EOS tutorial

Telling compelling stories through images and movies

Creating great images that can convey a story or message to your viewers requires a combination of technical and artistic skills.

Canon cameras have a wide range of technology and features that will help you achieve the technical aspects of storytelling. But deciding what you include in the frame, what you leave out and the placement of key elements in your image all require your thought and artistic decisions.

Whichever camera you’re using, there is a range of techniques to tell a story through your photos. Canon tutor, Brian Worley explains how to get the most from your camera. He also reveals useful tips for shooting with your LEGRIA and explains how you add an extra element to your visual stories by printing your images using a PIXMA Wi-Fi printer.

This month we will cover:

  • Composition rules
  • Choosing the depth of field for your image
  • Using AF modes and AF points
  • The effect of the lens: wide angle vs telephoto
  • Post processing

Consider the composition of your image

Composition is a key skill. In simple terms, you need to consider where the main subject will be placed in relation to where you’re taking the shot from - and also how the main subject is captured in relation to the foreground and background.

Use foreground and background to create context

One useful technique used by many photojournalists is to include details in the foreground or background that give additional facts about the main subject. This is particularly useful when taking photos of news stories or to convey additional details about a topic.

On the other hand, a portrait photo will often seek to hold attention on the subject by reducing the details in the foreground and background of the picture.

You can use these techniques to lead your viewer’s eye through your image, towards the main subject. This is a similar compositional technique to that used by artists, designers and professional photographers.

Telling compelling stories through images and movies-Canon

Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho, Helsinki Old Market Hall

Usage rights - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Use leading lines to enhance your story

Visual elements in an image that direct the viewer’s eye through the frame are known as leading lines. They are a great tool to use when capturing a scene that takes the viewer on a visual journey - for example, through a scenic landscape. Paths and tracks through forests are common examples of natural leading lines, but cities, roadways, railways and power lines all serve a similar visual purpose. These can help you create a powerful narrative about the landscape you’re shooting.

Focus to the left or right of centre

While many photographers place their subject right in the middle of the frame, Canon DSLRs feature focus systems that can capture accurately-focused pictures even when your subject is not in the centre of the frame. This is because a central composition is often less powerful than one with the subject off-centre.

Blurred or sharp foreground and background

While the placement of the key subject in the frame is one element to consider, the other is how the foreground and background of the scene are captured.

Taking control of the depth of field and selection of the appropriate lens or zoom will enable you to isolate the main subject from the background and foreground.

Get to know the rule-of-thirds grid

If you want to create strong compositions to tell your story, the rule-of-thirds technique is a great place to start. Placing your main subject at an intersection of two lines frequently results in a stronger composition than simply putting it at the centre of your frame.

Telling compelling stories through images and movies-Canon

The rule-of-thirds uses an imaginary grid of two lines running horizontally and two running vertically spaced evenly across the frame to break the scene in to nine equal segments.

  • EOS cameras include a feature that displays grid lines when using Live View mode.
  • More advanced cameras may also have the option to display the grid lines as an overlay visible through the optical viewfinder. Depending on the specific camera this is either switched on in the camera menu, or an optional grid-type focusing screen accessory is used.

If you choose to crop your photos on a computer, many software programs include the option to overlay a rule-of-thirds grid to assist in optimising the composition.

Did you know? 

The rule-of-thirds is a simplification of two other compositional approaches; the Fibonacci spiral and the golden mean.

Choose the right depth of field for your image

Choose the right depthEOS cameras have the widest range of photographic controls of all Canon models, along with large size image sensors for the optimum range of depth of field control.of field for your image

Shallow depth of field

Shallow depth of field draws attention to a specific subject, isolating it from the foreground or background.

