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08-15-2010, 05:38 AM   #1
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New DSLR shooter

I got the k7 pentax for mother's day this year and am so clueless on how to use any of the settings. Sometimes I get a really good shot, but it's only by accident. I wish I understood what all the settings mean. I try to read the manual but it's like Greek to me. Any hnts on how to get started really maximizing this cool camera. I feel like it's just money sitting in a box. My hubby got a huge package deal on it..I'm talking lenses, tripods, filters...the whole shabang. hELP!! 2 of my kids are seniors this year and one is a middle schooler. I really want to capture some special times this year!

08-15-2010, 07:03 AM   #2
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get the book Understanding Exposure 3rd Edition Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs… im reading it right now and its amazing how easy all of this really is, Until you get a better grasp on things keep it set to automatic so at least you can get some photos of your kids! good luck!!!
08-15-2010, 07:11 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by clark1996 Quote
I got the k7 pentax for mother's day this year and am so clueless on how to use any of the settings.
ok, using an SLR 101 (with basic terminology)

when you take a photo the camera has 3 settings which adjust the amount of light coming into the camera, this is called exposure, exposure is measured in 'stops'- the correct exposure is called 0ev (exposure value), and if the image is not perfectly exposed then it is said to be underexposed (too dark) or overexposed (too light) by x number of stops, so if an image is badly underexposed it might be underexposed by 2 stops, or -2ev

the 3 things to adjust are:

sensitivity to light, known as ISO, iso 200 is not very sensitive, iso 400 is twice as sensitive, 800 is 4x as 200 and so on. But the trade off is that image quality suffers the higher the ISO, so don't go above 800 or your shots will look kinda awful (although if it's really dark then you might have to go a bit higher)

Shutter Speed
This means how long the shutter is open for. If the shutter is open for longer (slower shutter speed) then more light will enter the camera. The slower the shutter the more likely the image is to be blurry. The general rule is that whatever your zoom is set to, e.g. 55mm, then your shutter speed must be 1/that, so it would need to be 1/60, because if it was 1/30 then the image would most likely be blurry.

When shooting moving people/action you might need a faster shutter speed so that the people aren't blurred in the shot, even if the background is not blurry. Look at the LCD on top of your camera and on the left hand side you'll see 2 numbers, the top number is the shutter speed, if it says 200, then your shutter speed is 1/200, or 1 200th of a second. If it says 1", this means the shutter speed is 1 second

the shutter speeds are measured from:
30" (30 seconds) 15" 8" 4" 2" 1" 0.5" 4 (1/4- i.e a quarter of a second) 8 15 30 60 125
and so on

as you can see, the shutter speed doubles, the numbers above are full stops- i.e. going from 60 to 125 will half the amount of light coming in, and the image will be underexposed by 1 stop. Your digital camera sets the shutter speed in increments of 1/3, rather than 1, so in the days of film, you'd set shutter speed to 1/60, and then the next available shutter speed would be 1/125, which we know will let in half as much light, but now with digital you can chose 1/60, 1/80, 1/100, and 1/125, and clearly 1/80 will let in 1/3 less light than 1/60, so the image would be underexposed by 0.3ev


This sounds complicated but it's basically the size of the 'hole' in your lens which lets light through- the bigger the hole the more light it lets into your camera. The size of the hole is measured in 'f-stops', the larger the hole, the smaller the 'f stop', the smaller the hole the larger the f stop. if you look at your camera on the top LCD you'll see a number- this will be somewhere between 3.5 and 22, this is the f-stop, the smaller the number the larger the hole.

the aperture size is measured from:
f4 f5.6 f8 f11 f16 f22

but again, like with the shutter speed these are full stops apart (twice as much light, +1ev) your camera measures them in 1/3 stops, so between 5.6 and 8 you'd have 5.6, 6.1, 7.3 and 8.

If you only concern yourself with the full (1 stop) numbers, you'll have a much easier time understanding your camera

deviating from the 'correct' (programmed) exposure is done to over or under expose the image, either for creative effect, or if the camera gets it wrong, this is called adjusting the exposure, and as you now know this is measured in 'stops'.

