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Online DSLR tutorial
Discover the real joy of photography
Are you new to DSLR photography? See how DSLRs can be fun and easy to use. Take photography to a higher plane, and experience the true joy of photography:
- Part 1: Fun and easy digital SLRs (basic introduction)
- Part 2: Using camera features for better photos (practical applications)
- Part 3: Choosing lenses for different kinds of photos (interchangeable lens)
- Part 4: Printing photos
Picture Style files
Download Picture Style files to emulate various 'looks' for different subject matters. You can choose from a wide variety of Picture Styles such as Standard, Portrait, Landscape, Neutral, Faithful and Monochrome.
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Travel like a boy scout
Where travel photography is concerned, Boy Scout wisdom is best: Be prepared! All the professional equipment in the world won't be able to shoot your sunrise from the peak if you run out of batteries and memory cards. Remember to pack some extras! Investing in more memory is always a good thing because it frees you to shoot in high resolution and keeps you from missing those amazing once-in-a-lifetime shots.
Steady shots in low light
Stuck shooting a long exposure scene without a cable release? That's no reason to get shaky! Set your camera on a tripod and use your camera's timer to trigger the shutter release- that way, you won't even have to touch the camera, so there'll be no risk of camera shake. Canon DSLR cameras come with a 2-second timer option so you won't have to wait out the usual 10-second delay meant for chaotic family photos. Canon compact digital cameras come with fully customizable timers, so you're the boss!
'Correct' exposure isn't always best
Contrary to popular belief, your camera's built-in exposure meter should not be the absolute deciding factor for a photograph's best exposure. Some sunny days can look more brilliant 1½ to 2 stops underexposed (especially when filters/polarisers are involved), and some scenes can appear more vivid with a bit of overexposure. The mood of a photo can change dramatically according to exposure levels. Can't work out your ideal exposure? Try 'bracketing' — take a few shots of the same scene in slightly different exposures ('correct', over, and underexposed), compare the results, and take your pick! All Canon EOS digital SLR cameras come with easy-access exposure compensation settings to make 'bracketing' easy.
Blur isn't always bad
Sometimes nothing gets an idea across like a good amount of creative blur. There are two basic kinds to go for: depth-of-field blur and movement blur. Opening up the lens aperture for a shallow depth-of-field (between f-stop 4 to 1.4 is great) creates a gorgeous, soft background blur that brings dramatic focus to your subject in the foreground. For some beautiful movement blur, set your camera exposure on shutter priority and keep the shutter speed slow to capture nice streaks or even brush-like strokes as your subject moves in front of your camera. Another reason to love the creative flexibility of aperture and shutter speed control on a digital SLR!
Design with lines, patterns, and space
Here's a great way to get an interesting shot wherever you are: design your shot around the lines, patterns, and space formed by the elements around you. This exercise is essential for achieving the 'make something amazing out of nothing' effect. You'll soon begin to see more possibilities for engaging compositions! If you find yourself caught up in the unremarkable details, try squinting your eyes: that often helps the distracting bits fall away. Also, start by keeping your compositions simple yet effective. A few vivid colours and strong lines work better than a cluttered mass of mediocre tones.
Get those hard-to-reach places
Good photography can be as simple as brushing your teeth: It's better when you make an effort to get to those hard-to-reach places. This is especially useful when shooting in over-photographed locations. Don't want another typical postcard shot of the beach? Get off your eye level and down to the sand, climb a tree for a high angle, or get a shot from the water! The Canon Live View with autofocus feature helps you shoot precisely from rare awkward angles without you having to bend like a pretzel. Another great (less strenuous) trick is to shoot through drinking glasses or windows, and look out for reflections of your desired subject in water, mirrors, or other reflective objects.
The eyes have it
You may not even realise this, but when you see a photo of a person or any subject with a face (even animals and statues), most of the time the first thing you'll look at are the eyes. And if the eyes are sharp, the rest of the photo feels comfortable and acceptably sharp even if the focus is soft. So make sure your subject's eyes are in clear, crisp focus. That said, let's not limit people and portrait photography to pictures of faces. It's amazing how expressive silhouettes of people, a close up of a pair of hands, or a portrait shot from the back can be.
