EOS Rebel T1i: Shoot Like You See, Edit Like you Think

March 27, 2011

EOS Rebel T1i: Shoot Like You See, Edit Like you Think
Anything you shoot that the eye cannot do will call attention to itself as a 'camera effect', which may take your audience out of the moment.

A new camera, that shoots video and stills - how cool is that? You want video out of the box, right now? Read through these quick tips and you’ll be shooting in no time!


Still images have several options known as modes that affect the speed and framing of still image capturing. However for video, one mode and one step that does it all. Just turn the mode dial on top of your EOS Rebel T1i to the movie camera and you’re in Movie Mode. No layers of menus to dig through, no changes necessary. This is the only mode that shoots video.


No need to change out of the box settings but here’s a quick reference guide to learn about most of them for future experiments and reference:

  • Grid display on LCD monitor (Off, Grid 1, or Grid 2)
    The Rebel T1i has screens known as reference grids designed to help with shot composition and framing. They come in especially handy when you're working on the Rule of Thirds (referenced below, in the composition section of this document).

By default they are 'Off' and therefore not visible when you first take the camera out of the box. Be ready to play with them when you really want to master video composition.

  • Metering timer ( ____ sec.) If you like, you can set the Rebel T1i up so that it displays the shutter speed and aperture it will shoot at when in the movie mode. This display will cancel itself, by default, after anywhere from 4 seconds to 30 minutes of inactivity. There’s a menu setting in the Movie Mode menu to either reduce or lengthen the time this display remains active.
  • Movie Recording Size (1920x1080, 1280x720, or 640x480)
    Recording size is defined as the file size electronically captured. The factory setting of 1280x720 creates a clear HD image with a file that downloads simply and plays back smooth. You can play with the other settings later. To start, this is a perfect image quality. It also plays back beautifully on today’s flat-panel HD TVs.
  • AF Mode (Live Mode, Face Detect Live Mode, or Quick Mode)
    AF stands for Autofocus mode and it makes your life simple. There are actually three different methods that the EOS Rebel T1i can autofocus during video shooting. The most basic is “Live Mode”. Aim the central rectangle on the LCD screen over your main subject, and press the rear button with the asterisk icon (*). The camera will begin focusing as you press this button. You can pre-focus before you start shooting, and focus is also possible by pressing the button at any time during shooting. You can see the sharp, in-focus image on the back screen.
  • Sound recording (On or Off)
    Keep reading…you’ll see it over and over again. Sound is a HUGE part of video storytelling. The Rebel T1I has a microphone built right in. There are four little circles that appear to be cut out of the front of your camera (near your lens). It’s your mic, and it captures the sound from the same direction the lens is pointed. Makes perfect sense and it works great! Sound recording defaults on and there really isn’t a great reason to change that. Sound files are small and absorb little time on your digital card. If the sound is insignificant it can be deleted or turned down during editing. If you never capture it, manipulating it later isn’t an option.


The Rebel T1i is ready to automatically focus as soon as you turn the Mode Dial into the Movie Mode. Unless you change the autofocus mode, you’ll see a single white rectangle in the center of the rear LCD monitor. Zoom your lens so the scene will be composed to your liking first. Then, point the rectangle at your principal subject, and press the rear AE Lock button (with the asterisk icon – looks like a little snowflake!). The focusing begins when you press the button. Once the camera is sharply focused, the rectangle changes color from white to green, and you can take your thumb off the rear button.

The autofocus is an incredible tool. Trust the autofocus. If you know you’re pointed in the right direction, don’t be afraid to autofocus and roll your video.

Manual focus is another option. Switch the button on the lens from AF to MF and now you control the lens. Turn the lens’s focus ring, and focus on your subject as if you were looking through a pair of binoculars. The 'magnifying glass' button on the rear of the camera is a great way to confirm that you’re sharply focused, before you begin shooting. Once focus is set, pushing this button zooms the image closer (note that this is not zooming the lens -- it's just zooming in on the LCD image). If the subject looks to be in focus when zoomed in with the magnifying glass, it will be sharply focused when the full shot is recorded.

Focus is critical to final image quality. While many of the other techniques such as lighting or composition might not be perfect, out of focus video is especially confusing, distracting, and uncomfortable.  

Keep it in focus, and you’re on the road to success.


Recording begins when you press the button. It’s a simple button next to the red dot icon on the back of the camera. When the button is pushed, a similar red icon appears on the monitor. This lets you know you’re capturing whatever you camera is currently pointing at…you’re recording. And don’t forget recording means you’re capturing sound as well!!!

For more detailed information on making sure your camera is set-up for video shooting, check out this tip on Movie Mode in the EOS Rebel T1i.

