Ten Tips

20D, 50mm, 430 EZ and Me

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Much of the following can be found in other magazine articlees, on the internet, or through discussion with other photographers. I'm putting down 10 things that I consider when shooting with the Canon 20D (or other camera models with the additional jog dial and joystick), my 50 mm f1.8 (love this lens) and a manual 430 EZ flash.

1. Custom setting 13. Set the joystick to control your focus points. The 20D has 9 focus points, with the joystick control activiated, you can select which point you need without having the camera guess. It was frustrating to have to hold down a button and scroll through the focus points, this way is so much easier. The joystick becomes active after pressing the shutter half way.

2. Sweet spot. I find that shooting people, f2.0 or f2.2 is the sweet spot, there is just this intangible separation between subject and foreground. Shooting in this aperture range also allows very hand holdable shutter speeds in dim light conditions.

3. Set ISO to 200 or 400. This goes beyond normal concepts that the lowest ISO is better. Shooting at 200 or 400 gives the benefit of extra stops of light, and you can use that for a faster shutter speed to reduce camera shake. I also sense that the pics come out a little more saturated, since the sensor is more sensitive, this makes sense right? Besides, the 20D can easily handle ISO 400 and if you're shooting at ISO 800, try to overexpose by at least a 1/2 stop.

4. Shoot on a bright day, but in the shade. The settings above will easily handle the dimmer light levels in the shade. Shoot in a dark room by a window when the sun is overhead. The natural light coming in is great for portrait shots.

5. Photographing people. The eyes, the eyes, focus on the eyes. Use the joystick to select the focus point which falls on the eyes. Try not to use focus and recompose if your main goal is to get the eyes sharp. The aperture setting of f2 or 2.2 is so shallow, just moving your camera a few inches to recompose can cause the eyes not to be super clear.

6. This $80 lens is slow in dim light. The construction is pretty shoddy, but the lens outputs great pics. If you want better build quality and slightly faster focusing, get the 50mm 1.4... it also costs a few hundred dollars more as well. I've shot with the f1.4, but I noticed that with the majority of my shots, the difference between the bokeh is nonconsequential. Also, since I shoot primarily at f2 or f2.2, having the f1.4 is meaningless.

7. The lens can be used for landscape as well. I'm pretty fond of photographing landscape with my 50mm and using a small aperture, f2.2 to f4. But feel free to bump it up to f8 or more, just beware of a dirty sensor, cuz you'll see black dots all over a clear blue sky.

8. Buy a flash. You dont need the newer EX model flashes either. Pick up a second hand 430EZ for under $50. You'll only be able to shoot in manual, but it's not that hard to figure out what the settings you need are.

9. If you're shooting indoors with some light and a flat white ceiling, aim your flash at the ceiling for the bounce affect. If there is a good source of light, turn off the flash and shoot with the light that is available. Don't be tempted to buy the diffusers that slap on to the camera, I wasted $17 and it's an overpriced coin box right now. I don't find the effect flattering at all, and you're better off just rubberbanding tissue around the top.

10. My usual settings for indoor flash use. Set your shutter speed to 1/125, aperture to f2.2, ISO 400. Then set your flash output to 1/8 or 1/16. This will reduce your battery drain and allow you to shoot more with less worry on your battery recharge time.

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