June 5, 2008

A Quick Guide to Understanding Your Canon Digital Rebel XTi

This is a very basic guide to digital SLR photography using the Canon Digital Rebel XTi. This guide is meant to start you out using your new XTi, and help you get the most out of owning an SLR by not keeping it in Auto mode all the time! :)

canon digital rebel xti top view canon digital rebel back view
*Put your mouse over these images to see a bigger version

I would start out by using your camera in AV or TV mode.

1. AV Mode – Aperture Priority

Turn the dial on the top of your camera to AV. This means that you will be setting the Aperture, and then the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to make sure you have a correct exposure. That means the pictures is not too bright and not too dark. :) Look at the second picture.. Do you see where it says -2…-1…0…1…2 ? That’s your exposure. In AV mode, the little arrow is probably covering up the 0 which means you have a correct exposure. And in AV mode, it won’t change. It will always stay on the 0 unless you specifically tell it to move to a higher or lower number. In most cases, if the arrow is on a higher number, the picture will be over exposed (too bright) and if it is on a lower number it will be under exposed (too dark). So for right now, we’ll just let it stay on 0. :)

Let’s talk a little bit about Aperture. Look at the second picture. See where it says 5.6? That means the aperture is at 5.6 or f/5.6. The lower the aperture number, the wider your lens is open and the more light it lets in, meaning, the brighter the picture. This also means a shallower depth of field. You know, you’ve seen those pictures where one thing is in focus and everything around is has that nice blur? That’s a very shallow depth of field. That means the aperture was set very low, like maybe at f/2.8. When you see the pictures with a lot of people in them and a lot of stuff in the background, and everything is in focus, those pictures probably used a higher aperture, like f/11 or f/16 or even f/22. That also means that not as much light will be let into the lens, so you will have to have a lot of other light, like from a bright sun outside or a flash or something.

If you got the kit lens with the XTi, you got the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6. (Note, if you haven’t already gotten your camera, don’t get this lens. Get the body only and get a different lens, keep reading for my suggestion). With the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens, you won’t be able to set your aperture very low, which means this lens isn’t great for taking pictures inside unless you use a flash. When it says your lens is “f/3.5-5.6″ that means the lowest you can set your aperture is at f/3.5, and only when your lens is set at 18mm (not zoomed in at all). If you’re zoomed in all the way (55mm) the lowest you can set your aperture is f/5.6. And if you’re zoomed in somewhere in between, then the lowest you can set your aperture will be somewhere in between 3.5 and 5.6.

Now, to change your aperture, you use the little black dial thing right below the shutter button in the first picture. See it? :) Turn it to the left for a lower aperture and a right for a higher one. Be sure to keep an eye on your shutter speed as you do this. See the number 1/125 in the second picture? That’s your shutter speed. As a general rule of thumb, if you are going to be holding the camera with your hand (not using a tripod) you don’t really want to have the second number of your shutter speed (in this case, 125) set lower than what mm you are zoomed to, going no lower than 50. Letting your shutter speed get lower than 1/50 will cause “camera shake” and your pictures to be blurry. If you get another lens with a longer zoom (like 85mm) then you will know not to set your shutter speed lower than 1/80. Get it? :)

With the kit lens, it might be difficult to get a high enough shutter speed to handhold when trying to take pictures inside, unless you have a LOT of light. Or you can try setting your ISO really high…


2. Let’s talk about ISO real quick

To change your ISO, press the ISO button. See it in the second picture on the right? The lower your ISO (100-200), the smaller amount of light your camera will use. So if it’s a real bright sunny day and you’re taking pictures outside, set your ISO to 100. The higher you set your ISO, the more light your camera will use. So if you want to take a picture inside without a flash, you can try setting your ISO higher to 800 or 1600 to see if you can get a high enough shutter speed to hand hold your camera. The catch with using a high ISO is that it makes your pictures pretty grainy, it shows up REALLY bad in reds and oranges, so I always try to use the lowest ISO possible.


