I just got the 35mm f/1.8 lens for my D60. I'm a beginner and shoot mostly in auto mode. But I have been playing with Aperture priority mode, trying to learn the balance between DOF, ISO, and getting a non-blurred subject. I have gotten a good amount of great (for me) pics, but I chalk that up more to luck. I don't have a handle on what I'm doing yet.
Are there any general settings or starting points for typical scenarios when shooting? For example, a lot of my pics are indoors at night in a medium lit room. I have a 1 year old daughter who is often my subject:) So far I have learned that with a small F number in A-mode with auto ISO, the camera pics lower ISO and I get a very shallow area in focus. Bigger F number, higher ISO deeper area in focus. Are there some general rules, like... "When taking a low-light portrait, I usually try f2.2 with ISO 800 with X/XX shutter speed, etc..."
Can anyone recommend a sort of "practice drill" I can perform to help me learn the relationship of the settings I mentioned above? Thanks!
#1. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 0
Welcome to Nikonians! Keep an eye on the shutter speed when you are shooting in low light situations. The Minimum Shutter Speed when shooting Handheld Rule of Thumb to prevent blur due to camera shake is: Minimum Shutter Speed = 1 / focal length of the lens x 1.5 For your 35mm lens the Minimum Shutter Speed = 1/52.5 sec. or rounded to 1/60th or 1/50th sec. Once your 1 year old starts moving you will eventually need a faster shutter speed to freeze the motion of your moving subject. When you have time to play with the camera: Set the camera in Manual exposure mode with the ISO set in Manual mode as well. Then go out and shoot. Try expiriment with the settings. Start shooting static subjects and work your way to moving subjects. Good Luck and Enjoy your Nikons!
I'd take a little different approach. I'd start with the "A" mode (Aperture Priority) where you will control the f/stop and the camera will try to pick the shutter speed to produce a "correct" exposure.
In the situation you described (a normally lit interior room at night) you are probably going to need to start with a pretty high ISO to keep the shutter speed up high enough (about 1/60 for the 35mm lens as mentioned above). I'd try ISO 800 for starters. Generally you want to use as low an ISO as you can get away with, since lower ISO setting produce better looking pictures.
Start with a wide aperture (low f number), like f/2 or f/2.8, and see where your shutter speed comes out. At most interior distances, you are not going to have a lot of DOF at wide apertures like these - probably 6" to a couple of feet. This means it will be important to focus on your subject and that a lot of the foreground and background may be out of focus. This can be a good thing in the case of a distracting background.
Keep experimenting, I'm sure you'll get the hang of it...
Bart D300s D40 F3HP FE FM2n Nikkormat FTN
Everything is a subject. Every subject has a rhythm. To feel it is the raison d'être. The photograph is a fixed moment of such a raison d'être, which lives on in itself. - Andre Kertesz
#4. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 0
The previous replys have all touched on it. Set your camera up in A-priority mode, and open that critter up as wide as she'll go. 1.8. This gives you the most light to work with. Mess with the ISO to keep the shutter speed up - while trying to keep it as low as possible. I try to hang with whatever gives me a 1/50 shutter, usually 400 or 800 ISO. Anything slower on the shutter speed and you get major blur from moving subjects, and/or camera shake. Personally, I LOVE my 35mm f/1.8. It's my go-to lens for indoor shooting. I'm finding that I don't utilize the 18-55mm kit lens hardly at all now. I let my feet do the zoomin', while enjoying a lens that allows the flash to remain closed (sneakier pictures that way).
Once you get the hang of it, you'll find yourself switching to manual mode more often. I jump back and forth, getting a general ballpark on the shutter settings in A-priority mode, then switching and futzing with the shutter as well - especially if I have room between current shutter speeds and my 1/50 guideline. If I find myself with a whole lot of room, I'll drop the ISO a notch - that usually pulls the shutter speed back to my working range, and gives a richer picture as well.
#6. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 4
I try to keep aperture to around f/2 if at all possible, because it gives you a little more depth of field to play with (and thus margin for focusing error), and also the 'sweet spot' for fast lenses tends to be at a slightly smaller aperture than the max. (Admittedly I use a 50mm f/1.4 rather than 35mm f/1.8).
