Nikon® D90 For Dummies®

Table of Contents


A Quick Look at What’s Ahead

Part I: Fast Track to Super Snaps

Part II: Taking Creative Control

Part III: Working with Picture Files

Part IV: The Part of Tens

Icons and Other Stuff to Note

About the Software Shown in This Book

Practice, Be Patient, and Have Fun!

Part I: Fast Track to Super Snaps

1: Getting the Lay of the Land

Getting Comfortable with Your Lens

Attaching a lens

Removing a lens

Using a VR (vibration reduction) lens

Setting the focus mode (auto or manual)

Zooming in and out

Adjusting the Viewfinder Focus

Working with Memory Cards

Exploring External Camera Controls

Topside controls

Back-of-the-body controls

Front-left buttons

Front-right controls

Ordering from Camera Menus

Monitoring Shooting Settings

Asking Your Camera for Help

Reviewing Basic Setup Options

Cruising the Setup menu

Browsing the Custom Setting menu

2: Taking Great Pictures, Automatically

Getting Good Point-and-Shoot Results

Using Flash in Automatic Exposure Modes

Exploring Your Automatic Exposure Options

Auto mode

Digital Vari-Program modes

Changing the (Shutter Button) Release Mode

3: Controlling Picture Quality and Size

Diagnosing Quality Problems

Considering Resolution (Image Size)

Pixels and print quality

Pixels and screen display size

Pixels and file size

Resolution recommendations

Understanding the Image Quality Options

JPEG: The imaging (and Web) standard

NEF (Raw): The purist’s choice

My take: Choose JPEG Fine or NEF (Raw)

Setting Image Size and Quality

4: Monitor Matters: Picture Playback and Live View Shooting

Enabling Automatic Picture Rotation

Disabling and Adjusting Instant Review

Viewing Images in Playback Mode

Viewing multiple images at a time

Displaying photos in Calendar view

Zooming in for a closer view

Viewing Picture Data

File Information mode

RGB Histogram mode

Highlight display mode

Shooting Data display mode

GPS Data mode

Overview Data mode

Hiding Photos during Playback

Deleting Photos

Deleting images one at a time

Deleting all photos

Deleting a batch of selected photos

Protecting Photos

Exploring Live View Shooting

Taking pictures in Live View mode

Recording movies

Customizing the Live View display

Part II: Taking Creative Control

5: Getting Creative with Exposure and Lighting

Introducing the Exposure Trio: Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO

Understanding exposure-setting side effects

Doing the exposure balancing act

Exploring the Advanced Exposure Modes

Reading the Meter

Setting ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

Adjusting aperture and shutter speed

Controlling ISO

Choosing an Exposure Metering Mode

Applying Exposure Compensation

Using Autoexposure Lock

Expanding Tonal Range with Active D-Lighting

Using Flash in P, S, A, and M modes

Setting the flash mode

Adjusting flash output

Locking flash exposure on your subject

Exploring a few additional flash options

Using an external flash head

Bracketing Exposures

6: Manipulating Focus and Color

Reviewing Focus Basics

Adjusting Autofocus Performance

Understanding the AF-area mode setting

Changing the Autofocus mode setting

Choosing the right autofocus combo

Using autofocus lock

Autofocusing in Live View mode

Manipulating Depth of Field

Controlling Color

Correcting colors with white balance

Changing the white balance setting

Fine-tuning white balance settings

Creating white balance presets

Bracketing white balance

Choosing a Color Space: sRGB vs. Adobe RGB

Taking a Quick Look at Picture Controls

7: Putting It All Together

Recapping Basic Picture Settings

Setting Up for Specific Scenes

Shooting still portraits

Capturing action

Capturing scenic vistas

Capturing dynamic close-ups

Coping with Special Situations

Part III: Working with Picture Files

8: Downloading, Organizing, and Archiving Your Picture Files

Sending Pictures to the Computer

Connecting the camera and computer

Starting the transfer process

Downloading and Organizing Photos with the Nikon Software

Downloading with Nikon Transfer

Browsing images in Nikon ViewNX

Viewing picture metadata

Organizing pictures

Processing Raw (NEF) Files

Processing Raw images in the camera

Processing Raw files in ViewNX

9: Printing and Sharing Your Pictures

Printing Possibilities: Retail or Do-It-Yourself?

