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barncat

Nikon D3200 Help, my pictures are dull and lifeless

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barncat    109

My Nikon D3200's Auto Mode -  "Point and Shoot" - has been wonderful to me, that is until autumn arrived.  This is my first "professional" digital camera and my first autumn with it.  For someone who knew nothing about "real photography," the Auto Mode was a super easy way for me to jump right in and start taking pictures.  Using the Auto Mode, my spring and summer pictures are so colorful and sharp - I couldn't be any happier with them.   Yes, the world around me has changed - the grass is no longer a bright shade of green, the leaves have browned, and the sky no longer maintains a beautiful blue, however ... when I look at my autumn-time pics, some which I have shared on this forum, with that of other members similar autumn pics, mine are so dull and "lifeless" in comparison.

See One Example in Lunch picture thread.  Even though these pictures are not birds ...  dvoribird has a squirrel in the grass with a nut, autumn leaves all around it.  It is so vibrant and really a great picture.  Just below I posted a similar chipmunk picture (the second pic) - yet my picture is so DULL. 

As I said, this is my first "professional" digital, and I am not well-versed in the slightest as to what mode (and/or settings) I should be changing to.  I have my manual, but I find it mostly like reading a foreign language.  I am not here to ask anyone to spend any amount of time explaining camera photography to me - that is not the purpose of this thread.  What  I had hoped for however, is that someone(s) might say generally what the problem is!  I realize I will need to step out of Auto Mode, but if I had some idea of what I need to be changing to  ... I can look for it in the manual and read about it.   I just need someone to point me in the right direction ...... whew, that was a lot of typing! :D

I probably spend 95% of my photo time backyard birding.

Thank you .  ~Christina

:)
 

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Joejr14    1820

There's a big difference between photographing things in November in Illinois vs Texas.  It's brighter further south, the colors aren't so dull, and the grass is still green.  That being said, the photo you're using as a reference seems to be a bit over-saturated color wise. 

 

Nobody here is going to be able to 'point' you in some magical direction in order to take amazing photos.  First step is reading some books and understanding exposure, and then reading some more books about photography in general (or online), and then you need to spend a significant amount of time with your camera so that you understand it's menus, functions, and how to use it.  Auto mode is absolutely pointless on a DSLR and defeats the purpose of having one.

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DaveT    313
I would recommend first learning all about exposure settings (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) and how each of these affect your photos, as well as how they interact with each other. You can learn most of this on the Internet.  If you want an excellent book get "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson, about $16 on Amazon for the latest edition. I agree with JoeJr that shooting in Auto is not a good thing. I would recommend either Manual or Aperture Value mode. I found Aperture Value mode a little easier in starting out. The lens you use also makes a big difference.  In terms of image quality, you get what you pay for. Post processing (software editing) also makes a big difference. I use both Lightroom and Photoshop Elements. There are free versions of other software out there, and I have tried many, but never liked any of them. Are you using any software now?

 

If you want others to look at your photos in the future, you should make your EXIF settings visible on Flickr. Do that through Settings -> Privacy & Permissions -> Hide EXIF data = "No". That allows others to see your exposure and other camera settings. I have mine set that way.

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asque2000    937

There's a lot of consideration to take into account when trying to make your pictures "pop".  In the fall, the lighting outside is a BIG contributor to making your pictures come out well. If it is a gray day, expect gray pictures (though you can correct this somewhat by changing the white balance settings). Also the time of day will be important. Shooting around noon is going to provide pretty harsh lighting. Lastly, you eluded to needing to break free of auto mode, and I would highly suggest this. I prefer aperture priority so I can try and get the most light and letting the camera determine the best shutter speed. The D3200 has a setting that is worth it's weight in gold which is called an "auto ISO" function. With this you can tell the camera that you don't want it to go above a certain ISO (to avoid excessive noise) but also you can set the minimum shutter speed, which is important because the faster your shutter speed the crisper your photos come out. You can also just leave the aperture at it's widest setting when/if your telephoto lens is zoomed out as far as you can set it, and the camera will automatically adjust the aperture as you zoom in and back out again which is really handy. 

 

Also, and this is a preference thing, but you can edit the photos to improve them. Adjusting the levels in particular can take a dull photo and make it much more impressive. 

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CanadianCodhead    3471

Another simple thing you can try is shooting in Raw format. I think (I don't use Flickr so could not download the picture to confirm, but did check the html source of the page) you are shooting in JPEG.

 

RAW format photos will be quite a bit larger, but their quality will be better. They also open up a lot more doors for post-processing. If you find one you like and want to post, you can do a conversion to JPEG so the file you post is not too big. It may mean needing a bigger or second memory card if you take lots of photos, but they are pretty cheap these days.

 

One thing I like to do to practice the professional modes is find subjects that are not moving often (ducks on a pond or lake can be great for this), and tinker with the settings and see what quality photos I can get.

 

If you want hints on a couple of post-processing programs you can use with Nikon Raw images, just let me know, if you don't want to invest in or learn the high-end Adobe products.

