Please Note – This e-book is for the Nikon Z9 only. This guide explains my wildlife setup and discusses the changes I make and why. However, this does not, nor is it intended to, cover every menu item and aspect of the Z9. This is a guide that specifically explains how I setup and use the Z9 for wildlife photography (stills only). Menu items and settings that don’t apply to general wildlife work are NOT covered in this publication..
Now Covers Firmware 3.0!!
Format: 425 page PDF e-book (v 1.1.2, updated on 01-06-2023. Covers Z9 firmware 3.01)
Delivery: Instant download
Are you a Nikon Z9 shooter addicted to wildlife photography? Do you feel like you can get more from your Z9 but aren’t sure how to make it happen? Do you want to learn the best possible combination of settings – and how to use them – for wildlife work? Do you want a killer set of customizations designed to send more keepers to your cards?
If so, I’m about to make your day!
In The Ultimate Nikon Z9 Setup & Shooting Guide For Wildlife Photography e-book, I’ll show you exactly how I’ve set my Z9 for my professional work as a wildlife photographer. I’ve been shooting the Z9 since it was introduced and have used it extensively in the United States, Costa Rica, and multiple locations in Africa – capturing nearly 80,000 images in total. These experiences helped me hone and optimize my Nikon Z9 setup to the point that using it is seamless, fast, and completely intuitive.
In this 385+ page guide, I’ll share every one of those settings with you.
With this guide, you’ll unlock secrets designed to squeeze every ounce of performance out of your Z9 for wildlife photography. You’ll see everything I change and set in the menu system, as well as my complete button and dial customization settings. Once you have your Z9 set properly, you can tackle any wildlife challenge that comes your way. With the setups outlined in the book, we’ll tame the intimidating menus of the Z9 and turn it into an intuitive ally that works with you to send the best possible photos to your cards.
In short, I wrote the guide I wish had when I first picked up my Z9!
However, this isn’t just a list of settings! In addition to revealing the optimal configuration for wildlife work, we’ll also cover why you should make these adjustments and, more importantly, we’ll cover detailed instructions for how to use them in the field to get the highest possible keeper rate. From autofocus to metering to customizations, this book puts the rubber to the road and gives you to tools to get the most from your Z9 when you have a wildlife target in the viewfinder.
In addition, I realize that not all of us shoot the same way or have the same priorities, so you’ll discover lots of alternative setups and ideas sprinkled in along the way. Basically, if a menu setting applies to wildlife photography – even if I don’t use it myself – we’ll discuss it so YOU can make the best decision for your setup.
We’ll also cover how to set up and optimize your programmable buttons for wildlife work. You’ll find easy to follow, step-by-step demonstrations for how to set each button and control – and you’ll discover how to best use them in the field. Every configuration is designed to help you leverage the power of the Z9 to help you crank out wall-hangers!
No technical expertise required!
The book is written in clear, easy-to-understand everyday language and not bogged down by technical terms. Each setting we adjust and each button we customize is explained in friendly, conversational language.
In addition, the book is overflowing with screenshots, illustrations, and images that guide you, step by step, through making each adjustment to your menu system – and how those changes play out in the field. .
Every step is laid out in detail and is simple to follow along. Heck, even if the Z9 is your first pro body, first mirrorless body – or both – this book will guide you through the tangle of menu and settings to help you make the best images of you life.
Of course, I also drop in tips and hints along the way to help you get that “little bit extra” out of the camera – and to help you to avoid common pitfalls.
It’s time to put an end to “field work fumbling” and get the most out of your Z9 for wildlife photography – and this book is the shortcut that’ll get you there.
Why waste another minute using less-than-ideal settings?
Worse – the Z9 is so loaded with features it’s easy to miss a hidden game-changer lurking deep in the menu system. This book unlocks everything and helps you realize the full potential of your camera.
You’d better clear some wall space – you’ll need it for all the epic wildlife shot you’re about to get after reading this guide!
