Rodney Campbell's Blog

My Nikon D90 Settings…

by on Feb.05, 2010, under Life, Photography

I’ve been happily shooting thousands of photos with my Nikon D90 D-SLR for just over two months now.

Since I’m a compulsive researcher and ADD list maker I’ve done extensive research on all those little settings which are available in camera and I figured I might just share the result of my detailed study and how I’ve setup my D90 for daily use (basically all my default settings).

Firstly I should say that I primarily shoot in Aperture priority mode – basically because I like to be able to control my depth of field (or rather the lack of it) – possibly because I’m mostly taking shots of people, portraits or things.

On the whole RAW vs JPEG debate:

  • I initially started with RAW+JPEG
  • I found that when I shot in RAW+JPEG I really much preferred the look of the out of camera JPEGs when compared to the RAWs – basically because the RAWs were unprocessed and they looked flat and dull
  • I switched to just JPEG (Large/Fine) because I really didn’t want to bother with the hassle of post processing my images – I basically just wanted to get them right straight out of the camera (which I still basically do)
  • Once I figured out I could setup Lightroom to import both the RAWs and JPEGs as side by side images (Preference: Treat JPEG files next to RAW files as separate photos) I switched back to RAW+JPEG for a while and could really see the difference between the RAWs and camera processed JPEGs
  • I finally figured out how to use Lightroom properly to automatically apply the Nikon Standard Camera Calibration profile to the RAWs on image import I’m basically happy again so I’ve now switched to shooting RAW only
  • I believe if you really want your RAW’s to look just like your out of camera JPEGs the only option you have is to use Nikons Capture NX2 software – but since that really isn’t in my workflow and I mentioned I kinda don’t want to really bother with any convoluted post processing this fell by the wayside for me

So now I basically just import all the RAWs straight into Lightroom and about the only post processing I do to some of my favourite images is see if any of the other profiled white balances look better and sometimes I might crop the image and finally I might click Auto Tone to see if I like that better.

So on to the D90 camera settings I use…

Playback Menu:
Display mode: Highlights

Shooting Menu:
Custom Picture Control: Standard+Sharp5 < -- this only applies when I shot JPEG anyway - which I basically don't do anymore Image Quality: Fine RAW (RAW+JPEG Fine) ISO: ISO 200, Auto ISO, Max 3200, Min Shutter 1/30 (1/60) Active D-Lighting: Off (Auto) High ISO NR: Norm (Off?) Movie Settings: 720p Custom Settings Menu: a1 AF Area Mode: Auto (default) (, Single Point (control with thumb pad), 3D Tracking (sports)) a5 Focus point wrap around: On a7 Live View Autofocus: Face Priority c1 Shutter Release Exposure Locking: Off (default) c2 Meter Off Delay: 8s c3 Self Timer Delay Setting: 2s c4 Monitor Off Delay: 20s, 1m, 20s, 10s d1 Beep: Off d3 ISO Display: ISO d6 CL Mode Shooting Speed: 3 fps (default) d7 File Number Sequence: On e1 Flash Shutter Speed: 1/30s e2 Flash cntrl for built-in flash: Commander mode: TTL < -- I only did this since I purchased my SB-600 flash which supports wireless mode e5 Auto FP: On f1 Illumination Switch: Both f3 Assign FUNC Button: Top Item in My Menu f4 Assign AE-L/AF-L: AE Lock (Hold) f7 Reverse the Manual Metering Bar: -O+ Setup Menu: Image Comment: ... Setup MyMenu: a1 AF-area mode e2 Flash cntrl for built-in flash Active D-Lighting ISO sensitivity auto control ISO sensitivity e4 Auto bracketing set Battery info Set Picture Control

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15 Comments for this entry

  • John Burton

    Hi Rodney,

    Love your blog! I’ve got a D90 and I’m trying to figure out a way to make the unprocessed NEF’s look like the JPEG’s but I don’t have Lightroom. I’ve got the adobe web premium suite which, photographically, has Photoshop CS4 extended and Bridge. I suppose I could buy Lightroom or the Nikon Capture NX2 software but I don’t want to blow that much cash on this. Any ideas as to how I could accomplish the same result?


    John Burton

  • Rodney.Campbell

    Hi John,

    Lightroom I believe essentially uses ACR (Adobe Camera Raw) to do the RAW (NEF) processing which is what PS4/Bridge use so in theory if you can control either what happens in ACR on import and are able to define a post import step which automatically applies to all imported images with some sort of profile (basically the equivalent of the camera calibration profiles being applied by Lightroom on import). NB: This auto adjustment on import that I’m doing in Lightroom is processing the NEFs – it just applies a global processing adjustment to all the NEFs on import.

