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Nikon D500 Fast Start

Lesson 5 of 31

Top of Camera: Exposure Control

John Greengo

Nikon D500 Fast Start

John Greengo

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Lesson Info

5. Top of Camera: Exposure Control

Lesson Info

Top of Camera: Exposure Control

Starting with the top deck of the camera, we have off, on, and our little lamp position. So, if we rotate that all the way around to the right. It's a spring-loaded and it lights up our control panel on the top. I'm not gonna go through all the information in there. There's some pretty obvious information about our exposure, shutter speed, aperture, and various settings on the camera. And this is traditional style LCD, so it's very low in battery power. It can be seen in bright sunlight very, very easily. Notably in the bottom right hand corner in the brackets is the remaining number of shots on the camera. Once you get over a thousand, it'll give a number with a K. So 1K is 1,000 photos, 2.1 is 2,100 estimated photos left on the memory card. When you turn that to the lamp position, the back buttons will illuminate. And so under low-light conditions, you'll be able to see the garbage can, and the menu, and the playback button a little bit more easily. And so you can just rotate that an...

d it will light up for a few seconds. Not that many, 'cause it does use a little bit more battery power when it's doing that. So, the shutter release. Beyond just pressing halfway down to wake the camera up, it also activates the metering system, and the auto-focus system. And so you need to get very sensitive with your index finger for pressing that down halfway. So, throughout this class, I'm gonna be giving you some shortcuts. 'Cause I know many of you at home are watching this class and you see me talk about something and you're like, "Okay, I wanna go change that right now." We'll I'm gonna give you the shortcut information on how to dive into the menu system and make that change. And that's what you'll see with these little shortcut boxes that pop-up from time to time. So, if you don't want your camera to auto-focus when you press the shutter release halfway down, which is often called back button focusing, you can dive into the custom setting menu under a8, under AF activation. And you can turn that off if you want to. And you can use the back button on your camera to focus. Which is a nice system. And we'll talk more about this as we go through the class. Now, if you don't want to jump ahead and make this change right now, you just kind of want to follow along one step at along on the class, not to worry. We're gonna come back. We're gonna talk about this again. This isn't the only time we're gonna talk about it. Alright, so let's talk about the exposure control of the camera. How do we control the exposure system? First up is the ISO. This is the sensitivity of the sensor. The camera will get the best, cleanest data, when it is set at ISO 100. If you need a greater sensitivity, which is usually necessary when you need faster shutter speeds. If you're in a low-light situation, and you're shooting action, you're gonna need to probably bump up that ISO to 400, or 800, or 1600. And this camera will go up to 51,200, and then it has five high settings that go all the way up to 1,640,000. Which is only topped by the Nikon D5. Which goes one stop further, which is 3.2 million in its ISO setting. And so I, of course, am very interested in quality images at different ISO's. So, I want to run through the basic ISO settings on this camera. And do a little test to see how clean the data is from this camera. So you can shoot as low as 50, but it's not as good a quality as 100. The difference between 50 and 100, not greatly visible in this example, is that 50 has a little less dynamic range. And so, when would I use 50? And when I am absolutely desperate for longer shutter speeds and I need to lower the sensitivity of my sensor. If I was shooting a waterfall, and I was at a half-second, and I really, really, wanted to be at one second. That's when I would probably go down to ISO 50. But other than that, I would probably stay at as much of the time as possible. Now in case you can't see your screen very clearly, I got a giant one here in front of me. I can tell you that 100, 200, 400, 800, are just all super, super clean. And then maybe those of you with the most pickiest amount of detail-orientated eyes, are gonna start noticing a little bit of noise at 1600. But it is really clean. It gets a little bit more noticeable at 3200 and 6400. But in general, these are all very workable, usable ISO's. Alright, let's take it up a little bit further. Okay, so getting up to 12,000 and 25,000, you're starting to notice some real noise. And, I gotta admit, the high settings one through five are all just real garbage, in my mind. And, I've always kind of wondered, "Why do they have this? I mean, why do you take it so far?" And I finally have a good explanation, in case you were wondering, "Why do they take it so far?" It's not designed for artistic purposes. Think about scientific, forensic, crime scene type stuff. It is designed for things beyond just making pretty pictures. It's just trying to identify something in an extremely dark environment. And so these are things that most photographers, who are designed, who are out there trying to take artwork of some