Nikon D3000 – Aperture + Shutter Speed help?

Question by holly_406: Nikon D3000 – Aperture + Shutter Speed help?
I have decided to take an intro photography class for university this semester and have just brought a new Nikon D3000 camera for it.

The first assignment is to take photos creating motion and low/high depth of field photographs using the aperture and shutter speed. I know that to create shallow DOF you use a low F number, and to create high DOF you use a high F number, but when I do this I either get a really blurry photo, a photo that comes out white or nothing happens at all and I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong.

To get a shallow DOF i’ve been using F3.5 (lowest the camera does), with a shutter speed of 1/40, ISO 200 and white balance on auto and all photos have not worked out well.

I am also having a little trouble with motion photos as well. I’ve set the shutter speed at a very low number, but none of the photos come out looking very professional.

Best answer:

Answer by Jeroen Wijnands
I don’t know your exact assignment but at this stage I would say get into aperture or shutter priority. That way you can influence one factor and the camera will do the rest.

Know better? Leave your own answer in the comments!

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5 Responses to Nikon D3000 – Aperture + Shutter Speed help?

  1. EDWIN says:

    Has your instructor explained the Exposure Triangle to the class? There are 3 variables that compose the Exposure Triangle: ISO, Aperture and Shutter Speed. These are inter-related and changing 1 requires changing at least 1 of the other 2.

    Since working with 3 variables is far too confusing, its best to choose 1 variable and make it a constant. Lets choose the ISO as our constant and set it at 100. Now we have only 2 inter-related variables and that’s much more manageable.

    Although its ancient, the “Sunny 16 Rule” is useful to show the ISO/Aperture/Shutter Speed relationship. It states: “On a sunny day, set your aperture to f16 and your shutter speed to 1/ISO.” This was developed when few cameras had light meters but is still useful. So lets look at how our aperture and shutter speed behave using ISO 100 on this sunny day.

    ISO 100

    f16 @ 1/100 sec. “Sunny 16”
    f11 @ 1/200 sec.
    f8 @ 1/400 sec.
    f5.6 @ 1/800 sec.
    f4 @ 1/1600 sec.
    f3.5 @ ~ 1/2100 sec. The maximum aperture on your 18-55mm lens. (See Note 1)
    f2.8 @ 1/3200 sec. Just under your maximum shutter speed of 1/4000 sec.

    I’m going to work under the assumption that your instructor has fully explained aperture, shutter speed and ISO to the class and that you have a basic understanding of them.

    At f16 very little light is admitted by our lens so our shutter speed is relatively slow – 1/100 sec. As we “open up” from f16 to f11 twice as much light is admitted and to compensate our shutter speed increases (gets faster) to 1/200 sec. When we “open up” to f8 from f11 we again admit twice as much light as f11 and again our shutter speed increases.

    So if you’ve been instructed to shoot in Manual you now know why your results are less than acceptable. If you’re outdoors even on a slightly overcast day using f3.5 and 1/40 sec. with ISO 200 will result in very overexposed pictures. If you change the aperture you must change the shutter speed. This is easy to do by simply learning to use the light meter in your camera.

    Now as to your Depth of Field (DOF) exercise, I recommend this site:

    There are ony 3 factors that affect DOF:
    1) The focal length of the lens.
    2) The aperture used.
    3) The subject distance.

    For your shallow DOF example I suggest using the 55mm end of your 18-55mm lens. By using the DOF Calculator on the referenced site you first choose your camera and then an aperture (f5.6) and then the focal length – 55mm.

    So lets look at what kind of DOF we can achieve with our lens at 55mm and f5.6 at 5′-0” and 10′-0” as our subject distances.

    55mm @ f5.6 focused on a subject at 5′-0” our DOF is from 4′-9” to 5′-4”. This means that anything from 0′-3” in front of our subject (4′-9” in front of our camera) to anything 0′-4” behind our subject (5′-4” in front of our camera) will be in accepatable focus. This is a very shallow DOF. (See Note 2)

    55mm @ f5.6 focused on a subject at 10′-0” our DOF is from 9′-0” to 11′-4”. So anything from 1′-0” in front of our subject to anything 1′-4” behind our subject will be in acceptable focus. Although not nearly as shallow as our first example, this is still not a great amount of DOF. (See Note 2)

    Now lets take a quick look at your motion assignment. Since we know that a fast shutter speed is used to “stop” or “freeze” motion and that isn’t what we want then we know a slower shutter speed is needed. The problem with using a slower shutter speed is that camera shake can introduce unwanted blur, usually ruining our picture. So when using a slower shutter speed, especially below 1/60 sec., make sure the VR on the lens is “ON”. Remember, VR has NO effect on subject movement – just camera movement. You could also use a tripod for slower shutter speeds but if you do then make sure the VR is “OFF”.

    Another technique, which requires a lot of practice, is called “panning”. This site explains it really well:
    As the examples show, when done right the results from panning can be impressive.

    Note 1: The 1/2100 sec. shutter speed was interpolated by adding 33% to the shutter speed shown for f4. Why 33%? Because f3.5 is 1/3 stop faster than f4. The actual number is 1/2128 so I rounded down.

    Note 2: The chart I used to convert feet and decimals of a foot only shows the decimal for whole inches. So if the number was 8.99′ I rounded it to 9′-0”.

  2. deep blue2 says:

    You need to look at your light meter if you are in manual mode.

    When you open the aperture (low f number) to get a shallow depth of field, you let in more light. To compensate for this, you need to speed up the shutter to reduce the amount of light to get the correct exposure – the light meter (which will look something like this);
    – I–I–I–I–I +

    needs to be ‘zero’d’ in the centre. You select the aperture you want, then change the shutter speed until the meter is centred (no bias towards – or +). Similarly, ‘stopping down’ the aperture to a higher f number reduces light, so you need a longer shutter speed to get a decent exposure.

    A shutter speed of 1/40 is likely to result in motion blur from hand holding the camera. If you need to shoot at these relatively slow speeds you need a camera on a tripod.

    The exposure triangle of ISO, shutter speed & aperture are the very basics – I’m surprised this hasn’t been covered at the very beginning in your course.

  3. DigitalPhotography says:


    You need to read some tutorials.

    Here’s a section of website, full of tutorials, all have images and everything you need –

    The site has many more tutorials and tips for you!

    – Why photos are blurred? Too slow shutter speed
    – Why images are dark? Too fast shutter speed
    – Why your moving subject is blurred? Too slow shutter speed, you need 1/125 for a running person

    Just a quick preview, better info is on the site, also with tips section like “How to create a Shallow Depth of Field, Panning (blurring the background while moving subject is sharp) etc. Good luck!

  4. John B says:

    When you use a lower f-stop, you let more light into the camera. It sounds like you’re over-exposing your images, which is why they come out white. You need to change your shutter speed to something faster, which will let in less light. This will also help with the blurry photos, as a faster shutter speed will usually give you sharper photos.

  5. Ms. G. says:

    You still have to adjust the shutter based on what aperture you chose. Large F-stop is going to cause you to lose some light. Therefore, you will have to adjust shutter on a small shutter to give you more light.

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