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Nikon Z7 & Z6 Fast Start

Lesson 3 of 15

Exposure Control


Nikon Z7 & Z6 Fast Start

Lesson 3 of 15

Exposure Control


Lesson Info

Exposure Control

Alright, we're gonna start with the top side of the camera. We gonna be looking at the Mode dial first. Over on the left side is the Mode dial and this controls the settings of the shutter speeds and the apertures on the camera. There's a lot of different options from fully automatic to fully manual. We'll start with the easiest, which is the fully automated mode. The little green camera mode. In this mode the camera is gonna figure out shutter speeds, apertures, ISOs for you. It's gonna set-up a bunch of other things in the background just to make everything as easy and as simple as possible for you. Now, one of the problems with this mode is that it limits some of the features that you will have access to. I call this child-safety locks. This is a mode that I would hope anybody who has watched this entire class is not going to use on any sort of regular basis. I'm gonna hope that you're gonna wanna do more with the camera than just put it in the fully auto mode. This is perfect for h...

anding that camera to a friend or a stranger or a family member who doesn't know how to work the camera and you just wanna have them take some basic photos. That is the easiest way to turn the camera over to somebody like that. But, if you really wanna take control and get the most out of this camera, you're gonna wanna get beyond the basic auto mode. So, the next most simple mode is the Program mode. In this case, shutter speeds and apertures will also be set for you but you can go in and set the ISO yourself and you'll have unrestricted access to the rest of the menu. If you want to change the focusing system or the white balance or anything else in the menu system, you will, once again, have full access to it. Now, one of the things that's important for pretty much all types of photography is staying aware of where your shutter speeds and apertures are at and that they are appropriate for what you're shooting. In this camera, when you look through the view-finder, or in the back LCD of the camera, you will see that mode that you're in along with the shutter speed and aperture in there. If you don't like the shutter speed and aperture that the camera is inherently giving you in that particular situation, you can adjust it by turning the main command dial on the camera which will put the camera in to what's known as a Flexible Program mode. Let's me give you a quick little demonstration of this. Let's go ahead and get our camera turned on, point it at our prop table over here and the one change that I'm gonna make, kinda beyond this, I'm gonna jump ahead, just a little bit, is I'm gonna change the ISO out of auto-ISO and I'm just gonna change it to 'cause it seems about right for the room that we are in. The camera right now is at f-4 at a 1/100 of a second, and if I take a photo its going to... Let's get the focus point on a place where it can actually grab, right here. And we played this image back and we're getting a properly exposed image. But if we did not like this numbers, for some reason, we wanted to change the aperture, the shutter speed, we can turn the back dial on the camera, and you can see it shifts both the shutter speed and the apertures. Let me get this in positioned so you can see it even more clearly right there. Now, as I change this it goes back and forth and this is all well and good. Now, if I change it to 1/5 of a second at f and I turn the camera off and then I turn it back on, it's reset to kinda of its default starting setting, so what we'll reset in that case. But if I turn it to a particular style of shooting here, its just gonna stay there for a long period of time. Each time you set up a different style of shot, you may wanna come back and adjust this dial according to where you want those set. Now, there is something a little bit funky about Nikon cameras that I don't totally understand. I've asked technical reps about this and they don't have any answer for it. But I want to show you something that can happen with these cameras that is just a little bit on the odd side. I'm gonna go down to a wide open aperture at f and we're working in 3rd stop increments and so there we are, we're all the way to the end but I'm gonna continue to go one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten clicks, all the way to the side and now when I go back to grab the dial and turn it back and forth, nothing happens. It shouldn't do this. What I have to do is I have to go back to the left, a bunch, until it gets back in the range. It's like it has a specific range that it can work with it but it allows you to go past and get lost. Now, I'm gonna get lost over the left hand side and only after enough turning do I actually get it back. If you turn this dial and nothing happens, you just need to turn it more in one direction. I bet, if I turn the camera off and turn it back on, yeah, that will kinda reset it again there as well. I don't know why Nikon allows you to get lost, no other manufacturer does that. If anybody knows, please let me know, get in contact with me. I would love to know why do they do that 'cause it just doesn't make any sense at all. So, just be aware. You've been warned not to get lost. Alright, the