Friday: Researching Your Competitor’s Keywords

Monitoring your competitor’s PPC efforts is a good way to keep your edge. By conducting competitive research, you can discover new variations of your core keywords, or completely new ones. There are reasons to take on your competitors head-on for the same keywords, and there are other reasons to make flanking maneuvers in order to avoid direct competition. You can think of competitive research as both a defensive and an offensive tactic.

First, let’s cover the defensive aspect of competitive research. There are going to be core keywords that will drive your business. Often there are several competitors who are also bidding on these core keywords. As we said earlier, you want to have bid on many variations of your core keywords, because your target audience is going to be made up of people from varying backgrounds and locations. Your competitors may have thought of terms that you’ve missed. Adding variations that you discover through competitive research can help you maintain a position as the toughest competitor.

Another goal of competitive research is to gain an understanding of your competitors’ messaging. What are your competitors saying in their PPC ads? Here’s what to look for:

Headline: Does their headline speak more clearly to your target audience? If so, why? If not, why not? Make a list of reasons why their headline is better than yours.

Ad copy: Are your competitors utilizing their limited ad copy more efficiently than you? What benefits and features do they highlight? Make a list of benefits you’re not using in your ads.

Call to action: How are your competitors motivating users to click on their PPC ads? Are they offering special deals, free shipping, or free information? Write down reasons why their offers are more compelling than yours.

Some people say the best defense is a good offense. Researching your competitors’ keywords will also help you think of new terms that neither you nor they are targeting. During this process, you’re looking for holes in your competitors’ keyword armor, so to speak. The motivation here isn’t to go head-on against your competition; rather, you are looking for terms that all your competitors are missing.

Now that you understand how competitive research is both a defensive and an offensive tactic, how exactly do you find out which keywords your competitors are targeting? You will never know exactly which terms your competitors are bidding on. None of the search engines will provide you with this information, and there is no reputable third-party tool that will provide precise insight into your competitors’ PPC keywords.

Competitive analysis shouldn’t be the cornerstone of your keyword research. Instead, this process should supplement the construction of your keyword list and make it stronger. There are numerous tools that you could buy to provide good insight into your competitors’ PPC activities, but to get you started, we’ll describe a few ways that you can do such research on the cheap.

The Ad Preview Tool

By now, you should have a grasp on which keywords are mission critical for your campaign. To gauge the level of competition for each term, you should conduct a search query for each of these. This will give you an idea of how competitive your core terms are, and let you create a list of the competitors with the highest visibility.

To conduct these competitive search queries, you should use the Google Ad Preview tool (https://adwords.google.com/select/AdTargetingPreviewTool). By using this tool, you won’t generate false impressions for yourself or your competitors (let’s play fair!). Another reason to use the tool: Each subsequent search query on Google may cause a different set of ads to be displayed. Google does this because if you don’t click any ads during a single search session, it’s assumed you are not interested in the set of ads being displayed, and eventually no ads will be displayed for the queries you are making from your computer and your IP address. The Google Ad Preview tool helps you avoid these issues.

When you conduct a search query by using the Google Ad Preview tool, you are not actually conducting a live search on Google; you are getting a preview of what the SERP may look like for that particular keyword. Figure 4.14 shows the results of a search conducted using the term organic white tea.

The Google Ad Preview tool can give you an idea of how a SERP will appear for your core keywords.

As you can see in the figure, the Ad Preview tool enables you to view ads as if you were searching from a different location. You can select to view ads as they may appear in a different country, state, region, and city, or even a location defined by longitude and latitude coordinates. This way, you can see how search results look in locations other than your own. For example, if you live in Indiana but you want to see what ads are being displayed in California for a certain term, you can do this by using the Ad Preview tool.

Competitors’ Website Review

Believe it or not, your competitors may just simply tell you their core keywords. For SEO purposes, companies will utilize a line of code called the meta keyword tag, which tells the search engines which keywords are most important to this particular page of their website.

Where do you find this information? When viewing your competitor’s website home page, at the top of the browser you should click View and then select Page Source from the drop-down menu that appears. A new window will open that displays the HTML code of this page. The meta keyword tag is usually located at the top of the code, and looks similar to Figure 4.15.