sort, you're not gonna be using the high settings at all. And so I would pretty much avoid the high settings. And even the 51,000 is pretty rough there folks. That's pretty rough. But, being able to shoot up to 6400, on this size of sensor, this is progress folks. I mean, it was not that long ago that you needed a full frame camera, probably just five years ago, that you needed a full frame camera to get just as clean of information. So, very, very usable information, I think up to 6400 in this case. So that's gonna be kind of our first setting. And as a default, I always like to leave my cameras set at 100. And then depending on the situation, I adjust it upwards from there usually based on what are my needs in shutter speeds? How big a shutter speed? How fast a shutter speed do I need? So, to operate this, you'll press down on that button while turning the back button of the camera. So that'll adjust your ISO's. It's pretty simple. But you do have to have two fingers on the camera to do that. Now, if you press down on the ISO button and then turn the front dial, which will require a different finger. Because it's hard to change with that index finger. So I usually use my thumb up there on the ISO, and then I can turn the auto ISO on the front. So if you want, you can have the camera automatically control the ISO for you. And most serious photographers who are very deliberate in wanting to get exact results, prefer to manually set the ISO. But there are situations where it just makes it easier to let the camera choose the ISO. Because the sensitivity is so smooth and clean in its information. And we're gonna talk more about auto ISO when we get into the photo shooing menu and the ISO sensitivity settings. Because it's gonna work as a very nice device when used with certain settings on the camera in certain situations. So, as a general rule, I like to do manual photography, I generally avoid auto ISO. But anyone who knows how I really shoot in the field knows that I will occasionally use it. It's a special tool that has its place and purpose. And it does work very well. And one of the nice things about Nikon is that they give you some very fine-tuned controls about how the auto ISO is adjusting the sensitivity in your camera. It's one of the best controls of any camera out on the market. And we'll get into that when we get to that section in the menu. Next up dealing with exposure control is our exposure modes. This is the way that our cameras are setting shutter speeds and apertures. So we're gonna press down on the mode button. We're gonna turn the main command dial in the back of the camera. And we're gonna be able to change between our four common settings on this camera. So let's talk about each of these different ones. First up is the program mode. So in the program mode, the camera is setting shutter speeds and apertures for you. Based on the amount of light coming in the camera. The camera is also basing these on the fact that it assumes you are hand holding your camera. And you need a shutter speed fast enough to hand hold the camera. And if you're on a tripod, that's not necessarily true. So just be aware that that's how it's looking to set the exposures. Now as you look through the viewfinder, you'll be able to see, starting on the left, below the image that you're looking at, the shutter speeds, apertures, and then we'll talk more about the light meter in a moment. And then on the far right, there's gonna be a number that is the images left. So, once you're in program, this is a great mode if you need to hand the camera off to one of your friends or a family member. Just say, "Hey, can you take some photos?" And you wanna make it really simple for them. It's also nice for us photographers when we're in a rush or the exact shutter speed and aperture isn't super important. The example I always give is when mom calls out, "Hey you gotta take a picture of the birthday cake." "Okay Mom, I'll take a picture." I'll throw it in program, and I just need a basic shot. There's nothing really fancy about it. And so the program mode is the easiest way to put it in that mode, and not mess up on the exposure. The camera will do whatever it can with shutter speeds and apertures. You still have to go set your ISO beforehand. And if you want it super simple, you can set that in auto ISO, for full automation. Now, for those of you who like to have a little bit of control, and a little bit of help, you can put it in the program mode, and turn the back dial and get something that's called flexible program. So let me show you what that looks like here on this camera. Let me get my camera in position over here. Now, one of the things I'll be doing in this class is, I wanna show you what's going on with this camera. And to show you on the back of the camera, I'm gonna hit this info button, over here. So that you can see what's happening with our shutter speeds and apertures. So, right now, I have the ISO set at 1600. I'm at F8 at 1/250th of a second. And as I, I gotta hit the info button so it stays light, and as I move the camera around, you can see that the camera is giving us various shutter speeds and apertures. Now if I said, "I don't wanna shoot at F8, I want to shoot at F4." What I can do is I can just turn the back dial until I get to F4. And you'll notice by the P there's a little asterisk over there, which means that I have made a change in the