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WHITE BALANCE: I carry around a white paper and also use grass as a sub for a grey card when I forget to pack one. Sometimes, if the sky is really deep blue I’ll use that as a grey point as well. I wish there was a “zebra” function on the T3i (maybe there is one, but I’m not aware of it) as it would be easier to tell what is a true white in the image. I also notice the inconsistencies in tone in my images and am working on it.
FOCUS: There are only eight focus points on my camera, so I have a lot of issues with focusing. I end up having to reconstruct the scene or focus on the eye and recompose, which is an extreme hassle when using a tripod.
Reading through your comments in this thread, I see what is quoted above, and I have questions:
Plain white photocopy paper makes a reasonable white card when the real thing is not available. I spend a lot of time in Chinese restaurants, which works well for me because their china is usually white. Black suits also work well, as does a shot of my black camera bag. What I don’t understand are your references to using grass and blue sky! Since neither of those are neutral, how do you use those to set white balance?
Why do you say 8 AF points, when Canon think there are 9? From their T3i specs web page:
9 points (Center AF point is cross-type, vertical-line sensitive at f/2.8.)
Some parts of photography are art, other parts are science. The “art” portion is all about your style and desire, you can stick to the rules or break them as you choose. The “science” part is not as forgiving. In order to get the art as desired, you have to pay attention to the science details.