Tim Boyer Photography

Small Groups, Cool Birds, Fun Locations

How to Setup the Canon 7D Mark II -- Part II

The Canon 7D Mark IITim Boyer

In this section, we’ll talk about the other camera settings I use that were not covered in Part I when the camera menus were discussed. In Part III we’ll discuss the Auto Focus Selections and Modes.  

Bonaparte's Gull in basic or winter plumage. ISO 640, 1/1600 of a second at f/5.6
Bonaparte's Gull in basic or winter plumage. ISO 640, 1/1600 of a second at f/5.6

TOP OF THE CAMERA

The Mode Dial:

Set the Camera Mode to AV. AV is Aperture Priority Mode, and I almost always use this shooting mode for bird photography and some landscape photography as well.  Aperture is one of the main creative controls we have when making an image and it can determine how the images looks and feels almost as much as having dynamic or creative light does.

Here are the two main reasons I use AV Mode.

For most bird photography I want to have a sharp image and an out of focus background. The easiest way to obtain this is by shooting wide open at f/4 or f/2.8.  80% of the time, or more, I shoot wide open. But, some of the time I want the bird's bill to be as sharp as the bird's eye, so I change the aperture to f/8 or f/11.

Selecting a wide-open aperture will give me the fastest possible shutter speed automatically, and I don’t’ have to think about it.  Often an image is not sharp because of human or camera/lens movement during the shutter release. Having the camera select the fastest possible shutter speed reduces the chances that the camera, the lens or human movement will impact the image in a negative way.

To change the aperture with my index finger, I move it off the Shutter Release Button to the Main Dial wheeland roll the dial right or left until I’ve changed the aperture to the desired depth-of-field or look & feel I want in the image.

ISO Setting

I like to shoot at the lowest ISO setting I can get, so I’ve been starting the Canon 7D Mark II at ISO 200. Think of a low ISO basically as a high-quality setting and the higher it gets, the less quality there is in the image. At ISO 800 there’s more grain then an ISO 200 setting. At 1600 there is a lot less quality and a lot more grain. ISO 200 is my basic starting point, and I change it, as I need to for either a faster shutter speed or a smaller aperture for more depth-of-field.

It’s easy to set and adjust as needed by pressing the Flash exposure compensation/ISO Speed setting button and then rolling the Main Dial to the right or the left.

Female Mallard,'What's that noise?" ISO 6400, 1/320 of a second exposure at f/5.6.
Female Mallard,'What's that noise?" ISO 6400, 1/320 of a second exposure at f/5.6.

Drive/AF Button

Drive

Change the Drive by pushing down on the Drive/AF Button then using the Quick Dial (thumb) to move between the various modes. I find that I use High-Speed Continuous and Silent Shooting Mode Continuous most often. I usually leave this on the High-Speed Continuous Mode and adjust, as I need to.   High-Speed Continuous will give the ten frames per second; Silent Shooting Mode Continuous will give about four frames per second. But, when you’re close enough to the birds that noise matters, four frames are going to be better then none if the bird gets scared and fly’s away.

Autofocus Mode

I use AI Servo 99% of the time. I used to spend time changing from One Shot to AI Servo, but now I just leave it on AI Servo, and if I need to compose the bird in the frame, I move the focusing points around in the viewfinder. See the AF Point Selection Button section below to see how to move the focus points around in the viewfinder.

Pacific Loon juvenile ISO 500, 1/400 of a second at f/6.3
Pacific Loon juvenile ISO 500, 1/400 of a second at f/6.3

White Balance Selection/Metering Mode Selection Button

Pressing the button and then using the Quick Dial with your thumb to move between the various White Balance Selections Cloudy, Shade, Daylight, Auto White Balance (AWB), Flash, Tungsten, and White Fluorescent can change the White Balance. I leave it on Cloudy because I like the warmer tones I get on this setting. In post-processing about 1% of the time, I’ll change the White Balance.

Metering Mode Selection

There are four metering modes, which control the exposure of your images; Evaluative metering, Partial metering, Spot metering and Center-weighted average metering. I use Evaluative Metering almost exclusively and dial in Exposure Compensation as needed. Adding light if the sky is bright and the is bird dark, subtracting light if the bird is bright and the sky or background is dark. The camera exposure algorithm does a good job of evaluating the scene and making a pretty darn close exposure, but there are times you’ll need to adjust it.

By shooting in Evaluative Metering Mode and using Exposure Compensation Adjustments, I can concentrate on composition and acquire the targeted bird rather than make a Spot Metering constantly reading between or before shots. I use Spot Metering for a lot of landscape photography shoots, but not for bird photography.

To make Exposure Compensation Adjustments quickly, press the shutter release down halfway, then use the Quick Dial with your thumb to add (move right) or subtract (move left) from the Evaluative Exposure Metering the camera has chosen.

M-Fn Button

Each time this is pressed it cycles through the autofocus modes available. We’ll cover this in the next in How to Setup your Canon 7D Mark II post when it is all about Auto Focus.

Canada goose, ISO 400 at f/11 and 1/400 of a second
Canada goose, ISO 400 at f/11 and 1/400 of a second

AF Point Selection Button

By pressing this and using the Main Dial to move the focusing points right and left or the Quick Dial with your thumb to move the focusing points up or down you can choose what will be sharp and in focus.

AE Lock Button

Use this to lock the exposure metering when you want to take multiple shots at the same exposure. Then press the AE Lock Button then recompose and take another shot.

AF-ON Button

This turn on the auto focusing when pressed. I don’t use it very often. I activate the auto focusing by pressing the Shutter Release Button down halfway.

Quick Control or Q Button for Shooting Functions

This is a handy way to change any of the shooting functions quickly. Although I have to confess it wasn’t until I started to do a lot of landscape photography that I started using this. For bird photography, I think its best to learn how to make shooting function changes by feel. By not taking my eye away from the viewfinder, I wouldn’t miss any shots while photographing birds.

The next post on How to Setup, your Canon 7D Mark II, will be on auto focusing, Part III.

Enjoy

Thanks as Always!

Tim