A home page’s meta name, meta description, and meta keywords tags

Third-Party Tools

The tools in this section are not free, but their publishers offer free features. They can give you some insight into your competitors’ keywords, messaging within their PPC ads, and traffic trends for their websites. Here are some of our favorites:

Compete (www.compete.com): As with any of the tools listed in this section, you’ll get much more competitive information with the paid version of this software, but the free version will get you started. For example, we entered a competitor’s website into Compete and received quite a bit of useful information, as you can see in Figure 4.16 and Figure 4.17.

SpyFu (www.spyfu.com): SpyFu offers two methods of competitive research: by keyword and by URL. When searching by keyword, you are provided with quite a bit of information, including projected CPC, clicks per day, and the average number of advertisers. Also, you can see top PPC domains for this term as well as samples of PPC ads. The information provided by SpyFu is helpful, and Figure 4.18 shows just the top of the results page—additional information is provided on the rest of the page.

 

In Compete, you can see traffic trends for your competitors, as well as visits and unique visitors.

You can also gain additional insight from Compete, such as site description, top referring websites, and some keyword ideas.

SpyFu can indicate how competitive a keyword may be and show the main advertisers bidding on the term.

You can use SpyFu to conduct competitive research by using a specific URL, and get the projected daily AdWords spending range, average ad position, top 10 paid keywords, and other information. You should not, however, take this information as solid fact, but rather as a point of reference. Figure 4.19 shows a sample URL analysis from SpyFu.

A SpyFu URL analysis

KeywordSpy (www.keywordspy.com): If you went ahead and hopped on the Compete and SpyFu bandwagons, you already have quite a bit of information about your competitors. Like the others, KeywordSpy provides speculative stats, top keywords, main competitors, and PPC ad variations. However, it also provides top organic keywords and competitors.

 

Thursday: Permuting and Concatenating

For this exercise, we recommend that you use a Microsoft Excel document (or a document created by a different spreadsheet software package) to further build your keyword list. We suggest you start with six columns, labeled with two prefixes, two root words (usually product names, and generally both nouns), and two suffixes. By prefix, we mean terms that users may append to the beginning of your keyword to search for your product. By suffix, we mean terms that users may append to the end of your keywords to search for your product or service.

To get you started on the example, here’s the initial keyword list for the Jesse persona (the beginner runner from Monday’s lesson):

initial keyword

Here is the initial keyword for the Steve persona (the casual runner):

initial keyword for the Steve persona

And here is the initial keyword list for the Jackie persona (the hard-core runner):

initial keyword list for the Jackie persona

Don’t worry too much about filling every column, or whether you mix nouns, adjectives, and adverbs. There is no specific “right” way to conduct this exercise. At this point, it’s more important that you use your intuition to capture as many words as possible.

Generally, nouns are the most important part of a keyword (you are usually selling the noun), and the prefixes and suffixes (especially ones pertaining to shopping and buying) are crucial to include in your keyword list, because they will match search queries of people who are probably close to making a buying decision.

We’ll use Jesse’s Excel sheet to walk you through the process of permutation. Take a look at the root words first: running, jogging, and training. Combine these terms with the Prefix 2 column. You can already see how your keyword list is growing. Here is a sample of the keywords you just created:

  • Cheap running shoe
  • Inexpensive jogging shoe
  • Beginner’s training shoe
  • Inexpensive running shoes
  • Beginner’s jogging shoes

Hopefully, you can see how the process of permutation can transform a six-line table into more than 500 keywords. Later in this chapter, you’ll learn how to split long keyword lists into small, efficient ad groups.

Wednesday: Using Your Best Keyword Source—Your Intuition, and Reports

Intuition and reports are two of your best sources for keywords. In fact, they may be the two best! Intuition gives you the framework for your keywords based on personas, creativity, and drawing from real-world sources of keyword information. Reports enable you to maximize your CTRs by serving up exactly the ads to exactly the people who are making very specific queries.

