Nikon® D5100™ For Dummies®

Table of Contents

A Quick Look at What’s Ahead
Icons and Other Stuff to Note
eCheat Sheet
Practice, Be Patient, and Have Fun!
Part I: Fast Track to Super Snaps
Chapter 1: Getting the Lay of the Land
Using the Articulating Monitor
Adjusting the Viewfinder to Your Eyesight
Looking at Lenses
Attaching and removing lenses
Choosing a focusing method (auto or manual)
Zooming in and out
Using a VR (Vibration Reduction) lens
Working with Memory Cards
Exploring External Camera Controls
Topside controls
Back-of-the-body controls
Front-left buttons
Hidden connections
Ordering from Camera Menus
Monitoring Shooting Settings
Using the Quick Settings Screen
Taking a Few Critical Setup Steps
Setup menu options
Custom Setting options
Restoring Default Settings
Chapter 2: Choosing Basic Picture Settings
Choosing an Exposure Mode
Choosing the Release Mode
Single Frame and Quiet Shutter Release modes
Continuous (burst mode) shooting
Self-timer shooting
Wireless remote-control modes
Investigating other shutter-release options
Choosing the Right Quality Settings
Diagnosing quality problems
Considering image size: How many pixels are enough?
Understanding Image Quality options (JPEG or Raw)
My take: Choose JPEG Fine or Raw (NEF)
Setting Image Size and Quality
Chapter 3: Taking Great Pictures, Automatically
Setting Up for Automatic Success
As Easy As It Gets: Auto and Auto Flash Off
Taking Advantage of Scene Modes
Choosing a Scene mode
Checking out the Scene modes
Chapter 4: Exploring Live View Photography and Movie Making
Using Your Monitor as a Viewfinder
Live View safety tips
Customizing the Live View display
Focusing in Live View Mode
Choosing the right focusing pairs
Autofocusing in Live View and Movie mode
Manual focusing for Live View and movie photography
Shooting Still Pictures in Live View Mode
Shooting Digital Movies
Choosing the video type and quality
Reviewing other movie settings
Starting and stopping recording
Screening Your Movies
Trimming movies
Saving a movie frame as a still image
Part II: Working with Picture Files
Chapter 5: Playback Mode: Viewing, Erasing, and Protecting Photos
Customizing Basic Playback Options
Adjusting playback timing
Adjusting and disabling instant image review
Enabling automatic picture rotation
Viewing Images in Playback Mode
Viewing multiple images at a time (thumbnails view)
Displaying photos in Calendar view
Choosing which images to view
Zooming in for a closer view
Viewing Picture Data
File Information mode
Highlights display mode
RGB Histogram mode
Shooting Data display mode
GPS Data mode
Overview Data mode
Deleting Photos
Deleting images one at a time
Deleting all photos
Deleting a batch of selected photos
Protecting Photos
Creating a Digital Slide Show
Viewing Your Photos on a Television
Chapter 6: Downloading, Printing, and Sharing Your Photos
Choosing the Right Photo Software
Three free photo programs
Advanced photo programs
Sending Pictures to the Computer
Connecting the camera and computer for picture download
Starting the transfer process
Downloading photos with Nikon ViewNX 2
Processing Raw (NEF) Files
Processing Raw images in the camera
Processing Raw files in ViewNX 2
Planning for Perfect Prints
Check the pixel count before you print
Allow for different print proportions
Get print and monitor colors in sync
Preparing Pictures for E-Mail and Online Sharing
Resizing photos in ViewNX 2
Resizing pictures from the Retouch menu
Part III: Taking Creative Control
Chapter 7: 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 (And Adjusting) the Meter
Setting Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO
Adjusting aperture and shutter speed
Controlling ISO
Choosing an Exposure Metering Mode
Sorting Through Your Camera’s Exposure-Correction Tools
Applying Exposure Compensation
Using autoexposure lock
Expanding tonal range
Investigating Advanced Flash Options
Choosing the right Flash mode
Adjusting flash output
Controlling flash output manually
Bracketing Exposures
Chapter 8: Manipulating Focus and Color
Mastering the Autofocus System
Reviewing autofocus basics
Understanding the AF-Area mode setting
Changing the Focus mode setting
Choosing the right autofocus combo
Using autofocus lock
Focusing Manually
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 versus Adobe RGB
Taking a Quick Look at Picture Controls
Chapter 9: Putting It All Together
Recapping Basic Picture Settings
Shooting Still Portraits
Capturing action
Capturing scenic vistas
Capturing dynamic close-ups
Part IV: The Part of Tens
Chapter 10: Ten Fun (And Practical) Ways to Manipulate Your Photos
Applying the Retouch Menu Filters
Removing Red-Eye
Straightening Tilting Horizon Lines
Removing (Or Creating) Lens Distortion
Correcting Perspective
Cropping (Trimming) Your Photo
Manipulating Exposure and Color
Creating Monochrome Images
Playing with Special Effects
Retouch menu special-effects filters
Shooting in Effects mode
Two Roads to a Multi-Image Exposure
Chapter 11: Ten Special-Purpose Features to Explore on a Rainy Day
Changing the Look of the Shooting Information Display
Keeping the Shooting Information Display Hidden
Cleaning the Image Sensor
Annotate Your Images
Creating Your Own Menu
Creating Custom Image Folders
Assigning a Duty to the Function Button
Changing the Function of the AE-L/AF-L Button
Using the Shutter Button to Lock Exposure and Focus
Reversing the Command Dial Orientation