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asque2000    937

Another simple thing you can try is shooting in Raw format. I think (I don't use Flickr so could not download the picture to confirm, but did check the html source of the page) you are shooting in JPEG.

 

RAW format photos will be quite a bit larger, but their quality will be better. They also open up a lot more doors for post-processing. If you find one you like and want to post, you can do a conversion to JPEG so the file you post is not too big. It may mean needing a bigger or second memory card if you take lots of photos, but they are pretty cheap these days.

 

One thing I like to do to practice the professional modes is find subjects that are not moving often (ducks on a pond or lake can be great for this), and tinker with the settings and see what quality photos I can get.

 

If you want hints on a couple of post-processing programs you can use with Nikon Raw images, just let me know, if you don't want to invest in or learn the high-end Adobe products.

The only concern I'd have about that is the initial impression of the photos. Since there is no in-camera image processing when you shoot in raw, the images you see on the screen actually appear more dull and lifeless compared to a JPEG. So unless the OP intends on editing all the photos after taking them raw might not be the best option. But you're absolutely right, you would get more latitude in terms of making your pictures appear better though it does require more work/time on doing so. 

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CanadianCodhead    3471

The only concern I'd have about that is the initial impression of the photos. Since there is no in-camera image processing when you shoot in raw, the images you see on the screen actually appear more dull and lifeless compared to a JPEG. So unless the OP intends on editing all the photos after taking them raw might not be the best option. But you're absolutely right, you would get more latitude in terms of making your pictures appear better though it does require more work/time on doing so. 

Absolutely, it is always a balancing act. In my 'defense' - I did say try, by no means is it a cure-all.

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tourpaddler    485
As Joejr14 noted “you need to spend a significant amount of time with your camera.”  Don’t be afraid to dig into your menu and methodically try different settings.  Take hundreds of photos (film is cheap these days:-))

 

As DaveT noted “If you want others to look at your photos in the future, you should make your EXIF settings visible" this is the only way others can really tell what’s going on.  Also, learn the limitations of your setup (all cameras and lens are not created equally).

 

As asque2000 noted “the lighting outside is a BIG contributor to making your pictures come out well."  Clouds, shade, fog, glare, sun light,shadows, you have to learn to work with/manipulate them.

 

That being said:

 

If there is a photography club you can join that would be your best bet.  It’s usually better to have someone  to work with  and they usually have monthly challenges which  force you to try things you are not familiar with which helps you to learn the basics of photography.

 

Search the photography web sites and find the ones that meet your needs.  Here are a few to start with.

 


 


 


 


 


This is actually an add but it shows you how your camera (all cameras are different) works best in different situations with different settings.  I would go to one (or all) of the d3200 forums and ask what the preferred setting are for the situation you are most interested in.  There is also a tab on this site called tips&tricks, it may help.

 

Post processing photos (manipulating with software) is great but I believe you should learn to do it correctly with your camera first then use PP to edit or turn it into digital art.

 

Good Luck

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asque2000    937

Absolutely, it is always a balancing act. In my 'defense' - I did say try, by no means is it a cure-all.

One thing I did for a while was Raw + JPEG and that was great, but I couldn't get a fast enough burst shot, and I went through memory cards like candy.

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GaM    561

 I haven't been at this very long and don't have  a lot of specific advice, some of photos on this site just astound me, But, I got a D7100 about a year ago, and when I bought the camera I bought a book specific to my camera, David Bush's "Nikon D7100".  There may be better books, I don't know, and I can't stand his little introductions to topics, I just have to skip them. A good book will explain  the basic variables such ISO, aperture, shutter speed and how your camera adjust those things as well as the special features of your camera. Sometimes I will just choose a topic..today is ISO day, today is active D lighting day, today is metering day, today is number of focus point day, and so on. Sometimes I just start spinning the dials and see what happens. If you get a really cooperative subject and you think you got the photo, don't stop, start changing up the basis settings, often times you will be surprised how those experimental photos turn out for the best, 

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syfido    0

Here are some quick fixes that enable your camera to give best picture quality:

  • Take the effective focal length of your lens and divide it into 1 to get the minimum safe handheld shutter speed you should use. 
  • Nikon's Vibration Reduction system can let you shoot with shutter speeds four stops slower than usual - but don't count on it. This is a best-case scenario, and it's wise to assume no more than two stops. VR improves your success rate, it doesn't guarantee sharpness.
  • Moving subjects will appear blurred at slow shutter speeds, so even if you can hold your camera steady and even if the VR system does a great job, you will still need to use fast shutter speeds for moving subjects.
  • Sometimes you have to use really high ISOs just to avoid camera shake, but be aware that at the highest settings you will see a loss of detail. T

I hope these four points are enough for you but if needed then you can also get more help and ideas from Nikon D3200 Manual- guideusermanual.com/product-name-d3200-manual&po=4309&lang=English. Good Luck. 

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