New camera and overwhelmed...Need Help please.

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Hi my fellow photo friends. I received a new camera from my husband and sons for Christmas. I currently have been, for many years using a point and shoot camera - Nikon 4800 Cool-pix, which I love and have had great success in photos, but they feel I'm ready to move past a point and shoot and bought me a Nikon D3100 that came with an 18-55mm lens.

Now, I'm about as naive as anyone can be on photography and after a few days of reading this manual and watching tutorials on line I feel more confused than the first day I got it. I know I need to give this more time but so far I'm not taking very good photos even in the Auto mode. I'm also a food photographer and many of my food photos are featured on a popular recipe website, but after my food photos I realize I might need another lens to capture what my cool-pix can. I am passionate about photography and willing to learn, so reaching out to my good friends for any suggestions you can give me to help me understand this camera and further educate me on photography...I'm not wealthy (on a retired income) and maybe this is a bit more expensive than my loving family anticipated, this is just a hobby after-all.

So maybe you all have some suggestions for me, books, websites...anything, before I throw in the towel and run back to my cool-pix camera, which I already have a few times. ☺

Thanks, Sherri

PS - I already ordered the book for dummies on this particular camera.

I did take this great shot of my there may be hope for me...I think

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Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Congrats Sherri on the new camera, we've something in common--being brand new to the more sophisticated equipments on the art of photography. Hah, you've done far more better than I for with a new camera at hand (a Canon 7D), I just now discovered that I was lead to purchase a wrong memory card for my SLR camera, thus I haven't even gotten the 1st pix as you've done with your lovely cat. I'd like to sit in for the discussion/sharing info. with you if I may?

I'll have to head out to the store and pick up the correct memory card for mine, bbl.
p.s. It's going to be a sharp learning curve for you and I, but you're already ahead. Hang tight, and enjoy the ride.

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

Just be sure to familiarize yourself with the basic concept of light and speed. It will make your
camera make a lot more sense to you. When you look into your view finder, and press the shutter release button
half way down but not all the way, you should see readings for the light meter and recommended
aperture. You can always have your new camera on Auto so that the camera will make decisions
for you. But having a better understanding of aperture and how it works in conjunction with speed of the
shutter will benefit you if you ever want to start advanced shooting in difficult lighting situations. You would
then be able to use your camera in manual mode and create images that will stun your friends and family.

I've been into manual shooting since my teen years, and just now at 28 am starting my own outdoor
portraiture business. Wish me luck. :)

Any book on manual photography would greatly benefit you! Enjoy!!!

This message was edited Dec 29, 2012 11:28 AM

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

Community college - give a call lots of times especially at this time of year offer classes...really inexpensive and sometimes even have specials for seniors.

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Hey Kim...I'm so glad you're in the same boat...yes, we will share our might be fun. ☺

River, I'm really reading on that right now and I even experimented a bit with it , got some black photos, however, I did get my best shots yet of steps I guess.

Missingrosie, I'll certainly check that out, on line they want as much as the camera cost...Yeah

I gave it a break today and worked in my garden...thank goodness for that. ☺☺

Thanks to all of you.

Palo Alto, CA(Zone 9a)

Sunkissed, big congratulations on your new camera. You'll love it, eventually... practice, practice, practice ... just keep taking pictures ... take notes ... read, read, read (anything by Bryan Peterson ... especially "Understanding Exposure," and Scott Kelby has a great 4-book series "The Digital Photography Book, 1 through 4"). Look for adult education photography classes in your area (I've taken two such courses offered by the Palo Alto Adult School), as well as other workshops and things offered by local photo stores, etc. Oh, another good book: Digital Photography for Dummies.

And, I should say that's a great shot of your cat!

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks Jub, I will look into those books. I also didn't think about checking into the photo shops to see if they offer classes, great idea. Glad you like my kitty.

brainerd, MN(Zone 4a)

Call your city or county to see if they offer classes. Or a near by nature center. In my neighborhood, they offer all sorts of classes through the city via the nature center. It may not be that they offer it until spring time - but a phone call to ask is free :)
Hit the library too.
Try this link - see if it is of any use as well.