Let’s return to the discussion of personas from Monday. These exercises are themselves intuition-based keyword-generation exercises. You try to imagine the words that your personas would use, and you bid on those words. Your work on these personas is a labor of imagination, but in a sense it’s limited by what potential customers you can imagine or what kinds of people you know your existing customers to be. You can expand the breadth of your intuition—and your effective keywords—by bringing in more people’s intuitions to help you create additional personas, or to imagine more ways those personas would search. This is an exercise that some professional search engine marketers perform with their clients. If you work at an agency with clients, it is something that you can try. If you work in-house at a business, try asking for help from your coworkers, especially those who are not marketers.

Present the product or service to your clients and coworkers. Tell them what it does. Now ask them to describe the product—what the product does, what problem the product solves, and what kind of a solution it is to what people—in three or more words. The words they give you don’t have to make a lot of grammatical sense. It is probably best if they give you predominantly nouns and adjectives. Why? Because a lot of the time, this is how people search.

Your prospects won’t always search by using beautifully structured language, anticipated modifiers, and so on. Sometimes they will query fastest way to lose 10 lbs and other times lose weight fast or perhaps fast weight loss. These queries express similar desires: The searcher wants information on how to lose weight quickly. Weight-loss advertisers may report queries for lose weight in a week or lose weight in one week, while numerous keyword tools will suggest they target rapid weight loss.

Note that the broad match, two-word keyword weight loss will theoretically match to all of these potential queries. Why, then, would you want to expand your keyword lists (at least potentially) to embrace the various phrasings? Here are some reasons:

Ad relevance and differentiation: Weight loss is a perfect example of a niche that has hundreds, if not thousands, of advertisers. All of these competitors are selling weight-loss solutions, so if you want to speak to the person making one
of the weight-loss-related search queries we previously mentioned, you want to speak to the speed with which you can guarantee that weight loss. Better yet, you can use that searcher’s own language. If you describe losing weight within
just one week to someone looking to lose weight in one week, you will typically have a higher CTR than if you were to present a generic weight-loss ad. Similarly, if someone wants to lose specifically 10 pounds, you can speak to that, and address the searcher’s specific request. If your competitors are not going the extra distance in their ads, your ads will look that much more uniquely distinctive as well as appropriate.

Decreased costs: When you present more-relevant ads, you will generate higher CTR, and earn higher quality scores. With a higher quality score, your cost per click (CPC) can decrease at the same time your ad position improves.

Customized landing page copy: Just as customizing ad copy can increase CTRs, customizing landing page copy (especially benefit statements) can help increase the chances of conversion (to whatever post-click activity you are going for, such as sales, opt-ins, qualified leads, and so on), sometimes up to 100 percent.

In addition to expanding keywords via your (and your associates’) intuitions, you can create more-precise ad groups via ideas from the Search Query Performance report or, alternately, Google Analytics if you have it set up.

One of the most powerful tools available from the AdWords interface is the Search Query Performance report. This report tells you exactly what the prospect typed in rather than only what keyword triggered the appearance of one of your ads.
Here’s how you request one:

  1. Navigate to the Reports tab in AdWords and click Create a New Report.
  2. Select Search Query Performance as the Report Type, as illustrated in Figure 4.13.

The Search Query Performance report is one of many reporting options.

Because of the nature of broad match and phrase match, your ads may be displaying for search queries that are not currently in your campaign. The Search Query Performance report will give you the actual search query that was matched to your keyword. With this information, you can add new keywords to your campaign, and the best thing is that these new keywords are already being searched on by your target audience.

The Search Query Performance report is also a superb source of negative-match keywords. You might not be able to imagine every variation of a keyword you don’t want to match to at the beginning of the process, but after you’ve seen some unprofitable clicks, you will surely know which negative-match keywords to add.

 

Publish to Android Installer

Now that you have created your new application, it is time to publish it to an Android installer file, which is an archive file with an .apk extension. Flash Builder provides all of the tools to accomplish this task.

