Where do I take Exposure Reading?

Photographing a scene like the one below can be a challenge. There are bright areas and dark areas that can fool the camera’s meter. So where do you point the camera? Where do you take an exposure reading?

To get the right exposure you can point the camera at a gray card or something similar like a gray concrete walkway or the bark of a tree. Then set the camera to manual exposure mode and use the reading you just observed. You can go a step further by bracketing that exposure, that is, taking 1 or 2 under- and over-exposed shots.

I chose to point the camera’s central AF points to an area of the water that reflected the cloud overhead. That area was not dark nor too bright. I used the recommended exposure readings of 1/200 second and f/10. A wide angle lens set at 12mm was handheld for this shot. I decided to use ISO 100 rather than my preferred ISO 200 to get a lot of details.


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How to Create Special Effects


Tired of the usual photos of people, animals, building and flowers?

Want to try your hand at some special effects like the images to the right?

“If you want to be able to take the really cool photos – those crazy special effects images others just can’t figure out – what I’m about to share with you will blow your mind…”

“… in fact, you’ll probably be a little annoyed that nobody told you this stuff before.”

“You see, there are a handful of simple, easy techniques that can totally transform how you use and view your camera – and they’re so quick to grasp, they’ll make a difference for you the very next time you snap a picture.” READ MORE


Shooting a Clock Tower on a bright sunny afternoon

How to shoot on a bright sunny afternoon

A long time ago I attended a photography seminar where I was told that harsh light such as at midday does not produce the best images. Harsh lighting leave shadows. Sometimes this can be controlled by fill light and at other times that is just not possible.

I was in Margate Florida on a bright sunny Tuesday afternoon when I decided to take a photograph of the clock tower. The light was bright and harsh and using fill flash would not be ideal. I decided to set the camera in manual mode and try a few shutter speed/aperture combinations to see which one gives the best image. I also decided that I would overexpose the image a little to capture as much detail as possible.

The image below was captured around 2:00 PM with the following settings:

Camera Model Canon EOS 7D
Shooting Mode Manual Exposure
Tv (Shutter Speed) 1/640
Av (Aperture Value) 9.0
Metering Mode Evaluative Metering
ISO Speed 200
Lens EF24-70mm f/2.8L USM
Focal Length 50.0mm
Image Size 3888×2592
Image Quality MRAW
AF area select mode Manual selection

Do I get the best pictures with manual mode on my Canon 7D?

QUESTION: I am new to photography and am not sure which mode I should use. Someone told me that I must use manual mode to get the best pictures. Is this true? – Pierre, St. Paul MN

ANSWER: The simple answer is NO.

Here is the “not-so-simple” answer: Many Canon cameras have 2 sets of shooting modes. The Basic Zone modes are often used by novices/newbies and the Creative Zone modes are preferred by advanced amateurs and professionals.

The Creative Zone modes are represented as P, Tv, Av, M and A-DEP. These letters represent Program AE Mode, Shutter-Priority AE Mode, Aperture-Priority AE Mode, Manual Exposure Mode and Automatic Depth-of-Field AE Mode, respectively.

Any one of these creative modes can produce stunning photographs. While it is true that many professionals use the manual mode, there is nothing about the camera that limits it from taking great photographs in the other modes.

As you are learning to take better photographs you will become familiar with the effects of slow shutter speeds, fast shutter speeds, large apertures and small apertures. Soon you will be able to decide if 1/125s or 1/500s is better for what you are shooting and whether to use f/2.8, f/8.0 or f/11 for your subject.

You will be able to use manual mode comfortably after a thorough understanding of shutter speeds, apertures, f-stops, exposure compensation and the relationship between light sensitivity and ISO.

My favorite shooting mode is Aperture-Priority and I have been able to take stunning photographs with this mode.

Check out the following article to learn when to use small, medium and large apertures:

Canon 7d Settings – Understanding and Using Aperture

Canon 7D Settings: Understanding and Using Aperture

SALE: Canon EOS 7D 18 MP Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD (Body Only)

A great number of photographers use Aperture-Priority (Av) mode as their preferred creative mode. In this mode the photographer selects the aperture and the camera automatically selects the shutter speed to achieve the correct exposure. But what is so magical about this “aperture thing”? Why do photographers want control over the aperture used when taking photographs?

Aperture refers to the opening in the lens that controls the amount of light that passes through to the sensor or film. That opening changes based on what the photographer or camera feels is the suitable “aperture setting” or f-stop. The letter “f” is assigned to represent aperture. Depending on which lens you are using you may see apertures ranging from f/1.4 to f/22.

When a photograph is taken with a large aperture (like f/1.4 or f/2.8) there is a small area in front and behind the point of focus that is relatively sharp or in focus. When a photograph is taken with a small aperture (like f/11 or f/16) there is a large area in front and behind the point of focus that is relatively sharp or in focus.