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Thanks Minnesippi, I will check with the nature centers and the state park system since I now remember reading something about a photography class...and in Florida they would probably do it in the winter, much nicer for outdoor photography. I bookmarked that site to read over, that is what I'm looking for, thank you.

brainerd, MN(Zone 4a)

I have a Nikon D40 - have had it for years and LOVE it. Still dont know how to use it "correctly". I just read the page that I sent the link for. I will be re-reading it. Now I just need to find somewhere to get my telephoto lens fixed. The Auto focus function doesnt work anymore.
The 2 things that are nearly impossible to find are a digital lens repair place and somewhere to develop 35mm film...everyone is going "dry" and disposable. Dont like it.

Good luck!

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Well just to update, I'm doing much better at understanding this camera and have to say I now love You Tube. I found some very helpful video tutorials there. The manual that comes with the camera just doesn't do the job, it basically tells you about all the buttons and settings but doesn't really explain when or how to use them. There are so many more options and I've been experimenting by shooting so many pictures, with lots of failures, but I'm finally getting some great shots, better than I ever did with my Cool-pix.

I'm now pretty much just taking my shots in the manual mode. Thanks to all that helped me out and the web-links you have given me.

These are some shots I took manually the other day in my garden...and I didn't use auto mode.☺

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Palo Alto, CA(Zone 9a)

Bravo, Sunkissed! You're doing great! Nice shots, all!

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Beautiful images Sherri. Especially that macro shot of the Uphobia with the ant on the flower petal. Great job!!!

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

Here's a few macro shots plus a nice fall image from my neck of the woods when the aspens were in their glory.
A tripod is tremendously useful for lengthy exposures during the day. The result is more clarity and detail in your image.
If you experiment with focal points its really fun to make the background blur around your subject as well.

I'll upload a few more. Looks like it maxes out at five! :)

This message was edited Jan 5, 2013 9:58 AM

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the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

The fifth image here was taken on an extremely foggy morning around 6am after waking up during
a camping trip on the grand Mesa here in the San juan mountain range.
There is minor editing, and the intense foliage was naturally captured
by making it 5-10 second exposure with a tripod and the aperture setting set to it's widest (F stops settings which determine how much
light is allowed in the camera), a 1.4 (widest F stop). Think of a big circle.
The other photos you can see the use of tilted images (on a few), a creative camera
technique used by professionals when trying to capture more depth in their image.
Just a few fun ideas to hopefully inpire! :)

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the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

And some examples of creative portraits. :)
I'm starting a photography business so trying to grow my portfolio.
Hope to god it works out this year as I just lost my studio gig due to illness! :(

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Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

River, such spectacular photos, I don't know that I could ever create such beautiful photos, but I'm actually understanding what you're talking about I must be learning something. You should post some of your photos on the daily photos and there is a photo editing forum. Your portraits are amazing and I wish you the best in starting your own business.

I know one thing, I love camping and sure would like to go camping in that San Juan mountain range, so beautiful. I really like the foggy rapids photograph.

I'm so terrible at taking time to use a tripod, I usually find something to prop my camera on and hold my breath. ☺

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

sunkissed, Congrats on your new camera! It will take you a little while to get used to it, But, Once you start learning, It goes fast from there! Had mine ( D-80) for about 5 years now and still have not fully learned how to use it yet, But , I do learn more along the line and enjoy doing so! Thats a great picture of your cat and plants!! And happy to know that you used manual mode on your plant photos! ( I never use automatic on mine - hardley ever) I know you are going to LOVE that camera once you get a little more adjusted to it!

RiverNymph, Enjoyed your photos and wish you much luck on your photography buisness! ~ I was thinking of starting a small photo buisness for myself this year .. (Need to get a little better at my photography first though)

One thing I have heard many times along the way is to stick to what subject you like best, But, I for some reason cannot seem to do that, Iv like all types of photography and just can't seem to stick with one type of subject .... Here's a few from my 'Birding Photography" .. Which is a subject I like a lot, ( I think my fav would be outdoor/wildlife photography)

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Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

A fe of my " Creative" photos ...

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Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Portraiture photos and a couple macro's ..

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Central, AL(Zone 7b)

RiverNymph and IRIS, such fabulous photos and wonderful creativities! Love those photos. Best of lucks with your endeavor, I'm still waiting to take some classes to understand and use the camera better. Sherri, how are you coming along with yours? I've been very busy lately no progresses on my learning of the camera to share ... yet.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Sherri, you could contact Nikon and find out if there is a (free) class on Nikon cameras to new purchasers.We have 2 D70 cameras that I would not trade for all the world and a D2X which is a very special manual camera. Our camera store has a 2-hour session from Nikon for new camera buyers.

