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25 Nikon D3500 Tips For Beginners You Need To Know

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Hello explorer! If you are here, then the most likely thing is that you’ve recently bought a Nikon D3500. If that’s the case, then you’ve arrived at the right place as I’ll share with you 25 Nikon D3500 Tips For Beginners.

I started my photography journey back in 2017, and while I have made some fantastic shots, I have also made many mistakes and errors that I want you to avoid. That’s why these 25 Nikon D3500 tips for beginners will help you to have a better understanding of your camera, and therefore, they will help you to create better photos.

Along with this article, I’ll also be giving you suggested reads that I’m sure they will help to improve your photography.

Finally, if you enjoy this article, remember to share this pin in your photography board so you have easy access to these tips!

25 Nikon D3500 Tips For Beginners

This 25 Nikon D3500 Tips for Beginners could be divided into two sections:

  • 13 Tips are for beginners who don’t have a clue on how to use their cameras.
  • 12 Tips that are for beginners that have some understanding of what they are doing.

Still, I will be explaining what does each of these 25 Nikon D3500 tips for beginners it will help you to have a better understanding of photography. 

Suggested read for better understanding of photography basics

Modes for newbies

1) Use the “no flash” mode in low-light situations.

Try not to shoot in Auto! Auto Mode will pop up the flash in situations when the camera considers there’s low light. The problem is that the camera can produce great photos without flash! That’s why you better use the “no flash” mode in these situations.

This mode will make your camera use a wider aperture, slower shutter speed, and higher ISO so it can compensate for the lack of flash.

If you see your images are blurry, then try to hold your camera as steady as possible!

2) Use the “Portrait” mode to shoot people.

This will make your camera understand that needs to shoot in a wider aperture so it creates a narrow depth of field.

A narrow depth of field means that while the face of the subject will be in focus, the background will be blurred out. This is a beautiful effect used to drive attention to the subject. 

3) Use the “Sports” when shooting a subject in motion.

Are you shooting your kid playing around or some car passing by? Then use the running mode.

This will make your camera use a faster shutter speed which will “freeze” the motion of the subject

4) Use Macro mode when doing close up to objects

If you are taking pictures of a ladybug, flowers or some other tiny object, use the “macro” mode. 

While it isn’t a real Macro, it will help you to produce a better image in these kinds of situations.

5) Night Portrait Mode

Is beneficial to use this mode when you are shooting people in low light conditions.

This will increase the aperture and crank up the ISO of the camera and try to keep a proper shutter speed to don’t have any unwanted blur.

Focusing Modes Explained

6) AF-A Auto Servo AF

In this mode, the camera will choose what kind of focusing system to use.

7) AF-S Auto Focus Single.

Use this mode for subjects that do not move. Great for shooting landscapes, objects and portraits when the subject is not moving.

8) AF-C Auto Focus Continue

In this mode, the camera will be constantly looking for something to focus on. Use it when shooting animated subjects like people and wildlife.

Note: You have to press the shutter button halfway in so it keeps tracking.

9) Manual Focusing

To focus, your camera needs contrast points. In low light -or just dark- situations there might not be enough contrast for your camera to focus. This is when manual mode shines.

10) Live View for Focusing

If you are shooting astro of landscape photography, a good way to nail your focus is by using Live View.

In Live View mode, zoom in to a place you want to focus, then manually adjust the focus and there you go, well focused image!

So far these first 10 Tips, as you can imagine these are tips for total newbies in the world of photography. Now though, we will go to an “I’ve been shooting for a month now” level.

Nailing Focusing

11) Single Point Auto Focus

If you are shooting in AF-S then it is great to use Single-Point AF. This way you know you are nailing down the focus.

12) Dynamic Area AF

When shooting in AF-C, this mode will use a larger portion of the sensor to create the focus. This will help your camera to better now when to focus when you are shooting moving subjects.

13) 3D Tracking

Also when shooting in AF-C, but this is for faster moving subjects.

14) Better to avoid Auto Area AF 

While cameras nowadays do nail the focus, if you want to be sure your subject is in focus, you better avoid the Auto Area AF as the camera will be focusing on what the camera believes is the subject.

So if you have 5 persons in a room and you want to focus just on one of them, the camera might choose to focus the wrong person.

Practical Tips

15) Don’t Delete Images in Camera

A camera’s LCD screen is small. Wait until you see them in your computer to delete it or not.

Pro Tip: If you are using editing software, an image that looks wrong could turn out a banger if you crop it the right way.

16) Start Using Manual Mode

Remember that we explained the basic modes and when to use them? Well, all of these modes are possible to accomplish in Manual Mode.

Learn to use manual mode so you can understand how photography works. Be sure to check out this article, it will help you massively.

What about A, S, P? They are totally fine to use, and they are down below in this list, but the understanding of manual mode will give you a comprehension to use them!

17) Histogram

A histogram will tell you how good or badly exposed an image is. Using a histogram is crucial for photography as over and underexposed images have lost image information.

The key takeaway is to try to find something that looks like a Gaussian bell. If you can’t, then never overexpose the image as you will be able to bring back the darks in the post process but not the highlights.

