Canon EOS starter guide
Got all the Canon gear but no idea how to make the most of it? Sure, you can stick to Auto mode most of the time, but that’s like buying a new car and never getting out of second gear. So turbocharge your photography with our guide to using your Canon D-SLR!
1. Zoom for improvement
Your lens isn’t just there to save your shoe leather, it’s a powerful tool for creating pictures that really stand out
Think of your zoom lens as a cropping tool. Use it to cut out distractions in the background or foreground, so that your composition concentrates on the main subject. Cutting down to the bare essentials is a great way to make your pictures simpler – and therefore stronger.
Note that most EOS cameras only show you around 95% of the image area through the viewfinder, so your sensor will record slightly more than you see. Don’t just use your zoom lens to save you getting closer to or further away from your subject. Your shooting distance has a strong visual effect, so try changing your camera position, as well as the zoom, as a way of making your shots look different.
The distance that you shoot your subject from affects the perspective of the picture, and changes how close things at different distances appear to each other. So, a head-and-shoulder portrait shot with the widest setting on your zoom will look different to one shot with a telephoto setting – because you would have to shoot the two shots at different distances. Using your zoom in conjunction with camera distance you can change how the background appears. Getting closer or further away will often make a distracting background less of an issue – or make it more photogenic.
The longer the lens you use, the further away you can stand, and this means that elements in the frame appear to be squeezed together. This ‘foreshortening’ effect is a great way to pair or contrast two subjects in the same picture.
Similarly, the more wide-angle the lens, the closer you get to the visible foreground. Foreground objects appear larger in the frame, and distant objects are less prominent.
When using a wide lens setting it’s important to find a strong foreground interest to maximise this effect – and to avoid ‘empty’ space. The wider the range of lens settings you have, the greater these perspective effects become. Add an ultra-wide zoom and a telephoto zoom to your kit bag, and you’ll end up with a more varied range of pictures.
2. Control your speed
The shutter speed you use doesn’t just affect exposure, it helps to ensure your shots are shake-free and sharp
If you want to get creative with your Canon, you must take charge of the aperture and shutter speed. These are the two main controls that the EOS uses to govern how much light reaches the sensor and thereby create the exposure.
The shutter speed and aperture are displayed on your EOS’s LCD panel and in the viewfinder. Learn to look at these so you know the settings you’re using. You can also check the settings after you’ve pressed the trigger (use the Info button as you play back to see this displayed alongside the image).
To take control, we’d recommend choosing the P or Av mode, then using the thumbwheel to shunt the settings until you get the shutter speed (or aperture) you want for the shot.
The first thing you should do is make sure that the static parts of your scene look sharp. If you use a tripod, you can pick whatever speed you like and non-moving subjects should be sharp. But if you’re shooting handheld you need a shutter speed that’s fast enough to counteract the movement of the camera and your arms.
The shutter speed required will depend on the lens you use and the zoom setting you’ve selected. The more you zoom in, the faster your shutter speed needs to be. As a rough rule, with a zoom setting of 18mm or wider, try to use a shutter speed of 1/30 sec (displayed as 30 in the viewfinder) or faster.
With a focal length of 55mm, go for 1/90 sec or faster. With a 100mm telephoto, use a shutter speed of 1/160 sec or faster, and if you zoom out to 300mm, go for at least 1/500 sec. If you can’t get a fast enough shutter speed, don’t panic. Increase the ISO setting, which will increase the sensor sensitivity, enabling you to get shorter exposures. Some EOS cameras have a dedicated ISO button, but with others you have to delve into the main menu to make the change.
Shutter speed selection becomes even more important if there’s anything moving in the picture. It’s not just sports pictures we’re talking about, you don’t have a free decision with landscapes or portraits, even with a tripod, because trees blow in the wind and people can’t keep still.
The shutter speed you need to capture something sharply, without blur, doesn’t just depend on the speed it’s going. It also depends on how large the subject appears in the viewfinder, and whether it’s travelling towards or past you. It’s the speed your subject moves across the sensor that counts. A totally sharp picture isn’t always what you want. You can use longer speeds to create moving subjects with blurred edges, or streaks of light. These ‘artistic blur’ shots, using shutter speeds that may take seconds, work best if the camera is anchored (to a tripod,
for example), so that some areas of the shot stay sharp.
3. Focus on the subject
Use the Aperture Priority (Av) setting to control which parts of your picture are sharp and which are intentionally blurred
As mentioned, the aperture is a hole in the lens that can be varied in size to dictate how much light reaches the sensor. But the size of the aperture you choose isn’t just something that’s used to change exposure – it’s also a powerful creative control in its own right.
A lens can only focus on one plane at a time. So, if you focus the lens at 5 metres, everything that’s 5 metres away is perfectly sharp. However, there are always points in front of and behind this that also appear sharp in the picture. The range of distances from the camera that appear completely sharp is known as the ‘depth of field’.
The amount of depth of field you have in your picture may stretch for miles, or may be limited to a few millimetres.
There are three factors that dictate just how much depth of field you have: the aperture size; the zoom setting (or focal length) that you’re using; and how far the subject is from you (the focused distance).
Now that’s deep…
The wider the zoom setting you use, the more depth of field you get. The further away the subject you’re focused on, the more depth of field you get. The narrower the aperture, the more that’s in focus. Once you’ve composed the shot, of course, it’s only the aperture that you can alter – and this is why it’s the most important tool for depth of field.
To get as much of the image as possible sharp, set a small aperture. Confusingly, smaller apertures have larger numbers, so f/11 (indicated simply as 11 in the viewfinder) is smaller than f/5.6. To help you remember this, it may be useful to think of f/4 as a quarter and f/16 as a sixteenth.
As with shutter speed, choose Av or P mode so that you can use the thumbwheel to alter the aperture. If you want everything to be sharp in your shot (such as a landscape), use the smallest aperture that your lens offers (often f/22 or f/32) and a wide lens setting. If necessary, increase the ISO so you can get the aperture you want without using a shutter speed that risks shake.
To intentionally blur backgrounds or foregrounds, use the widest aperture (between f/2.8 and f/4, depending on the lens) and combine this with a long telephoto setting.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, July 18th, 2012 at 3:39 pm and is filed under Photography Tutorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a comment. Pinging is currently not allowed.