What’s covered? Every setting I use for wildlife photography! Plus, quite a few settings that I don’t use but you might want to try! Here’s a quick overview of what you’ll discover in each chapter.
- Tips for formatting memory cards
- Setting time and date the easy way
- Why you should change your monitor brightness
- The killer viewfinder tip for eyeglass wearers
- The smart way to manage your viewfinder and LCD screens
- The coolest display trick ever for vertical shots
- Why you should always save your focus distance
- How to use the sensor shield
- Tips for keeping your sensor clean
- The best way to enter copyright info
- The smart way to manage camera sounds
- The quick way to silence your camera
- How to use the GPS features in the Z9
- Tips for checking battery life and health
- How to charge your Z9 with a USB cable
- Why you should save your settings
- Checking firmware
Photo Shooting Banks And Custom Settings Menu Banks
- Discover how the Shooting and Custom Settings banks work
- What banks are great for – and when to avoid them
- Learn a cool hack for resetting your baseline settings
- How to setup your banks
- How to rename and copy banks
- How to get fast access to your banks
Photo Shooting Menu Part 1
- Why you should customize your file names
- Understanding your options for card 2 (backup, overflow, RFAW / JPEG, etc.)
- Why using crop modes is handier than you think
- How to avoid a tragic DX crop mode blunder
- The best option for image quality
- De-coding the Image Size menu
- Choosing between Lossless and High Efficiency RAW
- The highest ISO you should use with the Z9
- How to use Auto ISO
- A handy ISO trick with minimum shutter speed
- Why white balance matters – even to RAW shooters
- The best way to set Picture Control for wildlife shooters
- The surprising way you should set color space
- What’s the best exposure mode for wildlife photography?
- The ONLY two exposure modes I use – and why
- The game-changing exposure mode that will revolutionize your wildlife shooting
- How Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority work against you
Photo Shooting Menu Part 2
- Choosing the best metering pattern for wildlife
- How and when to use Matrix metering
- My favorite metering mode for wildlife
- How to use spot metering
- Why everyone gets spot metering WRONG
- When to use center-weighted metering
- The key advantage with center-weighted metering
- How highlight metering works
- When to use – and not use – highlight-weighted metering
- Highlight metering dangers
- The best focus mode for wildlife shooters
- How AF-S can work against you for wildlife work
- How to pick the best AF area mode
- Why Pinpoint AF usually isn’t a good choice for wildlife
- Why single point is one of my most used AF areas
- How Dynamic AF works and when to use it
- How to choose the best Dynamic AF area size
- Why Wide AF is an autofocus rock star
- When and how to use Wide AF
- Should you use Wide or Dynamic?
- How to set the C1 and C2 Custom Wide AF area sizes
- The cool sizing shortcut for C1 and C2
- How Auto AF works and when to use it
- How 3D AF works
- When to use 3D AF and when to use Auto
- How subject detection works
- The best ways to use subject detection
- The dangers of using subject detection
- How to know when to use – and not use – subject detection
- Secrets to getting the most from subject detection
- How subject detection works with Auto AF
- How subject detection works with 3D AF
- How subject detection works with Wide AF
- Z9 IBIS (VR) basics
- How different lenses use IBIS and VR
- Why the VR menu is greyed out sometimes
- The difference between Normal and Sport VR
- How to choose the best VR mode
- What shutter speeds work best with VR
- When to shut VR off
Custom Settings Menu, Part 1
- The unexpected way you should set your AF-C Priority menu
- How Focus Tracking With Lock On really works
- A detailed explanation of when you should set tracking sensitivity high or low
- Examples for using Quick and Delayed settings
- How to use Focus Tracking With Lock On and subject detection
- How to instantly tell when Focus Tracking With Lock On is set wrong
- Clearing up how the Focus Points Used menu actually works
- The amazing trick you can do with AF modes and camera orientation
- How to automatically switch AF areas when shooting horizontal vs. vertical
- How to set up Back Button AF
- Should you still use BBAF with mirrorless?