To demonstrate how to compile an application to an Android installer, let’s walk through this process with the following steps:

  1. First, click on File→Export within Flash Builder’s main menu (see Figure 7-1).
  2. Next, select Flash Builder→Release Build (see Figure 7-2).
  3. Within the Export Release Build window, select the Project and Application that you would like to compile (see Figure 7-3).
  4. If you already have a certificate compiled, select that certificate, enter its password, and click the Finish button to compile the Android installer file (.apk). If you do not yet have a certificate, click the Create button (see Figure 7-4).

    To create a new certificate, complete the Create Self-Signed Digital Certificate form and click on the OK button (see Figure 7-5).

  5. To compile the Android installer file (.apk), click on the Finish button (see Figure 7-6).

Congratulations: you have just compiled your first Android application. To publish your new application to the Android Market, just visit https://market.android.com/publish.

Selecting File→Export

Selecting Flash Builder→Release Build

The Export Release Build screen

Selecting or creating a certificate

 

Creating a new certificate

Completing the export

Canon 7D Motion and Depth of Field

There are distinct characteristics that are related to changes in aperture and shutter speed. Shutter speed controls the length of time the light has to strike the sensor; consequently, it also controls the blurriness (or lack of blurriness) of the image. The less time light has to hit the sensor, the less time your subjects have to move around and become blurry. This can let you control things like freezing the motion of a fastmoving subject (Figure 2.11) or intentionally blurring subjects to give the feel of energy and motion (Figure 2.12).

This little boy was waving the fl ag back and forth very quickly, so I used a faster shutter speed to freeze the action.

Using a slow shutter speed with a fast-moving subject will intensify the feeling of movement in an image.

The aperture controls the amount of light that comes through the lens, but also determines what areas of the image will be in focus. This is referred to as depth of fi eld, and it is an extremely valuable creative tool. The smaller the opening (the larger the number, such as f/22), the greater the sharpness of objects from near to far (Figure 2.13).

I wanted all three people in this photo to be in focus, so I chose to use a small aperture.

A large opening (or small number, like f/2.8) means more blurring of objects that are not at the same distance as the subject you are focusing on (Figure 2.14).

As we further explore the features of the camera, we will learn not only how to utilize the elements of exposure to capture properly exposed photographs, but also how to make adjustments to enhance the outcome of your images. It is the manipulation of these elements—motion and focus—that will take your images to the next level.

A wide-open aperture created a shallow depth of fi eld for this photograph.

Canon 7D Understanding Aperture, Shutter Speed, and ISO

Proper exposure is crucial to creating a good image, and if you’re not sure what’s going on inside the camera it can be diffi cult to grasp many of the concepts you will read about in this book. Your camera can, and will, make a lot of decisions during the shooting process, and it’s important that you understand what it is doing and why. Here I’ll cover some of the basic principles of exposure, so you have the tools to move forward and improve your photography.

Exposure is the process whereby the light refl ecting off a subject refl ects through an opening in the camera lens for a defi ned period of time onto the camera sensor. The combination of the lens opening, shutter speed, and sensor sensitivity is used to achieve a proper exposure value (EV) for the scene. The EV is the sum of the components necessary to properly expose a scene. A relationship exists between these factors that is sometimes referred to as the “Exposure Triangle.”

At each point of the triangle lies one of the factors of exposure:

  • ISO: Determines the sensitivity of the camera sensor. ISO stands for the International Organization for Standardization, but the acronym is used as a term to describe the sensitivity of the camera sensor to light. The higher the sensitivity, the less light is required for a good exposure. These values are a carryover from the days of traditional color and black and white fi lms.
  • Aperture: Also referred to as the f-stop, this determines how much light passes through the lens at once.
  • Shutter speed: Controls the length of time that light is allowed to hit the sensor.

Here’s how it works. The camera sensor has a level of sensitivity that is determined by the ISO setting. To get a proper exposure—not too much, not too little—the lens needs to adjust the aperture diaphragm (the size of the lens opening; think of it as the pupil in your eye increasing and decreasing in size) to control the volume of light entering the camera. Then the shutter is opened for a relatively short period of time to allow the light to hit the sensor long enough for it to record on the sensor.