3. TV Mode – Shutter Priority

Turn the dial on the top of your camera to TV. This means you will be controlling the shutter speed and the camera will automatically adjust the aperture to make sure you have a correct exposure. Shutter speed is how fast the camera records the picture. You’ve seen those pictures of cars at night where you can only see a red streak from the tail lights, right? That’s because the shutter speed was set very low to record for a long time and capture the car as it was driving out of the picture. And you’ve seen pictures of athletes that completely stop motion and show exactly what he was doing right at that millisecond? :) Those pictures use a high shutter speed.
To change your shutter speed, use the same dial you used to change your aperture. When set it TV mode, it will control your shutter speed. Turn it to the left for a lower shutter speed and the right for a higher one. I like to keep my shutter speed around 125 when taking portraits of something that’s going to be relatively still… A sleeping baby, kids that are old enough to sit still and smile for the camera, etc. If you have a lot of wiggling around, like babies or toddlers, you might want to go higher to around 200. If you want to capture action, like a kid running, riding a bike, paying a sport, etc, you probably want your shutter speed to be around 500 to 1000.

Be sure to keep an eye on your aperture as your change your shutter speed. If your aperture number starts flashing, that means that the shutter speed you selected is too high to correctly expose the picture. That means your aperture can’t be set any lower to allow in more light and your image will be too dark. You need to lower your shutter speed until the aperture number stops flashing. This means the picture will be correctly exposed. Again, with the kit lens, this may be hard to accomplish inside and still have a high enough shutter speed to hand hold the camera. Try taking some test pictures near a big window on a sunny day or just go outside. :)


4. Focusing

Okay, look at the first picture. See that thing that looks like a plus sign made out of small boxes contained within a box? :) The button right below that is the AF Point Selection button and it controls your automatic focus (AF) point selection. Turn your camera on and press that button. See if it’s set to “automatic selection”. This means your camera will “guess” what you’re trying to focus on, and automatically choose what it thinks you want to focus on. I get a lot of out of focus shots by leaving it on “automatic selection”, therefore, I like to change mine to “Manual AF Point Selection”. To change it on your camera, first make sure the AF Point Selection screen is open by pressing the AF point selection button, then press the “SET” button (located under the ISO button and above the WB button in the second picture, see it?). This brings up a diamond shaped grid of focus points. One of them should be highlighted. That means it’s always going to focus right there. I keep mine set right in the middle, but you can change it to any point, whichever one you feel most comfortable with. To change it, use the 4 buttons located to the north, south, east and west of the SET button. When you get it to the desired point, just press the AF point selection button again.

Now, as I said earlier, when set to Manual AF Point Selection, your camera will always focus in that one spot. When you look through the view finder, you should see the same AF point selection grid. If you press the shutter button halfway down, the AF point you selected will highlight and you will probably hear your lens focusing. This means your lens is focused on that one spot. Now sometimes, just because it’s focused in that one spot, doesn’t mean the picture is framed exactly how you want it. Just keep the shutter button pressed halfway down and move your camera until the picture is framed the way you want it. Then press the shutter the rest of the way to take the pic. With practice you will be able to do this very quickly.

5. M Mode – Manual!

Practice A LOT using AV Mode and TV Mode. Some people will say that AV mode is better than TV mode and you should never use TV mode. I disagree- they are both there for a reason and can be very useful in their own ways in different situations. Practice A LOT and learn what situations call for what shooting modes. Is a nice background blur more important? Use AV. Is capturing speed most important? Use TV.

After mastering AV mode and TV mode, it’s not that much of a leap to go to fully Manual Mode. To shoot in Manual mode, turn the dial on the top of your camera to M. The black dial right below the shutter button now controls your shutter speed. To change the aperture you will use this same dial while holding down the AV button (see it in the second picture? It’s just to the right of the screen, the one at the very top).

After lots of practice in AV mode and TV mode, you will be familiar with what shutter speeds and apertures you prefer. Now you can put them together! When changing the shutter speed and aperture, be sure to keep an eye on your exposure. Remember, that’s the thing on the screen in the second picture that says -2…-1…0…1…2. You want to keep your exposure around 0. I keep mine between 0 and 1 because I like brighter pictures.

Now, any number of shutter speeds and apertures will get you a “correct” exposure of 0. Which one should you use? The book Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great resource. After you’ve mastered AV and TV modes, get this book and read it cover to cover. It gave me a deeper understanding of my camera and SLR photography, and explained everything in layman’s terms that I could understand. It also gives real life analogies that just made things I had previously heard, but hadn’t really grasped, *click*. I noticed an overall improvement in my photography from day one.