- Why Focus Point Persistence is a game-changer
- Why limiting your selectable AF Areas is a great idea
- How to never drop into the wrong AF mode
- The key to using Focus Point Wrap Around
- The killer new feature for AF confirmation
- Should you use the AF Assist illuminator?
- Why focus peaking will change your life – and how to use it
- The fastest way to move your AF area
- Should you ever use the manual focus ring in AF mode?
Custom Settings Part 2
- Should you use Matrix Metering Face Detection for wildlife?
- How to manage the new and more complex self timer
- Discover a cool way to use the self timer for wildlife photography
- Don’t make a horrible mistake with your standby settings
- The best frame rate for wildlife photography
- How to use Pre-Release Capture to nail a photo you just missed!
- Tips for setting View Mode
- The best way to set your shutter release indicators
- How to set a Grid Type for your viewfinder – and why you don’t see it
- The amazing virtual horizons you can add to the Z9
- How to totally trick out your viewfinder and LCD displays
- Should you use the high FPS viewfinder display option?
Custom Settings Part 3
- How to customize your “i” menu
- The fastest way to navigate your “i” menu – and you’re not using it!
- The smart way to organize your “i” menu
- All the items I assign to my “i” menu and where I put them
- Why I choose the items I do for my “i” menu
- All about Recall Shooting Functions (and what I use it for)
- The button assignment that makes cycling through AF areas super-easy
- Should you use Back Button AF with the Z9?
- What AF areas I assign to which buttons – and why
- How my AF area button assignments send more keepers to my cards
- The “OK” button trick you gotta try!
- How I configure my command dials to make AF areas easier to swap
- The amazing trick that allows you to instantly recall a specific focus distance
- How to leverage focus position recall to improve your keeper rate
- The cool trick that allows you to access ANY menu item with the push of a button
- The control ring customization that’ll make your life WAY easier!
- Smart alternative setups to consider
- The supercharged way to review and find photos on your card
- The killer customization that allows you to stop pressing and turning to input settings
- Control your focus ring throw!
- Adjust your lens control ring sensitively
Playback & Network Menus
- Why the Delete menu is so powerful
- How to delete just selected photos
- How to tag photos for deletion while reviewing your images
- The quick way to delete all photos at once
- The quick way to delete old photos when you forget to format
- How to overlay a focus point on your photo
- The smart way to select only the image playback screens you want
- What each image playback screen does
- How to choose which to use and which to avoid
- Why I leave my camera in Airplane Mode all the time
- Why you should be using My Menu
- How to add or remove an item in My Menu
- How to adjust the sort order in My Menu
- Unlock the mystery of the “Choose Tab” option
- How to make the camera list all of the menus you’ve recently used
- Should you use My Menu or Recent Menu items? (And the pitfalls)
Master List Of Settings
- A table with all of the settings I adjust in the Z9
In total, we’re talking 385+ pages of info that will not only show you the best settings but also how to use them! Plus, the book is loaded with example illustrations, photos, and screen shots. Here are a few sample pages:
Finally, if you’re still on the fence, think of it this way…
So many times we spend thousands of dollars purchasing gear that we hope will help us create more powerful images. However, if you don’t know how to leverage the full capabilities of the gear, you’re not getting your money’s worth. This book is the key to unlocking the full potential of the Z9 for wildlife photography. You spent $5500 on the Z9 – isn’t it worth the price of a lunch date to get the most out of it?
Heck, even if you only discover ONE new setting, trick, or technique that helps you create an amazing image, wouldn’t it be worth it?
Check it out, you could be enjoying this new e-book in just a few minutes.
PS – I’m 100% confident you’ll love this e-book. If you’re not satisfied, let me know and I’ll give you your money back – nothing to lose by giving it a try!