Keep the background simple
Less is more' is the main rule-of-thumb where portrait backgrounds are concerned. Find an uncluttered spot or hang a simple piece of plain-coloured fabric as a backdrop to give your subject the deserved attention. If you're stuck in a busy and cluttered environment, shoot with your lens aperture opened up to its maximum. Playtime contestant Tristan Lim uses his Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM and EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lenses to achieve a shallow depth of field, blurring out even the busiest backgrounds to isolate and draw dramatic focus to his subjects. Canon's EF lens series, designed for the EOS system, offers one of the world's brightest 35mm camera lenses- the coveted EF50mm f/1.2L USM lens. Opening up to f1.2, busy backgrounds don't stand a chance.
Get the light right
When the light is right, beautiful photos are just waiting to happen. Generally, soft lighting is the most flattering for portrait photography, as harsh light (like the midday sun) can cast unflattering shadows on your subject's face. For more depth and dimension, try lighting your subject from the side or at a 45-degree angle. Placing your subject beside a window as the morning or late afternoon sun streams through usually works wonders. When you're outdoors, don't neglect the fill flash (even when it's sunny)- it lends a luminous 3-dimensional quality to your portraits and can give a sparkle to the eyes. If you're really not in the mood for flash or are worried your subject will be put off by it, put on a white outfit before heading out- that way, your outfit works as a reflector, directing a soft fill light on your subject.
Comfortable people make better subjects, so be nice, polite, sensitive, and accommodating. Connect with your subject- make eye contact, engage them in conversation, get some laughs going, and the warmth will inevitably translate to the photos. A long lens can come in handy when you're shy, nervous, or when you prefer to shoot from a distance for more candid shots, but it shouldn't be used as your cloak of invisibility. Don't treat your subjects like objects- respect is key, especially when photographing strangers during your travels. Don't be the creepy person lurking at the corner with a camera. Smile and the world smiles with you!
Shooting portraits outdoors on a sunny day? Don't neglect your flash! Fill-flash is a great way to avoid unwanted silhouetting in backlit conditions, add a sparkle to your subject's eyes, and generally lend your subject a luminous 3-D quality. Most Canon compact cameras come with a fill flash option. As for external flash units without auto fill-flash calibrations, adjust the flash's ISO setting to double that of your camera's and match the f-stops so both camera and flash are set at the same aperture value.
Achieve maximum image sharpness with a telephoto lens
When using a longer telephoto lens, it is easy to induce camera-shake due to unsteady holding techniques. A longer focal length magnifies the size of the subject in the image, so any camera shake will be magnified proportionately. In fact, the longer the focal length of the lens, the more difficult it is to keep it steady.
Canon's Image Stabilizer technology helps to give you sharp images even with low shutter speeds. But it is still useful to learn the proper basics of holding a telephoto lens steadily.
How do you hand hold a telephoto lens? Your left hand should hold the lens firmly (but not too tightly), while your right hand operates the controls on the camera. The weight of the camera and lens should be mostly (but not totally) on the left hand, leaving the right hand free to operate the camera.
Tuck your elbows into your body to create a triangular formation, which will allow you to steady the lens better. Push the camera against your face (don't overdo it though) for greater stability. Before you shoot, take a half-breath by filling your lungs partially with air, hold it for a few seconds and then gently depress the shutter release button.
Always use a tripod for optimum sharpness if you can, but if you do not have a tripod with you, you can lean on existing walls, benches, trees or lamp posts to provide a very stable support. Alternatively, if you have a bag or a jacket, you may also use it as a soft support to prop your lens against.
Using wide angle lenses effectively
Wide angle lenses are very popular for landscape, architecture and events photography. However, it is not always easy to achieve good images with wide-angle lenses. There are several factors to take into account when using a wide-angle lens. Keep them in mind and you're on your way to great wide-angle images!
- Dynamic diagonals
When the wide-angle lens is tilted upwards or downwards, it creates converging lines. This means that lines which are really parallel (such as the lines of the sides of buildings) converge towards each other. This simple technique allows you to create a dynamic image easily.
- Great curves!
Wide angle lenses accentuate curves very well, so use this to your advantage! The image on the left shows how you can exaggerate the curves of the building by tilting the lens upwards to make the curve more bent than it really is, making the image more dynamic.
- Extensive depth of field
Wide angle lenses offer extensive depth-of-field, which you can utilize to you advantage. By stopping down a couple of stops, you can improve the quality of the optics and increase the depth of field to ensure that the image is pin-sharp from the foreground to the background.
- Corner distortions
Because the wide-angle lens has to compress a wider angle of field into the image film, there is some inevitable stretching of objects at the edges. The most evident stretching occurs at the corners, and this is especially obvious when taking a group photo with a wide-angle lens — the people near the edges will have their faces stretched! You can overcome this effect by trying not to place subjects in the corner.
