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1:59:20 Duration

Week 2: Camera Basics

This week is about going back to camera basics.

We’ll focus specifically on the camera fundamentals in relation to shooting natural light portraits. How far can you push that ISO? We’ll watch five different cameras go up against each other. Focusing, metering toggle and recompose. Aperture and shutter speed for freezing motion and getting a subtle drag on moving dresses.

Our whole 12-Week Portrait Startup is about establishing a solid foundation from the ground up. And one of the most important fundamentals for any photographer is that you need to really know your camera. This is a solid basic class of the relationship to ISO aperture and shutter speed for natural or constant light portraits.


  1. I bought a 50mm lens that said it was auto focus… It is an older lens and when it got here it only works as a manual focus. Is it possible to toggle using a manual focus lens? If not is it still a good lens to do portrait photography with?

    1. Yes. That is my belief. As long as you can take a sharp shot and edit. It should be fine to start; however, at some time you may want to upgrade since there is a difference in capturing more information with more pixels. – JaniceK

  2. I gotta say, I have been shooting in manual for a few years and didn’t think j was going to get much out if this video, but after testing out the bit about ISO on my rebel t3i I was blown away by how noiseless my indoor natural light photos came out at 1600 ISO.
    If it wasn’t for this video my camera would be on ISO 100 until the end of time.
    Thank you for this amazing video!

  3. Hi, I shoot with. Nikon 700F and a D4S. I didn’t catch the go to aperture and ISO for the Nikons. Only hearing Canon. Any favorites with Nikon?

  4. Where is the info about the actual printed images on how the different cameras compared? Sue mentions that some might be grainier than others and I was curious the images of the more expensive camera vs the least expensive camera. If a person is just starting out and really has no money, are the prints good enough from the least expensive camera for Sue pricing or not.

    1. Hi Denise. I am going to venture and answer your question.
      First, I would not buy the least expensive camera. If I had to do it again I would save for a full frame. Having said that if you own a crop sensor that is fine. Yes, you can get a good quality photograph from a crop sensor but you do have to learn about the exposure triangle and you definitely have to learn to master your light. Whether you use natural light or artificial light, learn how to bend your light and use shadows.

      I have a Canon T3. I have grown it but until I save for that mirrorless that I want it does the job well. I have learned that it is ok to raise my ISO to avoid grain. I have learned that it is a balancing game. In other words if you do use a high ISO make sure to change your other settings.

      Prints. I have been able to print 16×24 and large with no issues.

  5. I have Canon 5DM3 camera body and shoot with 24-70, 85, or 70-200. I generally shoot portraits at 2.8, unless I’m using my 85, where I can go to 1.2. My camera manual says there is only one row in the 64 possible focal points that is “ideal” for when shooting at 2.8, which is pretty much dead center of the array, and where you will achieve the sharpest images, It says you would only use the outer focal points when shooting at 4.0, 5.6 or higher. I do focus on the nearest eye, then recompose, then toggle and refocus again (to be doubly sure I’m in focus), but I have been doing this on the outer edges of the AF array. (I think) Sue mentions she focuses, toggles, recomposes and toggles (again?)– and is shooting about 2.8, and is using the outer ecdges of the array (as in the example on the video. Is the difference between the inner area of the AF array (the 2.8 area) not much difference between the very outer area of the AF array (the 4.0 or 5.6 areas)? Meaning, is it “safe” to be shooting at 2.8 and still use the 4.0 or 5.6 areas of the AF array? I hope I explained that right. Thank you.

    1. I heard say that Sue hates BBF as much as she hates artificial hair lights. : ). I use BBF and love it but I started shooting sports so I needed it.

  6. The outside focal points are typically not cross-type, thus they can be not as sharp – I have always struggled to toggle focus because the outer ones do not give as sharp an image. On a better camera, with more focal points, you have more to choose from that are cross-type, but they are still all in the center from what I’ve seen…

  7. If I use one focal point off center I can not rely on my Canon 5d Mk2 to give me sharp focus. This is with a Canon 50mm f1,4 lens at wider apertures. Really frustrating because I want to be able to photograph sharp eyes at least at e.g. F2,8. When I googled this, it seems like a common problem. Have you ever experienced this?

