So the student mentioned below had her first lesson with her D5100 where we covered resetting the camera (and why) along with reformatting the memory card (after safely storing and backing up the images already shot) followed by when and how to shoot in automatic, program, aperture and shutter priority modes.
The first thing I had our student do was shot a photo of me with the camera in automatic. Because I was sitting with my back to the big bright window I wasn’t sure how the camera was going to react in auto but the Nikon came through like a trooper and forced the flash on to give a perfectly exposed fill-flash look where the background was properly exposed as was I. We repeated the experiment in program mode (where the shooter controls whether or not the flash pops up) and the results were extremely predictable with the outside background perfectly exposed and I was just a shadow. Now I had her force the flash on in program mode and now we got another perfect image. (In a future lesson I’ll show her how to vary the ambient light exposure and at the same time vary the flash exposure to create some truly wonderfully exposed images.)
So my student learned to trust automatic mode so long as it created the image she wanted and if she wanted to take control of the flash to go to program mode.
We also shot in aperture mode where she picked how much depth of field (the mount of stuff in focus) as the camera picked the appropriate shutter speed to create a proper exposure. When she closed the lens down to f/16 which resulted in a photo where everything from about three feet from the lens to infinity was in focus, she got a shot that was properly exposed but blurry. She figured out that the camera had set a shutter speed that was too slow for her to handhold the camera. So since we didn’t have tripod with us it occurred to her to raise her ISO from 200 to 1600 which allowed the camera to shoot at a higher shutter speed. By opening the lens up a little to f/8 she still got almost everything in focus and a sufficiently high shutter speed to prevent blurring.
In automatic and program mode you can’t make the camera create shots where the depth of field is very shallow (often used in portraits) or very deep (as in landscapes).
But for point-and-shot vacation shooting I like program mode.
It’s quick, easy and for the most part creates really perfect images…but sometime program mode misses the exposure. That’s where the exposure compensation button comes into play. I showed our student how to change the exposure the camera had picked in program mode using the exposure button to lighten or darken the image to her preferences.
And then the second class ended with this admonition: Go shoot lots and lots of photos. It’s the fastest way to get radically better images.