18) Activate Highlights Playback Display Options

If you still aren’t used to the histogram, then I have a little “life saving” tip: activate the highlights display in the Menu

To do it: Menu> Playback Display Options> Activate highlights

When reviewing an image and pressing up in the dial, you’ll be able to see if your highlights are over or well exposed. As we’ve discussed before, opposite to shadows, highlights are hard to recover in post process. That’s why you want to have them right in camera. 

If you see the highlights are peaking, re do the shot.

From Beginner to Intermediate Tips

19) Shoot Raw

Nikon D3500 can produce 12 bit raw files while a JPG

JPEG has 7,9 MB compared to 47,7MB of the RAW file of the same image

JPEG file is a compressed image that has the colour profiles of your camera manufacturer. A RAW file is an uncompressed image that contains lots of information. This is great if you want to later edit it. 

I think this is a good analogy: A JPG file is like using a PowerPoint template where everything is set. A RAW image would be a PowerPoint blank canvas where you can format colours, fonts and pictures wherever you want. 

If you want to go professional (or not amateur!), then you need to be shooting in RAW.

Another great alternative is to use JPEG+RAW. This will allow you to have quick shareable pics (jpegs) and if you want later to make them pop, you can edit the raws!

20) Image Size

Shoot Large! Always shoot large.

If you have a great camera as the Nikon D3500, then why would you want bad quality?

21) Picture Control (Use wisely!)

Have you heard of Presets or LUTS? Both are colour profiles to create a determined look to your images.

Nikon has it’s own in camera presets. Picture control are colour profiles that will give your image a certain feel.

But here’s is the problem

If you are shooting JPEG, then the colour profile will be part of the image you shoot. If you are shooting RAW, then the colour profile won’t appear. That’s why I’d only recommend you to use them if you are shooting RAW.

Then, why using them? Because they can give you a great idea of how can your final image look!

Try the different picture profile and you’ll see that some works better than others for a given shot! This way, you can edit them later like the ones you liked!

22) Using the built-in AF-assist illuminator the right way.

Remember that to find the focus you camera needs contrast? If you are shooting portraits in low lights conditions it will be a good idea to activate as your camera will produce a light that will help it to find contrast,

However, use this mode only when people are aware that you are shooting them. Otherwise, it might be distracting or annoying for the subject.

23) Use Shutter and Aperture priority mode

Remember about learning to use Manual mode and then the other ones? Now you now how a camera works, you know when to use each mode!

To make it simple:

  • Shutter Speed Priority Mode: When you need to adjust your shutter speed for moving subjects. For example, cars!
  • Aperture Priority Mode: When you need to work with f-stop rather than shutter speed. For example: landscape photos!

Using these modes are meant to help you shoot faster. If you are shooting cars, then you don’t want to be worried about ISO and Aperture, you just want to control the shutter speed.

However, I still recommend you learning Manual Mode on a first instance. There might be certain situations when you won’t be able to trust these modes, reason why you have to go manual. (Perfect example is long exposure photography in low light conditions)

24) Fake Bracketing

Bracketing is a technique for situations when there’s a high dynamic range. The Nikon D3500 does not come with bracketing option but you can easily fake it. Just take a shot and change the exposure of the following shot by adjusting the shutter speed (another reason why to use manual mode)

This way, if we want to take a picture of a sunset:

  • We set the aperture according to our wish
  • We take a normal exposure
  • We change for a faster shutter speed (while aperture and ISO stays the same) and we take another image
This image is a combination of 2 exposures. One is for the foreground and the other one for the sky. Otherwise, I’d have not been able to create this shot

The result is that we are going to have 2 images, one will be normally expose, the second one will be underexposed. If we blend them together later on in Lightroom, we can obtain the details of both images.

25) Keep the camera in your hand

This might be surprising as it is the last tip in our list, but this is probably the best tip in this list.

Keep the camera in your HAND

When you hang it around your neck, after 5-10 shots, we get lazy and we stop taking pictures. Having it in your hand will make you notice it whenever you want to do something. This way, you’ll be constantly shooting.

Having the camera in your hand is a fantastic way to keep shooting, this way:

  • The more you shoot, the more you understand what you are doing
  • The more you understand what you are doing, you are more aware of your mistakes
  • Being more aware of your mistakes means you are correcting them
  • The more you correct your mistakes, the better photographer you become

As simple as that.

If you are afraid of dropping it, then I’d suggest you to buy this hand strips which are extremely useful!

Now that you’ve read “25 Nikon D3500 Tips for Beginners”.

I want you to try shooting 3 different style of photography:

  • Portrait
  • Landscape
  • Cars

For each of them you should try the different focus systems and modes the camera has. This way you will understand when and how to use each of them.

And that’s it my dear explorers, hope you’ve enjoyed these 25 Nikon D3500 rips for beginners. I know it is a lot of information, but don’t worry, you’ll be mastering in a few weeks if you keep shooting! Another reason why to save this pin in your photography board so you know where to find it!

Wishing you a happy shooting!

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