- Exposure problems
Because wide-angle lenses 'see' so much of the scene, they might include in too much of the sky. This leads the camera meter to believe that the scene is brightly lit, and thus result in underexposure. You can point the camera at your main subject to take a meter reading, and lock that exposure for shooting (recommended method), or manually compensate for the sky.
- Leading composition to the background/subject
When you have such a huge expanse of area in the foreground and background, you often need a guiding line in the image to 'lead' the viewers eye from the foreground to the background, preventing the viewer's eyes from straying about. This technique is known as 'leading', and it can be accomplished by using obvious lines (such as the paths in the field).
- Foreground and background
Sometimes, a scene presents itself with both interesting foreground and background, and both are related to each other. To bring out both the foreground and background, the use of a wide-angle lens is ideal. Use a viewpoint where you can combine the foreground and background in the same scene, and stop down the lens to create sufficient depth-of-field.
Street photography is essentially photography specializing in taking pictures on the street. Although street photography seems like a trivial matter, it has provided some of the strongest documentation work of the lifestyles and living conditions of different societies which were accomplished through this genre of photography.
Because the streets are accessible to anyone, street photos become the most common form of photography. But street photography without planning or thoughts is not likely to yield any useful results. This article will look at the more simple techniques which you can pick up to improve your street photography.
You do not require fanciful equipment for street photography, which may partly explain its popularity. The compact DSLRs which many photographers own are perfect for street photography. In fact, you can even use compact cameras like the IXUS or PowerShot to shoot unobtrusively in crowded areas/streets!
In terms of lenses, the wide variety of subjects in street photography makes it impossible to identify any 'ideal' focal length. Some prefer the close-up approach of using wide angles like 24mm or 28mm, moving into the crowd to capture the atmosphere. Others prefer to stand far back and use a telephoto to isolate the person or the detail in a scene. You should experiment with a variety of lenses to suit different situations or your own style.
Should you use a zoom lens or prime lens? Zooms offer the convenience and speed of having a range of focal length, but are more bulky than primes, and they are slower than the prime equivalent. Some photographers prefer the smaller and faster prime lenses such as the Canon EF 28mm f/1.8 to capture images in low-light. Both primes and zooms have their pros and cons — it's ultimately your call.
Should you use the flash in street photography? There is no right answer - it depends on the situation and your intention.
For covert photography where your aim is to take candid pictures of the subject unnoticed, flash will definitely alert the subjects to your presence and give the game away. The best alternative will be to use a higher ISO setting, since flash also tends destroys the atmosphere of the scene.
However, if you recording an event such as street performance where the subject is aware and does not mind your photography, flash can help to bring out the vividness of colour and show shadow details. In addition, the elaborate costumes and colourful makeup show up best with flash.
- Bags and attire
Most photographers agree that low profile and comfortable dressing is best for street photography. To successfully capture candid scenes, you should blend into the situation and not draw to much attention to yourself.
- Know your equipment
It's impossible to capture good images unless you know your equipment well. Familiarity with your EOS cameras and lenses allow you to watch the subject, focus on the situation, and taking the pictures. Handling the camera should be second nature to you, so you don't fiddle with the settings while your subject stands up and walk away!
- Knowing your subjects
Particular subjects have particular forms of behaviour, usually due to certain factors such as age, situation or culture. For example, wedding photographers usually know the standard wedding ceremonies, and they will position themselves at the best location to capture certain shots (e.g. cake cutting or exchange of vows). Because they understand the behaviour of the subjects, they have the advantage of taking better shots.
- Spending more time on the streets
First of all, spending more time on the streets will allow you to know the subjects and understand their behaviours and action better, leading to better photographs. In addition, street photography is not a scheduled performance. Photographic opportunities happen randomly at various places, so spending more time on the street will increase your chances of success.
- Knowing your limits
Even as you are photographing, you should be aware of your environment and surroundings. Some places are more hostile than others, and you should always be on the alert for changes around you. For example, it is dangerous to venture around in some cities after dark.
- The Decisive Moment
Henri-Cartier Bresson was probably the most famous photojournalist ever. He coined the term "the decisive moment" — a single defining moment that sums up the entire action of the performer. Capturing the decisive moment will convey the story to the reader with the most impact.