Shoot like you see…Think like you edit…

Time passes way too quickly. Photographers want to capture the moment, get the event you’ll cherish for a lifetime. Whether it's your kids, pets, friends or relatives, or a special destination or sight, you shoot to remember, enjoy and preserve those special moments. Shooting like you 'see' and thinking like you edit will help you tell your story in the most effective way. Shoot like you see -- this is important! What that means is there are certain things that our eyes can do, and certain things that camera lenses can do. Some of them are the same -- for example, both eyes and lenses have 'irises' that open or close to adjust for the lighting in a scene. Also, both the human eye and a photo lens are capable of focusing precisely on a single object while everything else around it seems to fall out of focus. However, some of the ways we see are very different from a camera -- for example, lenses can zoom, and our eyes cannot. Anything you shoot that the eye cannot do will call attention to itself as a 'camera effect', which may take your audience out of the moment. Here are some tips to get started:


Images sent from our eyes to our brains are stable: no shaking, jiggling, or random movement. People see in a solid, grounded and steady world. Video is often more compelling and more 'real' if it is steady, although in some cases camera movement may lend a sense of energy or tension to the shot. But be thoughtful about it -- even if you are shooting handheld without a tripod, try to hold your body as stable as possible and make sure your camera movements are smooth.

Use a monopod, tripod, table, chair, lean against a wall…do whatever you can to keep from shaking. If you move too much, your video shakes. And the longer the lens, the more you magnify that shakiness. Unless you're in an earthquake, our eyes don't shake like that -- so your video shouldn’t, either. Using Image Stabilized (IS) lenses does help reduce image shake caused by photographer's movement, so make sure that your IS is turned on (the EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens that is often bundled with Rebel cameras has a switch on the side of the lens).


Zooming is another camera technique that is not natural to the eye. When you look from one thing close to you, to another far away, your brain transitions between the two so quickly you never see a 'zoom'. Basically, our brains 'cut' from shot to shot.

Here is how to shoot a sequence without a zoom: Shoot a large 'wide shot' of something. If you want to emphasize a specific person or object, then shoot another  (closer) shot -- then edit those shots together. Zooms can be distracting rather than enhancing to the action. Worse, they are usually unsteady, and roll in and out of focus. Instead, shoot simple 'static' shots, and let the subjects and location tell the story.


Pans and tilts are defined as movement across something. Pans are left/right (horizontal movement in either direction) and tilts are up/down (vertical movement in either direction). These movements can be done from a tripod with a pan/tilt handle or you can do them while shooting handheld. If you choose to pan and tilt do it sparingly and try to keep it 'motivated' by the subject. For example, if you are shooting the Empire State Building in NYC, tilting up to emphasize its height and impressive stature is great. But moving up and down and left and right constantly can be distracting. Worse yet, it uses battery, hard drive spaces and usually proves to be too much movement for the shot and can be difficult to edit around.

Another example: If you are shooting a soccer player running down the soccer field, follow the subject and pan with that movement. If the subject moves, moving the camera (smoothly!) is very appropriate when following action. If the subject doesn’t move, the camera usually shouldn’t either. In other words, your subjects should 'motivate' your camera movement.


Lighting is a critical part of videography and photography. The Rebel T1i is great at shooting in situations where there is a limited amount of light. But don't be afraid to use light to make your work better. Remember that viewers' eyes are naturally attracted to the brightest spot on the screen, whatever stands out. Shoot subjects with light on them, whenever possible. Have the brightest spot in your image be the person or thing you want to emphasize. Of course you can’t always control the light. When this is the case try to position yourself so the light is behind you, then it will be shining on your subject. Watch out for unwanted shadows, or silhouetting. Don't be afraid to move your subject to a new location if the light seems better there. A good tip: It's usually more flattering to shoot outdoor in the shade or on an overcast day, when there is no or little direct sunlight. Direct sunlight can cause harsh, contrasty shadows. But shade or a cloudy sky diffuses that sunlight into something soft and flattering for most subjects.


Composition is how a shot is put together, the arrangement of visual subjects in the picture area. Determining where you put your subject(s) can dramatically change the quality of your shots. Composition is often based on an old rule called The RULE OF THIRDS.

Here is how to use the Rule of Thirds: Take the rectangle of your LCD monitor and (mentally) draw the equivalent of a tic-tac-toe board.

Wherever the lines intersect is the best place for your subject. Good, dynamic, interesting photography rarely has the main person, place or thing dead center. Framing it off-center provides more depth to most compositions, be it a still photo or video footage.

In fact, the Rebel T1i makes using the Rule of Thirds easy! You can create these lines for reference on the LCD screen. Press the Menu button, and under the Video menu tab, and go to the Grid Display. Activate the 'Grid 1' option, and you now have what looks like that tic-tac-toe board. It’s a great way to help position subjects so they’re not dead-centered, and of course, the lines will NOT appear in your final movie!

Composition offers more of a challenge in video when the subject is moving. Try to give your video 'leading' room. If someone is running left to right, keep them in the left side of the screen. It will feel like there is room for them to be lead or run in the image.

