotating the Command dial to 3F (three exposures).
  2. Next, continue holding your BKT button down while rotating your Sub-command dial to the 2.0 setting (two stops between each exposure). For more information on bracketing, please review pages 109–110 of your manual.
  3. If you are in Single Frame shooting mode, you will have to press the shutter three times, one for each exposure. If you are in continuous shooting mode, you will press and hold the shutter button and the camera will take all three exposures with one press of the button.

When I am out shooting in the RAW file format, I typically shoot with my camera set to an exposure compensation of –1/3 stop to protect my highlights. If I am dealing with a subject that has a lot of different tonal ranges from bright to dark, I will often bracket by one stop over and under my already compensated exposure. That means I will have exposures of –1 1/3, –1/3, and +2/3.

Another thing to remember is that auto exposure bracketing will use the current mode for making exposure changes. This means that if you are in Aperture Priority mode, the camera will make adjustments to your shutter speed. Likewise, if you are in Shutter Priority, the changes will be made to your aperture value. This is important to keep in mind since it could affect certain aspects of your image such as depth of field or camera shake. You also need to know that AE bracketing will remain in effect until you set it back to zero, even if you turn the camera off and then on again.

Nikon D7000, Avoiding Lens Flare

Lens flare is one of the problems you will encounter when shooting in bright sunlight. Lens flare will show itself as bright circles on the image (Figure 11.6). Often you will see multiple circles in a line leading from a very bright light source such as the sun.

The flare is a result of the sun bouncing off the multiple pieces of optical glass in the lens and then being reflected back onto the sensor. You can avoid the problem using one of these methods:

  • Try to shoot with the sun coming from over your shoulder, not in front of you or in your scene.
  • Use a lens shade to block the unwanted light from striking the lens. You don’t have to have the sun in your viewfinder for lens flare to be an issue. All the sunlight has to do is strike the front glass of the lens to make flare happen.
  • If you don’t have a lens shade (hood), try using your hand or some other element to block the light.
the sun without it as well
Figure 11.6 I shoot a lot of images with sunbursts, and one of the problems I deal with is flare spots. The spots are visible as small circles of light coming down from the sun. While some like this look on occasion, you will want to know how to shoot in the sun without it as well.

Nikon D7000, Manual Mode

Probably one of the most advanced, and yet most basic, skills to master is shooting in Manual mode. With the power and utility of most of the automatic modes, Manual mode almost never sees the light of day. I have to admit that I don’t use it very often, but there are times when no other mode will do. One of the situations that works well with Manual is studio work with external flashes. I know that when I work with studio lights, my exposure will not change, so I use Manual to eliminate any automatic changes that might happen from shooting in Program, Shutter Priority, or Aperture Priority mode.

This image (Figure 11.4) was taken in my home studio using a simple portable shooting table and two external flashes. One flash was used underneath the transparent table and the other flash was used with a small soft box. Manual mode allowed me to avoid changes in my setup.

Since I knew the light was a constant, it allowed me to take the time to make adjustments manually to expose the image exactly how I wanted it. Manual mode gives you ultimate creative control.

I used manual mode
Figure 11.4 These tulips provided a nice subject for a studio still life. In order to expose the flowers correctly and get the look I wanted, I used manual mode.

Bulb photography

If you want to work with long shutter speeds that don’t quite fit into one of the selectable shutter speeds, you can choose Bulb. This setting is only available in Manual mode, and its sole purpose is to open the shutter at your command and then close it again when you decide to. I can think of several scenarios where this would come in handy: shooting fireworks, shooting lightning, capturing the movement of the stars at night, and any other very long exposure.

If you are photographing fireworks, you could certainly use one of the longer shutter speeds available in Shutter Priority mode, since they are available for exposure times up to 30 seconds. That is fine, but sometimes you don’t need 30 seconds’ worth of exposure and sometimes you need more.

If you open the shutter and then see a great burst of fireworks, you might decide that that is all you want for that particular frame, so you click the button to end the exposure. Set the camera to 30 seconds and you might get too many bursts, but if you shorten it to 10 seconds you might not get the one you want (Figure 11.5).

image I had in mind
Figure 11.5 It took me several attempts to get this exposure right, but using my Bulb setting allowed me to capture the image I had in mind.

To select the Bulb setting, simply place your camera in Manual mode, press the shutter release halfway to activate metering, and then rotate the Command dial to the left until the shutter speed displays Bulb on the control panel.

When you’re using the Bulb setting, the shutter will only stay open while you are holding down the shutter button. You should also be using a sturdy tripod or shooting surface to eliminate any self-induced vibration while using the Bulb setting. Pressing the shutter button down opens the shutter, and releasing it closes the shutter.

I want to point out that using your finger on the shutter button for a bulb exposure will definitely increase the chances of getting some camera shake in your images. To get the most benefit from Bulb, I suggest using a remote cord such as the Nikon MC-DC2 Remote Switch or the Nikon ML-L3 Wireless Remote.