program. And so if I turn the camera off, and I turn it back on, do you think it's gonna be at F4? No, it kicks back to its default setting. But, if I said, "Do you know what? I want it to be at F22, and I let it go to sleep, and I've taken my depth-to-field shots, with great depth-to-field, and I come back to the camera and I want to start shooting portrait photos. Well, is it gonna be at F22 or F8?" Turn it on. It's at F22. Okay, so it kinda is a little bit sticky in that regard. So, you kind of have to remember where you were. Now there's one other little quirk. And I don't understand this. I can show it to you. I've talked to the Nikon reps, the technical reps, and they can't explain it. So let me just show you and warn you about something. Okay, so let's just say I wanted a lot of depth-to-field. What would I do? Well I would go to F22. Now let's suppose I continue to click. What happens? Nothing. But what if I go back to the right? Nothing's happening. Left, nothing. Right, nothing. Okay? And so nothing's happening. And this happens to people all the time in my classes. They're like, "I'm moving the dial and nothing's happened." Well, if you recall, I went to the left a whole bunch. Now I gotta come back to the right a whole bunch. And I finally get back into the working area. And it's kind of strange. It's as if Nikon has a range that you can move between. And that range is right there. But it lets you go way past it, and you're moving around, and you gotta keep clicking, clicking, clicking, clicking until you get back into that range. And so, there's nothing wrong with your particular camera. We just need to get word back to Japan that this is awkward and it doesn't need to be. But that's what's happening, as they say. I can show it to you. I can't explain it. (audience member laughing) Alright, next up is shutter priority. Shutter priority is where you get to choose the shutter speeds, and the camera will figure out the apertures. So this is a great mode when you know you need a fairly specific shutter speed to stop the action. Like an eagle going into a river and grabbing a fish out of it, alright? Now, there's a lot of different shutter speeds that we can choose on this camera. So let's talk about some of our shutter speeds. We have a top shutter speed of 1/8000th of a second. It goes down to 30 seconds. And then we get down to something called bulb. So what bulb is, it is a long time exposure. And the way this works, it's a press and hold on the shutter release. If you wanted a shutter speed longer than 30 seconds, you press down on the shutter release, and you leave you're finger there. As long as you want. And that leaves the shutter open. And then when you take your finger off, then it closes the shutter. Now obviously this isn't good because hand on the camera is gonna vibrate it and cause vibrations. This is why you would have a cable release. Now there is another system, and another way of doing this. And it will be called time, or it might just have a couple of dashes. And this is a long time exposure as well. But this is a press to start and a press to stop. So what you'll do on this one, is you'll just simply press it down once. And it opens up the shutter. And then you can stand and take a look at your stopwatch, have a coffee. Come back five minutes later, and press the button again, and that ends the exposure. So, for long exposures, this is a very nice system as well. And you can choose which one works better for whatever it is that you're doing. Now if you continue to go down on the shutter speeds, you're gonna get to the final one which is X250. And 1/250th of a second is the maximum flash synchronization of the camera. This is kind of designed for somebody working in the studio. And they're not gonna change their shutter speeds. It's just gonna be 250th. They wanna dial it all the way to the end of the dial. And so it's 50% less likely to get bumped out of position. And so, this would be something that you could use in the studio if you want that maximum shutter speed or you're using the camera with a flash system. Now beyond the shutter speeds here, I will mention that you can go to 1/3 stops in between. These are just the whole stops. There will be third stops in between. That's too many numbers, it clutters up my screen, I'm not gonna show them to you, but they're there. You can use them, and there's nothing wrong with them. So, the bulb, or the time exposure, might be handy when you know you need something longer than 30 seconds. When I was in Rome, there just wasn't enough traffic to get me the amount of tail lights that I wanted in 30 seconds. And so I did a two minute exposure, so that I could get more tail lights in the scene. So this is something that you would typically use with nighttime photography. So shutter priority has one other little bugaboo. And there's a lot of people who like shutter priority because conceptually, shutter speeds are very easy to think about. 