The New Manual DSLR Project

Hi, and welcome to my blog. The Manual DSLR Project was started March 30, 2010 with the intent of devoting one year to learning how to use my Nikon D300 in manual mode. I invited you to join me as I took this journey. You celebrated with me as my fingers began to remember which wheel adjusts the shutter speed and which controls the aperture settings. I was brutally honest in sharing my mistakes.

A year passed quickly...and I achieved my goal of demystifying the manual operation of my camera.

While the Manual DSLR Project was intended to be bound by time (one year), I am eager to keep the conversation going. So look for additional posts on anything related to photography. And interact. Let me know if you are reading the blog and find it useful.

All the best...

Friday, December 31, 2010

One Step Further: Custom White Balance

My last post was about setting white balance manually. Tonight we take it one step further by discovery the wonders of custom white balance. Okay, "wonders" might be a bit much, but custom white balance on the D300 is pretty cool and easy.

The process is quite easy. But let's first talk about why you would use custom white balance.

If you are in a situation where you want your white balance to be correct in camera and you will be shooting in the same location with the same lighting situation, you may want to use custom white balance. I wouldn't use this feature for shooting an event where the lighting would change from one scene to the next. However, if I were doing a product shoot in a studio where the lighting would be the same, this might be an excellent option.

This photo has nothing to do with the post, but since this is a photo blog...
Now the process. First you hold down the WB button and turn the wheel to PRE. Then hold the WB balance down until PRE starts to flash. Then take a shot of your scene. If the lighting is adequate and the WB setting worked, you will see Gd at the bottom of your viewfinder and Good spelled out on your LCD display. Your custom white balance is now set and ready to go. What this means is that the white balance is set from a white or gray object in the original scene.

You can actually save more than one custom white balance setting and select them just as you would any preset.

Hope this helps. Have a safe and happy New Year's eve!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

White Balance - Working on Getting it Right in Camera

Today we look at white balance. Like many modern D-SLRs, the Nikon D300 provides an option to select an automatic white balance. Some people like this idea while others suggest that it is better to use a specific white balance setting for the shoot (or portion of a shoot) so that one may batch correct the white balance in post production. While it is beyond the scope of this blog to debate the pros and cons of each, I tend to go for the latter--where I select one white balance setting (as close as I can get in camera) and make necessary corrections in post. So it's time to explore the joys of white balance. My goal here is to learn how to select an appropriate white balance setting for the situation.

So how hard is that? If it's cloudy you select the little cloud...sunny and you pick the sun...

Let's take it a little farther by not only learning what preset to use, but to select the appropriate Kelvin temperature for the situation.

So where to start? I suppose it wouldn't be a bad idea to consult the camera manual (Yikes!). The manual tells us to "choose a white balance setting that matches the light source before shooting." As I understand it, the white balance setting on our digital cameras is like the filters we might have used on our film cameras. For instance, if you took a photo in fluorescent light you might use a blue filter to "filter" out the blue tint.

This one was shot with a white balance setting of 2500.
The white balance in our digital camera does the same thing. Here's an exercise to illustrate the point. I shot this first photo of Lane (under protest) at a setting of 2500 Kelvin. It appears pretty well balanced with the incandescent overhead lights, but it could use a little more warmth.

So I repeated the photo at a setting of 3500 Kelvin as shown below, which added a bit of warmth.

Could I have added the warmth in post? Sure. In reality, will I probably just adjust in post? Yep! But this project is about experimentation and learning to use the manual controls of the camera and this exercise is one step in that journey. Just like auto focus, white balance presets are great and I plan to use them. But it's good to know how to add warmth in camera.

To add a little warmth I shot this one at 3500 K.
Heck, I might ever break out some gels for my flash to adjust the color temperature. But not tonight...

Until next time...


FYI. Settings on these photos: ISO 800; f5.6; 1/5 sec.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Contributor for

Through the magic of the connections made on Twitter, I was recently offered the opportunity to become a contributor for CurrentPhotographer. Specifically, I will be writing a regular weekly post reviewing photography-related iPhone and iPad applications. My first post is a review of Pic Grunger, a really cool application that allows you to make your pics look old.

Run by professional photographer Trevor Current, CurrentPhotographer provides "information and resources to help educate and inspire the photo community to make better photos. Our topics include breaking photo industry news, tips, tools, techniques, how-tos and reviews for beginners through professionals." Check it out at

I also recently contributed to the FatPhotographer site, which is designed to link photographers worldwide. If you are going on a trip anywhere in the world and want to know (from a local) where to shoot, visit the site to find tips about where to shoot, as well as listings of photo stores, processors, professional photographers and more. I wrote the introduction to the Alabama page. If you find that your state or area has not yet been developed you may get the opportunity to contribute to the site.

Since this is a photo blog, I am including one shot from my recent trip to Louisville, KY. This was shot at a red light looking north toward 4th Street Live.

Until next time, check out my posts on and follow me on Twitter (@manualdslr)...Mike