We have been shooting digitally for more than 10 years and have enjoyed our share of cameras: new cameras on the forefront, cameras that were special despite lower pixel size with other great abilities. We shoot events and such and take JPEGS and Raw at the same time. One special caveat is about the new lenses with vibration reduction. They seem to take getting used to. Our best friend is a lens that is 18-200 that is amazingly lightweight and versatile. Prices begin about 500 for the Tamron and similar, more for the Nikkor.

Jubilada is right. Anything from Scott Kelby is going to be well worth the read. He is an amazing Photoshop professional, and knowing the software is instrumental in understanding the concepts.

I love your cat photo. You can count his whiskers. Great depth of field.


Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Iris what stunning certainly have a wonderful talent, thanks for sharing such pleasing to the eye photos.

Thanks Cathy about the class info...I'm now getting very busy with the garden and will probably wait till summer to try for a class. I'm very naive about so much still. I'll check into it.

Lily I've thought about you and your camera also. I'm reading up like I'm back in school again, but the memory not as great as when I was in school and I keep forgetting what is what. I don't let a day go by without taking some photos and practicing taking pictures in manual mode. Many get deleted, but a few have looked very nice. I'm using my old cool-pix less and less now, it just doesn't compare to the photos this new camera takes.

Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Hi everyone, Sherrie, here too the planting season is in full swing. DH and I are working in the garden this weekend. No time-- leisure time i.e photography, just work, work and work. Just kidding. Having a chance to work in the garden really is a priviledge. I complaint just to complaint but the truth to be known; I love every minute of it. Just not having many good pics. to share.

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Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

How nice Kim and you caught a bee in flight. Yesterday after I worked in the garden it was late afternoon and the birds were coming down to enjoy the feed. I sat on a cooler and took lots of pictures of them. I hope they turn out. I set on auto mode to see what the camera chose as a setting then I went with that in manual mode, using my meter to help. They look good on the screen, hopefully they do when I download them.


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Central, AL(Zone 7b)

Wow Sherri, those are great shots! Looking forward to seeing more of what you've taken.

Stamford, CT(Zone 6b)

Iris, I'm assuming you are using a macro lens? I know these photos took practice, but you have an amazing eye and an even more amazing amount of patience. You also have a very nice style of portraiture, capture and preparedness! I do a lot of candid, journalistic photography and spend a lot of time (with pleasure) waiting for the right moment.

I don't know if I am more impressed that you got hummingbirds in your photo or that you have got hummingbirds at all. I have yet to see a real life hummingbird (that I know of).

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Lily_love, sunkissed, and cathy166, Thankyou for the nice comments!

sunkissed, Your learning fAST! Thats how I began, Seeing what the camera choose and then seeing it in manual and using the meter! Also learned not to take photos in the late morning and afternoon hours, The sun is too harsh ( Got full hot sun in my yard) I usually only take photos in the eraly morning/evening hours unless it's overcast/cloudy outside. LOVE the photos above! Great job!! I especially love the middle photo ~ Beautiful!! (The bee and butterfly are great too!) looking forward to seeing your bird pictures!

cathy166, Thankyou for all your nice comments! I don't have a true macro lens, ( I would surely like to get one though!) I use extention tubes a lot for macro.
Patience is something that I wish I did have, But, In all actuality, It's something I lack, I'm always in rush ( especially in Spring) because I always have so much to do, But, try to get photos in between time, I really need to take some time and relax and put more effort into getting better photos and stop worrying about what I have to do and just concentrate on what I am doing when I got the camera out. ~ Would really love to see your photos sometime!! I'm sure you have really good ones!
I'm almost kinds shocked that you have never seen a hummingbird, Do you have gardens or put a feeder out?
If not, Sometime if you get a chance, go to one of the outdoor nurseries in your area in the summer, They usually hang around the nursery flowers sucking up the blooms. ~ I love the hummingbirds, I look forward to seeing them when they come in ... Here's a few quick photos that I found in my files fast ~

1 ~Feeding At the Salvia
2~ Sitting on the squiggle fence
3 ~ Resting on The Garden Flocks that passed by
4 ~ At the feeder
5 ~ At the feeder-2

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Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

Hello, everyone!

This is a thoroughly enjoyable thread. It could have been started by me.