next mode is the Shutter Priority mode. As you might guessed, you have priority over the shutter. If you want to control the shutter speed for a particular shutter speed, let's say, you want to stop an eagle coming into a river, coming in really fast, you're gonna need a fast shutter speed, like a 1/1000 of second or maybe even faster. If you wanna blur the water flowing down that river, you might wanna have a very slow shutter speed like a one second shutter speed. So, you can use the camera in a Shutter Priority mode, the camera will figure out what aperture it needs. Now, if you take the shutter speeds all the way down to 10, 20, 30 seconds, beyond 30 seconds is a special one called X 1/ and this is a Flash Sync. This is the top speed that you can use, flashed at at least in a normal TTL, fully-powered mode. This is gonna be something for people who are working in a studio who wants to fire their flash at the maximum shutter speed. You could also just set the camera to 1/200 of a second and it does exactly the same thing but it does have the special X that we will see here and in the manual section as well. Next up is the similar mode of Aperture Priority. Of course, here, you get priority over setting the aperture and the camera will figure out the shutter speed. If you want a lot of depth of field to keep things in the foreground and the background in focus, you might set a small aperture like 16, 22, or 32. If you wanna have a very shallow depth of field to separate your subject from the background, you're gonna set a very wide aperture, 1.4, f2, 2.8, or something in that nature. You're gonna be using that main command dial on the back of the camera. Let me show you both of those modes, the Shutter Priority mode and the Aperture mode. I'm gonna be honest with you, I don't really care for the Shutter Priority mode in most cases, most of the time. Having said that, I do use it, I do use it and find it helpful in some particular cases but on average, it's not one of my favorite modes. Alright, so as you can see on the camera here... Oh, actually, let's choose a reasonable shutter speed, let's try a 60th of a second. Okay, 1/60 of a second, well, we're getting a blinking at four, which means we don't have enough light in. I can change my shutter speed down to 1/30 of a second, and now we are at f5 and I take a photo, and that image looks properly exposed. I can change my shutter speeds and my apertures will change as needed. But, if I select too fast a shutter speed, let's go to 2/50 of a second, the f4 is blinking and its a very subtle warning but it's an important one 'cause it says that I do not have enough light. And so, when I take a photo, and I played this back, it's clearly very dark in there. It's easy to get a bad exposure with Shutter Priority if you're not paying very close attention. Now, one thing you could do, if you do wanna shoot in Shutter Priority, and this is how I do it from time to time, is I will engage auto-ISO, and I'm gonna talk more about ISO in a moment, but you can press the ISO button, put it in the auto-ISO and what it will do it will then kick the ISO up to a higher setting so that you get a proper exposure. My dark photo here compared to my light photo here, it was just the camera going in and its changing the ISO kinda behind your back, you might say. Now, if I switch it over to Aperture Priority, you'll see the box goes around the f-stop here. And now.. actually I'm gonna switch to the front button, 'cause that's what controls the aperture. I have control over the aperture and if I go all the way to the extreme, f4, I take photo, it's properly exposed. If I go to the other extreme, f22, take a photo, and it's properly exposed as well. And that's because there's a relatively limited number of apertures and there are more than enough shutter speeds to compensate. Now, if I am stopping it down at f22, I do have to be aware of: Can I hold this steady at that particular shutter speed, which is pretty close to half a second? Do I have it on a tripod? You gotta be aware that you can make sure that you could get a sharp photo 'cause that will probably be too slow in most standard hand-held cases. So that is Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. I prefer Aperture Priority for generally quick, average, day-to-day shooting. Next up is full Manual where you get to, of course, control shutter speeds and apertures yourself. You will use the back dial for shutter speeds and the front dial for your apertures. You will need to be paying closer attention to the light meter in your camera. This light meter is gonna have an indication at zero when you are at even or normal exposure, and it will go up or below depending on whether you are overexposed or underexposed and in general, it's pretty good to start off with the exposure indicator towards the middle as your first shot and then, adjust as needed for any particular situation. Manual is my favorite mode to be in. If I can only have one mode on a camera, I would want it to be in manual and that is because I like consistent results. When the light's not changing and I'm shooting a bunch of different shots, and I want them to be relatively the same brightness of each other, I don't want the camera switching because the background got lighter or darker. I also like it for tricky lighting situations where there is unusual areas of brightness or