    1. hi Hanna: I have the same camera you have and I mostly shoot with 24-70 lens. f3.5, Focal point on the center and I recompose, I like it because it has a wider focal range on the center that it does on an off-center focal point, and my portraits images are very sharp, I hope this helps

  8. I understand the 2.8-5.6 range in aperture… but my question is why invest in a prime lens below 1.8? What is the advantage of 1.4? Is there any?

    1. 1.4 is two “whole” stops wider than 2.8. It’s not 2/3s of a stop. TWO stops. So your going to get REALLY shallow depth of field.

  9. I feel very comfortable with these areas with my camera, my question if when Sue was taking a picture of the model moving quickly at 1/250, how was she focusing on the moving object? Still locked on her eye?

    1. You “can” but it’s not ideal for portraits because the dof is shallower at 2.8 on the Mk4 than at 2,8 on older models. Sue says it’s more like shooting at 1.2 instead of 2.8.

    2. i understand what she said but it’s me being a “why” guy as to wondering why this is so. I do portraits at 3.2 – 4 usually depending on my lens. hmmmm. Thank you for the reply. I’ll have to search for this answer on a tech blog at a later date. Right now I HAVE TO WORK ON FOLIO building! I’ll shoot film if i have to! 🙂 Can’t waste time looking at tech stuff.

    1. One shot is for stationary subjects. Servo is for moving subjects. No one uses ai focus that I know of.

  10. Something I do not get in camera.. i know this is strange but.. Sue you said in so many videos you have your camera read the light . but mine canon 5dm3/lens, I put it to manual, then have iso 640/2.8 and set the shutterspeed to say 1/250 now.. you show it so many times, it doesnt read anything by itself… how does your meter read it if you set all these settings in manual.. because i was outdoor today.. it only makes suggestions in av
    please help

    1. use P mode then you get it how your camera feels like for shooting 🙂 and get back to the M mode

    2. I shoot in manual. I use the meter in the camera to set my exposure manually. Looking through the viewfinder when you press the back button focus to focus on your subject you will notice the meter in the viewfinder will have a line showing if it is over exposed(right of the center) or under exposed(left of the center. The goal is to have your exposure set to center. I myself overexpose just a bit because my canon camera’s internal meter exposes a little dark when exposure is set dead center on meter(perfect exposure).

  11. regarding toggel focusing, why not compose your shot and then focus? Rather than focus and then recompose and then toggle to focus again? Am I missing something? Thank you for your time!

    1. I think the toggling is to select the autofocus point closest to the eye (top-left or top-right). this way when you recompose you get the autofocus spot you want when you actually focus so the eye is the most focused part of the picture.

    1. Its counterintuitive . The smaller the number, the larger the opening. In turn its considered a large aperture. The larger the number ; the smaller the opening. I learn it along time ago in my head by thinking polar opposites.

  12. Noticing the color quality of the Nikon images looking quite yellow vs the Canon color quality being very neutral, Wondering if you can achieve the “look” with out spending a lot of time tweaking the color if you are shooting Nikon. Anyone else shooting Nikon and having trouble with color? Would love some thoughts. Thanks!

  13. I wish a crop-body camera and a Sony had been included in the camera comparisons. All the full-frame bodies included in the test are fantastic cameras over $1000. I know you could have taken amazing images with lesser gear, too — would have been nice to see that proved.

    1. Most of the cameras you’re speaking of does not come with interchangeable lenses. This is usually why they aren’t discussed. It has little to do with $1,000 cameras. I own a few Nikons that cost 600.00, but the lenses can be interchangeable.

    1. Usually just below the video button – it’s the only button that’s a bit like a mini joystick.

  14. tracey whiteside, toggle focus is just moving the red dot around the screen onto the eye area for each shot- then half press the shutter to focus and hey presto..

  15. I have been shooting in front of my bright window with a sheer white curtain over it for about a year. I have never figured out how to get rid of the blue hue. THANK YOU! I can’t believe how easy you make this, Sue. Everything just clicked from watching this!

  16. Sue, you mentioned you use evaluative metering which on a Nikon is Matrixed metering. I’ve always used spot metering and metered off the lightest spot on the face. Can you tell me the difference or benefit. I’m always opened to learning a new way.