+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Too many hobbies, too little time
#5. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 0
I'm still experimenting. I've come to some of my own conclusions. Maybe I can get some reinforcement if I'm on the right track or some criticism if I'm not.
I've decided to use the d60 strictly in A-mode so I can see what shutter speed the camera chooses while I change other variables (ISO, f-stop, exposure comp, etc...) I think the combination of focus mode AF-S and AF area mode set to manual  gives me much better control over what in the frame I want to have focus. I find the automatic focusing often not getting it right with the pictures I take.
I'm a little unsure how I should leave my ISO settings. I think I'm leaning towards "auto on" and maximum 400 under decent lighting conditions. If things are too dark I can + the exposure a bit, and if I'm in a darker setting where 400 doesn't cut it I will change the max setting to 800, remembering to bump down to max 400 when lighting improves. Taking full manual control of ISO scares me as I think there is too much chance of getting completely unusable photos if I screw up the ISO.
Up until now I've been shooting 99% of the time in full-auto no flash mode. But I am starting to see that if you do know what you are doing you can get a much higher percentage of good-great photos, compared to full auto modes.
#7. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 5 Mon 19-Oct-09 05:07 PM by rdj999
I'm right there with you! A recently-acquired 50mm f/1.4 AF-D lens seems to have camped itself on my D50, and I've been using it a lot as my "only" lens, rather than carrying around several lenses or zooms.
Anyway, a lot of my shooting recently has been in low-light, indoor environments -- parties to be precise -- and not kids, but these adults can act like kids in a lot of ways. In that environment, I've found a combination that seems to work pretty well:
f/1.4 (or f/1.8)
ISO 400 or 800
exposure compensation of -1EV or -2EV
(I sometimes use exposure compensation to give me faster shutter speeds -- you can always bump the exposure in post-processing, and for casual indoor photos, you don't lose much.)
If you haven't tried using your slow-sync flash modes, you're in for a treat. This isn't the "default" mode in which the flash tries to provide all or most of the light for your subject: that's what causes distracting shadows and red-eye while washing out the "natural" indoor light.
Try this instead: keep your camera in Aperture Priority mode, but set the flash to "slow sync" (or "front curtain" or "rear curtain" sync.) With the slow-sync flash modes, the camera still computes an adequate shutter speed for the ambient light given your selected aperture, ISO, and exposure compensation, but it also "pops" the flash to properly expose your primary subject. The on-camera flash works fine for this.
(There are some nuances related to "front" vs. "rear" sync; I use "rear" sync, but you may want to use "front" because it's a little more straightforward.)
This has several advantages. First, you get a faster shutter speed and less blurring. Second, your picture records a lot of the ambient light quality -- warm incandescent glow in the background, for example. Third, the camera balances the flash with the ambient light on the primary subject, so you end up using less flash power/intensity.
When you take pictures in this mode, your camera will probably be using long shutter speeds. Just hold it as steady as you can -- the flash will help "freeze" the main subject despite the slower shutter speed. Also, you may discover that "red-eye" isn't a problem because the flash level is relatively low in the slow-sync modes. (I never use so-called "red-eye reduction".)
You should probably keep your White Balance set at Auto, because now you're dealing with varying mixtures of different types of light, and "auto" will probably get you closer than fiddling with white balance manually.
So, remember Thom Hogan's general fix for (most) all flash problems: "APERTURE PRIORITY, SLOW SYNC", and give slow sync a try!
#8. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 5
Having your own starting point is important. I'm sure if you take notes, you will find a consistent set of operations points to meet your need. The task you have is a difficult one photographically and it all has to do with the light level, not the choice of equipment. You will have to build a technique that will work with those levels.
You have likely already noted that an indoor night exposure in a moderately lighted room is something like ISO400, f/2, 1/30 second. The parameters will vary depending on the realization of "moderately".
Of the settings you should worry about, ISO is likely the easiest to grasp, but I'm going to try to summarize the interactions and tradeoffs.
For the following parameters, their affects are typically...
