Ten advanced tips for better photos with your D7500, D7200, D7100 & D7000

This article continues my “Ten Tips” series, taking a look at some more advanced settings for autofocus, metering & setup on the D7500, D7200, D7100 & D7000.


1. Control Autofocus:

If you don’t control your AF, the D7x00 “guesses” what you want to focus on. That’s no good, you need to take control. Use AF-S/single-point for stationary subjects and one of the dynamic AF or 3D modes for moving subjects. You should always select the AF point yourself (if the mode allows) :

  • Press AF Mode button turn Command dial to set AF mode
  • Press AF Mode button & turn Sub-Command dial to set AF Area-Mode

Tip: Read my Auto-focus guide for far more details.


2. Lock Focus & Exposure Separately:

By default the following happens on the D7x00:

  • Focus is locked when you half press the shutter
  • Exposure is locked when you fully press the shutter

Some people find it hard to only half-press the shutter and recompose. For sports/action photographers, sometimes it’s useful to stop the camera focussing when something might interfere with correct focus. For example you might be trying to take a photo of one footballer, when another runs in front, or trying to shoot a giraffe walking behind a hedge row. Another example might be at a wedding in a garden, with lots of people wandering about, sometimes in front of your subject.  Each time, the DSLR will take time to focus on the “intervening” object, then refocus on the proper subject.

You can configure your D7x00 to use the AE-L/AF-L button to focus instead of the shutter button. This is called back-button focussing and is used quite frequently by professional sports/action/nature photographers. Set this via Custom Setting f5 on the D7000, or Custom Setting f4 on the D7100/D7200, or Custom Setting f1 on the D7500, setting it to AF-ON for the AE-L/AF-L button.

You can also use set the Fn button to lock exposure, by selecting AE Lock Only for the following setting:

  • D7100/D7200: CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU f2

Once set, these options give you immense control over when and how you focus and set exposure. Once set, this seems very strange first of all, and it takes real time to get used to. Possibly change just the AE-L/AF-L setting first and get used to that for some days/weeks, then change the Fn button some time later. Don’t be surprised if you give up with this setup, since it’s so different you may end up missing shots at first. If you persevere though – it will reap great rewards for any times you’re shooting sports/action and lots more.


3. Use LiveView and Zoom in to Focus Manually:

If your shooting macros and/or from a tripod, then have a go at focussing manually with LiveView and zooming in get trully sharp focus.

LiveView shows the view from the image sensor on the LCD – instead of having to look through the viewfinder. Simply flick the Lv switch/button on the back of the D7x00 to alternate between viewfinder and LCD. Then switch to manual focus by moving the D7x00’s focus-button from AF to M.

You can zoom in up to 6.7 times using LiveView to check your focus. Through the viewfinder your using phase-detection auto-focus, while in LiveView the D7x00 uses contrast-detection. So this is best when there are areas of sharp-contrast in the shot.  Manually move the focus point to your selected subject, trying to pick an edge or area of contrast if possible.

Tip: Contrast-detection is slower than phase-detection, hence best suited to more stationary subjects.

Although it covers the D5000, BlueCrane have a clip on YouTube covering this method. Check it out here.


4. Check your Histogram:

The histogram is your friend, and you should be making use of it! If you can set/see “blinkies” all the better! You should frequenty check the histogram to ensure that you haven’t over or under-exposed and lost detail. To do this though, you also need to fully understand the histogram and know what to expect and what to check for. Sometimes it will be correct to see the graph bunched to the right or left. For example a snow scene will alwasy be stronglhy biased to the right for example.  Luminous-Landscapes have a good histogram primerhave a read to improve your histogram understanding and reading. For those not in the know, in short, if the “mountain” doesn’t start and finish on the “visible ground”, then you’ve lost detail and need to shift the exposure to achieve this. If the “mountain” starts part way up the left vertical then you’ve lost detail in the shadows. However, if the “mountain” finishes part way down the right vertical you’ve lost highlight detail. Any over-exposed highlights will also blink in the RGB Histogram and Highlights view. This means that only pure white exists in the flashing areas.

Expert tip: If you’ve shot in RAW, one thing to remember is that the histogram itself is based on a low resolution highly compressed JPG version of your shot. This means that you have some leaway to recover detail from the RAW file. So even if your histogram looks like you’ve lost highlight detail, you actually have more than you can see in the JPG histogram.

To view the histogram; press Play, and up or down on the Multi-controller. This flips through the various views/information.

Expert tip: Remember you can always recover more detail from shadows than the highlights, and therefore you should always attempt to expose to the right without clipping highlights. That way, you are always maximising the differences you are recording.

Want to read more about histograms? Professional Photographer have a great article too.


5. Use Exposure Compensation:

Once you understand the histogram, and the fact that the camera’s exposure meter will always attempt to meter for 50% grey, you then need to learn to use exposure compensation (EC) to shift your exposures for when things aren’t 50% grey – which is surprisingly frequent.

