Over the days leading up to the 25th of December I’d like to give something to everyone who stops by my blog. These tips cover camera settings, flash, lighting, software and gear. I’ll be providing a pair of tips each day until 25th December.

#11 – You need a lens hood for the best image quality

lens hood

Lens hoods are the one bit of equipment that will improve the performance and protect your lenses. With a lens hood fitted the front element is further away from fingers, raindrops and damage. Look closely at that lens hood above, it’s taken some knocks in its life, but there’s not a mark on the lens. If you should break a lens hood, get a replacement asap.

This little bit of plastic was designed to stop light entering the lens from a non-image forming direction. Light coming in to the lens from the side, creates reflections in the lens elements that reduces sharpness, contrast and in extreme cases creates lens flare. A lens hood, unlike a cheap protection filter will actually improve the lens performance. However you have to fit them the right way round. Don’t leave them reversed on your lens when you’re shooting please.  lens flare without a lens hood

For every rule,  there has to be an exception – that’s the rule 😉 For this shot taken earlier this year I had to remove the lens hood from my EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens and use a flash, with it’s zoom head set to 24mm to create intentional creative lens flare. With the hood on, it was not possible to get the intended lens flare unless the flash was actually in the picture.

Canon L-series lenses are supplied with lens hoods, but most of the other lenses have optional hoods available (Amazon). For many telephoto lenses the hood is simply circular, but for zoom and wide-angle lenses it’s more petal shaped as the lens needs a wider view at the sides than the top and bottom of the frame.


#12 – Program shift

program shift

I once had a photographer explain that they were using program exposure mode with f/4 for all their shots. At first I thought they meant aperture priority, but then remembered the little known feature called program shift that is in all EOS cameras. Program shift makes it possible to always shoot at f/4 in program mode, though it’s probably easier to use aperture priority if all you want is f/4 all the time.

As you half press the shutter, the camera meters the scene, and displays it’s chosen aperture and shutter speed values. These are chosen based on an algorithm that factors in the focal length of the lens and the scene brightness. Once it’s done so these values stay on display for a couple of seconds, and during that time you can turn the main dial, under your right index finger, to adjust the combination of shutter speed and aperture.

If the camera selects f/5.6 at 1/125s with your 50mm f/1.8 lens, you can turn the main dial to shoot at f/1.8 at 1/1250s if you want that wide aperture look. Conversely for a landscape, you might want more depth of field, so the initial shutter speed and aperture could be shifted to f/11 at 1/30s.

program shift

Program shift is most useful when the camera is using the default evaluative metering and one-shot focus, but actually works for any metering mode or focus mode.


Here’s a few more festive fifty tips

external microphone & secured cables for tethering
Festive fifty – day #25
Festive fifty – day #14
Festive fifty – day #7

About the author

Full-time photo tutor and photographer. I love to share my knowledge and skills to make photos, videos and teach others. I write books and articles for photo magazines and I always have at least one Speedlite flash in my camera bag