ISO numbers for the 7D start at 100 and then double in sensitivity as you double the number. So 200 is twice as sensitive as 100. The camera can be set to use 1/2- or 1/3-stop increments, but for ISO just remember that the base numbers double: 100, 200, 400, 800, and so on. There are also a wide variety of shutter speeds that you can use. The speeds on the 7D range from as long as 30 seconds to as short as 1/8000 of a second. When using the camera, you will not see the “1” over the number, so you will need to remember that anything shorter than a second will be a fraction. Generally
speaking, for handheld photography you should stay at 1/60 of a second for the slowest speed (or 1/30 if you have steady hands), so you will most likely be working with a shutter speed range from around 1/30 of a second to about 1/2000. These numbers will change depending on your circumstances and the effect that you are trying to achieve. The lens apertures will vary slightly depending on which lens you are using. This is because different lenses have different maximum apertures. The typical apertures that are at your disposal are f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and f/22.

When it comes to exposure, a change to any one of these factors requires changing one or more of the other two. This is referred to as reciprocal change. If you let more light in the lens by choosing a larger aperture opening, you will need to shorten the amount of time the shutter is open. If the shutter is allowed to stay open for a longer period of time, the aperture needs to be smaller to restrict the amount of light coming in.

HOW IS EXPOSURE CALCULATED?

We now know about the exposure triangle—ISO, shutter speed, and aperture—so it’s time to put all three together to see how they relate to one another and how you can change them as needed.

When you point your camera at a scene, the light refl ecting off your subject enters the lens and is allowed to pass through to the sensor for a period of time as dictated by the shutter speed. The amount and duration of the light needed for a proper exposure depends on how much light is being refl ected and how sensitive the sensor is. To fi gure this out, your camera utilizes a built-in light meter that looks through the lens and measures the amount of light. That level is then calculated against the sensitivity of the ISO setting and an exposure value is rendered. Here’s the catch: There is no single way to achieve a perfect exposure because the f-stop and shutter speed can be combined in different ways to allow the same amount of exposure. Deciding which combination to use is one of the fun, creative parts of being a photographer.

Here is a list of reciprocal settings that would all produce the same exposure result. Let’s use the “sunny 16” rule, which states that, when using f/16 on a sunny day, you can use a shutter speed that is roughly equal to your ISO setting to achieve a proper exposure. For simplifi cation purposes, we will use an ISO of 100.

RECIPROCAL EXPOSURES

If you were to use any one of these combinations, they would each have the same result in terms of the exposure (that is, how much light hits the camera’s sensor). Also take note that every time we cut the f-stop in half, we reciprocated by doubling our shutter speed. For those of you wondering why f/5.6 is half of f/8, it’s because those numbers are actually fractions based on the opening of the lens in relation to its focal length. This means that a lot of math goes into fi guring out just what the total area of a lens opening is, so you just have to take it on faith that f/5.6 is half of f/8 but twice as much as f/4. A good way to remember which opening is larger is to think of your camera lens as a pipe that controls the fl ow of water. If you had a pipe that was 1/2” in diameter (f/2) and one that was 1/8” (f/8), which would allow more
water to fl ow through? It would be the 1/2” pipe. The same idea works here with the camera f-stops; f/2 is a larger opening than f/4 or f/8 or f/16.

Now that we know this, we can start using this information to make intelligent choices in terms of shutter speed and f-stop. Let’s bring the third element into this by changing our ISO by one stop, from 100 to 200.

RECIPROCAL EXPOSURES: ISO 200

Notice that, since we doubled the sensitivity of the sensor, we now require half as much exposure as before. We have also reduced our maximum aperture from f/2 to f/2.8 because the camera can’t use a shutter speed that is faster than 1/8000 of a second.

So why not just use the exposure setting of f/16 at 1/250 of a second? Why bother with all of these reciprocal values when this one setting will give us a properly exposed image? The answer is that the f-stop and shutter speed also control two other important aspects of our image: motion and depth of fi eld.

STOP

You will hear the term stop thrown around all the time in photography. It relates back to the f-stop, which is a term used to describe the aperture opening of your lens. When you need to decrease the exposure, you might say that you are going to “stop down.” This doesn’t just equate to the aperture; it could also be used to describe the shutter speed or even the ISO. So when your image is too light or dark or you have too much movement in your subject, you will probably be changing things by a stop or two.

