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  • Masterin minutes

    Get to grips with white-balance Use exposure modes with confidence Understand file formats Pick the right metering mode Learn ISO and more!

    IN ASSOCIATION WITH

    your DSLR

    PM MARCH SUPP 01:Layout 1 22/1/09 14:37 Page 1

  • hotography is the greatest hobby on earth. But it can also beone of the most confusing. Not only is the process of picture-taking often suffused with technical jargon, but getting togrips with the very equipment you use to take those shots

    can, for many, be like learning a foreign language. Its for this veryreason that we came up with MasterYour DSLR in Minutes, the firstin a series of free supplements with PhotographyMonthly magazine.As its name suggests, this supplement is all about

    getting to grips with your DSLR. Mastering yourequipment is a crucial step towards taking greatpictures and if you know what feature or functionto set and, most importantly, when to set it, youllnever be caught out.If this supplement has prompted you to pick up

    Photography Monthly for the first time: welcome,we hope you find our efforts informative andentertaining. If youre a regular PM reader:welcome back, I hope youll notice thatweve made some major changes to themagazine, with the emphasis on makingit more practical and inspirational.Id love to hear your comments about

    this supplement, and the new-lookmagazine, so why not email me [email protected] the meantime, enjoy this

    supplement, enjoy your photographyand Ill see you next month, when oursecond free supplement will teach youhow to take great shots with yourrecently-mastered DSLR.

    Roger Payne, Editor

    WelcomeP

    Photography Monthly,The Mill, Bearwalden BusinessPark, Wendens Ambo, SaffronWalden, Essex CB11 4GBPhone: 01799 544246 editorial01799 544219 advertising

    EMAIL:[email protected]

    WRITTEN & ILLUSTRATED BYRoger Payne and Julian LassSUBBING Liz WalkerART EDITOR Kevin Reed

    AD DIRECTOR Sam Scott-Smith

    Photography Monthly is published on thesecond Thursday of every month by ArchantSpecialist, The Mill, Bearwalden Business Park,Saffron Walden, Essex CB11 4GB. No part ofthis magazine can be used without prior writtenpermission of Archant Specialist. ISSN 1473-4966. Photography Monthly is a Registered TradeMark of Archant Specialist Ltd. Editorial contentdoes not necessarily reflect the views of thepublisher. The publisher accepts noresponsibility for errors contained within thepublication. All advertisements that arepublished in the pages of Photography Monthlymagazine, the creative content of which, in wholeor part, has been written, designed or producedby employees of Archant, remains the copyrightof Archant and may not be reproduced withoutthe written consent of Archant.

    PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 3

    Get the best out of your new DSLR and zoom lens withthis special supplement from Photography Monthly

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  • SET UPYOUR DSLR6

    Heres everything you needto know to get your DSLRready for shooting.

    PICK THE RIGHTFILE FORMAT20

    Possibly one of the biggest head-scratchers for novice DSLR users iswhether to shoot Raw, JPEG or both?We explain the advantages anddisadvantages of each file format, andadvise which is the best option to use.

    ALL YOU NEED TOKNOW ABOUT ISO23

    Sensitivity (ISO) ranges are gettingmore extensive, giving DSLR-usersincreasing versatility. But there arestill factors to consider as you flickthrough the ISO settings. Theyreexplained in detail here.

    WHITE-BALANCEDEMYSTIFIED26

    White-balance affects every pictureyou take with a DSLR. Mostphotographers simply leave it set toAuto, but your camera does offerother options. In this section, wediscuss those options and, crucially,when you should use them.

    4 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    CHOOSE THE RIGHTEXPOSURE MODE10

    Before you take any pictures, youll need tochoose an exposure mode. Here wellexplain the various options youll find onyour DSLR, and when to use them.

    Contents

    PM MARCH SUPP 04-05:Layout 1 22/1/09 10:46 Page 4

  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 5

    WHICH LENSDO YOU NEED?8

    If youve got a DSLR, youllneed a lens to go with it.All the main focal lengths arecovered in this section.

    GET PERFECTEXPOSURES14

    More sophisticated than everbefore, DSLR metering modeshelp you get cracking exposures.Various metering patterns areavailable on modern DSLRs:find out more about them here.

    FOCUS ONFOCUSING MODES18

    Thanks to autofocus, its very easy toleave your DSLR to its own focusingdevices. But, taking control over thefocus mode reaps picture benefits, asyoull find out in this section.

    GET THE MOST FROMBUILT-IN FLASH28

    Most DSLRs feature a built-in flash thattypically offers a variety of different picture-taking options. In some modes, the flash willpop up automatically, on other occasionsyoull have to switch it on yourself. Find outwhat to use, when.

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  • 6 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    If you want to keep things simple, set the ISOto Auto. In this mode your DSLR will vary thesensitivity according to the lightingconditions. If youre just shooting one type ofimage, set the ISO manually. See page 23 formore details on which ISO to use.

