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Nikon D90 User's Guide:
Shooting (Film) Menu

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Nikon D90

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September 2008    Top of D90 Users Guide    D90 Review    More Nikon Reviews

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How to Get Here

Press MENU, click left and then up and down to select the camera (shooting) menu. You'll then see "SHOOTING MENU" on the top of the screen.

What it Sets

It sets parameters related to what film used to do. The Shooting Menu sets ISO, grain, contrast, color and a zillion other critical things that set the look of your images.

The shooting menu would make more sense if it were called the Film menu, since many other menus also affect shooting.

Many of these adjustments can be made with the D90's buttons.

What I Change

I change a lot here. This is where I make the D90 give me the wild colors I love.

Clarification and Complaints

Nikon let the people who wrote the instruction manual design the menus.

A more sensible icon would have been a piece of film since the Custom Setting Menu (pencil menu) has more to do with shooting and camera mechanical settings than the Shooting Menu does.

Don't worry about what's in what menu. It doesn't make complete sense and you'll forget where things are, but that's why there's the My Menu menu.

Set Picture Control        top

This is where you set the important things, like contrast and saturation.

Picture Controls are so critical to getting the pictures you that I have a complete page on Picture Controls.

These work the same, and give the same look, among the D3, D700, D300 and D90.

I prefer VIVID and +3 Saturation for crazy photos of things, NEUTRAL and +1 Saturation for photos of people, and STANDARD for shots in the studio when I need product colors to be accurate.

Manage Picture Control        top

This is where you save and recall Picture Control settings. I have an entire page about this at Picture Controls.

Image Quality        top

Image Quality duplicates half of the QUAL button. It chooses JPG, raw or both and the JPG compression level.

See my discussion of the QUAL button for details.

Image Size        top

Image Size duplicates the other half of the QUAL button. It chooses the JPG image size in pixels. It does not directly choose the size of the file in bytes.

See my discussion of the QUAL button for details.

White Balance        top

This duplicates the WB button, and adds even more features.

I use AUTO. See my explanations of the WB settings, my Examples of WB Settings and my page on Setting White Balance.

A huge advantage of Nikon over Canon is that we can set just about everything about WB right on the camera without needing to navigate menus. We still need these menus for some more tricks that few people will need.

Multiple Fluorescent options

Unlike tungsten lights, fluorescent lights have awful color balance, and each bulb type and brand is completely different than the next.

Once you've selected Florescent, Nikon provides seven different settings for different types of bulbs!

To select among these, just click right once you've selected Fluorescent

Hint: These types of bulbs always look awful. I never use these options since they never match the bulb anyway. If I have to shoot under them, I use the PRESET option as described at the WB button.

Green/Magenta bias

I never use this.

To add or remove a little green or magenta to your photos, simply click right once you've selected any of the WB settings in this menu. You'll get a chart on which you can adjust both green/magenta and amber/blue bias.

The D90 is awesome in that you can set different biases for each WB setting. Last I tried, a severe limitation of Canon DSLRs is that this adjustment affects every setting. IN other words, the D90 has nine different WB settings, each of which will remember its own G/M and A/B tweak, while with Canon, the one G/M and A/B setting affects them all. Worse, you have to use a menu to set any of this, while on Nikon, the far more important A/B setting is at your fingertips without menus.

Managing the Preset White Card Settings

Well hidden, you also can set the green/magenta and amber/blue bias for white-card preset WB. Since the front dial selects among the five memorized settings, you have to use the menus even to set A/B bias.

To do this in the menus, MENU > SHOOTING MENU > White balance > PRESET and click right. Select one of them, hit OK (the center of the Big Thumb Button), change the color setting, and hit OK again.

This is also the menu in which you can save, move and name your various preset white card WB settings. This is another big advantage with Nikon: I save these and call them up using only the dials for various difficult conditions, like indoor home lighting. To save and rename, select one and hit the center thumb button.

Each time you hold down the WB button in PRE, get it to blink and press the shutter, you store that value in d-0. To save it, use MENU > SHOOTING MENU > White Balance > Preset > (click right) > Select a location (d-1 through d-4) into which you want to store it, press OK (the center of the Big Thumb Button), select Copy d-0, OK. You just saved that setting into d-1, d-2, d-3 or d-4, and can call it up with the front dial when you've selected PRE with the rear dial.

You do the same thing to edit the comment (name). If you've shot a blank card, you really do need to add comments, since there's no way the little thumbnail will mean anything.

ISO sensitivity settings       top

ISO sensitivity

This duplicates the ISO button. I use ISO 200.

ISO sensitivity auto control

This is where we set the AUTO ISO feature ON or OFF. Auto ISO magically bumps up the ISO as the light gets weaker, saving you a lot of time since you no longer need to watch your lighting or shutter speeds. Set this and just shoot, from daylight to moonlight.

Auto ISO leaves the ISO alone until the shutter speed would get slower then the Minimum shutter speed set below. If the light (or your camera settings) would cause a slower speed, Auto ISO increases the ISO so the shutter speed remains at the slowest setting below.

Auto ISO keeps increasing the ISO as the light dims until it hits the Maximum sensitivity you've set, after which the shutter speed will be allowed to get longer than what you've set.