Canon 7D Lenses and Focal Lengths

If you ask most photographers what they believe to be their most critical piece of photographic equipment, they would undoubtedly tell you that it’s their lens (also referred to as “glass”). The technology and engineering that goes into your camera is a marvel, but it isn’t worth much if it can’t get the light from the outside onto the sensor. Most photographers will happily put their resources into purchasing highquality lenses before they get a new camera body, since lenses can be passed on from one camera to the next and are a huge factor in the overall quality of the image.

The 7D, as a digital single lens refl ex (DSLR) camera, uses the lens for a multitude of tasks, from focusing on a subject, to metering a scene, to delivering and focusing the light onto the camera sensor. The lens is also responsible for the amount of the scene that will be captured (the frame). With all of this riding on the lens, let’s take a more in-depth look at the camera’s eye on the world.

Lenses are composed of optical glass that is both concave and convex in shape. The alignment of the glass elements is designed to focus the light coming in from the front of the lens onto the camera sensor. The amount of light that enters the camera is also controlled by the lens, the size of the glass elements, and the aperture mechanism within the lens housing. The quality of the glass used in the lens will also have a direct effect on how well the lens can resolve details and the contrast of the image (the ability to deliver great highlights and shadows). Most lenses now include things like the autofocus motor and, in some cases, an image-stabilization mechanism.

There is one other aspect of the camera lens that is often the fi rst consideration of the photographer: lens length. Lenses are typically divided into three or four groups  depending on the fi eld of view they deliver.

Wide-angle lenses cover a fi eld of view from around 110 degrees to about 60 degrees (Figure 2.5). There is a tendency to get some distortion in your image when using extremely wide-angle lenses. This will be apparent toward the outer edges of the frame. As for which lenses would be considered wide angle, anything 35mm or smaller could be considered wide.

A very wide-angle lens allowed me to photograph this billboard and include a large amount of the surrounding area.

Wide-angle lenses can display a large depth of fi eld, which allows you to keep the foreground and background in sharp focus. This makes them very useful for landscape photography. They also work well in tight spaces, such as indoors, where there isn’t much elbow room available. They can also be handy for large group shots but, due to the amount of distortion, not so great for close-up portrait work (Figure 2.6).

While a wide-angle lens works for this unique perspective, it is not ideal for a traditional portrait due to the extreme distortion near the edges of the frame.

A normal lens has a fi eld of view that is about 45 degrees and delivers approximately the same view as the human eye. The perspective is very natural and there is little distortion in objects. A normal lens will have a focal length between 35 and 80mm. (Figure 2.7).

Using a normal focal length will produce very little distortion in your images.

Normal focal length lenses are useful for photographing people and architecture, and for most other general photographic needs. They have very little distortion and offer a moderate range of depth of fi eld (Figure 2.8).

Most longer focal length lenses are referred to as telephoto lenses. They can range in length from 135mm up to 800mm or longer and have a fi eld of view that is about 35 degrees or smaller. These lenses have the ability to greatly magnify the scene, allowing you to capture details of distant objects, but the angle of view is greatly reduced (Figure 2.9).

Telephoto lenses are most useful for sports photography or any application where you just need to get closer to your subject. They can have a compressing effect— making objects look closer together than they actually are—and a very narrow depth of fi eld when shot at their widest apertures.

Normal lenses are great for close-up portrait work.

This image was photographed with a 24–105mm f/4L IS zoom lens, and because there was not enough light for a handheld exposure, the camera was placed on a tripod.

Canon 7D Using the Right Format: RAW vs. JPEG

The 7D gives you the option to shoot and save your images to your memory card in RAW, JPEG, or both. Most people are already familiar with JPEG since it’s one of the most common fi le formats for anyone using a digital camera.