  17. I just found out that we can set our camera to Continuous Auto focus using the back button. does anyone here do that? it may help reduce or eliminate the toggling time that we do. But I wonder how sharp the focus gonna be compared to just toggling all the time. any thoughts?

    1. Once you recompose you lose your desired focus point especially when you are showing wide (e.g. f2.8) as the depth of field is so narrow.

  18. so I could never hand hold my camera and for the first time ever I hand help a session and only had 2 images that were blurry all the rest were tack sharp!

  19. Question, The focal lens is also important right? I am shooting a 70-200mm lens, suppose I am on f2.8, focal length 70, it is different in lighting to f2.8, focal length 200mm. Could you explain the difference in lighting again. I know, probably a stupid question?

    1. That depends on your lens. It can be either. If your lens is marked f2.8-f4, your lens is not a constant aperature, and it changes to a smaller amount of light as you zoom towards the 200 end.

    2. i’m just curious, do you have enough room to shoot portraits at any longer than 100mm? the longer the lens, the more light needed to travel through it to record the image. i would guess your lens open to 2.8 at 70mm and then around 4 or 4.5 at 200mm? this is the same with kit lenses and why i changed to a 50mm fixed/ prime lens that opens to 1.8 (but i don’t shoot more open than 2.8)

  20. Thanks Sue so much for making my toggle focus go much faster. I use a Sonya7ii, I was toggling through my function button which took four steps so I did not use it much. After watching this video, I looked to see if I could customize a button for this and yes I could! Now I press a button and toggle! I’m getting much better focusing then when I focused and re composed. Now I’m going to compare this to my eye-auto focus.

  21. The eye opener for me was “neutral” and toggling. I always, focussed and recompose. This class is AWESOME. Looking forward to more tips and tricks 🙂

  22. This is just the best teaching on Photography! It is so worth the investment! I have been using the education since the summer and it’s transformational. This 12 week Start Up is refining my skills and I’m pulling out some amazing content! I also have to say that the PDF’s are so helpful. I am a visual learner and these techniques really help to solidify the skills. Everything is so clearly laid out. I am truly grateful! I had the most amazing Photo shoot this week! Thanks!

  23. I am really confused. I have a 6d ant the far right button is the + button. The top of the camera is weather it’s in “P, L, S, N, F, M”. So I’m just not sure of the toggle and where it’s at

    1. I have the 6D Sheri. The + button turns on the AF SEL – selection and the wheel on the back lets you toggle through the buttons, up down across etc.

  24. I have a Canon 6D and the ISO goes up to 25600 and yes there is noise but that is much higher than the 2000 being stated in the video. At 6400 there is very little noise and that can be cleaned up in Lightroom or Noiseware.

  25. This lesson was so helpful at today’s head shot session. It’s a heavily overcast day but I was able to push my ISO and get good light with sharp images. Thank you so much, Sue!

  26. holy crap this information is mind blowing ive been doing it all wrong but getting lucky with shots. So different understanding what you are doing and why….I can’t wait to try “toggling” ..

  27. I was SO confused but I printed/reread the PDF… used me some GOOGLE, camera manual and I FIGURED OUT TOGGLE on my little Canon Rebel T6i! LOL! I also figured out Neutral WB etc. if ya’ll could see me now I’m doing the silly happy dance with my camera! YAY! haha

  28. Hi there, can anybody help me out, I’m totally new to photography so its difficult to understand some technical stuff. Does Sue Bryce use Auto Focus or Manual Focus ? Also, what buttons do I press to toggle focus? I have canon 6d. Thank you in advance.

    1. for the 6D, press the far right button on the back of the camera as you look in the view finder and use the wheel near the shutter to toggle through the different points of focus

    2. Melissa Challis, Thank you so much, I just tried and it actually makes sense to me now! thank you very much:)

    1. I have the same issue. With so few focal points I feel like it’s hard (some of the time) to get as close to the eyes without recomposing. I do toggle, but I sure wish I have 8000 focal points, haha!