Exposure is a triangle, the 3 settings relate to each other, so if for example the camera takes a properly exposed photo and the settings are ISO 200, a shutter speed of 1/100 and an fstop of f8. If you then increase the iso to 400, or slow the shutter speed to 1/50, or open up the aperture to f 11 then you'll over expose by 1 stop, but if you for example increased the iso to 400, but reduced the shutter speed to 1/50, and kept the aperture at f8 then the exposure would still be the same, because you've increased one variable by 1 stop but decreased another by 1 stop, so the overall exposure is still 0ev, i.e properly exposed

the best thing to do is to use the camera on 'aperture' priority mode, this allows you to set and lock the aperture with the wheel at the back and then the shutter speed is calculated automatically, this gives you a good level of automation versus control

get back to me if this is still in any way confusing

Last edited by clark; 08-15-2010 at 07:19 AM.
08-15-2010, 06:38 PM   #4
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Also, play with your camera. I've got a new K-X and I will just take it, and shoot with the manual close by. I wanted to see about stopping the flow of water in a shot. I looked in the book and nest time I had the sprinkler in the flower bed, I took some shots. If you look at the shots you take, you will see something called EXIF data. That tells you what the shutter speed, ISO, etc. is on. That way, if you get a shot that works, you know what the settings were, so you can do it again. Play with it and practice. That way you can get used to it before you want those senior years shots.

08-15-2010, 07:49 PM   #5
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Shooting your kids means that you are going to want pretty fast shutter speeds.

For learning, set your camera's custom options so that aperture and shutter speed are 1/2 stops. Also, set ISO to be set in full stops (i.e., 100, 200. 400, 800, etc). While you are still thinking about the exposure in time sensitive situations, this simpler setup will help you do things without looking.

Now if you move aperture down 2 clicks, you need to move shutter speed up 2, in order to get the same exposure. Increasing your ISO by a click (stop) gives you latitude in either a smaller aperture by 2 clicks, or shutter speed by 2 clicks. Note, however, that this will result in a different image. Experiment with different scenes, exposing for 0 on the light meter, but compensating with aperture and shutter speed. AV and SV modes do this automatically. You can learn a lot from what your camera is programmed to do.

Wider apertures (lower numbers) move light toward you. In the same exposure, you can move the emphasis of light towards the horizon by closing the aperture, and compensating by decreasing the shutter speed. Aperture is most important for depth of field (keepings more of the scene in sharp focus), but is also used to increase contrast (higher apertures/smaller openings increase contrast) and move the emphasis of light. It is easy to see this effect with any landscape.

While every aperture is useful, at the beginning, values between f3.5 and f8 should cover most territory. To get a foothold, shoot some landscapes in AV mode, and watch what increasing the aperture value does. Watch the resulting shutter speeds, and how the light moves with respect to the horizon.

The easiest way to see how aperture works is to turn on optical preview. Set your camera for "optical preview" if you have not already in the custom settings menu. Set the aperture for f8. When you pull the shutter tab over, the viewfinder should darken, and more areas should be in focus. This is why you need to compensate with a slower shutter speed. If you change the aperture, you can also see the type of depth of field to expect at different apertures.

When shooting your kids, an ISO of over 400 in SV mode should help you figure out what kinds of shutter speeds are necessary to freeze action.

NB: I'm a novice myself and I have learned a lot from the people aground me and this forum in the last year. If, in the future, you want to give yourself exposure boot-camp, buy yourself an old all-manual 50mm 1.7. There are a few to choose from, easy to find, and cheap (like $50). It takes a while to get used to, and you won't take the best pictures with it right away, but it will teach you a lot about how exposure works very quickly if you use it.

Basically, it forces you to set the aperture and shutter speed independently, will not allow for complex metering, so it teaches you abut how the camera reads light, forces you to learn how to manually focus, and gives you a lot more latitude in low light / shallow depth of field situations. It's a great lens for someone just learning, but keep your kit lens when you want the automated functions in harder situations.
08-15-2010, 08:35 PM   #6
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Some good advice already... I'll point you a couple or a few places you might find helpful..

Buy a book if you want, I won't tell you not to but in the meantime, Google is your friend and your search terms would be Camera Exposure, to start.


Here is one of the links that will give you a visual on shutter speed vs aperture.

Understanding Exposure - SimCam - Film and Digital Camera Simulator -

As you play with the settings, pay particular attention to what happens to the background. This should give you a visual on what happens when you change the aperture and how it affects the depth of the photo. You can easily pick a well lit object and set your camera the same way and follow along (M mode). That demo assumes you are not changing your ISO and the light is not changing.

For your learning journey, I would suggest the following settings.

M mode to learn how all 3, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO affect your photo.

Center point AF (pg 122 in the manual) and let the camera do the focusing for now (AF-S pg 118 in the manual)

Matrix Metering (pg 113 in the manual) for now. I prefer to use Spot metering but until you learn some things about exposure and how to control it, Spot is more likely to confuse you than help.

RAW+JPG (record menu > File Format > RAW+). This is for later when you start playing with the post processing and so you can easily recover from minor exposure errors.

