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Occasional Contributor
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-18-2014

Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

I would like to take some outdoor pictures of family. Having trouble trying to figure out settings on my t3i
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Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,847
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

I have two answers...

A short answer is ... put the camera into Tv mode, dial it to f/4, and use a long-ish focal length (avoid wide-angle) and keep the background at some distance behind your subjects. Light shade really helps.

And now for the longer answer...

Before the days when light meters were built into cameras, if you didn't happen to own a hand-held light meter, you had to memorize some common exposures. The "Sunny 16" exposure is a rule/guideline designed to work when shooting outdoors in mid-day full sun.

It says that if you set the f-stop (aperture) to f/16, then the shutter speed should be set to the inverse of the ISO speed. In other words if you use the base ISO of 100 on the camera, then you'd set the shutter speed to 1/100th. At ISO 400... you'd set the shutter speed to 1/400th. You get the idea.

However... full "mid day" outdoor sun is miserable if you want good looking images. The bright sun creates rather extreme shadows. If I have to shoot outdoors, I always use flash. I set the flash exposure compensation to "-1" when causes the flash to behave as "fill" light. That means I want the flash to fire at about half the power needed to take over and be the primary light source. This means the sun will still be the primary light source... but the flash will fill in the shadows so they are about half as dark as they would otherwise have been and you get images that look a bit nicer.

This assumes you have an external flash ... fairly powerful. E.g. a Canon Speedlite 430EX II, a 580EX II, or a 600EX-RT. The built-in pop-up flash will not be nearly strong enough unless your subject is only about 5' away.

SO.... the alternative is to get those subjects out of the bright sun. If you can shoot them in "light shade" then you'd open up the aperture by 1 stop (e.g. f/11 instead of f/16). Try to avoid dappled light (which doesn't look very appealing). Medium shadow is 2 stops (f/8), and very dense shadows is about 3 stops. This also works for clouds. If it's a partly cloudy day, you get a better looking shot when there's a cloud blocking the full power of the sun than you get when you have open sky.

If you want blurred backgrounds (always nice for portraits) then you'll want to drop the aperture down to around f/4 or f/2.8 (I prefer f/4 most of the time on my full frame camera... on a crop frame I might go a bit lower). That means you need to drop 4-5 stops. You could do that by increasing the shutter speed IF you aren't using any flash (if you are using flash then it gets tricky to shoot faster than the flash-sync speed of the camera... most Canon DSLRs have a flash sync speed of around 1/200th... some are 1/160th... some are 1/250th.) The flash has to go into "high speed sync" mode for this (and have enough power). So a bit of light shade makes this much easier because you don't necessarily need flash at all.

HOWEVER... if you're in light shade... make sure you don't have a bright background (if you're in the shade of a tree but the camera sees a background which is in full sun then you'll get an over-exposed background when your subjects are correctly exposed and that's no good... you'd need flash to fix that.)

Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
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Occasional Contributor
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-18-2014

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

Thank you so much for your help!
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Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,861
Registered: ‎12-02-2012

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

TCampbell,

Did you mean AV mode in your short answer? You can't dial in an aperture in TV mode, unless you meant to say you select whatever shutter speed makes the camera give you f/4 as the exposure solution.
Scott

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?
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Respected Contributor
Posts: 1,861
Registered: ‎12-02-2012

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

Outdoor on a sunny day it is easy to get a proper exposure because you have so much light. I would try Av mode (aperture priority) and select as Tim suggests, a wide-ish aperture like f/4 and a focal length between 50mm and like 80mm on your T3i. The shutter speed will be very fast and that is great.
Your biggest problem will be the unflattering overhead light making raccoon eyes shadows on your people, as well as a shadow under the noses, under the lips, etc. It is better if you can shoot earlier or later in the day or in the hour before or after sunset/sunrise when the sun is lower in the sky. If you must do it mid day use open shade under a tree or something to block the overhead directional light, leaving the light that radiates in horizontally. Try the flash for fill flash.

If you have someone to hold it, a cheap Chinese 5-in-1 reflector/diffuser is awesome for mid day problems. Take the reflector off and use the gauzy diffuser to block the harsh sunlight over the subjects.

If you can shoot later in the day, put the sun behind the subject instead of shining on them. They used to tell people to put the sun at the photographer's back, but the sun in people's eyes makes them squint and make faces. If you put the sun behins the subjects, you do have to avoid making a silhouette picture with the subjects black against the bright backlighting. Then either use fill flash to illuminate the people, or dial the exposure compensation up by 2 stops or so so the faces will be bright enough, though the sky will be blown out. A shoe-mounted Speedlite flash would be great here because it has a lot more power than your pop up flash.
Scott

Canon 5d mk 4, Canon 6D, EF 70-200mm L f/2.8 IS mk2; EF 16-35 f/2.8 L mk. III; Sigma 35mm f/1.4 "Art" EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro; EF 85mm f/1.8; EF 1.4x extender mk. 3; EF 24-105 f/4 L; EF-S 17-55mm f/2.8 IS; 3x Phottix Mitros+ speedlites

Why do so many people say "FER-tographer"? Do they take "fertographs"?
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VIP
Posts: 12,926
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

Or, you can just set your Rebel T3i in P, for "professional" mode and shoot away. Smiley Happy  It will do an amazing job.  You can try several different positions (lighting) for you and your subjects.

 

The biggest mistake people make is putting the subject too close to the background.  Like a stone wall or tree or something.

Alos you don't want to be too close to your subjects.

EOS 1DX and 1D Mk IV and several lenses!
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Esteemed Contributor
Posts: 3,847
Registered: ‎06-11-2013

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

Scotty, yes I did mean "Av" mode and not "Tv" mode in my short answer. Thanks for catching that!
Tim Campbell
5D III, 5D IV, 60Da
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Occasional Contributor
Posts: 5
Registered: ‎10-18-2014

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

thank you everyone for all of your suggestions. I appreciate them
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Honored Contributor
Posts: 5,528
Registered: ‎06-25-2014

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics


@TCampbell wrote:
I have two answers...

A short answer is ... put the camera into Tv mode, dial it to f/4, and use a long-ish focal length (avoid wide-angle) and keep the background at some distance behind your subjects. Light shade really helps.

And now for the longer answer...

[Elaborate, complete, well thought out disquisition (which must have cost a non-trivial amount of Tim's time) omitted]

Sometimes I think one has to simply take a deep breath and bellow "RTFM (Read The 'Fine' Manual)!!" Is there an easier activity on the planet than to set a T3i to "A" or "P" and just start clicking? I'll bet that advice is on or near page 1. And Canon makes it dead easy to download their user manuals if the one that came with the camera is missing.

 

Forgive me, but my TV just crapped out, so I'm in a bad mood tonight. But really, somebody had to say it sooner or later.

Bob
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania USA
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VIP
Posts: 12,926
Registered: ‎12-07-2012

Re: Rebel t3i settings for outdoor family pics

" "RTFM (Read The 'Fine' Manual)!!" "

 

Hhhmmmm........"Fine", right!   Smiley Very Happy

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