6. The Nifty 50 – Lens Recommendation

If you don’t already have a lens for your XTi and even if you do, I would highly recommend the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 lens. This is a great lens for beginners and professionals alike. And the best part is, it’s *VERY* inexpensive!! :) This is a Prime Lens, which means it does not zoom in and out at all. This was hard for me to understand until I got my first prime lens. :) But it doesn’t move at all! :) If you want to zoom in and out you have to do so with your feet. :) 50mm means that’s how much it zooms in to and it doesn’t zoom in any closer or out any further than that. It just stays right there at 50 mm. 50mm is comparable to the kit lens when it is zoomed out all the way. 50mm is a great length for taking pictures indoors. The lens is also great for indoors because it has a low aperture f/1.8!!! :) The only word of caution about setting your aperture too low is that, like we discussed earlier, your depth of field will also be very small. So it can be difficult to get more than one person in focus with a low aperture. Also if you’re very close to your subject, it can even be difficult to get both *eyes* in focus. :)


7. What’s in my camera bag? This is the equipment I use and highly recommend! :)


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52 Comments





1
Alyssa Manno January 7, 2009 at 7:55 am

Hi Amanda,
Thanks so much for going into so much detail about your camera, it’s so helpful. I’m in the market for a camera and I love your pics so i’m going to give it a try. My only questions…I will using this camera to photograph my kids playing numerous sports, will the lens you recommend be sufficient to get closeups? I can’t get too close to the field for high school football, I’ll be way up in the bleachers, which lens would you recommend for that?

thanks!

alyssa

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2
David May 24, 2012 at 3:28 pm

Hi Amanda I like to thank you i have been doing a lot of reading trying to get the hang of the setting you have made it very easy Thanks a heap
David

3
Karen October 26, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Seems a very simple question, but when your camera is showing on the view screen as shown in your pictures above, how do you get off showing what the setting are so you can see a picture of what you are taking a shot of?
Thanks

4
Amanda January 7, 2009 at 8:12 am

The action lens I recommend will let you zoom in as far as 200mm. This tool may help you get a feel for how far you can zoom in at 200mm:

Focal Length Comparison

If you need to zoom in even further, here’s another good one to consider:

Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS

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5
Christy February 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm

Hi Amanda,
You did a great job explaining the manual modes on the camera!

Quick question, I’d like to shoot indoor pictures of volleyball games inside of a high school gym. My pictures tend to be yellow-ish when I try. Also blurry.

After reading your post, I will try using a higher shutter speed but what lens should I get? The Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS like the comment above?

Thank you!

Christy

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6
Aimee February 5, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Hey Amanda! Thank you so much for the detailed information regarding the camera. I have a couple of lenses, but was wondering if there was a good lens to use when trying to take pictures inside of a small room (trying to get as much of the room in the same photo). Does this make sense? Is there such a thing as a wide angle lens or something that would help with this? I am just learning about all of this photography “stuff”. Thanks for any advice/opinions you can give. I love your site!

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7
April February 13, 2009 at 9:26 pm

Hey Amanda! Thanks to you I will be able to enjoy my new camera instead of being confused and frustrated by the stupid manual. I cannot thank you enough. :o)

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8
Mellissa February 20, 2009 at 1:41 pm

Hi!
THANK YOU so much for this information! I have been really confused about shutter speed and ISO and your post has really cleared some things up for me. I just got my XTi this weekend and I feel much more confident now.

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9
dph40 May 4, 2009 at 11:22 am

Thanks for the wonderful tips!! I’m mainly interested in sports pictures of my kids’ teams, and I appreciate the AV/TV setting tips.
I’ve used the TV setting for indoor basketball where the lighting is so-so at best sometimes, and I’ve gotten some good shots. I’ve been pretty happy with the Sports setting for baseball shots, but I’m going to try to get those crisper movement shots with the TV settings that you’ve suggested.

I am considering purchasing a Canon ER 300mm f/2.8 L IS USM lens (my 50th b-day present),and I’m wondering if you think the Canon XTi body
will work well with that lens.