    Shooting landscapes and portraits?Choose single frame advance. Shootingsport and action? Choose continuousand the camera will continue takingpictures as long as you keep your fingeron the shutter release.

    DSLRs typically offer a range of picturestyles to use. Your camera will feature anumber of preset styles, plus you candefine your own. Straight out of the box,your DSLR is likely to be set to astandard picture style, but you canchange it for instance to make coloursmore vivid, or even black & white. Trytaking pictures with each style to seewhich suits your photography best.

    When you buy a new DSLR, its onlynatural that youll want to get out andstart taking pictures, but take a fewminutes to run through some basic

    checks before you begin and youllenjoy your picture-taking even more.So, in no particular order, make sureyou do the following:

    Setting upyour DSLRSELECT AN ISO SETTING

    SET THE PICTURE STYLE

    CHOOSE A DRIVE MODE

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 7

    This may sound obvious, but most DSLRs are normally soldwith some power already in the rechargeable battery.Tempting as it may be to stick it in the camera and startshooting, wed advise you to follow the manufacturerscharging instructions most cells typically take two hoursto fully charge as this will prolong the useful life of thebattery. Whenever possible, let the battery fully dischargebefore recharging. Again, this improves battery longevity.

    CHARGE THE BATTERY

    Most DSLRs offer an eyesightadjustment feature on the viewfindereyepiece and, although its mostuseful to photographers who wearglasses, everyone needs to set it upto match their eyesight. Take the lensoff the camera, look through theviewfinder and point the camera at asingle tone a painted wall at homeis ideal. With your eye up to thefinder, turn the eyesight correctionwheel, paying close attention to themarkings in the viewfinder. As youturn it, they should sharpen or blur.Once theyre pin sharp, theviewfinder is set for your eyesight.

    Your DSLR needs a memory card to store images. Wedadvise you buy a 2GB card as the minimum, or go forgreater capacity if finances allow. Memory cards havedifferent write speeds this is the speed at which theinformation is transferred from the sensor to the card.The higher the write speed, the quicker you can takepictures. For most, a 133x card is ample. UDMA cards offera 300x write speed, but youll only see the benefit fromthis if your DSLR is UDMA-compliant.

    You might be side-tracked by your new DSLR, but itsworth uploading your new camera software before you goout and take pictures. Why? If there are any uploadingproblems, its better to know before youve got a card-fullof shots you want to view. Plus, software will often havean update that needs downloading, which will take timedepending on yourinternet connectionspeed. You canleave the updateto download whileyou get to knowyour camera.

    UPLOAD YOUR SOFTWARE

    STORE YOUR IMAGES

    FINE-TUNE THE VIEWFINDER

    The beauty of DSLRs is that you can set them up exactlyas you want. Most cameras feature custom functions,which enable you to change everything from exposureincrements to the functionality of a button or dial. In allhonesty, custom functions are designed more for theadvanced camera user, but theres no harm in seeing whatcontrol you have and revisit them when you get moreDSLR-proficient.

    TRY THE CUSTOM FUNCTIONS

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  • 8 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    Theres a bewildering range of lensesavailable, not only from your DSLRmanufacturer, but also fromindependent companies. Nowadays,zoom lenses are the favoured optionamong DSLR users because theyreversatile and well-priced; chances areyoull have a standard zoom (typicallycovering 18-55mm) supplied with yourcamera. These kit lenses are suitablefor a range of subjects and offer decent,if not exceptional, image quality.Unless youre lucky enough to own a

    full-frame DSLR, youll need to bear inmind your cameras magnificationfactor whenever you choose a lens. Thiswill be quoted in your camerasinstruction manual; for instance, a

    Canon EOS 1000D has a magnificationfactor of 1.6x. Essentially, any camerawith a sensor thats smaller than a35mm frame of film will have amagnification or crop factor, due to thesmaller dimensions of the sensor.Multiplying the focal length of any

    lens by the cameras magnificationfactor gives the lens 35mm equivalent.So, if the Canon EOS 1000D has an18-55mm lens attached, its actuallyoffering the equivalent of a 29-88mmlens in 35mm (18-55mm x 1.6).In practical terms, this can be limiting

    if youre a fan of wide-angle shootingbut, at the opposite end of the scale,

    you get greater telephoto power. A 70-200mm telezoom on the same camera,for example, becomes a 112-320mm.The beauty of DSLR photography is

    that you can pick and choose lensesaccording to your requirements. Asyouve already got a standard zoom,most photographers are quick to add atelezoom covering focal lengths around70-200mm, or a macro lens for close-upwork. Over and above this, you couldchoose a wide-angle zoom (10-20mm ispopular) or a longer telephoto zoom forwildlife or sport work. Superzooms,which cover focal ranges from wide-angle all the way through to telephotoare also useful, as they offer an all-in-one lens solution.