Set ISO to 100 (pg 90 in the manual) and leave it there for now unless you just cannot get a good shot without raising it. Even then go up in small increments.

For now, forget about live view. Especially if you are coming from a point and shoot. Learn to use the viewfinder. There is a slider on top of the view finder. When looking through it you'll see some lines on the screen. Slide that slider until those lines are razor sharp.

I'm sure all of it will generate more questions. Never be afraid to ask.

Good luck and welcome to the club!

08-16-2010, 01:26 AM   #7
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I would suggest that you set the AF to center to start with. One thing that gets frustrating for new users is pictures that look out of focus and they are not sure why. Center point focus allows you to control what you are focusing on rather than the 11 point or 5 point that the camera will choose. Also, don't be afraid to raise the ISO in steps. Higher ISO will give you lower shutter speeds which will allow you to handle hand held shots much eaiser. Also, try the Auto Pic selection on your selector knob and see what the camera is choosing based on your scene. Look at the settings that were choosen for the pics that look good to you and you can then select the same for similar scenes when you start moving to AV, TV and M modes.

Don't let it overwhelm you. Once you start seeing the fruits of your efforts, I think you will love shooting with it.

Good Luck !

08-16-2010, 04:19 AM   #8
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What they said.

(1) Practice focusing. The biggest difference between point and shoots and SLRs is depth of field. Point and shoots have tons of it, SLRs have much less. If your focus is off, your photos will look soft or blurry. Start with them standing still and focusing on their eyes and progress from there.

(2) Use an external flash (or even the pop up flash). Often there is not enough light to get a fast enough shutter speed to freeze motion. If flash is an option in those situations, it helps a huge amount.

(3) Shoot in P (program) mode. This is a mode that lets the camera choose most of the settings for you, but also gives you the leaway to adjust them as you desire. For beginners, it works really well.

(4) Learn to look at your exif. One of the beauties of digital over film is that the camera actually records your settings and attaches them to the photo. A program like Photo me (PhotoME - Exif, IPTC & ICC Metadata Editor) will let you look at your settings and see why certain photos did work and others didn't.

(5) Learn to look at the light. Certain times of day are just not conducive to great photography. The middle of the day in particular, the light is harsh. Try to find shade or other places where the light is softer to shoot and things will improve.

Keep shooting and have fun!
08-17-2010, 12:40 PM   #9
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first of all, welcome to the forum!

I started in the "P" mode as a complete DSLR beginner, i was pretty much dedicating my attention to picture composition at this time. and to be honest, P mode did a really good job for me and no complains when I review the pix taken back in Feb and March.

for me, as a beginner, scene composition was a top priority, because most issues, if not all, could be fixed by post processing (photoshopping, sharpening, darkness, color shift, cropping etc), however, you cant fix a poor composition.

I learned and tried to apply rules of the third, and also looked at photo albums on flickr, identified pictures that i think is visually pleasing and tried to take similar pictures to what i saw.

hope this helps =)
08-17-2010, 03:17 PM   #10
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Don't know if anyone said this, or if it even exists, but I found Magic Lantern Guide to very helpful to me with my K20. It pretty much takes your owners manual and explains it in plain English with some tips here and there..
08-17-2010, 03:21 PM   #11
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Here ya go.

Magic Lantern Guide
08-17-2010, 06:20 PM   #12
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You already received some good advice. Let me share my own experience and make a suggestion.

I got my K-7 for Christmas. I tried to take a lot of pictures on Christmas and Boxing Day, and it was a disaster. My family was disappointed because they feel that the image quality (IQ) was poor. That was 110% correct.

Why? I had had my P&S for 5 years and I knew it by heart: I could get some excellent shots because I knew how to set best the camera. On the other hand, the K-7 is an advanced, semi-pro camera and there are a lot of information to learn.

So, I spent my Christmas holidays to read the K-7 instruction manual and it solves most of the problems. With experience, I found that the simplest setup that works most of the time for me is:
- P mode (dial mode)
- Center focus
- AF.S

I also spent some time to learn how to use Pentax Digital Camera Utility (PDCU). With PP uisng PDCU, I can get a better percentage of good shots (shots that I want to keep) than before.

Conclusions: (1) Read the instruction manual and experiment with the camera. (2) Learn to post-process your photos.

NB: I may add that this forum is a nice place to learn a lot of tricks. There are many helpful Pentaxians.
08-17-2010, 09:28 PM   #13
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Here's another simulator, with explanations of the basics of photography.

SLR Simulator | Simulates a digital SLR camera

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