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10
ray wells June 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

i was haveing problems with the focus on my canon XTi.untill i found you site an read the focus area.problems solved thanks a bunch

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11
jenna September 13, 2009 at 3:54 pm

Thanks for the easy to follow tips!! I have had this camera for about a year now and have been intimidated on a number of occasions when using it and now I feel like I have a better understanding of some of the functions. The manual that comes with it makes me feel like I need a PhD in Camera logistics to understand it! I would love for you to post about some of the other features and your tips for them like the sports, A-Dep and P setting. Also, what lens do you suggest for long distance shots like landscapes, etc?
thanks again!

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12
Edward November 6, 2009 at 8:43 pm

Amanda,

Quick question, I used mostly manuel modes. The problem is, when I take pictures in Tv or Av – or any mode in general, picture come out dark, very dark.
I am using a SIGMA 70-300 1:4-5.6 DG LENS (a Canon XTI)
Is there a certain formula I am supposting be using in reference to all the numbers from the Lens and camera in conjusntion in order to get the right settings for perfect pictures.

Thanks, Edward

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13
Olive Tree November 11, 2009 at 6:15 am

Thanks Amanda! I use a Nikon D60, which is similar. I’m 13 and have only had the camera for about a year (it took a while to save up) and until recently I was terrified of anything other than automatic/no flash. I also am a bit of a Photoshop geek so your links to Pioneer Woman’s downloads were very helpful!
Well, I’m a big fan of your site. Thank you!

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14
Kiarra November 11, 2009 at 9:48 pm

Thank you so so much for posting this!!! You have given me the best information out of any website I have seen! Thank you again!!

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15
Melissa November 17, 2009 at 8:47 am

I have had my camera for 3 yrs and never understood how to use it. Thank you for explaining it so well. This is the best site.

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16
Amanda December 16, 2009 at 11:26 am

Thanks for this tutorial. You explained some stuff in a way I’d never gotten it before! Helps that you were also working with a Rebel!

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17
Zariel December 29, 2009 at 8:10 pm

Hi,
Thank you so much for this guide, I’ve had my camera for almost a year and have yet to master it. This guide will surely help me perfect my pictures. I love your blog and am really excited to see what else you will enlighten me with.

Keep up the great work!

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18
Jen Z. December 31, 2009 at 6:38 pm

Thank you so much for this great information about the Canon Rebel. I have the Canon Rebel XT. Great camera. I just got a new lense and flash for Christmas. I can’t wait to start using it more now. I really love your blog and this information about the Rebel is just great. Thanks and keep up the great blog. I just came across it today and I can’t wait to look at more of it.

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19
Emily January 26, 2010 at 11:05 pm

Thanks for all the info! I have a Canon Rebel XSi. I LOVE my camera and I am learning new things all the time. In fact, I am taking a photography class this semeter at the local community college. So far, so good!

Thanks again!
Emily

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20
Betsy February 19, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Hi Amanda! I just wanted to say thanks for your beautiful site, and ESPECIALLY for posting this guide! I just got my first DSLR, the Canon Rebel Xsi. I purchased it from a camera store here, and it came with a free class for beginners, but I didn’t want to go into the class knowing absolutely NOTHING and be completely lost. Now when I go, I think I’ll actually know what they’re talking about! You are wonderful, Thank you!

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21
Tracey, North Carolina February 21, 2010 at 9:27 pm

Hi Amanda

I have been viewing your wonderful site for a while now. How did you get to knwo so much about the use of the camera? I just purchased the Canon EOS D-50 and I love it. Just do not know how to use all of the features yet. Your quick guide is so helpful.

Thanks for all you do.

TC

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22
Kally February 22, 2010 at 11:06 am

Hi Amanda,

Thank you so much for going into all this detail about your camera. You have a great site!! Do you have any recommendations for taking night shots with the Canon. I have the Rebel XSI and can not get it to take night pictures, even on the night setting. We went to Disneyland and all of the night pictures came out horrible. Please help. Thank you again:)

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23
Karen February 26, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Thanks for this great site. You provide some of the most helpful hints on how to get the most out of my Canon Rebel XSi and the info. on lenses, along with a book suggestion is very helpful.