ISO: the higher the ISO, the more sensitive the sensor. As the light level lowers, typically the choice of ISO value increases. With increasing ISO, there is a gain in contrast in the image, a more difficult rendition of the people-sensitive tones (like flesh tone and eye color and deepening of shadows in and around the eyes). The digital noise or grain in the image also increases.
Shutter Speed: a high shutter speed is essential in stopping subject motion and stabilizing the motion effects of camera shake. VR (vibration reduction) can be added to a camera/lens to reduce the effects of camera shake, but VR does not directly effect the stopping of subject motion. The 1/focal-length rule is often applied as a shutter-speed floor needed to produce acceptable hand-held photographs. Using the 1/focal-length rule, a more telephoto lens requires a higher shutter speed to counter hand-shake. Using portrait/telephoto lenses in available light can be counter productive even if they are fast lenses. The brief burst of a strobe light can be substituted for a high shutter speed in stopping motion if the strobe light constitutes the main light.
Aperture: can be used to control the DOF surrounding a subject. A wide open lens offers the lowest DOF. The DOF decreases for a given aperture as the focal-length increases. A fast short-telephoto lens is often used to produce a shallow DOF for portrait photography as opposed to a stopped-down wide-angle lens yielding a large DOF for landscape photography. In both applications a stable camera support is often necessary. The aperture setting also allows you to shift your lens operation into an "optimal sharpness" aperture range. That's often two or three f/stops higher than maximum aperture - that's often a range that is a luxury when dealing with low light levels. If the subject is moving, a shallow DOF can often make focus point choice and control of the focus on that point much more difficult. Under these conditions, a greater DOF is very helpful in getting the image.
When you start using your equipment at the limit, you need to use all of your equipment. The central cross-sensitive sensor is imperative to use for rapid and accurate low light auto-focus (and manual focus in low light is a real challenge). For moving kids, AF-C is often required and the photographer has to develop the sense of when is enough time during the subject tracking to allow the camera to lock that focus - especially since there is little or no feedback of when focus lock happens. One of the dynamic focus modes might be useful, but I find them to be computational bound and best in good light.
I think your plan for auto-ISO is a good starting point as you will remember to use the ISO value when you evaluate your images.
Over time, I've adopted a more pedantic operation. For indoor images that involve family and especially grand kids, I set my camera for ISO800, use an "aperture-preferred mode" f/2.8 and watch the shutter-speed range. If I'm starting to run into shutter speed limitations, I mount my SB-800, reduce the ISO to 400 and point the strobe usually to the rear to add some directional bounce. In my house all the ceilings are "photographer's white".
Your 35mm f/1.8 AFS DX lens is a gem. Enjoy it to the fullest. I'm not sure who coined the phrase "light available", but there is nothing wrong IMO in adding quality light to make a photographic opportunity possible.
I've recently moved from a D200 to a D2Hs for my family pictures. The improved view finder and auto focus engine in the D2Hs has significantly improved my number of keepers. The technique is still much the same, but being able to occasionally choose ISO1600 and use any of the nine available cross-sensor auto-focus points in the VF changes where the operation edge is for this kind of photography.
My lens of choice is the 35mm f/2 AFD - one that I've had for decades. I think your 35mm f/1.8 AFS lens is a very good choice.
Roger It is still ISO, aperture and shutter speed, right? "Nikonians membership - My most important photographic investment."
#9. "RE: Tips for using new 35mm f/1.8 lens" In response to Reply # 0
I've been shooting elusively in A-priority mode for a few weeks now. Again, most of my photos are taken indoors in low-light. I'm starting to get the hang of it. Two mistakes I was warned about, but still made:
1. Not checking the shutter speed often enough. I was taking shots at f2.8 to get a deeper DOF (opposed to f1.8), not noticing the shutter speed dropped down to 1/30 when moving into a lower lit room. Images looked good on the 2.5" LCD but many were shown to be a little blurry after reviewing on my PC.
2. After shooting indoors, for a while went outside and took about a dozen photos but forgot to bring the ISO back down from what I was using inside (it was evening but still some light out). Images were a little grainy.
Overall I have been pleased with my photos, but have to remember to not make these kinds of mistakes.