    Note that what I do in Lightroom with these prebuilt and supplied by Adobe profiles on import only makes the images look ‘more like’ the JPEGs if the D90 is set to one of the standard Picture Controls (like Standard, Neutral, Vivid, etc). If you go in and make other adjustments or create your own in camera controls then the JPEGs will still look very different to the NEFs on import.


  • John Burton

    Hi Rodney,

    I think I figured out the solution without buying Lightroom (nothing against it, just probably not in my budget considering the huge amounts I’ve spent on lenses and accessories lately.) I downloaded the DNG Profile Editor. When in Bridge, this allows me to select “Camera Calibration,” which then gives me the option of choosing “Landscape, Neutral, Standard, Vivid, etc.

    When I compared the results of these selections to the actual JPEG’s they looked similar, but not quite the same. I didn’t spend a lot of time analyzing the differences as the results were close enough to be acceptable and I’m much happier having the freedom to shoot NEF’s only and of working in ACR. . .


    John Burton

  • Jaqueline @ Nikon Warehouse

    Hi there, just wandered by. I have a Nikon website. Amazing the amount of information on the web. Not quite what I was looking for, but good site. Take care.

  • Barkatullah

    Hi Rodney,

    Two days ago i brough D90 but do not know how to operate it, please will you teach me basic of dslr camera, i would be really greatfull to you sir..


  • Morgan Young

    “I finally figured out how to use Lightroom properly to automatically apply the Nikon Standard Camera Calibration profile to the RAWs”

    How did you do this? Great post!

  • Anthony

    Hello Thanks im going to try to your setup tips,I am a fairley new photographer. well i was shooting for 4 years woth the D200 got talked into the D90 by stor rep should of went with my gut there. I decided to go to school do to the people asking me to shoot there weddings but i could not take money withought any proper schooling .any way im still shooting witm my D200 cus the d90 idk if something is wrong or what but when loaded into lighteoom so much grain I cant sell grainy pics to a new couple ive refunded 2 weddings and gave them the grainy pics and went back to the D200 . Im now waiting for the D700 to come out so I can get the D700 for a good price.
    But Thanks for your blog it’s nice of you!!!

  • Rodney.Campbell

    I suspect you might have AutoISO turned on – check the ISO of the images you’ve shot (on both the D200 and D90) to check (see if you’re shooting at ISO 3200 or 6400 or something like that). If so turn off AutoISO or limit the max ISO it will use.

  • Mahesh

    I suspect you might have AutoISO turned on – check the ISO of the images you’ve shot (on both the D200 and D90) to check (see if you’re shooting at ISO 3200 or 6400 or something like that). If so turn off AutoISO or limit the max ISO it will use.

  • Eric

    3D Tracking is not for sports and due to the amount of processing that takes places it will likely cause you to lose more photos than any other mode. Even Nikon suggests using it only for recomposing shots and that AF-C is for sports.

  • Kim

    I am so new to this, need to read the owner’s manual.

    Quick question. Where do I go to change my pics to a smaller Setting. I have filled my hard Urive(whQt was left of it) in 2 months.

  • joe camz

    “I finally figured out how to use Lightroom properly to automatically apply the Nikon Standard Camera Calibration profile to the RAWs”

    How did you do this? Great post!

    i had the same question, how did you do this in lightroom?

  • Brent

    Great article. Thanks for sharing it with your fellow D90 owners.

    How many of you use LCD based laptops (older Macbooks, for example) exclusively for working on your pics? As I have learned, laptop LCDs aren’t the most accurate for editing pics as their color shifts over time. However, a full sized desktop LCD or LED monitor is much more reliable and retains its setting for longer periods of time, typically speaking. One thing to note, though, is without the use of a monitor calibrator (such as the Spyder 4 Pro) you might not be seeing what you think you are. Do a test print to a local lab (Costco, etc.) and you will likely notice a discrepancy between what you see on screen and what you printed. Of course, if you print in your home, you’ll want to get a printer profiler as well.

    I shoot RAW exclusively, and have so going back to my D70 days.

    My next big purchase might be a faster zoom lens — the Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 because the 70-200 VR I or VR II f/2.8 are just too expensive. I am through with buying third party lenses as one is not 100% guaranteed they will work with Nikon body. Buy Nikon.

    However, if I can get a D7000, excellent low light capability (at least 1 stop more than the D90) I could continue to use my Nikkor 70-300 VR f/4.5-5.6 but just boost the ISO to 1600 or 3200. To me, anything above ISO800 isn’t usable.

  • Stehno

    Wonderful camera to take excellent photos. I really like the size of the LCD Review Screen

  • Boley

    I used to be a novice in the event it came to DSLRs. I will be so happy with this camera, it is extremely easy to use.

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