John Shaw (verified owner) –
I downloaded the Z9 ebook as soon as I got the announcement of its release. You did a great job! Very thorough and well written. I read the book with my Z9 in hand and ended up changing a number of options on my camera. Your suggestions and settings make perfect sense. I thought I knew the camera pretty well, having had it since it was first released, but I learned quite a few new tweaks to make the camera more responsive to my needs. I’ve already gone through the ebook several times and see it as the essential Z9 setup reference guide. I’ve copied it to both my phone and laptop so that I’ll always have it available. My highest recommendation.
Tom Reynolds (verified owner) –
I finished the Guide.
Unlike the guides I purchased for the OM Systems OM-1, Steve’s guide not only tells WHAT something does but WHY he does or does not use the feature or why he sets it the way he recommends. Amusingly, I found Steve’s Z-9 guide more useful for setting up my OM-1 than OM-1 dedicated guides.
I would recommend that any primarily wildlife photographer who has a mirrorless camera with subject identification purchase this guide.
1-First, it is written by an experienced wildlife photographer, not a generalist. I don’t care how well my camera picks up eyes in a motorcycle race, but I do care why M+auto iso works best for wildlife.
2-The explanations of how the Z-9 works typically applies to other cameras. For example, if I set my maximum ISO too low in M+auto iso, the camera will underexpose when that limit is hit no matter what I do. Even exposure compensation won’t get the camera to go beyond that limit.
I could go on and on about what you will learn about mirrorless cameras with subject identification.
Steve’s book confirmed my impression that proper exposure affects the camera’s ability to recognize and focus on a subject. I used to not care about using exposure compensation in M +auto ISO mode because I figured I could fix exposure in post processing. However, with subject identification, this is not true.
Plus, it’s a fun read.
Disclaimer: I paid for the book and shoot an OM Systems OM-1 camera.
Peter Hartel (verified owner) –
Hi Steve, I’m in the process of assimilating your book on the Z9 and matching the menus to yours. I have been waiting for a long time to switch to the mirrorless Nikon system. I actually have a complete DSLR Nikon equipment with D810 and D850. I have also had your book for this system for a long time and use it again and again as a reference work. This year I added the Nikon Z9, first with the Z 2,8 24-70 and the adapter for the AF-S lenses. What I would like to say is that your Z9 book is the most valuable manual there and even as a German native speaker you can get so wonderfully tipps. But for me you are just a brilliant photographer and teacher, your pictures always fascinate me and inspire myself to do something new. Keep it up, it’s just fun to read your postings or to see a video, greetings from Germany.
johnehrenfeldphotography (verified owner) –
Steve, I make my living as a professional nature photographer leading workshops, etc., and predominantly use the Z9 and 800mm PF. I want to say that your ‘Nikon AF System’ and now the ‘Nikon Z9 Wildlife Photography Setup Guide’ are beyond extraordinary.
There is no question in my mind that the Z9 is a complex, pro-pro level camera with numerous and stellar capabilities. If you don’t know the camera inside and out and set it up to perform as you want it to; a photographer will be at a severe disadvantage. You cover it all in a clear, concise, comprehensive manner. You have helped me immeasurably to advance my capabilities and there is no question that you are the gold standard in the online photography and manual arena.
William Holland (verified owner) –
This Guide is a must read for someone like me–amateur photographer and first leap into mirrorless. Yes, I jumped into the deep end, but I wanted the best camera available. I think I have that in the Z9. A Back Country subscriber recommended this e-book. I was reluctant because I’m not that big on reading and I was afraid it might be like the Z9 Owners Manual! However, I just finished reading “The Ultimate Nikon Z9 Setup And Shooting Guide For Wildlife Photography” and it is without a doubt the best $28.97 I’ve ever spent.
I’ve already implemented many of Steve’s suggestions with incredible success. Just yesterday I was practicing “birds-in-flight” on a very sunny morning and I used: f8, 1/2000, 5800K, auto ISO, wide area-L, subject detection enabled (animal) on an approaching White Egret. As the bird got closer, I depressed Fn1 (to engage 3D tracking) and fired away. The Egret was initially above the tree line, but when it dropped below, the 3D tracking held onto its eye. I continued shooting until it lit in a nearby tree with the frog it had in its beak. I took over 100 images and ALL were tack sharp!