The area of acceptable focus that stretches from the foreground of the point of focus to the background is called DEPTH OF FIELD.

When photographing a flower, a fruit or the torso of a model you do not want any distraction in the foreground or the background. One way to eliminate or reduce distraction is to use a large aperture that tends to give a small depth of field and a blurry foreground/background. The following 3 images show what happens to the background when the aperture is changed:

Aperture: f/2.8

Aperture: f/5.6

Aperture: f/11

The lime was photographed with a Canon EOS 7D camera and a Canon EF 24-70mm lens set on a tripod. The first image was shot at shutter speed 1/640 and aperture f/2.8. The second image was shot at shutter speed 1/125 and aperture f/5.6. The third image was shot at shutter speed 1/40 and aperture f/11. The ISO was set at 200.

The leaves and branch to the left of the lime in the first photograph are blurry, less so in the second photograph and clearly visible in the third photograph. The aperture was decreased from f/2.8 to f/5.6 to f/11 and as a result more details in the background appeared.

Use a large aperture (like f/1.4, f/2.8 or f/4.0) when you want to make your subject(s) stand out against the background. This works best when photographing a flower, a fruit, a pet and sometimes the face of a person. (Remember: large aperture for small depth of field.)

Squirrel at Secret Woods Nature Center

Use a small aperture (like f/8, f/11 or f/16) when you want as much of the foreground and background to appear relatively sharp. This works best when photographing a beach, a farm, a crowd or any subject that covers a large area. The beach scene below was captured with a small aperture of f/16 to reveal as much detail as possible in the foreground and the background:

Dania Beach Florida

This is Dania Beach in south Florida. The image was taken at 8:12 AM on a very cool and sunny day. The Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L lens was set at 28mm. The Canon 7D was set at ISO 200, aperture f/16 and shutter speed of 1/200 second.

Another very important thing to consider in the discussion of aperture and depth of field is the focal length of the lens you are using. You normally shoot a landscape or a crowd with a short focal length such as 15mm, 20mm, 24mm or 28mm. However when shooting a flower, a fruit or sometimes a model, you are more likely to use a longer focal length such as 70mm, 85mm, 105mm or 200mm.

Lenses with short focal lengths give much better depth of field than lenses with long focal length. Hence short focal lengths for landscape and focal length like 105mm, 135mm or 200mm for taking headshots and shooting models.

“Just received my Canon 7D; need help”

SALE: Canon EOS 7D 18 MP Digital SLR Camera with 3-Inch LCD (Body Only)

QUESTION: “I just received my Canon 7D after outgrowing my point-and-shoot. I would like to do pet photography one day but I need a lot of help to figure this thing out. Where do I start? What tips and tricks do you recommend?” – Angela, Fort Myers FL

ANSWER: Congratulations on getting your hands on the Canon 7D. It is a great camera that will get you the photos you are looking for ONLY IF you get to know it well and master a few features. By the way did you buy a CF card? A 4GB or 8GB CF card from a reputable company like SanDisk, Lexar or Kingston is a good starting point.

Start with reading the manual. If you don’t read it cover to cover at least try to read Chapter 1 (Getting Started), Chapter 2 (Basic Shooting), Chapter 3 (Image Settings) and Chapter 4 (Setting the AF and Drive Modes).

The Canon EOS 7D manual is available online here.

After reading some basic information just get out and start shooting. Put the camera in the P mode, keep the automatic ISO setting and use the default AF setting. Shoot simple and readily available subjects like a fruit, a perfume bottle, a flower, a pet, a car, a car logo, a mailbox, etc. Try shooting objects close to you and objects far away. If you are using the 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS USM Lens shoot the same subject at different focal lengths and make note of the differences.

Some of the ideal times to shoot are early in the morning, late in the evening, when the sky is partly cloudy or at any time that the sunlight is not harsh. Harsh lighting creates “intense” shadows that do not produce pleasing photographs. Of course you can shoot at any time you want, but be aware that mastering the art of photography is primarily capturing images in the “right” lighting conditions. (If you must shoot in harsh lighting conditions you can use accessories like light tent and diffusers to “tone down” the light.)

After you have taken several photographs take a critical look at each of them. Compare them to those taken by the “pros.” You can find top quality images of ANY subject at stock photography sites like,,,,, or photo sharing sites like, or Take notice of what makes you say “wow” when viewing the images of the professionals.

Some of the reasons why the images of the professionals stand out are:

1. The subjects were properly exposed (proper lighting)

2. Distraction was reduced or eliminated to show a clearly defined subject (suitable depth of field and composition)

3. Careful attention was given to where the subject was placed in the photograph (the ideal composition and balance)

4. A bit of luck or creativity made an ordinary or common subject/scene stand out from others (the WOW factor)

In today’s digital world sometimes a photograph can be improved or enhanced by post processing. However it is better to “get it right” while on location than to count on post processing to fix certain mistakes.