 

Nikon D7000, Spot Meter for More Exposure Control

Generally speaking, Matrix Metering mode provides accurate metering information for the majority of your photography. It does an excellent job of evaluating the scene and then relating the proper exposure information to you. The only problem with this mode is that, like any metering mode on the camera, it doesn’t know what it is looking at. There will be specific circumstances where you want to get an accurate reading from just a portion of a scene and discount all of the remaining area in the viewfinder. To give you greater control of the metering operation, you can switch the camera to Spot Metering mode. This allows you to take a meter reading from a very small circle in the center of the viewfinder, while ignoring the rest of the viewfinder area.

So when would you need to use this? Think of a person standing in front of a very dark wall. In Matrix Metering mode, the camera would see the entire scene and try to adjust the exposure information so that the dark background is exposed to render a lighter wall in your image. This means that the scene would actually be overexposed and your subject would then appear too light. To correct this, you can place the camera in Spot Metering mode and take a meter reading right off of—and only off of—your subject, ignoring the dark wall altogether. Spot Metering will read the location where you have your focus point, placing all of the exposure information right on your point of interest.

Other situations that would benefit from Spot Metering mode include:

  • Snow or beach environments where the overall brightness level of the scene could fool the meter (Figure 11.1)
  • Strongly backlit subjects that leave the subject underexposed
  • Cases where the overall feel of a photo is too light or too dark

Setting up and shooting in Spot Metering mode

  1. Make sure the camera is in one of the professional shooting modes, as indicated by M, A, S, or P on the Mode dial. You cannot change metering in the automatic modes.
  2. Press and hold the Metering button while rotating the Command dial with your thumb. Select Spot Metering by watching the control panel as you turn the Command dial.
  3. Once you have selected Spot Metering, release the meter button.
  4. Now use the Multi-selector to move the focus point on to your subject and take your photo. The meter reading will come directly from the location of the focus point.
Snowy images can be extremely difficult to expose correctly
Figure 11.1 Snowy images can be extremely difficult to expose correctly, so I’ll often use Spot Metering like I did with this image. Knowing that the sky was probably going to be blown out, I took a meter reading off the water. Later I converted this image to black and white, something I frequently do with images featuring snow.

Note that if you are using the Auto-area AF mode, the camera will use the center focus point as the Spot Metering location.

When using Spot Metering mode, remember that the meter believes it is looking at a middle gray value, so you might need to incorporate some exposure compensation of your own to the reading that you are getting from your subject. This will come from experience as you use the meter.

Metering for sunrise or sunset

Capturing a beautiful sunrise or sunset is all about the sky. If there is too much foreground in the viewfinder, the camera’s meter will deliver an exposure setting that is accurate for the darker foreground areas but leaves the sky looking overexposed, undersaturated, and generally just not very interesting (Figure 11.2). To gain more emphasis on the colorful sky, point your camera at the brightest part of it and take your meter reading there. Use the AE Lock to meter for the brightest part of the sky and then recompose. The result will be an exposure setting that underexposes the foreground but provides a darker, more dramatic sky (Figure 11.3).

brighter and the colors are less saturated
Figure 11.2 By metering with all the information in the frame, you get bright skies and more detail in the ground. In this image of a rower taken in India, the sunset really made it amazing. You can see that because I exposed for him, the sky is much brighter and the colors are less saturated.
beautiful sunset is more colorful and dramatic
Figure 11.3 By taking the meter reading from the brightest part of the sky, I got a darker, more colorful sunset. You can still see detail in the man and the boat, but the beautiful sunset is more colorful and dramatic.

Nikon D7000, Focusing and Editing

Focusing

Your D7000 has given you several focusing options for Live View/Movie mode. There are benefits to each focus-point option. You can choose Face-priority AF, Wide-area AF, Normal-area AF, and Subject-tracking AF. You will want to choose your focus mode depending on the subject of your video. Face-priority will search for faces within the frame and place a box around each face. When you depress the shutter button halfway, the box will turn from red to green once the face is in focus. This is one of the slower focusing modes, so if you have a fast-moving subject, this may not be your first choice. If you want to follow your subject through the frame and keep his face in focus at all times, Subject-tracking AF would be a good option. Wide-area AF and Normal-area AF allow you to choose the subject that you want to focus on. Wide-area provides a larger focusing area than Normal-area AF. Again, the box surrounding your focus point will turn green when the subject is in focus. See pages 49–55 in your manual for more details on the AF-area modes.

To select your Autofocus mode for video

Autofocus mode for video

  1. Press the Menu button and use the Multi-selector to choose the Custom Settings menu.
  2. Highlight A Autofocus, and hit OK (A).
  3. Use the Multi-selector to scroll down to A8 Live View/Movie AF, and press OK (B).
  4. You can make custom selections for both Autofocus mode and AF-area mode. Highlight AF-area mode, and press OK (C).
  5. Select your preferred AF-area mode, and press OK (D).

