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Total Beginner needs help please!


HI, I am a mom of three kids who are models. I need to take pics of them regularly to update their portfolio and send to their agent. I usually take them outside to play and snap pics of full body and some face shots. They move around a lot.


I have a Canon Rebel T5 kit. What setting should I have it on so I can have the flexibiity of moving around with them and taking pics. Auto?  If not auto setting, can someone talk me through each setting in another program please?  My photos look grainy, washed out, blurry, etc. I can't get it right. Thanks so much!!





First, forget Auto exists.  Also set the ISO to a fixed level.  Not auto ISO.

It sounds like you might have two issues to deal with.  Good stationery shots and some more active ones.


For the static or not much motion use the Av mode.  Select an aperture you want and let the T5 set the SS.  More open for less DOF and stopped down for a larger DOF (depth of field, more or less what remains in good focus).


For the active shots use Tv mode.  Set a higher SS value like 1/500 or 1/1000.  Let the T5 set the aperture.  This will stop almost anythings movement.


ISO in the range of 400 should work for both but you may want to drop it down to 200 or kick up to 800.  Don't go higher.


Picking a day and or a place that has good light will also bring nice rewards to you.  The best shots are staged so you know what to expect.  Guessing usually will result in hit or miss.  Shooting kids especially high schoolers is a large part of my business right now. Believe me guessing is not good.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Thank you


In TV, the highest shutter speed is 1/200

The Rebel T5 has a SS range of 30sec to 1/4000.  All are available in Tv mode.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

Ok, because it was in Al Servo, whatever that means 🙂


I need to go through all my settings and fix them up!



Use One Shot not Ai-servo.  At least until you get better acquainted with the camera.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!

@Deckydodo wrote:

Thank you


In TV, the highest shutter speed is 1/200

You are limited to 1/200 whenever the built-in flash is on (popped up for use).  Just push it down and lock on Tv mode.

Diverhank's photos on Flickr


"Thanks so much!!"

You are very welcome.   BTW, if you need some more tips let me know.  I have been at this for decades!  Smiley Happy

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!


"Program" mode is like auto except it allows you to override settings (auto doesn't allow you to make many changes).   But "Program" mode tries to find what I call a "safe" exposure (which is not necessarily the most interesting, creative, or best possible exposure).  What it really does is puts priority on getthing the shutter speed high enough that blur caused by YOUR camera movement (but not your subject's movement) will hopefully be eliminated.  If it has more than enough light to do that, then it starts to balance increases in shutter speed with decreases in the aperture size (which results in a broader "depth of field" or DoF -- this is the range of distances at which a subject will appear to be in fairly acceptable focus).  


So "Program" mode will be very easy... but not necessarily result in the best image.


"Av" mode (Aperture value) is probably the most useful mode (especially if you have a low-focal ratio lens).  The "Aperture" refers to the size of the opening in the lens.  The lens has an adjustable aperture that works a bit like the iris on your eyes in that it can dilate or constrict to allow more or less light to pass through (this is not the shutter).  When more light passes through the lens at a time, you can take an exposure in less time (the shutter speed can be shorter or "faster") but the trade off is that less of the image will be in focus (objects nearer or farther from the intended focus distance will be blurred.  When you use a smaller aperture opening the depth of field is broader (objects nearer or farther than the intended focus distance may actually look fairly well focused).  


The confusing part of aperture is that it is a ratio - like a fraction.  The lower value numbers actually refer to BIGGER lens openings.    Aperture values will be things like f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, etc.    f/2 is actully a larger aperture size than f/16 (some people get that backwards).


Here's a video that may help:



If the kids are in full-sun then the sun will create very harsh shadows (eye sockets will be very dark).  If looking at the sun they may squint (not usually a good look) and if they're faced away from the sun they may be too dark.  The solution is to use the FLASH (yes, I know it's outside and during the day).  The flash helps fill in the shadow areas.  You'll still see shadows -- they just wont look so dark.


If you want to use a flash, then Av mode wont let you set a shutter speed faster than 1/200th sec (with flash enabled) UNLESS that flash is equipped with a feature called "high speed sync".  The built-in flash on your T5 doesn't support that.  You'd need an external flash attached to the camera hot-shoe such as a Canon Speedlite 430EX II or 430EX III-RT.


But you could use "Program" mode with the flash.  All you have to do is use the button on the front of the camera that looks like a lightning bolt... that raises the flash.  If the camera is in "Program" mode and the flash is raised, it will use the flash (if the flash is down then it wont use it.  This is one of the benefits of using Program mode or auto mode).   The camera will constrict the aperure size (probably to f/11 or f/16) so that the shutter speed need not be longer than 1/200th sec at ISO 100.  


Again, this wont be the "best" result possible, but with limited equipment and not a lot of experience this will probably improve your results.  


I am assuming you are using the kit Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 II lens that came with the T5. 


This should hopefully help with the "blurry" problem.  Another factor in the "blurry" problem may be missed focus.  By default your camera will test all the auto-focus points and it will select the AF point that is able to achieve focus at the NEAREST distance to your camera.   This means if anything is closer than your intended subject, it will likely focus on that nearer thing and not on your intended subject.  You can use the AF seletion button to force the camera to pick a specific point.  I suggest setting it to use the center point.  Then target and focus on whichever eye is closest to you (we call this the "dominant eye").  Half-press to get the camera to lock in focus at that point but then re-compose the frame to place your subject nicely in the frame (you don't want the eyeball smack in the center of the frame).  The technique is (a) target the eye, (b) half-press to get the camera lens to focus to their eye (don't release the half-pressed shutter button), (c) re-compose the frame and then (d) fully press the shutter to take the shot.   This focus technique only works if the camera's focus mode is in "One Shot" mode.  If the camera is in "AI Servo" mode it will CONTINUALLY ADJUST FOCUS as the focus point moves around.


"One shot" mode activates focus until it locks on a subject, then shuts down the focus system so the camera remains focusesd at that distance.  It is meant for shots where the camera/subject distance remains fixed becuase neither is moving.  


"AI Focus" mode is meant for action photography where the subject distance is constantly changing.  The camera never stops focusing until you take the shot.  So in this mode, you have to be careful to select an appropriate AF point and keep that point on your subject at all times (if it drifts off the intended subject then the camera will re-focus on something else).  Canon's more advanced cameras have focus systems with many many more AF points and the ability to follow the subject as they move around in the frame.  Your T5 doesn't have such an advanced focus system.


As for "grainy" -- that often implies you were using a very high ISO setting (don't do that).  Your camera will produce very clear non-grainy images at ISO 100, 200, 400, but you'll start to notice a little grain at ISO 800... and more still at 1600... and 3200 will probably look awful.  The lower the ISO, the clearer and less grainy the image will be.


As for "washed out" - that usually means an incorrect exposure or that the image could use some adjustment in post processing software.  You can increase color saturation (carefull... that's like adding salt to your food.  A little may be nice, but over-do things and it ruins it.  Don't grab the saturation adjustment and just cram it all the way to the high end.  Gentle adjustments that still look believable look best.)


Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
click here to view the press release