    Most manufacturers offer two rangesof lenses; standard and premium.Premium lenses are generally madefrom higher quality optical glass, arebetter built and, in many cases, offer afaster maximum aperture a termthat refers to the lens widest aperture.Lets say youre after a 70-200mm

    telezoom, for example. A standardmodel may have a maximum apertureof f/4-5.6. This means that the widestthe aperture can open at 70mm is f/4and at 200mm is f/5.6. A fast 70-200mm telezoom, on the other hand,may have a maximum aperture of f/2.8all the way through the zoom range.

    Which lensdo you need?

    Most photographers arequick to add a telezoom

    ABOVE One of the first lenses tobuy, after your standard 18-55mmkit zoom, is a telezoom offering arange of focal lengths around the55-250mm mark, or a macro lens.

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 9

    Which focallength?Landscapes, architectureUp to 18mmGeneral picture-taking18-50mmPortraits50-100mmSports and action100-400mmWildlife400mm and above

    300mm TELEPHOTO

    90mm MACRO

    14mmWIDE-ANGLE

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  • 10 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    Your DSLR is a marvel of modern camera design. But its amazing complexitybelies something all DSLRs hold in common a shutter that opens to allowlight to hit a sensor and record an image. Good exposure is a term thatsbeen hijacked by public relations agencies, but in photography its all aboutmanipulating the size of the aperture in the lens and the length of time theshutter is open in order to get the right amount of light onto the sensor.Your DSLR offers a variety of exposure modes to enable you to do just that.

    ExposuremodesWhich one to use, andwhen

    Shooting using program modes is soeasy that it can be tempting to simplyuse them all the time. But then, therewill come a time when you want tostart taking more creative control overyour pictures. Thankfully, DSLRs providea middle ground between these point-and-shoot program modes and full-onDIY manual exposures, in the form ofsemi-automatic modes.

    The most common semi-automaticmodes on your DSLRs exposure modedial are aperture-priority (Av or A) andshutter-priority (Tv or S). Selectingeither of these modes allows you totake control of one half of the exposureequation, while the camera takes careof the other.

    In Av mode, then, you set theaperture and the camera matches itwith a shutter speed to suit. Think ofthe aperture as a hole in your lens thatcan be made wider or smaller to let inmore or less light. Apertures arerepresented by numbers called f/stops.A small aperture, that reduces theamount of light coming into the

    camera, is represented by a high f/stopnumber (eg f/22). Conversely, a wideaperture, that allows more light in, isshown by a low f/stop number (eg f/4).

    But apertures dont only control light,they also effect what is and isnt sharpin an image. The wider the apertureyou choose, the smaller that zone ofsharpness. So if, for example, you wereshooting a portrait and wanted thebackground to be out of focus, youdselect a wide aperture such as f/4.

    Conversely, if you were shooting alandscape and wanted everything fromthe gate in the foreground through tothe hills in the background to be sharp,youd select a small aperture (eg f/22).

    As well as being the other half of theexposure equation, the shutter speedyou use also effects subject movement,so if you want greater control over this,

    Semi-automatic modes

    Apertures controllight, and sharpness too

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 11

    choose shutter-priority (Tv or Timevalue). In this mode you can, forexample, freeze action with a fastshutter speed, such as 1/2000sec, orblur movement with a slow shutterspeed, such as one second.Semi-automatic modes are perfect for

    learning how shutter and aperturevalues are linked. Many photographersuse them for the majority of their shots.One note of caution: if the aperture orshutter speed number starts flashing,youll need to increase or reduce thenumber to adjust the exposure.

    ABOVE Selecting a wide aperture(f/5.6) makes a clutteredbackground look less messy.

    BELOW Shutter-priority is best forsports and movement pictures.

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  • 12 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    Program (or P) mode is easiest touse when you want a correctexposure. The camera selects theexposure time the time theshutter is open and size of theaperture. The advantage of using Pis that it allows you to concentrateon composing your shot, or simplyto take shots quickly when youdont have the time (or inclination)to set the controls yourself.

    Most DSLRS include additionalscene modes the symbols on themode dial next to P. These areessentially fancy P modes, whichare tailored to specific picture-taking situations, alteringexposure, focus and frame ratesettings to get the best result.Some modes err towards fastershutter speeds to freeze fast-

    Program modes moving objects such as kidsplaying or sports. Others (egportrait mode) veer towardsselecting larger apertures to throwdistracting backgrounds out offocus. Again, theyre handy forquick shooting and generallygetting acquainted with your DSLR.

    Experiment with a few of themand study the results. Taking thesame image using different scenemodes will help you spot changesthe camera is making.

    Some DSLRs let you changeaperture and shutter values whileyoure in P mode, without affectingexposure. This is termed ProgramShift. You might, for example, wantto select a smaller aperture suchas f/16 for greater front-to-backsharpness (depth-of-field). Do thisin P mode and the camera willautomatically set a shutter speedfor an accurate exposure.

    TOP LEFT Program (P) allows youto concentrate on composition,and catch a fleeting moment.