I’m about the read the book again because I know I missed a several points. This is an easy read of a complicated camera! Thanks Steve for your thorough presentation. I’d give it 10 stars if that were an option!!
Bryan Leist (verified owner) –
I’ve been a Nikon shooter for about 12 years and have had several different DSLR models over that time. While I’m comfortable setting up a new system, part of my reason for buying the Z9 was its much-touted focusing capabilities so when I saw the availability of the Z9 Setup & Shooting Guide, it was an easy decision to purchase it. I’m glad I did!
If you’re new to the Z9 you’ll not find a quicker way to understanding how to get the most out of this impressive machine and at a little over $28, it’s tough to find more value. I read it from cover to cover and feel like my Z9 is customized to my shooting style, and not only do I have a good understanding of the various capabilities of the camera, but I have an explanation for their practical use in the field.
Thank you, Steve, for putting this together!
John Avera (verified owner) –
If you have purchased a Nikon Z9 you need this book. It is very well written and extremely comprehensive. Steve has written this in an easy to understand format as usual. This is an essential reference guide that you will refer back to often. If you spent the money for the camera you need to spend the $28.00 for the book. It is a no brainer. Thank you Steve for writing this guide!
activert.org (verified owner) –
Thank you for this amazing guide. For me your guide gives the best set up for the Z9 on the market. While I was waiting for your guide to be ready, I went through different sets up from different photographers and for wildlife, I felt their guide did not meet my expectation and it did not represent my way of doing things.
And here is your guide, I went through it in .the last few days: so easy to read and everything is represented in simple way to understand. I felt your set up is what I need to get the best of my Z9 that I love. Now. My camera is set up in a way that as you said give me the chance to get the best of it. I used it yesterday to shoot birds and I love the way that the camera respond and most of my shots were just beautiful. Thank you again!
Mark Hadley (verified owner) –
Hello Mr. Perry!
I have just completed your E book, and wanted to thank you.
For a person like me, who came to mirrorless from the Nikon D500 ( a camera I still use, and love) you have helped make the transition exponentially easier, with your down to earth explanations of the hows and why’s of the Z9.
I am positive that I, after reading this guide, will have saved myself from thousands of garbage clicks, by reviewing your set ups, and why they work for you.
( I have followed your advice on the D500, and you helped me there also)
I will be referring back to your guide, as I refine my camera settings to my liking, and just felt that I needed to reach out, to offer you my congratulations on a job well done, and of course my support to you.
Thank you again!
Mo Amir (verified owner) –
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed reading your Z9 Setup Guide. I sincerely loved your writing style and felt like you were talking directly to me the entire time. Although I’ve purchased and read couple of Z9 guides, your version was the most informative and enjoyable. Looking forward to implementing some of your recommendations and enjoying my Z9 even more.
ROBERT L OZIBKO (verified owner) –
I am almost done reading your book :The Ultimate Nikon Z9 Setup & Shooting Guide For Wildlife Photography. ANOTHER MASTERPIECE! The Z9 is an out of this world camera but it is extremely versatile to say the least and therefore a bit cumbersome to understand all its menus together with its variations. It would have taken me months to master its intended use. Your book makes it so easy to set up and understand. I have all your books and frankly they are the best bargains on the photography market today. Thank you for your dedication and brilliant performance to make us photographers understand all the intricacies of today’s cameras. KEEP ON WRITING!
DaleK (verified owner) –
Z9 Nikon 3.0 upgrade ia full of all sorts of great information. Lots to learn and decide what is best for me. Then, magically, the Nikon Jedi published the Z9 updates in an electronic format with lots of tips and clarifications. Great Job, I am a very happy Z9er.