For the last few years I had been using a Sony Cybershot DSCH-3. Then I got a Sony DSCHX1 which is almost identical to the Nikon Coolpix.

But having shot with a film SLR, a Sears Program camera before the days of digital, I was unsettled with the quality of the pictures coming from the Sonys. Don't get me wrong; older Sony cybershots are some of the best compact cameras made. But I was finally ready last fall to get a true DSLR.

I wanted to know if my old Sears film lenses could be used on any digital camera. Many advised me to throw those lenses away or sell them cheap. But they are glass, metal, and beautiful. I could not bring myself to get rid of them. I Googled this question for many days and stumbled across the Pentax Forum ( in my search. It is here that I found hope for ever using my film-era manual lenses again. Many folks purchase Pentax just for that purpose! Pentax cameras support any K-mount (bayonet) lenses. Just snap 'em on and go. With old film k-mount lenses, you are shooting manually on a digital camera, with only your focus confirmation "beep" and nothing else; no electronics to take over. It's a beautiful experience.

I went with a Pentax K-r. This entry-level camera is very similar in features to the Nikon D3100.

Like sunkissed, my first pictures on my lovely new DSLR were not impressive. I was learning. Snapping and learning. With me, after about 5,000 shutter counts (on any camera), I reach a certain level of understanding. That's what happened once again; the pictures improved.

One of the best websites in my quest to learn digital photography is this one: Short articles, very informative, many subjects. I especially appreciate the articles about exposure, aperture, and ISO.

When I find a good article that really speaks to me, I print it. My printed articles get placed into sheet protectors in a thin notebook binder for quick reference.

But nothing beats going out and shooting, shooting, shooting. Practice, practice, practice. It sounds like you are doing everything right!

This message was edited Apr 12, 2013 8:02 AM

Winter Springs, FL(Zone 9b)

Hi timmijo, I am already signed up for the Digital photography school and it has been very helpful for me. Glad things are moving along with your new camera.

I'm still practicing myself and really enjoy my camera now. Honestly I feel less and less frustrated like I would with my Cool-pix. But there are still times I think I've got it and I don't. But I'm having fun and have made some beautiful shots I would've never made with my Cool-pix, which I'm using less and less these days.

Best wishes to you and your new camera.

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

I really have to say I am thoroughly taken off my feet by those himmingbird photos.
Absolutely stunning. I mean truly abstract sort of photos. You did so well with the focus
and blurring of the background. LOVED those. What lens were you using? 70-300?

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

You and I should colaborate on a photography business!! =)
Did you also use to work at a portrait studio? It looks like it from some of your photos..

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

timmijo, I think thats what I need is to take an online class, just can't seem to find the time though. Wish you The Best with your new camera!!

RiverNymph, Thanks so much! ~ I used an older Nikon 300 F4 for those hummingbird photos. ~ Wish I could start a photography buisnes ( Would need to move though, It's dead around here! lol) I took the portrait photos in a room that I have in the downstairs part of my house. I purchased a few backdrops and have a couple alien bees lighting units and decided to try a few photos and the above is how they came out.

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

So that was with a film camera? I'm not surprised. Back when I was first learning the proper use of aperature/speed settings on a manual film camera, I could always get shots with it I couldn't dream of getting with a digital. It's interesting.. Somehow the blurred backgrounds always turned out more interesting, majestic, and magical. More moving almost. How cool about setting up a little studio downstairs. :)

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Not a film camera, A digital ( Nikon D80) with an older lens that I had purchased a while back. Many older len'es fit the newer camera's. ~ Yes, I like my little homemaid studio, I'm going to really practice some photography down there this summer. ( So for the late responses, I'm in and out working in my gardens today)

the Mountains, CO(Zone 4a)

Ahh so manual focus, then. Gotta love it!! I'll post some photos here if the thread is still going of Spring in the rockies! =)

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

Yes, I always use manual focus, never auto ( Thats how I learn along the way) look forward to seeing your photos!!

Ellendale, DE(Zone 7a)

To Iris: If you go to the digital photography school website that I listed above, you do not have to enroll. You could spend many days just reading all of their wonderful articles for free. Try it. You will love what they say, no matter what level photographer you are. It's nicely laid out, informative, and there are even opportunities to write articles for them if you have something to share about your photographic techniques.

Greenville, SC(Zone 7a)

timmijo, Will definately check it out when I have time ~Thanks!

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