As your photographs improve try asking for constructive criticism at the forum. Or look at the photographs others are submitting and read the constructive criticisms about them. You can learn a lot from this “Critique Corner.”

I received my Canon EOS 7D back in April 2010 so I have been learning and experimenting with it for 2 years. I am willing to help you  take better pictures with your Canon 7D. If you need some pointers and critique just send me an email at tony “at” (Go ahead; I won’t bite!)

Want to change certain functions quickly? Use the Quick Control screen. I sometimes forget which 2 buttons to press to change metering mode or to set self-timer. With the Quick Control screen you can change Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO, AF point selection, Picture Style, White Balance, Metering mode, Resolution, AF mode and Drive mode.


Press the “Q” button at the top left corner. The Quick Control screen appears and remains visible for about 10 seconds.

Use the Multi-Controller (the joy stick) to select a function. The selected function is displayed at the bottom of the screen.

Use the Main Dial (top of camera) or Quick Control Dial (wheel at the back) to change the setting.

Press the SET button to confirm your selection.

Here is what the Quick Control screen looks like:

Canon 7D Quick Control screen

My Canon 7D won’t focus on my car

QUESTION: “I can’t get my 7d to focus on my new car. It was a bright sunny day so there was enough light. What am I doing wrong?” – Brenda, Dallas TX

ANSWER: According to the Canon 7D manual on page 92 one of the conditions under which the camera may fail to autofocus is “Extremely backlit or reflective subjects (Example: Car with a highly reflective body)”

You may choose to photograph the car when the light is not as harsh such as late evening or under partly cloudy skies. Or you may choose to focus manually.

Here is what the manual says on page 92:

Autofocus can fail to achieve focus (the focus confirmation light blinks) with certain subjects such as the following:
– Very low-contrast subjects (Example: Blue sky, solid-color walls, etc.)
– Subjects in very low light
– Extremely backlit or reflective subjects (Example: Car with a highly reflective body)
– Near of far subjects covered by an AF point (Example: Animal in a cage)
– Repetitive patterns (Example: Skycraper windows, computer keyboards, etc)

In such cases, do one of the following:
1. With One-Shot AF, focus an object at the same distance as the subject and lock the focus before recomposing (page 52).
2. Set the lens focus mode switch to <MF> and focus manually.

The Canon EOS 7D manual is available online here.

Canon 7D Settings for bird photography

A very interesting thread on bird photography was started at my favorite photography forum: The original poster wanted to leave his camera in a pre-set condition where he would use the same settings all the time.

It was quickly pointed out that lighting condition is always changing and there is no one set of conditions that will work all the time. Some of the responders are bird photographers who shared their experience and made workable solutions. Some of the suggestions include”

“I shoot mostly birds. I can safely say, 99% of the time you don’t really need such small aperture f16 to get the Depth of Field that covers the entire subject (the bird) in focus, unless you can get REALLY close to the bird, i.e. within 5 ~ 7ft. This is because, setting your aperture to f16, you are doing it at the expense of shutter speed and also of ISO. The former is critical for bird in action, the latter is important for noise-free images.”

“Stay well away from F16 for bird photography. It will result in a slower shutter speed which is the mortal enemy of birders……….I use F7.1 on my 100-400 normally, ISO 800 in Aperture mode. If you need more light then go ISO 1600 or higher, and use native ISO’s only ( 100 – 200- 400 etc ) ”

Follow the thread here and also check out the stunning bird images by Ian Hatch.


I shot this photo of a Cattle Egret from my car, using the window to steady my Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens set at 200mm. The exposure was 1/1000 second f/8 and ISO 200.

Are you using the Quick Control screen on your Canon 7D?

My Canon EOS 7D is 2 years old today and I am still amazed at what it does. There are several things I like about it like the bright viewfinder (compared to my EOS 40D), the 19 AF points which are all sensitive to horizontal and vertical lines, the grid display in the viewfinder and the electronic level.

However one feature that I probably like more than all others is the Quick Control screen shown below. In less than 15 seconds I can change the ISO number, the Aperture and the type of metering. This is important because it would have taken much longer to change the Aperture using the Mode dial and the Main dial and to change the ISO number and the metering mode. using 2 or 3 button at the top of the camera. The Quick Control screen allows you to change Shutter speed, Aperture, ISO, AF point selection, Picture Style, White Balance, Metering mode, Resolution, AF mode and Drive mode. You can also set the Self-Timer easily using this feature.


Press the “Q” button at the top left corner. The Quick Control screen appears and remains visible for about 10 seconds.

Use the Multi-Controller to select a function. The selected function is displayed on the screen’s bottom.

Use the Main Dial or Quick Control Dial to change the setting.

Press the SET button to confirm your selection.


Canon 7D Quick Control screen