  29. Thanks so much – it was brilliant. I’ve struggled with shutter speed when the light is not great and always afraid to push the ISO. No longer! Also struggled with backlit shots – always too close to the light source. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge Sue

  30. So I’m not sure if I should switch my picture style from Portrait to Neutral? I am more of an outdoor photographer. I didn’t quite get clarity on this.

    1. I’m not sure either. I think she was saying (1) put it on Neutral and then you don’t have to worry about switching it when you go to video or (2) put in on Portrait but remember to switch it to neutral when you go to video. (3) Regardless, if you shoot in RAW, the stills will come out as neutral when you download to your computer even if you put it in Portrait. But putting it in Portrait will give you a better idea of what you’ll end up with after editing. The pdf is missing this page. It should be clarified on page 36 as stated on the Table of Contents but there isn’t a page 36.

    1. Toggle is when you move your focus point until it is on the eye using your multi controller to move left /right/up/down

    2. When you get your camera to have a single point to focus on, you can then move where that focus point is in your viewfinder. So you can always move that focus point around to where your subject’s eyes are and NOT have to recompose at all (therefore guaranteeing sharp focus on the eyes)

    1. No not exposure compensation. She means when you have dark or light scenes that fool the camera you need to either over expose or under expose a couple stops by changing one of your camera settings, ISO, Aperture or Shutter speed. The meter will either move to the right or the left of the middle. That would be overriding the camera meter. Hope this helps.

    2. They end up being the same thing. When in manual mode you are ignoring the meter and in aperture or shutter priority you would use exposure compensation.

  31. I had to laugh out loud because I toggle SO MUCH that my toggle button came off! So it’s much harder to toggle now but still do and only get a few scratch marks each session!

    1. Hey Melanie, that was me with the 6D, and yeah, it does go a lot higher than 2000! That coughing you hear on the track was me, I was kinda sick that day so I wasn’t totally with it ;(

    2. I also have a 6D as a second body and got it because it has superior noise control even against the 5D MKiii. I got it for night shooting – milky way, aurora, etc and it is brilliant.

    3. CANON 6D has ISO 100-25600 standard, and 50-102800 expanded…. so much much higher than 2000 ??

  32. Is there more classes for this segment coming? Practicing my toggling which I did while taking pictures of the screen during the class. My husband, nor the Cat were game for modeling tonight. I love toggling. Awkward, but nailing focus is worth it!

  33. Sue delivers the information so clearly. Lots of useful tips. I was unaware that the image shown at the back of the camera does not alter the RAW image. As for using your hand as a shield, would using the lens hood have the same effect?

  34. Great! Love the chromatic aberration tip to move subject away from the backlight, and using your hand as a shield (I forgot about that one and have heard more than my share of focus-hunting clicks!). Also glad this is a lite week for homework because I’m not finished with last week’s HUGE workload! Going back out again today for a tarp since HD didn’t have. Trying Lowes. What weight tarp? 6oz, 8oz, 10oz? The 8 seemed soooo heavy before its even painted! Apple boxes due to arrive tomorrow. I’m going to shabby-chic them with white stain. Still have to do money values evaluation and sales evaluation. But with 40yrs sales experience, I’m not afraid of sales, and have always pushed the prices higher than everyone else. 🙂 I’ll get it all done by next week’s class! 🙂

  35. I am concerned about what is useable as far as grain and noise from my older camera. The photos in the pdf are so small and compressed as to be completely useless for noise and grain.
    Could we please get an uncompressed 1:1 zoom in of an eye at multiple ISOs along with what Sue considers usable and not?
    Thank you!

  36. So 15.44 minutes into the video and I’ve already had 2 useful tips! One of which (toggling vs. center point focus and recompose) is going to solve a lot of my soft focus shots!

  37. I have learned more in the past hour than I have in over 5 years with a camera. So many things explained that books, other courses, etc. I just didn’t get.

    1. Hi April! I believe that Sue usually uses a 50mm f/1.2.
      The so called “nifty fifty” refers to the cheaper version of the 50 mm, which has an maximum aperture of f/1.8. Cheers!

    1. The table of contents is off on the PDF. The page numbers don’t correspond and I don’t see info on Portrait Setting & Picture Style. Or is it there and I am missing something? Thank you!