Using All of My Brain: Camera Basics (that weren't so basic)

As I am still maneuvering my way around my 7D, okay a camera in general, I have recently picked up a few key tips and tricks that I honestly felt silly not knowing.  I have scoured my manual, stocked up on books, and googled everything under the sun but some things you just pick up through sharing with other people.  Case-in-point:  My three latest golden nuggets.  I give it my best shot to break down what I learned via a bootleg looking video. If you know me, you know I love a good bootleg.  Don't be surprised if you see someone's head cross the screen...

Syncing my camera: Why oh dear heavens why did I not know this sooner?  When Jasmine Star mentioned 'syncing your cameras' at the Creative Live workshop, I thought "HUH?!?!?!" but was too nervous to utter a peep considering I had just admitted to still opening millions of wedding photos in Photoshop.  Oh I'm just going to keep my mouth shut on this one and google later. I regretted not asking the question because turns out I wasn't the only one in the group who wondered.  Erin Oveis Brant (sorry to call you out, girl!) and I pondered the question and cornered Nikko, (Creative Live's editing wizard) for the scoop.  Turns out there's no magic trick involved after all!

How to set it up (on a 7D, but probably similar on any camera):

Menu>Tools Tab>Date & Time

Voila!  Once you have your date and time set with another photographer you are good to go!  Then, once you import all of your images together into your editing program or online gallery (such as Lightroom or SmugMug) with one click of a button you can organize all of the images together by time.  Seriously, I didn't know this and would spend hours manually organizing the wedding photos within each folder to tell the story of the day.  Hair. Pulling. Hours.  Ohhhh if I could get those hours back now.  Go ahead, point and laugh. So thankful to finally be 'in the know'.

Back Button Focus:

To me, learning this information from Candice Benjamin was golden.  I had been making efforts to tame the wild beast focus points of the 7D but just couldn't find a combination that worked right for me.  I had read thoughts and opinions and came to the conclusion that since "a lot of people use AI Servo as their focusing mode" that I would too.  Perfect example of what works for other people may not work for you. So this may not work for you, either.  Or you may do this but with the shutter button instead of the AF-ON button, so please feel free to share if you have any other tips or tricks, or if what I am saying is completely whacky.  I am still trying to nail down my focus points but so far back-button focus has done the job!

How to set it up (on the 7D in Manual Mode):

1.  From the "Quick Menu", set Focusing Mode to One Shot-AF.

2.  Menu> Camera Tab> C.FnIV: Operation/Others>

Here you can set up your custom controls.  I set up my shutter button to only take the photo, so it no longer initiates auto focus (but you can use the shutter button to lock focus and do this same technique, I just learned the back button way and to me it's easier to use my thumb).  My AF-On button (on the back of the camera) now controls metering and AF Start.

Put it into action:

It may be easier to watch me duck and weave in my iphone video above, especially since I'm not the best teacher OR explainer, but a few things I found helpful when playing around with back button focus (or, really locking your focus with a button in general and then recomposing).

1.  For me, it helps to just start with one center AF point and move as I see fit, then lock in the focus (on, say, the subject's eye) with the AF-On button(do this by pushing down the AF-On button with the AF point on what you want in focus.  Then release the AF-On button).  If that isn't the exact composition you were looking for, then you have a small range that you can move your camera in to recompose while still keeping your original focus.  Try not to move too much, and don't get any closer/further away because changing your depth will loose your original focus.  You can really only move your camera a pinch if need be.  (That is why it is best to position your auto focus point the closest to what you want in focus so that you won't have to move too much).  If you locked in your original focus and only moved a smidge (if you wanted to recompose the shot), then once you click the shutter, your original point on the subject should still be in focus even if you did move your camera (which, in turn, slightly moved your focus point).  Does this make sense or am I rambling?

What's the point of all this work you may ask?  Well, for me it gives me more control over my focus points, especially since the Canon 7D has 19 different focus points and, if using it in AI Servo mode (like I was!) those focus points would constantly hop around!  Using One Shot-AF shooting mode combined with the back button (or shutter button) "locking in" your focus technique I am able to get more shots with my focus consistently sharp.  Wayyyy more control, and once you play with it you get used to moving your thumbs all over the place, ducking and weaving your head, and don't worry that you look like a UFC fighter dodging punches because you got the shot.

Pimp Yo' Ride:  Tricking out the custom functions of my camera

This is most likely the biggest no-brainer of them all, but we don't use all of our human brains, so let's just say this was the part I legitamately wasn't using, shall we?  I currently have my 7D set up in manual mode for the wheel on the top of the camera (not the back!) to control my shutter speed, which I change constantly.  My ISO being something I don't change as much, I access that through the quick menu or the top LCD screen/ISO button.  Easy.  But my aperture, that is something I change a lot, and want to at a moment's notice.  Not having a control I could quickly access for this was hindering my images and making me less productive, but I didn't even realize it.  I now have the back wheel of my camera controlling my aperture, so I can quickly change the shutter speed, ISO, aperture, etc. all without the camera ever leaving my face.  Seems like that's the point, right?  Well, I didn't think of it that way until Tim asked me how to change my aperture. Amature I may be. Everyone works differently, so some folks may want to program their buttons to control multiple settings or work the opposite of this.  These particular settings just work well for me, but really the point is ultilizing the custom functions allows me to keep shooting, quickly changing settings, all without missing a beat.  I'm getting to know my camera better, I'm even tucking it into bed with me tonight.

How to set it up (on the 7D in Manual Mode):

1.  Menu> Camera Tab> C.FnIV: Operation/Others>

Here you can trick out your camera.  Program whatever functions you use most to work with whichever  button that your little fingers work the fastest!  I set the back wheel (forgive me for not knowing the proper name) to scroll to quickly change my aperture from 1.4 to 2.8.  The center button of that wheel just accesses my menu screen.

Let the "Oh my gosh someone rip her camera out of her hands right now" comments begin.  ;)  Please oh please feel free to share any more tips or tricks you may have, if there is a way that works better for you, or if I am totally off base and explained that incorrectly.  I just know if there were two of us with a few of these questions, there could be, may be, more people.  Probably no more than one.