    ABOVE Manual (M) mode givesyou full control over the way ascene records. This was taken at1/8sec at f/5 and ISO 400.

    RIGHT Explore the cameras submenus to find special presetscene modes this shot wastaken using sunset mode.

    ABOVE A typical exposure dialoffers manual, program, semi-automatic and scene modes.

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 13

    Program mode is like driving a car thathas two settings: on and off. You cansteer the car from A to B but you haveno control over how fast it goes. Semi-automatic modes give you a gearboxand a sense of control. Manual modegives you a steering wheel, anaccelerator, air conditioning and Radio 2playing loudly on the stereo.In the manual mode denoted by an

    M you make all the decisions for bothaperture and shutter speed, giving youmaximum creative control.Use manual and therell be flashing

    numbers but no pop-up flash. If youwant to get the exposure wrong, youcan! Thankfully, however, shooting inmanual is not based completely onguesswork your cameras built-inexposure meter will help you out.Select M and a metering bar will

    typically appear in the viewfinder and

    on your DSLRs LCD. Above this bar is ametering marker changing apertureand/or shutter speed will cause thismarker to move. For an accurateexposure, get the marker in the centreof the bar: its that simple.Manual mode is a great tool for

    learning more about exposure, but youshouldnt feel that its the only mode touse if you want to shoot professionalquality pictures. Your DSLR has a fullset of exposure modes so theres nopoint in tying yourself to just one.Sure, youll have your favourite mode,

    but photographers who know andunderstand the merits of each one, pluswhen to use them, are more likely tobring home images of a consistentlyhigh quality.

    Manual modes

    Shootingmanually is notall guesswork the meter willhelp out

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  • 14 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    Would Henri Cartier-Bresson have been a better photographer if hed haveused a lightmeter? The famous photojournalist was notorious for his disdainof photographic gadgets of any kind, including lightmeters. These days,meters are built into every DSLR and very sophisticated they are too, buteven so, there are certain situations that will trip them up.

    Get perfectexposures

    MULTI-ZONE

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 15

    Centre-weightedBack in the early days of SLRs,centre-weighted was the onlymetering pattern available. It doesexactly what it says on the tin;biasing the metering towards thecentre of the frame, but stilltaking the rest of the frame intoaccount as well. The split inemphasis is typically 75/25, butsome DSLRs allow you to definethe size of the central area.

    Centre-weighted metering haslately been eclipsed by multi-zonemetering, but somephotographers still like to use itfor general picture-taking.

    Multi-zoneManufacturers use various termsfor their multi-zone meteringpatterns. Canons is calledEvaluative, Nikons Matrix whileSony goes for Honeycomb.

    In essence, each type performsthe same job; taking readingsfrom all zones across the imageand then using the results todeliver an accurate exposure.

    These systems have becomeincreasingly advanced and manyuse additional information fromother parts of the camera thefocusing system, for example tofurther improve accuracy.

    Spot/partialIf you want to take a meterreading from a very specific partof a scene, then you shouldchoose spot or partial metering.These metering modes essentiallyperform the same task; taking areading from just one part of theframe and disregardingeverything else.

    The only difference betweenspot and partial metering is thatpartial takes a reading from alarger area of the frame usuallythe central 10 percent, asopposed to three percent withspot metering.

    SPOT/PARTIAL

    TYPES OF METERING

    CENTRE-WEIGHTED

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  • 16 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    All lightmeters are confused by certainsituations especially tricky lightingsuch as strong back-lighting, whichtends to confuse a lightmeter intounderexposure. Subjects that arepredominantly black or white will alsoconfound; this is because meters like torecord the world as a muddy grey tone.If you took all the tones in a picture

    and averaged them out, the resultwould be middle-grey. A simpleexperiment will prove this: take apicture of a white object such as awhite-washed wall that fills the frame.Take it in program mode using any ofyour cameras metering methods. Theresult might not be what you expected.The white wall is probably grey!A white object in bright sunlight canbe up to eight times brighter thanmiddle grey. That means you need toincrease the amount of light hitting thesensor to render it white. The easiest

    way to do this is by using yourcameras exposure compensationbutton, usually represented by a +/-sign. Go back to your white wall anddial in one stop (+1) extra exposure.Then try +2 and +3. The wall will bebrighter in each picture.For a portrait of a Caucasian subject,

    The histogram that pops up on yourcameras LCD after youve taken apicture may look like a mountainrange, but its job is to measure therange of brightness values in an image,from pure black to pure white.By reading the peaks or bars, you

    can work out a pictures contrastrange that is, how many tones thereare between pure black and purewhite and whether the picture iscorrectly exposed. The brighter anobject, the further towards the right ofthe histogram its bar will appear.Conversely, the darker an object is, thefurther to the left its bar will be. Thefar left of the graph represents pureblack and the far right, pure white.An average picture with good

    contrast and even tonal range will berepresented by bars spanning evenlyacross the histogram, left to right.