darkness that might fool a typical light meter. Manual will give you the most control and the most consistent control which is very important in a lot of situations. Now, as you change shutter speeds in the Manual mode, and you go all the way down to 30 seconds and beyond, you're gonna find a couple of interesting and different modes. The first of these is the Bulb mode and this is a long time exposure mode for night time photography. The way it works is that when you press down on the shutter release or the cable release plugged in into the camera, the shutter will stay open as long your finger is engaged pressing on that shutter release. Then, when you release it, it turns it off. Now, you probably don't wanna use this on the camera because that will induce vibrations into the sensor and will blur your image. The next one is Time which is very similar to Bulb, it's just a difference of how it actually works. In this case, you press it once to start and that way, you don't have to be pressing the button for the entire length of your ten minute exposure, for instance, and then when you're done, you come in and press the button again and you turn it off. So, it's just the different style of doing the same type of long exposure photography. Once again, you'll see the X 1/ and that is your maximum Flash Synchronization speed. So, if you wanna use flash and you wanna use the last of the shutter speed, it's gonna keep it there at 1/200 of a second. Those Bulb and Timer modes can be really nice when you wanna do something longer than 30 seconds. In this case, there wasn't enough traffic in 30 seconds, to give me all the tail lights that I wanted so I left the camera open for a longer period of time using that Bulb mode on a camera. So, that is the Manual mode. Let's do a little demonstration of how that works. I'm gonna put my camera over into the Manual mode. We're looking at a pretty dark screen right now because we are 2/50 at f22. We can see the exposure indicator over here on the right-hand side and that's blinking indicate that we are well underexposed, and I'm gonna say that our shutter speeds are too fast and our apertures are closed down. So I'm gonna change our apertures to something a little bit more reasonable let's call it at 5.6, that seems like a good place to be. Then, I'm gonna start changing my shutter speeds and I'm going in the wrong direction 'cause I can see its getting darker, and now I'm gonna start paying attention to the light meter over the right-hand side. As you look through that view-finder, it's gonna be in the bottom middle. But as you can see over here on this side, we're gonna go up to where its right there at zero. We can say that's a good place to start. Honestly, I think this scene is a little bit darker than average and I think for the best exposure here I'm gonna probably want to underexpose. To get the blue right, I gotta get way down here but in order to get the shelf right, I'll gonna probably be 2/ of a stop under-exposed when I do that and so, that's where I would set it up for taking... Actually, let's move that focus point up so we can capture that. So, that's a proper exposure there, in my opinion. That's what you gonna be doing when you wanna do manual exposure which is good anytime you'll gonna be shooting several photos of the same situation in the same lighting and you want to shoot lots of photos to get the right moment and the right point of view but you don't want those other factors to change. So, I encourage everyone to use Manual as much as you can to get those more consistent results. Next up is a group, the User group, one, two and three. This is a customized set-up where you can set the camera up to unique ways of shooting. You could have User 1 set to your landscape mode that gives you a lot of depth of field, a single shot at a time, maybe the self-timer is turned on. Your two could be your birds in flight mode. Where go to a Shutter Priority mode, a fast shutter speed, an auto-ISO, and a different focusing system and a different focusing area. Then, your three could be yet another one. You could switch between all of these modes with just turning the dial very, very quickly rather than going in and resetting half a dozen or a dozen different settings on the camera. So, if there's a particular type of photography that you do on a regular basis and you wanna have quick access to it, the U1, two and three modes will be good for this. Now the way that you get this all programmed into the camera is to first just set the camera up as you would like it to be in one of those modes. You will then need to go into the menu system and save your setting under U1, U2 or U3. There are some limitations, not absolutely everything in the menu system can be customized for each mode but the majority of the focusing and exposure options will be able to be customized for these modes but there are a few limitations if you dig deep enough into those. We'll talk more about this when we get into the menu setting but it's a good mode for anyone, as I say, for anyone who has something they do on a regular basis that they want quick access to. We have a lot of good modes on there. Most serious photographers tend to stay with Manual and the Aperture Priority and occasionally, dipping down into a Shutter Priority. Of course, the more advanced users are using those User settings on an as needed basis.