Editing

You can do limited editing with Nikon’s Movie Editor that came with your Nikon View NX2 installation CD. This is a great way to do some quick editing without spending money on external software.

If you are serious about editing your videos, I recommend checking out Apple’s Final Cut Express or Adobe’s Premiere Elements. Both of these software packages will give you excellent control as well as more options for video editing.

Nikon D7000, Playback

There are a couple of options for reviewing your video once you have finished recording. The first, and probably the easiest, is to press the Image Review button to bring up the recorded image on the rear LCD, and then use the OK button to start playing the video. The Multi-selector acts as the video controller and allows you to rewind and fast-forward as well as stop the video altogether

If you would like to get a larger look at things, you will need to either watch the video on your TV or move the video files to your computer. To watch low-res video on your TV, you can use the video cable that came with your camera and plug it into the small port on the side of the camera body (Figure 10.3). To get the full effect from your HD video, you will need to buy an HDMI cable (your TV needs to support at least 720HD and have an HDMI port to use this option). Once you have the cable hooked up, simply use the same camera controls that you use for watching the video on the rear LCD.

If you want to watch a video on your computer, you will need to download it using Nikon software or an SD card reader attached to the computer. The video file will have the extension .avi at the end of the filename. These files should play on either a Mac or a PC using software that came with your operating system (QuickTime for Mac and Windows Media Player for PC).

Plug your cable into
Figure 10.3 Plug your cable into this port to watch videos on your television.

 

Nikon D7000, Sound

The D7000 can record audio to go along with your video, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind while using the built-in microphone. The first is to make sure you don’t block the microphone. If you look closely at the front of the camera body, you’ll notice three small holes right below the silver D7000 nameplate, located above the lens release button.

The next thing you need to know about sound is that it is mono, not stereo. This is lower quality sound than you are used to hearing in movies and music. To get stereo quality audio you will need to use an external microphone. I use a Rode shotgun microphone (Figure 10.2) that mounts to the camera’s hot shoe and plugs into the stereo audio jack. These mics do a very nice job of recording audio for your videos and are one of the least expensive options.

The Rode shotgun microphone
Figure 10.2 The Rode shotgun microphone mounts to the camera’s hot shoe and plugs into the stereo audio jack for recording high-quality sound.

Turning off the sound

Sometimes you may wish to turn the sound off altogether—maybe sound would be distracting or you plan on adding your own soundtrack later. This comes in handy when I add the Chariots of Fire soundtrack to my daughter’s cross-country videos.

To turn off sound

  1. Following the directions for setting the movie quality above, locate the Movie Settings menu and press OK.
  2. Highlight Microphone and press OK again (A).
  3. Select the Microphone Off option and press OK to lock in the change (B).
  4. Press the Menu button twice or the Live View switch to return to shooting mode.

turn off sound

Nikon D7000, Video Quality

The best quality your D7000 is capable of is high-definition video with a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, aka 1080p. The 1080 represents the height of the video image in pixels, and the P stands for progressive, which is the method the camera uses to draw the video on the screen (more on this later). You can select a lower resolution video depending on your needs.

The other two video resolutions are 1280 x 720 and 640 x 424 (standard definition). For high-definition television and computer/media station viewing, you will be best served by using 1920 x 1080. If you plan on recording for the Internet or portable media devices, first check the appropriate upload to that medium or device. Many social sites such as YouTube and Facebook support HD video, as do the iPad, iPod touch, and competing devices. But before you decide to render HD video you should know the key benefit of using the lower resolutions: Lower resolution video requires less physical storage due to a smaller pixel count. This means you can fit more video on the storage card, as well as take less time to upload the video to the Internet.

What’s the difference between 1080p and 1080i?

When it comes to video, two terms describe its quality and how it is captured and displayed on a monitor or screen: progressive and interlaced. Unlike a photo, a video frame is not displayed all at once but instead is drawn sequentially. Interlaced video first draws the odd-numbered lines and then the even-numbered lines. This odd-even drawing is what we sometimes call screen flicker. In progressive video, the type your D7000 produces, the lines are drawn in sequence from top to bottom, usually resulting in better image quality and less screen flicker. For viewing purposes progressive video is preferred, especially with higher definition images.

Setting Movie Quality

Setting Movie Quality

Setting Movie Quality

  1. Start by pressing the Menu button. Using your Multi-selector, navigate to the Shooting menu.
  2. Using the Multi-selector, highlight Movie Settings and press OK (A).
  3. Highlight Movie Quality and press OK (B).
  4. Select the video quality of your choice and press OK (C).
  5. Press the Menu button twice to exit Menu mode and return to shooting, or rotate the Live View switch to the right to jump to the Live View/Movie mode.