I like using the smaller Nikon DSLR cameras for travel photography (they are much lighter and much less threatening to the people I am pointing them at) and usually have at least one in my camera bag. The main problem is the functions you get used to performing with ease on the larger more professional camera bodies, are often hidden away in sometimes fairly confusing camera menus.
Since I am often in locations that I may not ever come back to, I like to keep shooting no matter what the time of day or lighting condition. This of course means that I often have to rely on HDR (or at least bracketing) to get a usable exposure.
Although the Nikon D5100 does have an HDR setting available under the Shooting Menu, this setting is for producing three bracketed JPEG images that in turn combine to produce one JPEG HDR image. This may be enough for some photographers, but I like more control over my HDR images and sometimes find that all I need is one of the bracketed RAW images.
I should mention that I always use the RAW image format. The main reason being that I can use any of a large number of image editing applications available, to process the images once they have been transferred to a computer. The RAW image file is in effect my original negative (or positive) and I can interpret it in a thousand ways and still not have scratched it’s surface.
One last thing I should mention is that most of the settings outlined below can be accessed either through the Camera Menus (press Menu button, to the left of the viewfinder eyepiece), or through the Information Display (press Information Display button, to the right of the viewfinder eyepiece). The initial set-up of the camera probably makes more sense using the Camera Menu, but making adjustments while shooting are easier to make using the Information Display.
Information Display (not set to correct settings for RAW Auto Exposure Bracketing, follow direction below for correct settings)
Setting up the Nikon D5100 for RAW Auto Exposure Bracketing
1. Set the Image quality to RAW – click Info button twice to change settings on the right hand side of Information Display, use the Multi Selector to choose the QUAL button, press OK button to view the options, use the Multi Selector to choose RAW and click OK button to select.
2. Set the camera mode to A (Aperture preferred Auto Exposure) – use the Mode Dial at the top right of the camera to select A (Aperture Automatic), this is the best setting for RAW HDR, because the depth of field of the image will stay the same for all three exposures, only the shutter speed will change.
3. Set Auto Bracket Style to AE bracketing – this setting will have to be made by using the Camera Menus. Select Custom Setting, then select Bracketing/flash, then select Auto bracketing set, and last select AE for Auto Exposure.
4. Set the Bracketing Increment Setting – in the Information Display select the BKT button and change from OFF to the Bracketing Increment – AE03, AE07, AE10 (1 Stop), AE13, AE17, AE20 (2 Stops), or OFF.
5. Set the Function (Fn) Button to Auto Bracketing – use Camera Menus, Custom Settings, setting the Function Button to Auto Bracketing will allow you to quickly turn on and change the Bracketing settings.
6. Adjust the Bracketing Increment setting by holding down the Function button and rotating the Controller dial. Adjustments are from 0 (no bracketing) to 2 f stops, in half stop increments.
7. Set the Release Mode to Continuous – Single frame mode can also be used, but the shutter release will have to be depressed three times to make the full bracket set.
Once you have made above settings you will always be ready to make bracketed RAW exposures. All you have to do is hold down the Function button, set the Bracketing Increment and press the Shutter Release – three bracketed exposures will be made automatically.
Time to go out and shoot some Auto Bracketed images.