  • To achieve a shallow depth of field for portraits, select the Portrait scene mode on the mode dial. It optimizes the camera to take pictures with less depth of field, great for separating the subject from their surroundings.
  • If you’re comfortable with the more advanced features of your EOS DSLR, use Aperture priority (Av) mode and select a wide aperture to limit the depth of field. The wider apertures to give the shallow depth of field depend on the lens and range from f/1.2 to f/5.6.
Telling compelling stories through images and movies-Canon

Glasseyes View, Flower power's end
Usage rights - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Greater depth of field

In contrast when it is important to show the subject in the context of their environment more depth of field renders the near and far elements of a picture more clearly.

  • Select the landscape scene mode from the mode dial and the camera will know you want more depth of field and select the appropriate settings. In such situations a wider angle lens or zoom setting helps too.
  • Control the depth of field with Aperture priority mode and select a smaller aperture such as f/11 to f/32. This will increase the amount of the foreground and background that appears sharp relative to your point of focus.

Using AF modes to select a specific point of interest

It helps to position the main centre point over the subject and squeeze the shutter until the focus is found. Keep pressure on the shutter using your finger; also known as keeping it half-pressed, to recompose the scene. You can separate focussing from light metering and use the button AF-On to lock the focus while you recompose and get your light metering from the main shutter button.

Making the most of AF points

EOS cameras have focus systems with multiple AF points; the camera chooses the subject closest to the camera that it can lock on to.

Using one of the creative control modes; Program (P), Shutter priority (Tv), Aperture priority (Av) or Manual (M) and choosing a specific AF point at the correct point in the frame to focus with will also aid your composition.

Telling compelling stories through images and movies-Canon

M.L. Duong, It itches
Usage rights - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Create wide-angle images with super shallow depth of field

Capturing a wide-angle scene with limited or shallow depth of field is a challenge – even for more advanced photographers. However, it’s a useful technique when you want to show more of a scene to tell your story.

Did you know?

This technique is often referred to as the panoramic stitching technique but is also referred to as the Brenizer method, after the photographer, Ryan Brenizer. 

Wide angle vs telephoto lenses

Wide-angle lenses allow an expansive view of a scene, larger than the human eye can regularly see. However one key characteristic of wide-angle lenses is their extensive depth of field. Telephoto lenses capture distant subjects, making them appear larger in the frame but often isolating them from their surroundings with shallow depth of field.

Capture several images and stitch them together

A series of overlapping pictures are captured with a telephoto lens used at or near the widest aperture. Using the telephoto lens the whole scene is captured in separate parts and then combined using stitching software. The stitching software creates a composite image that has the shallow depth of field characteristic of the telephoto lens and a wide-angle view.

Getting ready to capture the individual pictures

Capturing the individual frames requires thought and planning. It is helpful to pre-plan the order of each picture, starting from one corner of the scene and work out the number of pictures to be captured across the width and height of the final picture.

  • Each image needs to be focussed to the same distance and each image needs to have the same exposure and white balance. It is usually recommended to capture the subject first as the depth of field is really shallow, to make sure that it is in focus even it moves afterwards.
  • Use automatic focus to initially focus on the primary subject of the picture and then set the lens to manual focus. This ensures the camera won’t refocus for each successive frame
  • Use Manual exposure mode (M) on the camera with a fixed ISO setting to ensure that each frame is the same exposure.
  • Set the white balance to a preset setting, or ideally use custom white balance or Kelvin white balance to ensure the colour is consistent from frame to frame.

Processing the pictures and optimising the frames  

  • For the sharpest results, shoot RAW images and then process them using Canon Digital Photo Professional software. It’s recommended to export images as JPEGs before you stitch them together.
  • Make sure to use the lens correction features, particularly peripheral illumination and distortion correction for each individual frame.
  • Carrying out lens correction on each individual frame will enable the stitching software to create a smooth and realistic composite image.
  • Stitching the panoramic composite image will take significant time, as the computer will need to have multiple images open simultaneously. The results though are pictures with huge resolution – ideal for large format printing on your PIXMA printer.

If you’ve felt inspired to capture an image which tells a fascinating story, why not share it with the world. Upload them to The Gallery.