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24
Susan April 28, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Thank you so much for this tutorial! It was so refreshing! I had taken a photography class a year ago and can do these settings on my point and shoot, a Canon Powershot SX10IS, but now that I know how to use the camera I can’t wait to buy a DSLR! And I want a Canon Rebel XTi! I’m kind of glad I waited because like my point and shoot the DSLR’s now have swivel screens and video. I love to get quick video clips of my kids and upload them to my blog. Since I only bought my point and shoot a year and half ago, I need to wait a little longer to buy a new camera. My husband thinks my point and shoot is really good, but I can tell the difference between my pictures and one taken with a DSLR camera. But if I see one on sale I will buy it. Again, such wonderful information! Thank you!!!

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25
Jithin Ravi July 23, 2010 at 11:14 pm

Thank you..Thank you..Thank you.I’ll recommend your site for anyone buy a XTI…oh did I say ..thank you.

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26
Frances Che July 24, 2010 at 12:57 pm

Hi Amanda,

Thank you so much for such an awesome site! I just discovered your site yesterday, and have been reading it since! Thank you so much for all the beautiful pictures, ideas, and tips!!

I’m a jewelry designer and has a blog (http://jewelrydiy.blogspot.com) and a website (http://beadretro.com). I just want to let you know that I posted a message on my blog about that neat earring display you made. I included a picture, and a link for my readers to find your site, hope that is OK!

Again, LOVE YOUR SITE!!

Frances

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27
Danielle Ryerson August 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm

Hello :) I hope you can help me. I just got my 50mm 1.8 and can’t figure it out. I take pictures indoors alot of my kids (we live in CT so its cold many months of the year).

I cant seem to get the settings right, but I’ve been playing in AV mode. Is there a setting you recommend I try?

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28
Tanya October 24, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Amanda, I absolutely LOVE your site, however, I don’t get my emails from you any more and it won’t let me subscribe for some odd reason…Can you look into this for me? Your site is my favorite site over all others!
Thanks
Tanya Alley

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29
Stacy December 29, 2010 at 2:43 pm

Hi love how you are explaing the camera…in simple terms for “me”!!! I have a question….I am going to be photography deers….some fairly close some not…what do you suggest the av or tv mode…I am not ready for manuel yet (I don’t think) the lighting will be mid to dusk….Thanks so much!

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30
Farrah Chadwell January 13, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I must say I am so glad that I come across your website! I need some major help from someone that really knows what they are talking about! I have the Canon Rebel Xti and am fixing to buy maybe the rebel T2i. I have started my own studio and have been bombed with clients and I need a new camera and I am not sure if this is the best one to buy on my budget. I have about $1200 to spend on one. I also have a studio light kit with 2 continuous umbrella lights and I have been learning to use my camera on Manual using my kit. I am finding that I dont have enough light to light up my subjects and finding that I have been shooting on ISO of 800 or 1600 and my ap on 1/40. Sometimes if they move just a little bit the subject will be in focus but whatever they moved is blurry. I am having a hard time with Children and I do alot of Children Photography. I do not have alot of money to spend on cameras and lights but would love some suggestions of some extra lighting or any advice would help! Thanks so very much Farrah

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31
Abby March 2, 2011 at 9:43 pm

The shutter speed that is set in TV mode is not the shutter speed that will be used in AV mode? Right? :) I just got a new camera and have no idea what I’m doing. Haha. :)

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32
Iris March 3, 2011 at 11:38 am

This was a very useful post! Thank you so much. I’m a food writer and am just getting into food photography…so i’m learning. Very helpful!

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33
Ashley March 3, 2011 at 10:48 pm

My Dad got my mom this camera and I absolutely love it. I love playing around and trying to get great shots. My mom however HATES it. She can’t figure anything out and it’s so sad because I would love to have the camera but she won’t give it to me. :-( I’ll def show her this page, your writing seems to break it down to a very simple level and I’m sure she will come to love her camera as much as I do.

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34
Sandy March 8, 2011 at 5:55 am

Hi Amanda,
I love your blog! Thanks for making the photography bits and pieces easy for slow learners to understand!
I have my Nikon D5000, love it to bits and I am thinking of getting a prime lens. A 50mm is out of my budget, but I saw a 35mm lens which is what I can afford. What difference will it be from the 50mm?

