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Why am I getting black photos when I use the Manual feature on my Nikon D5100?

First question on this forum, I just bought today a Nikon D7000 NEW from B&H today for stop motion photography. Problem is when I take a shot, all I get are SOLID black images. The view finder is unobstructed, and I'm able to focus manually and automatically but the images I take are all black. Even when I use the camera in DragonFrame the I get a clear live view shot, where I'm able to manipulate the image/focus etc, but the second I take the shot even in 3rd party software, I get a black image?!

  • What exposure mode are you using? M=manual, A=Aperture priority, P=program, etc. And what shutter speed and aperture are being set?
    – MikeW
    Jan 14 '13 at 0:11
  • M, the software that I'm using, DragonFrame, says I need to set my mode dial to M. dragonframe.com/cameras/nikon_d7000.html. Even on Auto my shots come out black. The funny thing now is that sometimes the flash will go on, and my shots will come out. Take this scenario. I take my first shot on M, black shot, change the dial to Auto, flash pops and I can see my photo in the gallery. Go back to M, flash goes off and my photo comes out. Turn flash off and go back to M, and guess what, I get a black shot when I'm shooting at a lit light bulb?! Jan 14 '13 at 0:37

If you are doing time-lapse or stop-motion, you will want all your exposure to match, which is why I believe DragonFrame is recommending you use M (manual mode). In manual mode, the camera will not make decisions about shutter speed and aperture, so you can "fix" the exposure by using manual mode. With all the other modes, the camera will adjust either shutter speed, aperture or ISO, or a combination of the three, to obtain a suitable exposure. Not so with manual mode, it will just use what aperture, shutter speed and ISO are set on the camera.

So in manual mode you'll need to adjust the shutter speed and aperture yourself, using the command dial on the right side of the camera. If the image is too dark, you'll need to open up the aperture (a smaller f-number, say f/2.8 or f/4) and/or decrease the shutter speed - if 1/125th is producing dark images, try 1/30th or 1/4.

You can see the aperture, ISO and shutter speed in the viewfinder. There is also an Info button that will display the same information in the LCD display.

There is a full discussion of using Manual mode here: How do I know I have the correct exposure when shooting in manual mode?

  • 1
    Ahh you're right, and here I thought I had a software problem. I thought the shutter speed was the description for the size of the image, a shutter speed too fast to capture any real light. Thank you so much, I'm just starting out on the road of digital photography! Jan 14 '13 at 1:00
  • There are some bumps and hills on the road, but its very rewarding once you learn how to handle them. Jan 14 '13 at 3:23

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