Preventing Potential Printing Problems

Match resolution to print size

Allow for different print proportions

Get print and monitor colors in synch

Preparing Pictures for E-Mail

Creating small copies using the camera

Downsizing images in Nikon ViewNX

Creating a Digital Slide Show

Setting up a simple slide show

Creating Pictmotion slide shows

Viewing Your Photos on a Television

Part IV: The Part of Tens

10: Ten (Or So) Fun and Practical Retouch Menu Features

Applying the Retouch Menu Filters

Removing Red-Eye

Straightening Tilting Horizon Lines

Shadow Recovery with D-Lighting

Boosting Shadows, Contrast, and Saturation Together

Two Ways to Tweak Color

Applying digital lens filters

Manipulating color balance

Creating Monochrome Photos

Removing (or Creating) Lens Distortion

Adding a Starburst Effect

Cropping Your Photo

11: Ten Special-Purpose Features to Explore on a Rainy Day

Annotate Your Images

Creating Your Own Menu

Creating Custom Image Folders

Customizing External Controls

Adjusting the On/Off switch

Changing the function of the OK button

Assigning a duty to the Function button

Changing the function of the AE-L/AF-L button

Customizing the command dials

Two Roads to a Multi-Image Exposure

Nikon® D90 For Dummies®

by Julie Adair King


About the Author

Julie Adair King is the author of many books about digital photography and imaging, including the best-selling Digital Photography For Dummies. Her most recent titles include a series of guides to popular digital SLR cameras, including Nikon D60 For Dummies and Nikon D40/D40x For Dummies. Other works include Digital Photography Before & After Makeovers, Digital Photo Projects For Dummies, Julie King’s Everyday Photoshop For Photographers, Julie King’s Everyday Photoshop Elements, and Shoot Like a Pro!: Digital Photography Techniques. When not writing, King teaches digital photography at such locations as the Palm Beach Photographic Centre. A graduate of Purdue University, she resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Author’s Acknowledgments

I am extremely grateful to the team of talented professionals at John Wiley and Sons for all their efforts in putting together this book. Special thanks go to my awesome project editor, Kim Darosett, who is the type of editor that all authors hope for but rarely experience: supportive, skilled, and amazingly calm in the face of any storm, including my not infrequent freakouts. I also owe much to the rest of the folks in both the editorial and art departments, especially Heidi Unger, Rashell Smith, Shelley Lea, Steve Hayes, Andy Cummings, and Mary Bednarek.

Thanks, too, to Jonathan Conrad for providing the awesome nighttime shot for Chapter 7, and to agent extraordinaire, Margot Maley Hutchison, for her continuing help and encouragement. And last but not least, I am also indebted to technical editor Dave Hall, without whose insights and expertise this book would not have been the same.

Publisher’s Acknowledgments

We’re proud of this book; please send us your comments through our online registration form located at

Some of the people who helped bring this book to market include the following:

Acquisitions, Editorial, and Media Development

Project Editor: Kim Darosett

Executive Editor: Steven Hayes

Copy Editor: Heidi Unger

Technical Editor: David Hall

Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron

Editorial Assistant: Amanda Foxworth

Sr. Editorial Assistant: Cherie Case

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Patrick Redmond

Layout and Graphics: Stacie Brooks, Carrie A. Cesavice, Reuben W. Davis, Ronald Terry, Erin Zeltner

Proofreaders: John Greenough, Betty Kish

Indexer: Broccoli Information Management

Publishing and Editorial for Technology Dummies

Richard Swadley, Vice President and Executive Group Publisher

Andy Cummings, Vice President and Publisher

Mary Bednarek, Executive Acquisitions Director

Mary C. Corder, Editorial Director

Publishing for Consumer Dummies

Diane Graves Steele, Vice President and Publisher

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Nikon. The name has been associated with top-flight photography equipment for generations. And the introduction of the D90 has only enriched Nikon’s well-deserved reputation, offering all the control a die-hard photography enthusiast could want while at the same time providing easy-to-use, point-and-shoot features for the beginner.

