There are numerous ways to setup exposure on your Nikon DSLR. Let’s have a look at some of the options.

Exposure Modes

Many beginners opt for “Auto” for their first shots, which is fine for a while, but after some time they will find that it doesn’t yield the results they might expect. The images are acceptable, but the camera in Auto is simply a computer trying to take the best image it can. It doesn’t know what your shooting, so will make both dark and light images grey. It’ll fire the flash when it thinks it’s required, and focus where it thinks the main focus point is. In short, you’re not in control. Camera’s don’t shoot what the eye sees, and in Auto this is even more exaggerated.

Then of course there are Nikon’s “Scene” modes. These are the next logical progression for the beginner – the camera is trying to make the best of the available light and is setup for the scene selected – whether that be Candlelight, Blossom or whatever. However, the DSLR is still in full control – you have no control over aperture, shutter speed or ISO in any of these modes. These are an excellent starting point though – because you can delve into the menus and see exactly what settings the camera has been configured with. This gives you a great insight into what settings are appropriate for a particular scene and means and it’s an excellent way of learning! For example, set Scene to “Night Portrait” and flash will be enabled in Auto/Slow sync mode – enabling you to capture the background in the photo – as well as the subject.

Moving on from Scene modes, we have Program, Shutter, and Aperture modes. These are for the advanced user who wants more control. In Program mode, you select the Aperture/Shutter combination you need for the shot (the DSLR gives you  several correct exposures – all with different shutter/aperature settings). In Aperature mode, you’re controlling the depth of field – ideal for portraits, weddings, landscapes etc. In Shutter mode you’re controlling the action (shutter speed) ; for freezing action (fast shutter speed) or perhaps blurring (slower shutter speed).  This is ideal for anything moving ; water, sports, events etc. But many sports photographers will still shoot in Aperture mode, forcing f2.8 (or less) and 1/1000s (or whatever the situation requires) – letting ISO auto-select. Better to freeze and maybe get some noise, rather than blur and lose the shot.

Then we have Manual mode – which enables complete control of both Aperture and Shutter speed. You need to learn to read the meter in the view-finder and adjust shutter/aperture according to the shot’s needs. The DSLR has now relinquished control!

Above those modes, we have U1 and U2 modes. These are “memory slots” where you can save your very own settings. So you could setup U1 for Landscapes and U2 for Portraits for example. We’ll delve into this in a lot more detail later.


Above exposure mode, there are literally dozens of settings you can change to control the exposure; white balance, exposure compensation, flash etc. Look in the menus at SHOOTING MENU and CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU – it’s bewildering to the beginner. Essentially, these are for the more experienced  photographer – who wants to get the very best photo given a specific circumstance.

The Nikon D7500/D7200/D7100/D7000 is a highly configurable DSLR. If you’re a beginner then you’ll want to know how to begin to setup your DSLR. Have a look at these pages:


Also have a look at my Learning page for an overview of lots of books/DVDs etc that you can get.


If you’re more experienced, then would you like to have the idea behind Nikon’s Scene exposure mode settings – but retain control over Aperture/Shutter and ISO?

Well, this is achievable. See Advanced Setup.

Hints and Tips on Setup:

Have a look at the below videos, which will help with; settings for Movie Mode, how to stop shooting without a card, and how to easily adjust ISO.