Maximum sensitivity

This is the highest ISO that AUTO ISO will use before lowering the shutter speed. ISO 3,200 looks great, so I set ISO 3,200 here.

Minimum Shutter Speed

This should be set to the slowest speed at which you won't get any subject or camera motion. I hope Nikon some day offers automatic tracking of this based on a selectable fraction of lens focal length, but for now, this is one of the settings I change as I change lenses or subjects.

I set 1/80 or 1/100 for people photos. For a 300mm telephoto lens, I might choose 1/250. For a wide angle lens for dim landscapes, I might choose 1/8.

Active D-Lighting       top

This is Nikon's mis-naming of the Automatic Dynamic Range Control.

It is a very important part of why the D90's images can look so great.

I always leave it set to its default of AUTO, which magically optimizes highlights and shadows to look great.

This is so important that I have a complete ADR page all about it.

Color Space       top

Don't touch this unless you really know what you're doing and print your own work.


sRGB is the default. It's the world standard for digital images, printing and the Internet. Use it and you'll get great, accurate colors everywhere, all the time.

Like what you see in my Gallery? That's all coming to you in sRGB. Use it and you'll automatically get great, saturated and accurate color everywhere. See Color Management is for Wimps for examples.

sRGB is specified in IEC 61966-2.1, which you may also see when examining color profiles. This gobbledygook means the same thing as sRGB.

Adobe RGB

Adobe RGB should never be used unless you really know what you're doing and do all your printing yourself on your own printer. If you use Adobe RGB you'll have to remember to convert back to sRGB for sending your prints out or sharing them on the Internet. Otherwise they look duller than sRGB!

Adobe RGB squeezes colors into a smaller range (makes them duller) before recording them to your file. Special smart software is then needed to expand the colors back to where they should be when opening the file.

If you have the right software to re-expand the colors you theoretically might have a slightly broader range of colors. However, if at any point in the chain you don't have the right software and haven't attached the Adobe RGB profile you'll get the duller colors as recorded!

Web browsers don't have, and print labs rarely have, the right software to read Adobe RGB. This is why people who shoot it are so often disappointed. Even if a place has the right software, if you forget to add the Adobe RGB profiles to your files these places still won't read them correctly and you'll get dull colors.

Adobe RGB may be able to represent a slightly larger range of colors, but no screen or print material I've used can show this broader range, so why cause yourself all the trouble? I've experimented with 100% saturated grads in these two color spaces and never seen any broader range from Adobe RGB either on my screen or on SuperGloss Light jet prints.

Worse, if you're the sort of vacuum-operating geek who wants to shoot Adobe RGB because you read about it in a magazine article, did you realize that because the colors are compressed into a smaller range that there is more chroma quantization noise when the file is opened again? Ha!

See more at Adobe RGB.

Long Exp. NR        top

This is Long Exposure Dark-Frame Subtraction Noise Reduction.


Default. Leave it here.


Don't use this.

If you do, the D90 will double the amount of time you have to wait around for longer time exposures. The D90 is so good you don't need this. Nikon only includes this because old-timers would get peeved if it was missing.

Try it for yourself and don't use it blindly.

High ISO NR (High ISO Noise Reduction)       top

This lets you control the strength of the noise reduction (smudging) applied at high ISOs.

I find the NORMal (default) position optimum.

You can set it higher, but it removes fine details and texture.

You can set it lower and get more noise.

The NORMal position gives less NR than the much softer NORMal setting of the D300.

Active Folder       top

You may create and name new folders into which the D90 stores your new photos.

I use this to keep photos of each new subject in its own folder, for easy sorting when I download them.

A first for Nikon, you now have five places, and may use letters as well as digits.

There is no easy way to crate a new folder incremented by one, as the older cameras could do.

Multiple Exposure       top

This is silly. It lets you do what we did back on film, which was silly back then, too.

D90 Multiple Exposure

Easy example: The Blinds in My Office. (5 exposures.)

This works and it's easy to use.

Unlike film, it's smart enough to compensate the exposures so they add together without overexposure.

To use it:

1.) Choose the number of shots to combine (2 - 10).

2.) Hit OK.

3.) Go up to DONE.

4.) Hit OK. It only works if you remember to scroll up and hit OK.

You'll see a tiny icon on the top right of the top LCD that looks like two rectangles mating.

Make your shots. You'll see each on the color LCD as you make it. You'll also see the mating rectangle icon on the color LCD.

You'll keep seeing the flashing mating rectangles icon on the top LCD until you complete all the exposures for which you asked in step 1.).

The D90 won't tell you how many you've made until you're done. You can cancel it in the same menu if you want. Choose RESET.

When you've made the last shot the D90 shows it as it did for the other shots for a moment, then goes off and adds them all together. After the CF light blinks a few times you'll see the composite image on the color LCD. The intermediate single images are not saved.

It works with JPGs and NEFs.

Don't turn off the automatic exposure compensation, called Auto Gain. If you do you'll get at least a stop of overexposure.

Movie Settings       top

This is easy! You only need to chose your choice of resolution, and whether or not you want sound.


My D90 User's Guide continues below.

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Back to Top of D90 User's Guide or Top of Nikon D90 Review









          a Autofocus

          b Metering/Exposure

          c Timers/AE&AF Lock

          d Shooting/Display

          e Bracketing/Flash

          f Controls




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