In fact, the D90 offers so many features that sorting them all out can be more than a little confusing, especially if you’re new to digital photography, SLR photography, or both. For starters, you may not even be sure what SLR means or how it affects your picture taking, let alone have a clue as to all the other techie terms you encounter in your camera manual — resolution, aperture, white balance, and so on. And if you’re like many people, you may be so overwhelmed by all the controls on your camera that you haven’t yet ventured beyond fully automatic picture-taking mode. Which is a shame because it’s sort of like buying a Porsche and never actually taking it on the road.

Therein lies the point of Nikon D90 For Dummies: Through this book, you can discover not just what each bell and whistle on your camera does, but also when, where, why, and how to put it to best use. Unlike many photography books, this one doesn’t require any previous knowledge of photography or digital imaging to make sense of things, either. In classic For Dummies style, everything is explained in easy-to-understand language, with lots of illustrations to help clear up any confusion.

In short, what you have in your hands is the paperback version of an in-depth photography workshop tailored specifically to your Nikon picture-taking powerhouse.

A Quick Look at What’s Ahead

This book is organized into four parts, each devoted to a different aspect of using your camera. Although chapters flow in a sequence that’s designed to take you from absolute beginner to experienced user, I’ve also tried to make each chapter as self-standing as possible so that you can explore the topics that interest you in any order you please.

The following sections offer brief previews of each part. If you’re eager to find details on a specific topic, the index shows you exactly where to look.

Part I: Fast Track to Super Snaps

Part I contains four chapters that help you get up and running with your D90.

Chapter 1, “Getting the Lay of the Land,” offers a tour of the external controls on your camera, shows you how to navigate camera menus to access internal options, and walks you through initial camera setup and customization steps.

Chapter 2, “Taking Great Pictures, Automatically,” shows you how to get the best results when using the camera’s fully automatic exposure modes, including the Digital Vari-Program scene modes such as Sports mode, Portrait mode, and Landscape mode.

Chapter 3, “Controlling Picture Quality and Size,” introduces you to two camera settings that are critical whether you shoot in automatic or manual mode: the Image Size and Image Quality settings, which control resolution (pixel count), file format, file size, and picture quality.

Chapter 4, “Monitor Matters: Picture Playback and Live View Shooting” offers just what its title implies. Look here to find out how to review your photos and how to take pictures using your monitor to compose the scene — that is, how to use the D90’s Live View mode to shoot both still photos and record short digital movies. This chapter also discusses how to delete unwanted images and protect your favorites from accidental erasure.

Part II: Taking Creative Control

Chapters in this part help you unleash the full creative power of your D90 by moving into semiautomatic or manual photography modes.

Chapter 5, “Getting Creative with Exposure and Lighting,” covers the all-important topic of exposure, starting with an explanation of three critical exposure controls: aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. This chapter also discusses your camera’s advanced exposure modes (P, S, A, and M); explains exposure options such as Active D-Lighting, automatic exposure bracketing, metering modes, and exposure compensation; and offers tips for using the flash.

Chapter 6, “Manipulating Focus and Color,” provides help with controlling those aspects of your pictures. Head here for information about your camera’s many autofocusing options, for tips on how to manipulate depth of field (the zone of sharp focus in a picture), and for details about color controls such as white balance.

Chapter 7, “Putting It All Together,” summarizes all the techniques explained in earlier chapters, providing a quick-reference guide to the camera settings and shooting strategies that produce the best results for specific types of pictures: portraits, action shots, landscape scenes, close-ups, and more.

Part III: Working with Picture Files

This part of the book, as its title implies, discusses the often-confusing aspect of moving your pictures from camera to computer and beyond.

Chapter 8, “Downloading, Organizing, and Archiving Your Picture Files,” guides you through the process of transferring pictures from your camera memory card to your computer’s hard drive or other storage device. Look here, too, for details about using the D90’s built-in tool for processing files that you shoot in the Nikon Raw format (NEF). Just as important, this chapter explains how to organize and safeguard your photo files.

Chapter 9, “Printing and Sharing Your Pictures,” helps you turn your digital files into “hard copies” that look as good as those you see on the camera monitor. This chapter also explains how to prepare your pictures for online sharing, create digital slide shows, and, for times when you have the neighbors over, display your pictures and movies on a television screen.

Part IV: The Part of Tens

In famous For Dummies tradition, the book concludes with two “top ten” lists containing additional bits of information and advice.