Class Description


  • Easily navigate the controls, menus, modes, and settings on the Z6 and Z7
  • Shoot with confidence in full manual mode
  • Utilize advanced features like focus stacking
  • Use the 4k film options for incredible video performance
  • Adjust camera settings to shoot in challenging situations, such as low light
  • Master the autofocus system and different autofocus modes
  • Understand the camera's strengths and limitations
  • Choose the right lenses and accessories for the Z series cameras


The Nikon Z6 and Z7 wrap several advanced features in a compact mirrorless system -- but as first generation full-frame cameras, there's no precedent to get a jump start on exactly where all those features are. Covering both the Nikon Z7 and Nikon Z6 with nearly identical control schemes, this Fast Start class quickly brings you up to speed on using Nikon's new full frame mirrorless cameras. These mirrorless digital cameras offer 4K UHD video recording, superb in-body image stabilization, and excellent low light capabilities. But the Nikon’s long list of features is just money wasted if you don’t actually know how to find them and put them to use.

Skip the floundering through menus and join photographer John Greengo exploring the camera’s many features, from customizing the camera to understanding subject-tracking focus. Locate the controls, find hidden features, and put the camera's advanced features to use, whether you are new to interchangeable lens cameras or have shot Nikon DSLRs for years.

This class is designed for photographers using either the Nikon Z7 or Nikon Z6, from those just pulling it out of the box to photographers that just haven’t found all the camera’s features yet. The class can also serve as an in-depth look if you’re not yet sure if the Nikon Z6 or Z7 is the best camera for you. The Nikon camera class covers the camera from the exterior controls to the menu.

What's packed in this Nikon camera Fast Start? Learn the vital information in less time than it takes to analyze the menu -- and have more fun doing it too.


  • New Nikon Z6 or Z7 camera owners
  • Nikon DSLR shooters moving to the mirrorless system
  • Photographers considering buying the Z6 or Z7
  • Photographers, from beginners to advanced
  • Videographers and vloggers


With more than 50 classes exploring the features of interchangeable lens cameras across half a dozen brands, John Greengo is one of CreativeLive's top instructors. His class list includes Fast Starts for Canon, Nikon, Sony, Fujifilm, and Panasonic, as well as classes covering photography basics and beyond. Shooting his first Nikon in the 1980s, the award-winning photographer is intimately familiar with the ins and outs of different cameras and different camera brands. When he's not teaching, he's building on his three decades of experience as a travel and landscape photographer.


  1. Class Introduction

    Get acquainted with Nikon's new full-frame mirrorless cameras. In the first lesson, see what's so different about the Z series, look at lenses and the FTZ adapter, and gain an overview of the class.

  2. Photo Basics

    In this lesson, John explains several basics for photographers picking up an interchangeable lens camera for the first time before diving into the controls on the Z6 and Z7. Quickly learn basics -- or gain a refresher -- on aperture, shutter speed, and image sensors. Then, get acquainted with the physical controls on the camera body.

  3. Exposure Control

    Dive into the different exposure modes on the Z6 and Z7. Locate where the essential exposure details are inside the electronic viewfinder or EVF. Learn to shoot in aperture priority, shutter priority and full manual mode, as well as digging into unique options like bulb.

  4. Camera Controls: Top Deck

    Continue the tour of the camera at the top. Find the ISO controls, including understanding the high ISO limits and turning auto ISO on and off. Dive into ISO performance and how the image quality stacks up between the Z6 and Z7 from the base ISOs and ISO 100 to high ISOs. Learn to adjust exposure compensation, record a video, and understand the top control panel.