    Try this experiment. Take a picture ofa scene using your DSLR in programmode, but first dial in an exposurecompensation of -2. If the histogramdoesnt show up, consult the manualto find out how to turn it on.Because youve deliberatelyunderexposed the picture by dialling in-2 stops, the bars dominate the left-hand side of the graph, showing thepicture is too dark. When this happensnormally, increase exposure by diallingin +1 or +2 stops of compensation.Now take a second picture, dialling in+1 or +2 stops exposurecompensation. Now the bars in thehistogram will bunch towards the right,indicating overexposure. In severecases, the bars will be off the scale. Toretain detail in the highlights, reduceexposure by dialling in -1 or -2 stops ofexposure compensation.

    Exposurebracketing

    Reading histograms

    Lightmeters record theworld in middle grey

    Highlight peaks are bunched to the right.

    +1 STOP CORRECT

    OVEREXPOSURE

    OVEREXPOSURE

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 17

    or a shadow on a white wall, dial in onestop (+1) extra exposure. The oppositeapplies to a black wall, or dark subject.

    When youre uncertain aboutexposure, use autoexposure bracketing.It may be hidden in the menu system,so check the camera manual. Onceactivated, your camera will take severalpictures in succession at differentexposures, each varying by a specifiedincrement from the estimated correctexposure. If you dial in +/- 1, thecamera will shoot the first picture at

    the presumed correct exposure and thesubsequent exposures will vary by onestop either side plus and minus. Thisway you can be sure one of theexposures is good.

    The mode youre in also determineshow the camera changes the exposure.In P mode, the camera will change bothshutter speed and aperture. In Av mode,it will keep the aperture constant,changing only shutter speed. In Tvmode, it will keep the shutter speed thesame, changing the aperture instead.

    LEFT Autoexposure bracketingallows you to take one exposureat the estimated correct setting,then a sequence of otherexposures in plus and minusincrements... eg +1 and +1.5stops, then -1 and -1.5 stops.You get to choose the expousreyou like best.

    Highlights and shadows are evenly spread. Shadow peaks are bunched to the left.

    -1 STOP

    CORRECT UNDEREXPOSURE

    CORRECT UNDEREXPOSURE

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  • 18 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    Autofocus has to be one of the greatestinventions for the DSLR user but, likemost great inventions, its easy to getblas about this impressive technology.As with most other DSLR functions,autofocusing systems have becomemore and more sophisticated, withmost offering a range of AF options.Straight out of the box, your DSLR is

    likely to be set on One Shotautofocusing with all focusing zonesactive. In this case, the camera willautomatically determine where themain subject is in the scene and lock

    focus onto this point. With the focuslocked, you can reframe the image bykeeping light pressure on the shutterrelease, then pressing down fully to

    take the shot. This option is finefor a large proportion of images

    where the subject is static.If youre focusing on amoving subject, you needto activate a focusingmode that constantly re-focuses, right up to thepoint the image is taken.This is typically known asServo or Continuousautofocus. In this mode,the camera will track the

    subject across the focusing pointsand, essentially, predict where thesubject will be at the precise momentwhen the picture is taken, ensuringsharp focus. Many DSLRs also offer a

    focusing feature that provides the bestof both worlds, where the cameradetects whether the subject is movingor static and selects Continuous or OneShot focusing accordingly. Eachmanufacturer gives this dual-functionautofocusing a different name; Canoncalls it AI Focus.Often, a DSLRs metering system is

    linked to the active focusing point. Thisassumes that the main focus point isaligned with the main subject in frame.Peer through your cameras

    viewfinder and youll typically see a

    series of squares or dots that signifyyour cameras focusing points. Thenumber of points can range from underfive to more than 50, depending onyour DSLR model.Leave the choice of focusing point to

    your camera and it will illuminate theselected point in the viewfinder whenyou press the shutter release to focus.DSLRs also allow you to select thefocusing point yourself. Such a featurecomes in handy if the autofocus isntdetecting the subject automatically, oryoure using One Shot autofocus anddont want to reframe before takingeach picture. To select a focus point,press the AF point selector button thenscroll through the points with thecamera to your eye, until the requiredpoint is illuminated in the viewfinder.One final piece of jargon to explain

    when it comes to autofocusing: cross-

    Sharpen yourfocusing skills

    With a moving subjectactivate Servo or Continuous

    ABOVE Most DSLRs offer a varietyof autofocus options such asOne Shot, Continuous or AI Focus.Dont forget theres alwaysmanual focus to fall back on!

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 19

    type focusing points. Most DSLRs offera cross-type focusing point in thecentre of the frame, but others offerfurther cross-type points at otherfocusing points. They all perform thesame function; focusing on imagecontrast both vertically and horizontally,which delivers a more accuratefocusing result. Naturally, the morecross-type sensors your DSLR has, thebetter the system will work.Last but not least, dont forget about

    manual focusing. Most DSLRs offer aswitch on the lens or camera bodywhich enables you to flick over tomanual focus. Why should you botherfocusing manually? Well, there will betimes when autofocus wont be able tocope, typically when faced withsubjects that have little or no contrast,are in low light or are highly reflective.When this happens, its time to go

    switch to manual and use the focusingring on your lens to ensure you getsharp pictures.