Chapter 10, “Ten (Or So) Fun and Practical Retouch Menu Features,” shows you how to fix less-than-perfect images using features found on your camera’s Retouch menu, such as automated red-eye removal. You also find out how to apply color effects and perform a few other photo-enhancement tricks.

Chapter 11, “Ten Special-Purpose Features to Explore on a Rainy Day,” presents information about some camera features that, while not found on most “Top Ten Reasons I Bought My D90” lists, are nonetheless interesting, useful on occasion, or a bit of both.

Icons and Other Stuff to Note

If this isn’t your first For Dummies book, you may be familiar with the large, round icons that decorate its margins. If not, here’s your very own icon-decoder ring:

Tip_4C.eps A Tip icon flags information that will save you time, effort, money, or some other valuable resource, including your sanity.

TechnicalStuff_4C.eps Lots of information in this book is of a technical nature — digital photography is a technical animal, after all. But if I present a detail that is useful mainly for impressing your technology-geek friends, I mark it with this icon.

Remember_4C.eps I apply this icon either to introduce information that is especially worth storing in your brain’s long-term memory or to remind you of a fact that may have been displaced from that memory by some other pressing fact.

warning_4c.eps When you see this icon, look alive. It indicates a potential danger zone that can result in much wailing and teeth-gnashing if ignored.

Additionally, I need to point out three additional details that will help you use this book:

Other margin art: Replicas of some of your camera’s buttons also appear in the margins of some paragraphs. I include these to provide a quick reminder of the appearance of the button being discussed.

Software menu commands: In sections that cover software, a series of words connected by an arrow indicates commands that you choose from the program menus. For example, if a step tells you to “Choose File⇒Convert Files,” click the File menu to unfurl it and then click the Convert Files command on the menu.

Camera firmware: Firmware is the internal software that controls many of your camera’s operations. This book was written using version 1.0.0 of the firmware, which was the most current version at the time of publication.

Occasionally, Nikon releases firmware updates, and it’s a good idea to check out the Nikon Web site ( periodically to find out whether any updates are available. (Chapter 1 tells you how to determine which firmware version your camera is running.) Firmware updates typically don’t carry major feature changes — they’re mostly used to solve technical glitches in existing features — but if you do download an update, be sure to read the accompanying description of what it accomplishes so that you can adapt my instructions as necessary.

About the Software Shown in This Book

Providing specific instructions for performing photo organizing and editing tasks requires that I feature specific software. In sections that cover file downloading, archiving, printing, and e-mail sharing, I selected Nikon ViewNX and Nikon Transfer, both of which ship free with your camera and work on both the Windows and Mac operating systems.

Rest assured, though, that the tools used in ViewNX and Nikon Transfer work very similarly in other programs, so you should be able to easily adapt the steps to whatever software you use. (I recommend that you read your software manual for details, of course.)

Practice, Be Patient, and Have Fun!

To wrap up this preamble, I want to stress that if you initially think that digital photography is too confusing or too technical for you, you’re in very good company. Everyone finds this stuff a little mind-boggling at first. So take it slowly, experimenting with just one or two new camera settings or techniques at first. Then, each time you go on a photo outing, make it a point to add one or two more shooting skills to your repertoire.

I know that it’s hard to believe when you’re just starting out, but it really won’t be long before everything starts to come together. With some time, patience, and practice, you’ll soon wield your camera like a pro, dialing in the necessary settings to capture your creative vision almost instinctively.

So without further ado, I invite you to grab your camera, a cup of whatever it is you prefer to sip while you read, and start exploring the rest of this book. Your D90 is the perfect partner for your photographic journey, and I thank you for allowing me, through this book, to serve as your tour guide.

Part I

Fast Track to Super Snaps


In this part . . .

Making sense of all the controls on your D90 isn’t something you can do in an afternoon — heck, in a week, or maybe even a month. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t take great pictures today. By using your camera’s point-and-shoot automatic modes, you can capture terrific images with very little effort. All you do is compose the scene, and the camera takes care of almost everything else.

This part shows you how to take best advantage of your camera’s automatic features and also addresses some basic setup steps, such as adjusting the viewfinder to your eyesight and getting familiar with the camera menus, buttons, and dials. In addition, chapters in this part explain how to obtain the very best picture quality, whether you shoot in an automatic or manual mode, and how to use your camera’s picture-playback and Live View features.