  5. Camera Controls: Back Side Control

    At the back of the camera, explore the electronic viewfinder and tilting LCD screen with Live View, learn to read the different symbols, and customize the settings displayed on the EVF. Then, work with the physical controls at the rear of the camera.

  6. Camera Controls: Back Side Control Continued

    Continue exploring the back of the camera. Dive into the different options in the quick menu or "i" menu. Adjust colors and contrast with camera picture controls for JPEG images. Set the compression for shooting in RAW, link with Wi-Fi and SnapBridge, turn on continuous shooting with burst mode and more using the quick menu.

  7. Left Side & Right Side, Bottom and Front

    Move to the sides, front and bottom of the camera. Locate the different ports, XQD memory card slot, and other features. Dig into the different accessories for the camera, from microphones to battery grips, and learn the limitations of the EN-EL15b battery life and the differences between XQD cards and CFexpress. Finally, take a look at the full-frame sensors and the difference between the higher-resolution Z7 and the faster Z6.

  8. Lenses

    The Z series is compatible with F-mount lenses (and DX lenses cropped) using the FTZ adapter -- but the cameras also launched with its own new Z-mount lenses. Learn the controls that are located on the Nikkor Z lenses themselves instead of the camera and the new Z lenses available so far, like the Nikkor Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S and Nikkor Z 50mm f/1.8.

  9. Menu Functions: Image Quality

    Decipher the menu on the Z6 and Z7, starting with the playback and photo shooting menus. Customize your camera's playback displays, organize files, and choose the image quality such as 12-bit or 14-bit RAW. See real-world examples of what the different image quality settings look like.

  10. Menu Functions: Shooting Settings

    After setting the image quality, work through the different available shooting settings located in the menu system like white balance, flicker reduction, metering, flash controls, and other advanced controls.

  11. Menu Functions: Focus Settings

    Tackle focus stacking using the built-in focus shift shooting feature on the Z6 and Z7. Then, choose between the mechanical and silent shutter and learn the pros and cons of each.

  12. Menu Functions: Movie Settings

    Ready to capture video with the Z6 or Z7? Learn the ins and outs of the different video settings, from video quality to slow motion frame rates and white balance. Master the difference between AF-C and Full-Time Autofocus.

  13. Menu Functions: Set Up

    Inside the custom setting menu, the Z6 and Z7 allow you to customize the camera for your shooting style. Work through the different available options, beginning with the phase detection autofocus options.

  14. Menu Functions: Playback Menu

    Fine-tune the way the camera works with the setup menu. Pick up advanced tools like AF fine tune, recording N-Log with HDMI output external recording equipment and more, along with basics like setting the time stamp.

  15. Camera Operations

    Finish navigating the camera menu with a quick overview of the retouch menu with in-camera RAW processing. Then, make the most frequently used settings easy to find by building a custom My Menu. Finally, go through a pre-shoot checklist for prepping the camera and note suggested settings for different scenarios.


Edward Luczak

I love all of John Greengo's classes. Now he is a Canon man but he gives the Nikons a fair review and his lessons on them are excellent. I have the Z6 and I picked up a several pointers I had not run across yet, so this course has paid for itself already. The only negative I have, and hopefully this is because the course was streaming, but the camera focus was off when the video was zoomed into the Z camera. John may need to give the creative live camera operators a lesson on focusing. Great informative course at an excellent price.


Thank you very much, John! I've been using Z 6 for 18 months, so far, and now I've got Z 6 II as well and your training about these cameras is just an excellent job. Of course I've been following you in other trainings as well, like "Photography Fundamentals" (or something like that) and I've got some of your books too, all excellent, but with this Z 6/7 training have been useful to learn some new things and to remember others already forgotten. Thanks a lot!.

Lynn Fisher

Loved the class. Just bought the Z6ii (waiting for it to ship) , so this is a great introduction. Would greatly appreciate it if John could add one more chapter to this class - Tell us about the Z6ii and Z7ii updates. It seems Nikon has addressed a lot of the concerns (particularly 2 card slots), so it might be very helpful for folks trying to decide on which camera to buy. Thanks!!!