Thanks a lot in advance!

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35
Lauren March 30, 2011 at 8:28 am

I stumbled across your site while looking to learn how to take my Rebel XTi off auto mode. Your post was the best guide I found in my search and I have referred back to it multiple times as I gain more understanding of the functions of my camera. Thank you for making such a simple and easy to understand tutorial!

Also, your pictures are beautiful! :)

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36
HW October 14, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Thanks for this great post! It’s just what I need to get started with my Canon DSLR camera and figure out how to take better pictures using more of my camera’s functions.

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37
Zilla October 17, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I am almost embarrassed to say, but except for point and shoots, this will be my first venture into digital. So I have to ask- how do I transfer the images to my computer with this camera? I have a slightly older laptop with Windows XP and I hear they are not compatable.. can I just pop the memory card into my card reader? ( if in fact they are incompatible via cable upload)

Thank you for your information, I want to ask as many questions before I buy and this unit has all the functions I need for the price I can afford…

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38
Marc November 18, 2011 at 11:58 am

hi.i have a question regarding shutter speed.on the 2nd photo its “1/125″ but i see nothing on the upper left corner of my eos 400d rebel xti.how do i adjust my shutter speed?
thank you very much.

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39
julie couch November 20, 2011 at 3:09 pm

Thanks so much for this post. I’ve had my canon slr for a couple years, but I can’t seem to be brave enough to leave auto mode! I volunteered to photograph a friend’s children for Christmas cards today and I’m planning to put all your great advice to work:) Great job and Thanks again!! Julie

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40
Sabrina June 22, 2012 at 8:35 pm

Hi I was wondering what it means when you “order” something? I accidentally did this on my camera and I can’t figure out what it means PLEASE help!!

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41
Gaye Lynn June 24, 2012 at 9:06 pm

I’m taking a photography class and I was still lost until I read your website. Thank you!!

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42
Paul Kamyuka July 26, 2012 at 7:56 am

Hi Amanda thank you for your great work you’re doing to give us insightful info regarding camera usage. I have a DSLR canon rebel Xti but when i shoot it brings error 99 on the LCD. I therefore wish to seek your counsel on how to go about this obstinate problem that has hindered my shooting exercise. Thank you.

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43
chris September 4, 2012 at 11:57 am

I’m a bit of a novice. I bought a Canon Digital Rebel XTi and for the life of me I can’t figure out how to view the shot I’m about to take through the rear display panel? When I pus the display button i only get gray screen with all the info (F-stop, ISO, etc.

Any help would really be appreciated.

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44
Justin September 10, 2012 at 2:14 pm

You can’t with the XTi…. you can only view through the view-finder prior to shooting.

45
Melessaw October 11, 2012 at 3:58 pm

I have a canon eos rebel cgi camera. I could not use live view finder. I don’t even know whether it has the live view future. Help appreciated.
Mele

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46
paul kang October 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm

can I ask you a que stion ? I have a problem withe my canon xti camara.
err 99 sign appear on my LCD monitor when i turn on.
I did as the manual says but there is err99 sign

thank you

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47
Candice January 14, 2013 at 2:18 pm

This is an amazing tutorial, all of your photography ones are. I have learned so much and cant wait to get out there and practice what I have learned.
Thanks!

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48
Chris June 15, 2013 at 5:17 pm

Great tutorial – I’m so mad at myself for not finding this years ago when I got my camera (I’m guilty of relying on auto mode). Thanks again!

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49
Susan July 17, 2013 at 3:12 pm

Hello,
Not sure if you can help, but I took some headshots of a a person; uploaded them to my iMac desktop and emailed them to an office. They said that the images are way to small to enlarge. Is it that because my camera is older and has fewer pixels or can I adjust it to make the image files bigger?

Thanks,
Susan

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50
chelsea February 4, 2014 at 8:23 pm

im taking a photography class at my school and this did a really good job of covering all the info. but with the AV mode, i can adjust the f-stop, but then the shutter speed automatically adjusts, and i cant take a still picture because the shutter speed is to low. What do i do?

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