Nikon® D5100™ 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 For Dummies guides to popular Nikon, Canon, and Olympus cameras. 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.

An Ohio native and graduate of Purdue University, she now resides in West Palm Beach, Florida, and does not miss Midwestern winters even a little bit (although she very much misses friends who have not yet made the journey south).

Author’s Acknowledgments

I am deeply grateful for the chance to work once again with the wonderful publishing team at John Wiley and Sons. Kim Darosett, Jennifer Webb, Steve Hayes, Jen Riggs, and Katie Crocker are just some of the talented editors and designers who helped make this book possible. And finally, 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: Jennifer Riggs

Technical Editor: David Hall

Editorial Manager: Leah Cameron

Editorial Assistant: Amanda Graham

Sr. Editorial Assistant: Cherie Case

Cover Photo: © / Rosemarie Gearhart

Cartoons: Rich Tennant (

Composition Services

Project Coordinator: Katie Crocker

Layout and Graphics: Claudia Bell, Carl Byers, Samantha K. Cherolis, Corrie Socolovitch

Proofreaders: Jessica Kramer, Susan Moritz, Linda Seifert

Indexer: Potomac Indexing, LLC

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

Debbie Stailey, Director of Composition Services


Nikon. The name has been associated with top-flight photography equipment for generations. And the introduction of the D5100 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 D5100 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 D5100 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.

Here’s a brief preview of what you can find in each part of the book:

check.png Part I: Fast Track to Super Snaps: Part I contains four chapters to help you get up and running. Chapter 1 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. Chapter 2 explains basic picture-taking options, such as shutter-release mode and Image Quality settings, and Chapter 3 shows you how to use the camera’s fully automatic exposure modes. Chapter 4 explains the ins and outs of using Live View, the feature that lets you compose pictures on the monitor, and also covers movie recording.

check.png Part II: Working with Picture Files: This part offers two chapters, both dedicated to after-the-shot topics. Chapter 5 explains how to review your pictures on the camera monitor, delete unwanted images, and protect your favorites from accidental erasure. Chapter 6 offers a look at some photo software options — including Nikon ViewNX 2, which ships free with your camera — and then guides you through the process of downloading pictures to your computer and preparing them for printing and online sharing.

check.png Part III: Taking Creative Control: Chapters in this part help you unleash the full creative power of your camera by moving into the advanced shooting modes (P, S, A, and M). Chapter 7 covers the critical topic of exposure, and Chapter 8 explains how to manipulate focus and color. Chapter 9 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 portraits, action shots, landscape scenes, and close-ups.

check.png 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 covers the photo-editing and effects tools found on the camera’s Retouch menu and also shows you how to use the Effects exposure mode to add special effects to movies and photos as you record them. Chapter 11 wraps up the book by detailing some camera features that, although not found on most “Top Ten Reasons I Bought My Nikon D5100” 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. Tips also point out techniques that help you get the best results from specific camera features.

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. In other words, this is stuff that you really don’t want to learn the hard way.

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.

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

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

check.png 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 FileConvert Files,” click the File menu to unfurl it and then click the Convert Files command on the menu.

check.png Camera firmware: Firmware is the internal software that controls many of your camera’s operations. The D5100 firmware consists of three parts, called A and B and L. At the time this book was written, both A and B were version 1.00, and L was version 1.003.

Occasionally, Nikon releases firmware updates, and it’s a good idea to check out the Nikon website ( 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.

eCheat Sheet

As a little added bonus, you can find an electronic version of the famous For Dummies Cheat Sheet at The Cheat Sheet contains a quick-reference guide to all the buttons, dials, switches, and exposure modes on your D5100. Log on, print it out, and tuck it in your camera bag for times when you don’t want to carry this book with you.

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 D5100 is the perfect partner for your photographic journey, and I thank you for allowing me, through this book, to serve as your tour guide.

Please note that some special symbols used in this eBook may not display properly on all eReader devices. If you have trouble determining any symbol, please call Wiley Product Technical Support at 800-762-2974. Outside of the United States, please call 317-572-3993. You can also contact Wiley Product Technical Support at

Part I

Fast Track to Super Snaps


In this part . . .

Making sense of all the controls on your D5100 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 other controls. 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 Live View and movie-making features.