    ONE-SHOT

    AI FOCUS

    SELECTIVE FOCUS POINT

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  • 20 PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY

    When you take a digital picture, data comes off your DSLRs sensor in astring of binary ones and zeros. The cameras processor then bundles theinformation and saves the image as a file format. DSLRs typically use twofile formats JPEG and Raw although some top end models alsooffer TIFFs. So which should you use?

    JPEGsA JPEG is way of compressinginformation, which means certain datafrom the image is regarded by thecameras processor as redundant andignored. This is why the JPEG format issometimes called a lossy format.

    The advantage of JPEGs is that themore compression takes place, thesmaller the resulting file. You can storemany more JPEGs on your DSLRsmemory card than Raw files. The catchis that as data is discarded, so imagequality becomes compromised.

    Youll find settings to change thequality of JPEGs in your cameras menu.Stick with the highest quality JPEGsetting. Depending on your camerasmegapixel count, this will enable you toget a high quality print at least to A4.

    JPEGs are readable by most softwareprograms and at the highest qualitysettings, you can achieve excellentresults. If youre just finding your feetwith DSLR photography, shoot JPEGs.DSLR purists will tell you to shoot Rawbut the fact is, JPEGs are easier to use.They can be emailed and uploaded towebsites and occupy much less spaceon your computer.

    RawIf you dont want to lose data from yourimages, shoot Raw. In Raw files, dataremains untouched by the camerasprocessor and comes straight from thesensor, leaving you in total control overthe final image. The disadvantage withRaw is that files occupy more space onyour memory cards.

    Each manufacturer has itsown Raw format andprovides Raw convertersoftware free with yourDSLR. To make a Raw fileaccessible to all, youll haveto convert it into a TIFF orJPEG first. Programs such asAdobe PhotoshopLightroom and AppleAperture are designed tohandle and process largequantities of Raw files.Theres a lot of fuss about Raw files,

    but heres some common-sense advice.Shoot the format you feel mostcomfortable using. Some DSLRs willenable you to simultaneously captureboth Raw and JPEG files.

    TIFFsAlthough very few cameras shoot thisfile format in-camera, TIFF is a popularformat for saving a Raw file afteradjustment in an image-editing programsuch as Photoshop. This is because it

    stores information without discardingimage data. Its sometimes called alossless file format for this reason. Thismeans a TIFF may be edited and re-saved many times without losing imagequality. Most image-editing programscan read TIFFs but the file sizes areconsiderably larger than JPEGs.

    File formats

    ABOVE Raw files allow you 100%control over the final image. Hereyou can see that RAW isselected on the LCD monitor.

    RIGHT Raw and JPEG files canboth be manipulated in imageediting software for instanceconverting to B&W. Save Rawfiles as TIFFs to retain maximumimage data.

    DSLR purists will tellyou to shoot Raw...

    WILL

    CHEU

    NG

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  • PHOTOGRAPHY MONTHLY 21

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    Some photographers see shootingRaw akin to playing a piano with halfthe keys missing! Thats becausewhen you shoot a Raw image, thedata coming off the sensor is 12-bit,which gives 4096 tones for each ofthe red, green and blue (RGB) colourchannels. (Some DSLRs shoot 14-bitimages, giving 16,384 tones.) A JPEG,

    however, only has 8 bits, or 256 tonesper channel, so when you shoot aJPEG, the camera has to dump theexcess tones. That said, the humaneye can only see around 16 millioncolours and, as an 8-bit JPEG containsjust over 16 million colours, you mightquestion whether its worth the extraeffort to get the most from Raw.

    Whats the fuss about RAW?

    Simultaneous shooting the best of both worlds!Many DSLRs offer the facility to shoot Raw and JPEG filesat the same time check in your cameras instructionmanual to see if yours does.The huge benefit of this is that after downloading all

    the shots to your computer, you can quickly scroll throughthe JPEGs to see if any may be worth working on. If youvecaptured some crackers that require some tweaks, simplyfind the corresponding Raw file and process it accordingly.The bad news? Shooting in both file formats reduces

    memory card capacity even more, especially if yourecapturing Raw files and large JPEGs.

    ABOVE Canons own Rawconversion software is DigitalPhoto Professional, allowing forbatch processing, quick previewsand saving to TIFF or JPEG.