1/1000th of a second is fast, and a second is slow. And it's easy to kind of think about in that regard. And depth-to-field is a little bit more challenging for some beginners. And so some people are drawn to shutter priority. But it's got a major little problem that you gotta watch for. So let's do a little test with my camera here. And I'm gonna turn the info on so you can see what I'm doing. So I'm gonna press the mode button. And I'm gonna change us over to shutter priority. And so I can change shutter speeds, and you can see them changing here. And let's take a shutter speed like 1/500th of a second. Okay, well that's great. Let me just take a quick look through here, and get pointed on something. And there's our photo. Let's make this a little bit larger so we can see what's going on. Let's go back to shooting photos. And I can change to a lot of different shutter speeds. If I want to go down to 1/60th of a second, I'm getting a decent result. Now, if I said, "I want a shoot at 1/8000th of a second." Well, you know what? I can shoot at 1/8000th of a second. But you see that F2.8 blinking? That means that the camera's F2.8 aperture is not good enough for this particular lighting scenario. And I'm in charge of the camera, so I can go ahead and shoot a photo. And our photo, as you can see, is very, very, very dark. And I can do this on the other end of the spectrum. If I said, "Well, you know what? I want to shoot with a one second exposure." Well, it's blinking again. F22 isn't small enough, but I'm allowed to do whatever I wanna do with this camera. And I get this overexposed photo. And so if you are gonna work in shutter priority, you need to, at the very least, be very aware of your F stop blinking at you. Because that means you are out of range of what that lens can handle. Perhaps you need a different lens, but most likely you just need to adjust your shutter speed. The other option, and for anybody who does need to use, or really likes to use shutter priority. I highly recommend using auto ISO. Because when you don't have enough aperture range to help you out, the ISO settings can kinda kick in. And help save the day for you. And so I think shutter priority and auto ISO are a good combo unit that works together. And so shutter priority on its own, is a little bit dangerous. Because there's just not that many apertures in the camera. And there are tons of shutter speeds that you can choose. So that is shutter priority. Next up is aperture priority. Which is one of my favorite automated modes. And this is good when you know how much depth-to-field that you would like to get in a particular photograph. So, in this case I wanted lots of depth-to-field. I wanted the mud in the foreground, and I wanted the buildings in the background to be in focus. So I stopped my lens down to F22. I wasn't caring what my shutter speed was, because I was on a tripod. But I will use aperture priority when I do care about shutter speeds. I just kind of keep an eye on my shutter speeds. And so I'll adjust my aperture to an area that gives me appropriate shutter speeds. And so let's just do a little demo here with the camera. So, I'm go ahead and get this set up. Turn the info on so we can see what we're doing. So I gotta press the mode button and turn it on the back of the camera. You can see, actually, that turning it right to the A setting there. I'm gonna change the ISO. I'm gonna set that down to a little bit lower number. We'll go down to 200 in here. And so, if I was shooting some pictures in here, one of the things I would be doing, and we'll notice that the back dial doesn't work. Because the front dial is our main aperture control on Nikons. Now if you don't like that, we'll be able to switch that in the menu system. But I would be setting my aperture, I think, "Well maybe I want F8." And then I'd look at the shutter speed. And like, "I don't know that I can hold the camera steady at 1/25th of a second." So I'll just change my aperture. But I'm looking at the shutter speed. And I'll go, "Okay, well now I'm gonna shoot at F5. 'Cause I'm now at 1/60th of a second." And I know I can hold the camera steady at that particular shutter speed. And so, in aperture priority, it's a little counter-intuitive for somebody new. In that you're changing the aperture, but you're looking at the shutter speed. And so you're looking at both. But you're really keeping an eye to make sure that you don't go too low on the shutter speed. So that you get blurry shots. Or that it's appropriate for what you're shooting there. And this is my favorite mode when I don't know what my next shot is. When I'm in travel photography mode, walking down the streets of Cuba. And I just don't know if it's gonna be a taxicab coming down the street. Or somebody hocking something, selling it on the corner of the street. Aperture priority is just a good mode for being quickly ready to handle the action. Because you can quickly change between all the apertures. From low end to high end very, very easily. Now the three modes that we just talked about are all semi-automatic modes. Which means the camera is controlling how light or how dark our subjects are. And we can go in with exposure compensation, the plus/minus button, and we can lighten our subjects up, or we can darken them. This is all based off of an average lightness. How bright should our photo be? And so if we don't like what the zero setting is, we can set our cameras to minus or plus. And a lot of scenes might be better if they were a little bit brighter. And some would be better if they were a little bit darker. So you'd simply press this button, and then turn the main command dial in the back of the camera. Now whether you're looking on the front, the back, or in the viewfinder, you might see something like this that would say plus one. And then there's a visual exposure