Fred (verified owner) –
Purchased this guide earlier today, Steve, and wanted to thank you for providing such a detailed, easy to understand book. In less than 30 minutes of reading I learned more about how to set up my Z9 than I had up to this point. Can’t wait to keep digging in to your guide to fully prepare me for my wildlife outings. Thanks again – great book! Fred A.
Dean Newman (verified owner) –
I’ve just finished reading the updated The Ultimate Nikon Z9 Setup Guide and, in short, “Bravo”! Specifically, your non-technical jargon and gift of making complex technology seem simple gave me great confidence attacking my first mirrorless camera. Your examples of how each setting discussed affects field use were constant “epiphanies”. It’s amazing just how much photography changed from DLSR to mirrorless.
Thanks so much for the great value of the book. I could have spent many times more money and invested huge amounts of hours and MIGHT have come to the point of understanding the Z9 where your book brought me. It, literally, was the best money I’ve spent!
Edèle Roust (verified owner) –
Perfect book for setting up your Z9! I set up settings for my Z9 myself, but it felt like I was being held back so I got this book, reset my camera’s settings and followed the guide. Not only is it super informative, but it’s written in a way that it’s also entertaining to read. I am still getting used to the controls, but so far it’s way more intuitive than the controls I originally set up.
nbhalla813 (verified owner) –
I have just downloaded this ebook a couple of days ago. For the most part I have been a landscape and people photographer. I have now turned my eye towards wildlife photography and as I was scanning for words of wisdom/advice, I came across this site. I have never read a photography book from cover to cover, going all the way back to film days and dark room development. But this one has me tethered. With my Z9 in hand and a passion to perfect my skills in this new genre, I have found the book to be pragmatic and insightful reading. I am on page 274 and going strong. Not only does Steve offer valuable setups, but he offers pragmatic rationale and/or examples to make the decisions on the settings. This is highly valuable to someone like me who is advancing his skillset from what I know well, to something that will elevate my photography, even if it is shooting the country wildlife in my backyard for the time being. And yes, I also purchased the BIF book. I am reading that in parallel (page 35 currently) – that review forthcoming!
judy malloch (verified owner) –
Hi Steve I just wanted to drop you a note and tell you that it was the best read ever on The Nikon Z9. Your explanations and the way your book was set up could not be better. So easy to understand and also so easy to follow. Great Job !!!! I think you are the BEST !!
All the best Judy Lynn Malloch
David Shaw (verified owner) –
I am a keen amateur but by no means an accomplished photographer. I have been using Nikons for some time and when moving up to a mirrorless decided that I might as well buy the best with the aim of growing into it, but such a sophisticated and highly featured camera was a bit daunting. Although the user manual is a good reference book it is hardly an engaging guide and doesn’t relate specifically to wildlife. I have now been studying and re-reading Ultimate for several months and find it invaluable. I appreciate the precision and clarity of the instructions and love the author’s casual and humorous side comments. Screenshots and other illustrations are spot on. I now carry this everywhere on my smartphone and other devices, which means it is always there, eg when traveling or out shooting. However, I do wish there was also a hardback version to browse in my armchair while relaxing in the evenings.
Terry (verified owner) –
I appreciate your writing style and the organization of the book. When a topic is approached you almost always go completely from start to finish. There may be one or two areas where you said see such and such, but I think those had been covered previously. Well organized, including the guide in the first chapter indicating what topics, buttons, settings will be covered and the page numbers for the topic. I really liked the last chapter where you listed all of the settings and the control buttons that you had set. I was going to make a list of the setting and then opened the last section. Wonderful.
Going through the Z9 guide has given me a better understanding of the capabilities of this camera than any other guide for other cameras I have owned. I think I can use the settings with the other cameras I own.
Well worth the purchase price.
Thanks for your work.
Stan Rife (verified owner) –
This book is worth every penny!
Craig Rearich (verified owner) –
Thank you for writing this book. Ithas helped me significantly jump the curve associated between DSLR and The Z9.
As, I read it I could here your voice LOL Such a well written and easy to understand format with plenty of examples.
Thank you again!