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    DSLRs have many advantages overother types of camera, but high on thelist has to be the ability to change ISOat the press of a button. No need towait until the end of the film as withtraditional SLRs, just select the ISO foryour needs and keep shooting.If ISO is an unfamiliar term to you, itrefers to the cameras sensitivity tolight. This sensitivity is measured in ISOnumbers, typically running from ISO 100to ISO 3200, although some modelsoffer sensitivities both above and belowthese figures.Each ISO step upwards represents adoubling in the sensors sensitivity tolight. So, a picture taken at 1/60sec atf/11 at ISO 100 will be the same

    exposure as one taken at 1/60sec atf/16 at ISO 200.In the early days of digital, the lightsensitivity of film was measured usingthe ISO (International StandardsOrganisation) standard, and so it wasnatural for image sensors to be rated inthe same way, even though the scienceis different. What were really talkingabout is a sensors ISO-equivalent,because when you adjust the ISO speedof a sensor, youre really adjusting itsgain or amplifying the signal thatcomes off the sensor.Increasing the ISO speed or gain of asensor affects its signal-to-noise ratio.

    Noise is seen in pictures as pixels thatare abnormal, such as dark pixels on alight area, or a red pixel in a blue sky.Its most prominent in shadow areasand dark colours in an image. Thegreater the ISO speed, the greater thenoise visible in the final picture. Youcould say its like grain in film; thehigher the film speed, the moreprominent the grain.As with film, image quality is higher atlower ISOs, where tones will besmoother and colours more accurate.Every DSLR performs well up to ISO400, but some start to struggle whenthe sensitivity increases to ISO 1600and beyond. Try shooting the samescene at all ISO settings on your DSLR

    so you can ascertain how many of yourcameras settings are actually usable.Noise also occurs during longexposures. Most DSLRs include sometype of built-in noise reduction (or NR),which combats noise at the processingstage. Some DSLRs allow you to choosebetween types of noise reduction,strengths of application from normal tohigh, and some allow you to turn noisereduction off altogether.Why would you want to turn noisereduction off? Noise reduction does agood job of reducing noise but alltechniques to reduce noise involve acompromise. Fine detail is often

    The greater the ISO speed,the greater the visible noise

    Making lightwork of ISOs

    ABOVE Changing the ISO settingalters your DSLR sensorssensitivity to light, also affectingthe signal to noise ratio. Thehigher the ISO, the more noise.

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    sacrificed. Activating noise reductionalso slows your shooting speed andthere may be a shift in colour, especiallywith high ISO noise reduction.To minimise noise in the first place,

    use a low ISO sensitivity between 100and 400.Raw images are unaffected by noise

    reduction unless youve selectednoise reduction in-camera which will beactivated by your DSLRs suppliedsoftware during Raw file conversion.Canons Raw Image Task software isone example. Third-party conversion

    software such as Adobes Camera Raw,which ships with Adobe PhotoshopElements, ignores in-camera settingslike noise reduction.Sometimes when shooting long

    exposures you may see stuck pixelson the final image. These are pixels thatare always on or always off. If theyreon, they usually appear as a single red,green or blue speck. If theyre off, youllsee them as a single dark speck on alight background. Most sensors havethem and noise reduction can help toremove them.

    Explore your ISO settings

    ISO 100 ISO 400

    ISO 100 ORIGINAL

    ISO 800 ISO 1600

    ISO 6400 ISO 25,600

    Explore both extremes of your DSLRs ISO dial right up to the fastestsettings. Here weve tried ultra-fast ISO 25,600. Image quality is alwayscompromised at high ISO, with image noise, errant colours and pixellation.

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    White-balance ensures white objectscome out white in your images; theprinciple being that if the white is right,all the other colours in the scene willalso be accurately rendered. Every typeof light sunlight, shadows, tungsten,fluorescent etc has a colourtemperature, which refers to thewarmth or coolness of the light.

    Our eyes and brain combine verywell to assess what is white underdifferent lighting, automatically gettingrid of any colour cast the light mayhave, but DSLRs are less savvy and soneed a helping hand.Your DSLR will have a range of white-

    balance settings and theyre all there to

    help you to get the whitest whites.Most photographers leave white-

    balance set to Auto, which is fine. Inthis mode, the camera will assess theconditions and take a best guess at thewhite-balance setting often getting itspot on.There will be occasions, though, when

    Auto wont achieve the right white-balance for the conditions youreshooting in. So, if youd prefer to takematters into your own hands, turn toyour DSLRs preset options and scrollthrough to find the one which describesyour lighting most accurately.For instance, if youre shooting

    indoors under conventional householdbulbs, you should select the tungstenpreset. Conversely, if youre shootingoutdoors in overcast conditions, choosethe cloudy preset.Just remember to change back to

    Auto (or another preset) as soon as thelighting changes.

    Take full controlSometimes youll find yourself facing asubject lit by two or more light sources,each one with a different colourtemperature. You could simply chooseAuto white-balance and let the camerafigure it out, or you could create yourown custom white-balance settingusing an A4 sheet of white paper.

    DSLRs employ various methods ofsetting custom white-balance, butessentially you should place the sheetof paper in the light for which you wantto get a correct white-balance reading.Take a picture of the paper, filling theframe, then tell the camera to tweaksettings so the paper records white.

    This will, in turn, be saved in thecameras custom white-balance settingand can be used for all subsequentshots taken in those same lightingconditions.