indicator. Which would indicate 3/3 of a stop, which is one full stop brighter. And if we were gonna go onto the minus side, this would be minus two stops in exposure. And so this is something that can be very handy when you want to lighten your photograph up, or you want to darken it a little bit. And see that this is gonna be most useful for people in the program, the shutter priority, and the aperture priority mode. But it can be used in the manual mode to fool the light meter. And so let me give you a little example of that. And for this one, I'm gonna actually try to do this in live view. And it would work the same in the view finder. And so here in the studio we have a few cameras. Over here as props for me to focus on. But we have this huge white, seamless wall in the background here, that is very, very bright. And those cameras are very, very dark. So I think we should overexpose these. Now we're in an aperture priority mode, I don't really care about shutter speed and aperture in here right now. But I do wanna brighten this up. So I would press the plus/minus. And I would bring this up maybe one stop, maybe, I'm gonna go about a stop and 1/3 brighter, right now. And so this is one way to solve the exposure problem in here, in aperture priority. Is with a plus one and 1/3 exposure compensation. Now, the other way that I could deal with this, is I could put the camera in a manual mode. So I'm gonna go back in full manual. And I'm gonna go to my exposure compensation. And I'm gonna set this at one and 1/3. And then I will adjust my apertures and shutter speeds until I get my light meter set at zero. And this will be that same brightness there. Now I'm gonna go back and I'm gonna turn off that one and 1/3. And so here's where the camera would normally ... And so now, the camera would recommend it right here. And you see how it's kind of darker. And so the camera's looking for average lightness and darkness. And as a photographer, you need to be really aware is the subject I'm shooting, is it brighter than average? Or is it darker than average? And in this case here in the studio, our white wall is whiter than average. And so that's how we would use exposure compensation. I usually use it with aperture priority, because that's my favorite of the automated modes to use. Alright, let's get to manual. So, in manual control, you're controlling shutter speeds. And you're controlling apertures as well. Inside the viewfinder you'll be keeping a close eye on the light meter to see where that is. You're gonna kind of start off with it at the zero setting. But then you can adjust it upwards or downwards according to its needs there. My favorite reason for shooting manual is that I get consistent shots from shot to shot in tricky lighting situations. And usually in a situation, I don't take one photo. I take several photos. I want to play around with composition, and timing, and other elements. And so, in a tricky situation like this, where we have some very bright highlights. We have some very dark areas. I'm gonna figure out my exposure manually first. And then, I'm gonna move the camera around a lot. And generally subtle movements of the camera, the exposure doesn't need to be any difference at all. And so anytime you're shooting multiple photographs in the same lighting situation, highly recommend shooting manual. That way you get consistent results. As long as you have time to set things up the first time around, to make sure that you're getting the right exposure. And so in the manual exposure, let's go ahead and take a look at the back of the camera. Kinda just did this. But we'll just do it again. And so, on the back of the camera you're gonna be looking at the exposure meter. Now there's another one on the top. And there's another one in the viewfinder itself. And if I was shooting a photo, I would need to make a decision. Shutter speeds or apertures? I'm gonna set one of them first. And it depends a little bit on the type of shot you're shooting. I got some cameras on a stand over here, and I don't want too shallow of depth-to-field, because they're at slightly different distances. So I'm gonna want this to be at F8 we'll say. And then I will adjust my shutter speeds. According to the light meter, and in this case, it puts me at 1/40th of a second. Let's just pretend for a moment that I'm handheld. Well, maybe I need to compromise and I want to get my shutter speed up to 1/60th of a second. Which means my aperture would come down to F6.3. I could either accept that, or I could say, "You know what? Let's just bump up the ISO by a couple of bits." And I'll keep my shutter speed there. And I'll get my aperture back down at F8. And I've dialed in exactly the settings that I want. Now that's, at zero is a good starting position. But that isn't where everything should be. As we talked about earlier, this white wall here in the studio, needs to be a bit brighter. So maybe I should be changing my ISO up even higher. Let's see. ISO here. So that I get about a stop overexposed in this case. And so right about here. And so, if I take that photo, we'll take a look at it. Our white wall looks white. And we can see our cameras fairly easily there. And so this is something you need to play around with. And there's a lot more of that in my fundamentals class about getting the right exposure. But that's the basics on how to do it on this particular camera.