The D7x00 is highly customizable so have a look at all the options under Custom Settings b3 and f6;D7000 / f5;D7100/D7200 / f3;D7500 – which enable you to control EC exactly how you want to. For example, if you set Easy Exposure to On (Auto reset), then in Aperture mode the front dial controls aperture, while the back dial controls EC. If you only use the back dial, the EC adjustment is temporary and last till the meter (or camera) turns off. However, if you want the EC to be permanent, then you press the EC button and turn the back-dial. This is useful, since you now have a means of setting EC for just 1 shot (back-dial only), or a series (back-dial + EC button).

Want to learn more about EC? Digital Photography School have a good article. And Lynda.com have this D7000 EC explanation on YouTube.


6. Refine Metering Modes:

If you discover that your D7x00 is slightly under or over exposing all the time in a specific metering mode, then it’s possible to fix that. Custom Setting b5;D7000/D7100/D7200 / b6;D7500, let’s you adjust the exposure for each of the 3 metering modes independently.  For example, if you discover that Matrix metering is slightly over-exposing all the time, fine-tune it for -1/3 or -2/3.  This adjusts exposure “behind the scenes” (i.e. EC doesn’t show this adjustment), independent of EC – which you can still use of course.


7. Reverse Exposure Indicators (-0+):

Remember a histogram shows shadows to the left and highlights to the right. Also remember that if you want to darken an image you dial in some negative EC, while if you want to lighten a shot, you dial in some postive EC.

So say for example we want to darken an image by -2/3 EC, i.e. we want to shift the histogram therefore to the left. You would therefore dial in some negative EC and probably expect the D7x00 to show the -2/3 EC to the left too? Well, by default, the D7x00 shows positive values to the left and negative values to the right. So in default mode, you have to dial negative EC – which shows in the exposure meter (LCD & viewfinder) as moving to the right.

Well, for many that’s seriously confusing and darn right counter intuitive! But a custom setting can come to the rescue and swap these for us:

Use Custom Setting f9;D7000 / f8;D7100/D7200 /  f5;D7500 to reverse the indicators to the more logical orientation. i.e. Set -0+  (not +0-)


8. Make Use of the Other Metering Modes:

Many people starting out will use Matrix metering and continue to use it – often without thinking about metering. It does a great job, but isn’t the best mode to use all the time. The trick is to learn to spot when Matrix metering is not the mode to use and to switch to Centre-Weighted or Spot Metering.

Take a look at the lighting of your subject, then the background. For example – is the background much brighter (back-lit)? Can you see a light-glow around your subject? Is the sun behind your subject and very bright? If this is the case you should switch to either Centre-Weighted or Spot? But which? Well, that depends on how much of the shot is taken up by your subject. If the subject occupies a good area of the shot, I’d opt for Centre-Weighted, otherwise choose Spot. Use Spot for any time you want a very specific reading. E.g. a candlelit dinner – where you want the reading from the candle.

In Spot metering mode, the exposure reading is taken from the currently active focus point(s). If your subject is not in the centre, you want to lock exposure (AE-L button) and recompose.

Custom Setting b4 let’s you change the size of the area being metered with Centre-Weighted metering.

Custom Setting f5;D7000 / f4;D7100/D7200 / f1;D7500 – let’s you choose what the AE-L/AE-F button does. E.g. just lock exposure or just focus, or both.

Tip: Mansurovs Photography has a great article on understanding metering modes.


9. Use My Menu – to speed-up changes:

The D7x00 has a feature that enables much faster access to the specific settings that you use most. My Menu is completely configurable. You choose the settings that show in the menu and in what order!

My Menu is the bottom icon after pressing the MENU button. Choose Add Items to add the settings you need, then Rank Items afterwards to place them in the order you most use things, with most used at the top of course.

I have 11 items in my My Menu. These include Set Picture Control, White Balance, Active D-Lighting and of course ISO Sensitivity Settings (which I place 2nd) – which let’s me turn Auto-ISO on and off quickly.

Tip: If your buy the Configuration spreadsheet/BIN files – you get to see the 11 settings I place in My Menu – oh, and a whole lot more!

10. Use both your slots:

The D7200/D7100/D7000 have 2 slots, so make sure you’re using them to the max. The second slot can act as an overflow or a backup. Or, if you wish, if you shoot RAW+JPG, you can configure slot 1 for RAW, and slot 2 for JPG.

Tip: For weddings, portraits, or generally any paid shoots, I’d always sling in 2 empty formatted cards and have the 2nd slot act as backup.

Configure the setting via SHOOTING MENU > Role played by card in slot 2

For Movies you can control which slot they are saved to:

   D7100 and D7000 via;  SHOOTING MENU > Movie Settings > Destination

   D7200; MOVIE SHOOTING MENU > Destination – select Slot 1 or Slot 2

D7500; no setting since it only has 1 slot.



And there we have it!

In the next article, I’ll take a look at metering.


Are you looking for the best settings for Sports/Action, Landscape, Weddings/Portraits and Travel/Nature?

If so, you’ve come to the right place. Just download the BIN files and load them to U1 or U2. Alternately, open the spreadsheet and checkout the settings, then load them as required on your D7x00. You get both the BIN files & spreadsheet in the download.