Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You are the master of your camera

On Sunday, I shot a few pictures with Canon EOS 5D Mark II. It was not my camera. My camera is a less powerful one, Canon EOS 550D. The advantage I have is a good lens which helps me to zoom into subjects from a great distance. I have to thank my friend and guide for picking the right camera and lens that will last  for a while. So, the Canon EOS 5D was handed over to me in order to take the pictures of it's owner and family. I gladly obliged. The camera and lens together weighed more than my gear. I had to balance myself like a pro. But I was disappointed after the experience.

I wasn't disappointed with the camera but with what the owner is doing with the camera. He was letting the camera do all the work. In Canon, there is a feature which automatically pick up the subjects. After enabling this feature, your job is easy. Point and click. That is all you have to do. But if you only point and click, why do you invest on a such a costly camera? It is a waste of money.

Even the lowest model of point and click comes in two modes. I say it because I have learnt a few tricks in the past few months. I know exactly the kind of mistakes I have committed since 2003 after I bought my first camera. These two modes are denoted in a Canon as Av and Tv. To simplify, these are aperture mode and shutter speed mode respectively. My advice is to take a second look at your camera. Use these modes. If you do not have a Canon, learn to turn on these modes by reading the manual that comes with the camera. Forget the jokes about the user manuals. The manual are very informative.

Use the aperture mode on static objects. When the subject, be it your kid or friend or spouse, is not moving, this is the best option. Like the one who taught me the ropes says, get the eyes correct. The eyes have to be sharp.

Use the shutter speed mode when you are shooting action. If you have no subjects for this, ask your friend to jump up. There you have an action to shoot. Find a long haired girl. Ask her to shake her head thereby making the hair dance. There is an action shot.

Once again, don't let the camera decide what is being photographed. You are the leader. As a leader, take charge. Instruct your camera on what needs to be accomplished. Once you master these modes, you will generate an appetite to better your photographs. Then, my friends, the real journey starts.


  1. I used to use AV mode by default but have since started to use TV mode more often then not. This is because in many cases especially people shots, pictures which looked good on the camera LCD turned out to have motion blurs when seen on a larger monitor on the computer. Letting the camera choose exposure time resulted in it choosing an exposure time which was low enough to cause motion blur. In most of the cases, my subject is usually at a good distance so DOF is not an issue but motion blur and movement of the hand is. It is much easier to spot underexposure on the LCD and is much easier to correct it in post-processing.

    In TV mode, I usually set a high enough exposure time (1/focal length sec's thumb rule) with ISO set to 200, click a picture and check the result. If it is underexposed, I have to decide between reducing exposure time or bumping up ISO. Since the decision to lower exposure time is a conscious decision I am careful to avoid motion blurs.

    Invest in a good flash with a diffusser in case you have to shoot moving subjects indoors. If your subjects are static, use a tripod.

    Also investigate using the AF-ON button on your camera if you have one.

    1. The blur is a problem. Because of this, my keepers are of very less percentage of the total pictures taken. Initially, it was 1%. Now, it has gone up to 15%. The other reason for low number of keepers is my inability to walk away from a bad picture. I'm still trigger happy.

      I don't use LCD. :) At the same time, I haven't mastered the focal length routine. So far, it is more about the feel than the rules. The only rule I try to follow is one third. For ISO, I usually do 100. During night or night-like situations for monochromatic, I do 800.

      Thanks for AF-ON link. I will go through that.

  2. Thank you. I was hoping to get a better idea of the nuances of photography. Must say the 5D is a brilliant piece but wasted if not used to its potential.

    1. Any equipment is only as good as the user. :) Thanks for commenting. :)

  3. Nona, this is info I can use. I'm still a learner. :)
    I'd read about the Av, Tv thing in the manual but just hadn't been using it. Thank you for simplifying it. Thank you so very much.

    1. Thank you. You can also use Youtube to find out more. If you search for these terms, there are many tutorials on what it is and how to take a better picture. You can try it out. :)

  4. Very nicely explained, Nona. Most people "waste" the power that is in even mid-range compacts. I thought I would add that shooting moving objects like traffic or water can sometimes produce interesting results when done in Av. Shooting kids is always better with Tv since they tend to move unexpectedly and rapidly.

  5. :) I agree. If you check out my "A lady in waiting" picture, it was taken in Av mode. The result was accidental. But I loved it.


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