Class Description

We know what it’s like to dive right into taking pictures with your new camera. But dense technical manuals make for a terrible first date. Get the most out of your new Nikon® D500 with this complete step-by-step walkthrough of the camera’s features.

Join expert photographer John Greengo for a fast-track introduction, and unlock your camera’s full potential.  

In this class you'll learn:

  • How to use the D500’s various shooting modes
  • How to use and customize the D500’s menus
  • How to master the 4K video function
John is a CreativeLive veteran instructor and an experienced photographer. He has extensive experience teaching the technical minutiae that makes any camera an effective tool: aperture, ISO, the Rule of Thirds, and the kinds of lenses you’ll need to suit your camera body. This Fast Start includes a complete breakdown of your camera’s exposure, focus, metering, video and more. John will also explain how to customize the Nikon D500’s settings to work for your style of photography.

Class Materials

Bonus Materials with Purchase

Nikon D500 Recommended Settings

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

Related Classes


Carl Vanderweyden

John Greengo is the best! I purchased a Nikon D500 and this course around the same time. Because of this camera being so complex, I felt that a course would be beneficial. This course that John teaches is exactly what I needed. His knowledge of this camera as well as photography in general is exceptional. In fact, I own a couple of other courses presented by John and I also bought a couple of his books! I would highly recommend this course to anyone who wants to know the ins-and-outs of this D500! Thanks again John for a great course and your great way of explaining things with clear dialect and great visuals!

M Jo

Wow! What a great class! John is a natural teacher, moving at a good pace and explaining things carefully, never assuming you already know more than you might. I just got my D500 last week and am so pleased to have gone through this entire class. I learned a LOT and took some notes to refer back to. I've also just bought a Z6 and have purchased John's class for that. Can't wait to dive in!!!

Christina Brittain

By The class. John is the gold standard for teaching. He repairs lessons to perfection. He speaks in ways students comprehend all that he presents. Never waste words. Never bores. Always demonstrates his points. I will continue to purchase his classes as they provide the best learning I have found. He is making me a much better photographer, both technically and creatively. You can't make good images if you don't know your gear. Hope he teaches lessons in Portland Oregon one day. I know Pro Photo Supply would sponsor him.