The decisive moment is about anticipation. It requires you to be able to anticipate the unfolding of events with reasonable accuracy. By anticipating responses, you are able to wait for the best moment to occur, and capture it when it finally happens.
By actively engaging with your subjects, you are attempting to put yourself into their shoes and anticipate their behaviours. This requires some active thinking and deliberation. Anticipation, with patience and knowledge, will help you capture that decisive moment.
Starting macro photography
What is macro photography? Put simply, it is photographing close-up images of small objects. For example, you can be taking macro photos of a flower petal, a postage stamp or even your watch. Macro photography magnifies the small subjects by many times, and makes it possible to appreciate fine details which are otherwise unseen by the naked eye. There is a world of unseen beauty right below our noses!
What do you need to start off in macro photography? Many of the Canon EF zoom lenses have built-in macro functions that allow modest close-ups of objects. You can take great images of flower petals and such with the integrated macro feature. If you wish to get even closer, you can attach close-up lenses such as the Canon 500D to your existing lens, giving you greater magnification without spending too much.
If you are serious about close-up photography and want to go really close-up, consider investing in a dedicated macro lens such as the EF-S 60mm or EF 100mm Macro. These lenses give you life-size magnification, and deliver exceptional close-up quality.
But whichever lenses you choose to use, you should be shooting with a tripod. When shooting close-ups, the magnification factor is very high and the tiniest camera shake will be very obvious. Using a tripod will help to cut down any vibration and deliver crystal-sharp images. Some photographers use a cable release to fire the shutter, so that they will not accidentally move the camera while firing the shutter. If you do not have a cable-release, you can set to self-timer release so that any vibrant from your hands pushing the button would have ebbed by the time the shutter fires.
An important aspect to note during macro photography is that the depth-of-field is very shallow. There is usually barely enough focus to cover the entire image, so you have to be very careful controlling the focus on the most important portion of the subject. For example, if you are shooting close-up of flowers, you'd want the stigma to be sharp. You can try to stop down the lens (since you are using a tripod, slow shutter speeds should not affect your image), but even then the depth-of-field is still shallow at such high magnification.
And when you are shooting close-ups, the subject is usually very close to the front of the lens. As such, the light source may be blocked by the camera or lens. You can try to reposition the subject/camera or source of light so that the subject is not obscured from the light. Alternatively, you can use mini white cardboards to reflect light back to the subject.
For the serious macro photographer, you might want to invest in specialized macro flash units. The Canon MT-24EX features twin flashes mounted onto the front of the lens to give even lighting regardless of the proximity of the close-up subject. Or you can look at the Canon MR-14EX ring flash that works like the MT-24EX, except that it provides a shadowless ring of light around the subject.
The world of macro photography is fascinating and fun, and the best part is that you can find great macro subjects anywhere and anytime! So if you are stuck at home on a rainy day, whip out your Canon EOS camera and start snapping macro photos. Oh yes: the raindrops on your window make excellent macro subjects too!
Night photography is simple and fun. In fact, you hardly need any special equipment if you already have a tripod. Night photography is all about using long exposures to capture the light from the scene, so a good and steady tripod is a must. Some photographers use a cable release to fire the shutter, so that they will not accidentally move the camera while firing the shutter. If you do not have a cable-release, you can set to self-timer release so that any vibrant from your hands pushing the button would have ebbed by the time the shutter fires.
Because you will be using a tripod, you can use a low ISO setting and slow shutter speed. This will deliver stunning results with low noise levels (especially since the EOS cameras feature the excellent DIGIC image processor), and the slow shutter speed captures any movement of light sources as light trails.
Contrary to what the name suggests, night photography is best done in the evening! The last remaining rays of light in the sky will brighten up the image, so you do not end up with a flat and boring patch of black sky in your image. Try photographing between 7 to 7.30 pm for the best effects — you should get a nice dramatic sky.
Experiment with different exposure settings, as the timing give you different effects. It is not uncommon to use exposure of up to 30 seconds. In fact, longer exposure gives you more time to capture moving lights as trails, which can really liven up your image! If you have traffic in your night scene, the rear red lights of the vehicles often look better than the bright front headlights as light trails.
If you are an absolute beginner in night photography, place your camera on a tripod, compose and focus your scene. Then set the camera to Aperture Priority (Av) mode and f/8 at ISO 100. Start photographing the scene from 7 to 7.30 pm, and you should have a series of interesting night photography images to start off! Don't forget that it's all about experimenting — so remember to have fun!