Nikon D40/D40x 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 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 Center. A graduate of Purdue University, she resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.


Author’s Acknowledgments

I am extremely grateful to the team of talented professionals at Wiley Publishing 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.

Last but oh, so not least, I am deeply indebted to technical editor Chuck Pace, whose keen eye and vast experience set me on the right track whenever I mistakenly thought I should go left. Thank you, thank you, for sharing your time and your expertise — the book would not have been the same without it.


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: Steve Hayes

Copy Editor: Heidi Unger

Technical Editor: Chuck Pace

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: Alissa D. Ellet, Jennifer Mayberry, Ronald Terry, Erin Zeltner

Proofreaders: Caitie Kelly, Betty Kish

Indexer: Ty Koontz

Wiley Publishing Technology Publishing Group

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

Joyce Pepple, Acquisitions Director

Composition Services

Gerry Fahey, Vice President of Production Services

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services




A Quick Look at What’s Ahead

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

Adjusting the Viewfinder Focus

Working with Memory Cards

Exploring External Camera Controls

Ordering from Camera Menus

Using the Shooting Info Display

Decoding Viewfinder Data

Asking Your Camera for Help

Reviewing Basic Setup Options

2: Taking Great Pictures, Automatically

Getting Good Point-and-Shoot Results

Using Flash in Automatic Exposure Modes

Exploring Your Automatic Options

Changing the Shooting Mode

3: Controlling Picture Quality and Size

Diagnosing Quality Problems

Adjusting Resolution (Image Size)

Changing the File Type (JPEG or Raw)

4: Reviewing Your Photos

Inspecting Your Pictures

Deleting Photos

Protecting Photos

Part II : Taking Creative Control

5: Getting Creative with Exposure and Lighting

Kicking Your Camera into Advanced Gear

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

Monitoring Exposure Settings

Choosing an Exposure Metering Mode

Setting ISO, F-Stop, and Shutter Speed

Overriding Autoexposure Results with Exposure Compensation

Using Autoexposure Lock

Using Flash in Advanced Exposure Modes

6: Manipulating Focus and Color

Reviewing Focus Basics

Adjusting Autofocus Performance

Manipulating Depth of Field

Controlling Color

Optimizing Image Sharpening and Color

7: Putting It All Together

Recapping Basic Picture Settings

Setting Up for Specific Scenes

Coping with Special Situations

Part III : Working with Picture Files

8: Downloading, Organizing, and Archiving Your Photos

Sending Pictures to the Computer

Downloading and Organizing with PictureProject

Exploring Other Software Options

Processing Raw (NEF) Files

9: Printing and Sharing Your Photos

Preventing Potential Printing Problems

Printing Online or In-Store

Printing from PictureProject

Preparing Pictures for E-Mail

Creating a Digital Slide Show

Viewing Your Photos on a Television

Part IV : The Part of Tens

10: Ten Fast Photo-Retouching Tricks

Two Ways to Repair Red-Eye

A Pair of Cropping Options

Focus Sharpening (Sort Of)

Shadow Recovery with D-Lighting

Exposure Adjustment with a Levels Filter

A Trio of Color-Correctors

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

Annotate Your Images

Customizing Camera Menus

Creating Custom Image Folders

Changing the Function Button’s Function

Limiting the AE-L/AF-L Button’s Impact

Changing the Shooting Info Display Style

Controlling Flash Output Manually

Combining Two Photos

Creating Monochrome Images

Getting Free Help and Creative Ideas

Appendix: Firmware Notes and Menu Map

Firmware Facts

Menu Quick Reference

: Further Reading


N ikon. The name has been associated with top-flight photography equipment for generations. And the introduction of the D40 and its sibling, the D40x, only enriched Nikon’s well-deserved reputation, offering the power and flexibility of a digital SLR in a revolutionary, compact size and at an equally compact price. When history looks back on these two cameras, it’s a fair bet that they’ll be recognized for enticing millions of former point-and-shoot photographers into the SLR world.

I’m also willing to wager that if you’re new to digital photography, SLR cameras, or both, you’ve got more than a few questions. 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, file format, 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 D40/D40x 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. Whether you own the D40 or D40x, you’ll get the information you need to capture the great photos you envisioned when you became a Nikon owner.

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 D40 or D40x:

bullet 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.

bullet 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 Child mode.

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

bullet Chapter 4, “Reviewing Your Photos,” explains how to view your pictures on the camera monitor and also how to display various types of picture information along with the image. In addition, this chapter 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 Nikon by moving into semiautomatic or manual photography modes.

bullet 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 metering mode and exposure compensation, and offers tips for using the built-in flash.

bullet Chapter 6, “Manipulating Focus and Color,” provides help with controlling those aspects of your pictures. Look here for information about your Nikon’s manual and autofocusing features as well as details about color controls such as white balance and the Optimize Image options.

bullet 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.

bullet Chapter 8, “Downloading, Organizing, and Archiving Your Photos,” guides you through the process of transferring pictures from your camera memory card to your computer’s hard drive or other storage device. Just as important, this chapter explains how to organize and safeguard your photo files.

bullet Chapter 9, “Printing and Sharing Your Photos,” helps you turn your digital files into “hard copies,” covering both retail and do-it-yourself printing options. This chapter also explains how to prepare your pictures for online sharing and, for times when you have the neighbors over, how to display your pictures 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.

bullet Chapter 10, “Ten Fast Photo-Retouching Tricks,” shows you how to fix less-than-perfect images using features found on your camera’s Retouch menu, such as automated red-eye removal. In case you can’t solve the problem that way, this chapter also explains how to perform some basic retouching by using tools found in most photo editing programs.

bullet 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 Nikon” lists, are nonetheless interesting, useful on occasion, or a bit of both.

Appendix: Firmware Notes and Menu Map

Wrapping up the book, the appendix explains how to find out what version of the Nikon firmware, or internal software, is installed in your camera and how to find and download updates.


If the information you see on your camera menus and other displays isn’t the same as what you see in this book, and you’ve explored other reasons for the discrepancy, a firmware update may be the issue. This book was written using version 1.10 of the firmware, which was the most current at the time of publication. 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. (Again, changes that affect how you actually operate the camera should be minimal, if any.)

On a less technical note, the appendix also includes tables that provide brief descriptions of all commands found on the camera’s five menus.

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:


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


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


bullet 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.


bullet 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.

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

bullet Other margin art: Replicas of some of your camera’s buttons, dials, controls, and menu graphics also appear in the margins of some paragraphs. I include these to provide a quick reminder of the appearance of the button or option being discussed.

bullet 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⇒Print,” click the File menu to unfurl it and then click the Print command on the menu.

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 PictureProject, which ships free with your camera and works on both the Windows and Mac operating systems.

However, because that program doesn’t offer a good tool for processing Camera Raw (NEF) files (an advanced option covered in Chapter 3) and provides only a few photo-retouching tools, I also feature Adobe Photoshop Elements for some discussions. The version shown in the book is Elements 6.0 for Windows, but the tools covered here work mostly the same in versions 4.0 and 5.0, and for Mac as well as Windows, unless otherwise specified.

Rest assured, though, that the tools used in both PictureProject and Elements 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 Nikon 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 D40 or D40x 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 features.