Remember, viewers of your video will look at your subject's face first, and then they will look at whatever your subject is looking at in the frame. If your subject is looking to the left, the view will also look to the left of the shot. If you place the subject all the way to the left of the frame, there is no where for your viewer's eyes to go -- their eyes will literally 'fall off' the frame!


Good video is shot to make it look like there were multiple cameras on the subject simultaneously. Shooting a subject with wide, medium, and close-up shots makes the final, edited piece seem like there were multiple cameras. Sequencing requires a good understanding of video editing. Photojournalists need to edit in their minds while they shoot. You can see the edit point while you shoot and make it work when you edit the story -- in other words, you edit in camera because you are planning ahead. When you are first starting out, that may be tough, but try to make a habit of capturing at least the following types of shots for every scene:

  • Wide Shot: The broadest story, taking in the initial impression
  • Medium Shot: A bit closer, usually about waist-up for a person in the frame, focusing on something that was attracting or interesting to the viewers' eye in the wide shot
  • Tight Shot/ Close Up Shot: A close up to really study something specific -- usually just your subject's face (shoulders-up or tighter), but it can be any important detail in the frame

Once you have this variety of shots, you can play with creating sequences with your editing software, such as Canon's Movie Edit Task. The simple animation above is an example of a sequence -- it transitions from one shot to another while maintaining some continuity of location and subject movement and placement. Remember, it’s easy to take different, separate movie “clips” and edit them later at the computer, so that they quickly transition from one to the next.


Getting from one place to another makes video smooth. Allowing the subject to move in and out of a frame can move them quickly and simply from one place to another without confusing the time/place/direction for the viewers. Close-up shots are a good trick to edit with, that allows the subject to be transformed from one location to another.


Sound is a huge part of video! In fact, it's one of the two key things that separate still photography from cinematography or videography: Sound and movement. Everything we do has some sound associated with it. Listening to what is going on brings the experience closer and makes those watching feel more involved. The Rebel T1i has a microphone in front (the four little holes near the lens), so the audio recording will be best from right in front of the camera, wherever the lens is pointing. The key to shooting good audio (aside from having good equipment) is being a good listener. If you hear something interesting, compelling or entertaining keep the video rolling. Try not to speak from behind the camera, unless you are truly part of the experience.


You’ve pulled the camera out to capture something very important to you, and probably something very specific to that moment. Don’t become too distracted by other things that might be going on, and miss your moment. Focus your lens and your mind. For example, if you’ve come to document your child on stage during a play, don’t shoot pictures of lots of other people or activities you probably won’t care about later. Keeping your eye, your lens, and your mind on the reason you're shooting will allow better, and more personal, storytelling.


What to leave in, what to leave out? That’s the big question when editing.

The editing process actually begins when you turn your camera on. As the photojournalist in charge, YOU decide what to leave in and what to leave out of each and every shot. Cropping, framing, rule of thirds, everything you decide to capture or not to capture is part of the editing process.

Traditionally, editing is thought of as the process of building a story by stringing different pieces of video and sound together. This is done with video editing software, including “Movie Edit Task”, created specifically for the T1i from Canon. It comes with the EOS Rebel T1i camera, and it’s part of the larger “ZoomBrowser EX” (Windows) or “ImageBrowser” (Macintosh) programs on the software CD included with the camera.

The aesthetic piece of editing is huge. Professional editing mixes sounds and sources seamlessly. The techniques and tricks of the trade take several years and a great artistic eye to master. The simpler a story or piece of video appears, the more intricate the edit could’ve been.

For simpler edits from videos off the Rebel T1i, string individual videos together chronologically. Most stories you want to tell are shot in the order they happened, in the order you would TELL the story. Once the images are lined up, play them individually to determine if there are pieces to be deleted. Cut out the pieces that don’t make sense, don’t keep the viewers attention or don’t evoke the true emotion you want the video to convey. When you play them all back, they should give you similar thoughts and feelings you had when you shot them. If this happens, you’ve successfully captured and saved the mood that motivated you to begin shooting it in the first place.


If editing begins when the camera is turned on, photojournalists need to think as an editor would think while they capture the images. Vary the shots. Shooting wide, medium and tight shots and changing angles often gives each piece some character, some unique identity. Listen when you shoot. Editing is a process of putting video and SOUND together. Sometimes the best moments are the ones you hear, not see. Edit with your ears while your shooting. It makes putting it together on the computer a chance to relive the moment…it’s a blast.

Check out Spring Fever, a day-in-the-life family video, shot and edited by Sharon Levy Freed to test out the out-of-the-box HD video capabilities of the EOS Rebel T1i camera (click to watch)


Text and videos by Sharon Levy Freed. All videos were shot with the EOS Rebel T1i camera, © 2009 Sharon Levy Freed

The CDLC contributors are compensated spokespersons and actual users of the Canon products that they promote.

All images are copyright Sharon Levy Freed


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