Two new books from O'Reilly's Companion Series offer a complete photography class, tailored specifically for folks using Canon's new Digital Rebel cameras. Both--The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XSi/450D Companion and The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS/1000D Companion--are by producer and videographer Ben Long. In each of his handy pocket guides, Ben not only provides a detailed one-stop camera manual but he also walks you through all the basic photography theories that apply to any camera. And here Ben provides tips, warnings, and reminders from the books for using the XS cameras (which are applicable to most DSLRs). Read on to learn more.
Tip: If the Viewfinder Is Not Sharp
If you wear glasses and like to remove them when shooting, you can use the diopter control, the small knob next to the viewfinder, to compensate for some near- or farsightedness. Turn the knob until the nine autofocus boxes inside the viewfinder are sharp. Note that the diopter may not be able to completely compensate for extremely bad vision. Also, you'll have to change it back if you put your glasses back on. If the viewfinder ever inexplicably goes out of focus, it might just be that you bumped the diopter knob. Turn it until focus is restored.
Reminder: Night Portraits Require Still Subjects
When shooting with Night Portrait mode, the flash will fire, but the camera's shutter will stay open for a bit. So, it's important to tell your subject not to move until after you say so.
Warning: Do Not Remove Card When the Light Is Lit
Wait until the camera is completely finished writing before removing the card.If you remove the card before the write is completed, you not only will lose the images that are being written, but you might also corrupt images that have already been stored on the card.
Warning: Manage Those Body Caps
Every lens has a body cap that covers the end of the lens that attaches to the camera. Unfortunately, a lot of people stick these caps in their pocket, where they get covered with lint, and then put the cap directly onto the lens when they're changing lenses. This is a great way to get dust and lint on your lens, and that debris can get transferred directly to your image sensor when you mount the lens on your camera. So, clean those body caps before you put them back on your lens!
Reminder: All Reviewing in Moderation
Immediate image review is one of the great advantages of digital photography. However, the instant image review can also be a distraction if you obsessively look at every image after you shoot it. When you're out shooting, you want to be concentrating on the world around you, not on the back of your camera. Image review is great when you want to review a composition you've just shot, and it can be essential when you're in a tricky exposure situation and need to double-check your exposure decisions. We'll discuss exposure evaluation in more detail later.
Tip: Turn Off Preview as a Courtesy
You might want to turn off the image review if you're shooting in a low-light situation like a concert. Because the screen can cast an obtrusive light, you'll have a lower profile if you deactivate the image review.
Tip: If Your Computer Can't Read the Card
The Erase All Images command can sometimes result in directory problems on the card that can confuse some operating systems. If you find that you're consistently having trouble reading a card in your computer, even after formatting, then you might want to consider doing a low-level format. Choose the Format command as normal and then press the Erase button to check the Low Level Format checkbox. Select OK to start the low-level format.
Reminder: It's Always in the Eyes
When shooting people, remember that the most important thing to consider in a portrait is the eyes. As long as the eyes are in focus, it probably won't matter if there's a little softness in the rest of the image. So, if you're using autofocus point selection, make sure the XS indicates that it has the eyes in focus. Or, switch to center-point autofocus, put the center focus point on the subject's eyes, autofocus, and then reframe. This will ensure that the eyes are sharp.
Reminder: Steady As She Goes
When trying to hold the camera steady--which is especially important when using a slow shutter speed--remember to gently squeeze the trigger. Use the posture tips we discussed in Chapter 1, and don't hold your breath. Holding your breath actually makes you shakier. If possible, try to find something to lean against or that you can use to steady the camera.
Reminder: Don't Forget to Reset Your Camera Settings
The XS remembers many of the settings you make, even after you turn off the camera. So, if you select a white balance preset or a high ISO, shoot a bunch, and then turn off the camera, when you come back, you'll still be using that white balance and ISO. So, it's very important to check your settings when you turn on the camera. You don't want to head out into bright daylight after a late night of shooting in a dimly lit club with weird white balance. Ideally, you should set each setting back to something more normal after you use it, but this can be hard to remember to do. Instead, get in the habit of double-checking your settings every time you turn the camera on. Look over the status screen on the back of the camera; then press Menu and then DISP to view additional status information.
Warning: Don't Use Evaluative Metering When Focusing and Reframing
Earlier, you saw the technique of using a single, centered focus spot to focus on an object and then reframing your scene. When using this technique, you might find that you get better results if you don't use evaluative metering. If you're using evaluative metering, then areas of the frame that won't be in your shot will be factored into the camera's final metering. Most of the time, this won't matter, but in a scene with high dynamic range--a dark foreground and bright sky, for example--it could get you into trouble. Instead, if you want to use evaluative metering, after focusing, set your lens to Manual focus to lock focus, and then frame your shot as desired and meter.
Warning: Pay Attention to Shutter Speed
Just because you now have complete control of aperture, and just because the camera is choosing a shutter speed for you, doesn't mean that you don't have to think about shutter speed at all. You still need to pay attention to the handheld shutter speed rule. If you pick an aperture that yields a shutter speed that's too slow for handholding or motion stopping, then you may end up with an annoyingly blurry image. The XS will display its selected shutter speed any time you meter.
Warning: Beware of Heat
Noise levels in your high ISO images will increase as the camera gets warmer. It takes a fair amount of heat to create a noticeable change in noise, and the most significant source of heat is usually the camera itself. Try to avoid Live View and extensive use of the LCD screen when shooting high ISO images, because the LCD screen can heat up the camera significantly. Also, don't try to cool the camera by putting it in a refrigerator. The sudden change in temperature can damage internal components.