    If the light changes, youll need totake another shot of the paper andrepeat the process.If the idea of carrying sheets of paper

    around doesnt appeal, there is anotheroption; shoot using the Raw file format.Once you get the files on yourcomputer, you have all the same white-balance controls as you do on yourcamera, so you can use the one thatbest suits your image.Its worth remembering that white-

    balance is there to be played with andcan be used for pictorial effects. Trytaking the same shot using all yourcameras white-balance settings andassessing the results. They wont all begood, but some could add an extradimension to your images.

    White-balance

    White-balance can be usedfor all sorts of pictorial effects

    ABOVE The white-balance settingis easy to adjust according to theavailable light. If your camera hasa WB button, press it; if not, itsprobably hidden in a sub-menu...

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    ABOVE Compare the various white-balance settings on your DSLR and youll see how the camera will correct the orange light fromdomestic light bulbs (fluorescent and tungsten) by adding blue. You can use these settings outdoors for a cool blue look.

    AUTO WB CLOUDY

    CUSTOM DAYLIGHT

    FLASH FLUORESCENT

    SHADE TUNGSTEN

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    A large percentage of DSLRs featurea built-in flash, and while its notpowerful enough to light acathedral interior, its handy for arange of photo situations.If youre shooting with a programor scene exposure mode, chances

    are your DSLR will fire itsbuilt-in flash automatically.Or, a flash thunderbolt iconwill blink in the viewfinder,advising you to switch theflash on. Once the flash ischarged and ready to fire,the thunderbolt willstop blinking.If youre shooting

    portraits with flash its best

    to activate your DSLRs anti red-eyefeature. People pictures taken with acameras built-in flash can often sufferfrom this ghoulish effect where thesubjects pupils appear bright red. Thisoccurs because the flash is so close tothe cameras lens axis it can record theredness inside the subjects eyes.DSLRs use various methods to

    counter the problem, from firing aseries of rapid flash bursts to shining aconstant torch beam of light just priorto the picture being taken. Whateverthe method, they all perform the samefunction: reducing your subjects pupilsto minimise the effect.Its always worth warning your

    subject(s) before taking the picture!

    Fill-in flash is handy whentaking pictures outdoors. Itsmost commonly used forportraits on bright dayswhen your subjects face orfeatures may be castingshadows, but can be equallyuseful for nature images, too.

    Confusingly, most DSLRsdont offer a specific fill-inflash mode. Instead youhave to force the flash tofire in conditions whenordinarily it wouldnt. This istypically done either bypopping the flash up oractivating Flash On in your

    cameras flash menu. Oncethe flash is up, try taking ashot to see what you get.

    Chances are your DSLRwill be sophisticated enoughto handle the exposureautomatically. If not, findyour DSLRs flash exposurecompensation function,select -1, -1.5 and -2 andtake additional shots atleast one will look morenatural. What youre doinghere is reducing the outputof the flash, so it combinesnaturally with the daylight tofill-in the shadows.

    Using flash outdoors

    Using yourbuilt-in flash

    A burst of gentle fill-in flash removes shadows.

    WITHOUT FLASH

    WITH FLASH

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    FLASHTOP TIPS

    If you shoot a lot of images outdoors in low lightusing a tripod, you wont always want the flash tofire. In these circumstances, its best to turn the flashoff. This can be done via your cameras flash menu.Even with the flash turned off, your DSLR will usuallyadvise you to turn it back on via the flashingthunderbolt in the viewfinder. Its handy to use this asa reminder to put your camera on a tripod or someother support. If the thunderbolt (or the shutter

    speed) is flashing in the viewfinder, it means that thelight is too low for handholding the camera. Get it ona tripod or suffer shots with camera shake.

    DSLRs do offer one feature, however, thats veryhandy for use outdoors at night: night portrait mode.This is ideal for those times when you want tophotograph someone in front of a floodlit building. Inthis mode, the camera couples a burst of flash with along exposure so both the person and the buildingare correctly exposed. Again, youll need your cameraon a tripod as the shutter speed will be too long toavoid camera shake if you handhold it.

    Using flash at night

    Your DSLRs built-inflash isnt thatpowerful dontexpect it to illuminateanything more than afew metres away.The higher the ISOyou use, the greaterits effective distance.

    If you have a lenshood on your lens,take it off before youuse the built-in flash,otherwise it couldblock the light. Get to know howyour flash exposurecompensation works.

    Setting it to minusfigures will make theburst more subtle. Make sure yoursubject isnt too close.At less than a metrethe flash may be toostrong and coveragemay be affected.

    NIGHT PORTRAIT MODE

    NORMAL FLASH

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    Next monthContinue your quest forgreat pictures with our32-page guide free withthe April 2009 issue ofPhotography Monthly.

    On sale March 12

    techniquesPhoto

    explained

    Essential

    Depth-of-field demystified! Composition conquered!Focusing fixed! Perspective sorted!

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