You may want to set your camera to JPEG and start shooting, never bothering with the other settings. After all, a JPEG is a very simple fi le to work with! It’s ready to go right out of the camera and you can store a lot more JPEG fi les on your memory card than you can RAW fi les. JPEG will also write to the card much faster, making it a good choice for photographers who do a lot of high-speed photography (such as sports photographers or photojournalists). So what’s the drawback of JPEG? There’s really nothing wrong with it if you can create your photos in-camera exactly how you want
them to look (proper exposure, white balance, and so on).

It is a compression standard, and compression is where things go bad. When you have your camera set to JPEG, you are telling the camera to process the image however it sees fi t and then throw away enough image data to make it shrink into a smaller space.In doing so, you give up subtle image details that you will never get back in postprocessing.

SO WHAT DOES RAW HAVE TO OFFER?

The RAW format is an uncompressed fi le that stores as much data as it can possibly collect from each image you take. Unlike JPEG, it is lossless compression, which means that it loses no image data when it writes to the memory card. Photographing with the RAW format means that you have a lot of room to edit the photo, but it also requires the use of software in order for you to share or print the image.

RAW images have a greater dynamic range than JPEG-processed images. This means that you can recover image detail in the highlights and shadows that just isn’t available in JPEGs.

There’s more color information in a RAW image because it is a 14-bit image, meaning it contains more color information than a JPEG, which is almost always an 8-bit image. More color information means more to work with and smoother changes between tones, and it will preserve the quality of your image while you edit.

Regarding sharpening, a RAW image offers more control because you are the one applying the sharpening according to the effect you want to achieve. Once again, JPEG processing applies a standard amount of sharpening that you cannot change after the fact. Once it is done, it’s done.

Finally, and most importantly, a RAW fi le is your negative. No matter what you do to it, you won’t change it unless you save your fi le in a different format. This means that you can come back to that RAW fi le later and try different processing settings to achieve differing results and never harm the original image. By comparison, if you make a change to your JPEG and accidentally save the fi le, guess what? You have a new original fi le, and you will never get back to that fi rst image. That alone should make you sit up and take notice.

ADVICE FOR NEW RAW SHOOTERS

If you are used to only using the JPEG format, moving to RAW is a big step but a very worthwhile one. Using the RAW format means more work at your computer, but don’t give up just because it takes a few extra minutes to process each image. It will also take up more space on your CF card, but that’s an easy fi x—go buy more cards, or get them in larger sizes (I like to use 16 GB CF cards when I shoot with my 7D). Also, don’t worry about needing to purchase expensive software to work with your RAW fi les; you already own a program that allows you to work with them. Canon’s Digital Photo Professional software comes bundled in the box with your camera and gives you the ability to work directly on the RAW fi les and then output the enhanced results.

SELECTING A RAW FORMAT

The 7D has the ability to capture different-sized RAW fi les. This means you can now have all of the benefi ts of a RAW fi le in a smaller image size. The standard RAW fi le uses the full sensor resolution of 5184 x 3456 pixels. If you want the fl exibility and power of using the RAW format but don’t necessarily need an image that large, you can select one of the smaller RAW fi les: mRAW (3888 x 2592) or sRAW (2592 x 1728). These smaller RAW fi les will also take up less space on your memory card, allowing you to shoot more images.

IMAGE RESOLUTION

When discussing digital cameras, image resolution is often used to describe pixel resolution, or the number of pixels used to make an image. This can be displayed as a dimension such as 5184 × 3456. This is the physical number of pixels in width and height of the image sensor. Resolution can also be referred to in megapixels (MP), such as 18 MP. This number
represents the number of total pixels on the sensor and is commonly used to describe the amount of image data that a digital camera can capture.

SELECTING YOUR IMAGE QUALITY SETTING

SELECTING YOUR IMAGE QUALITY SETTING

  1. Press the Menu button and use the Main dial to select the fi rst shooting menu tab.
  2. Use the Quick Control dial to highlight the Quality setting and press the Set button to enter the Quality setting page (A).
  3. Use the Main dial to change the RAW setting and the Quick Control dial to change the JPEG setting (B).
  4. Press the Menu button to lock in your changes.

If you are uncomfortable shooting in RAW, that is perfectly OK. My recommendation is to use what works best for your photography, but don’t be afraid to try new things. One great feature of the 7D is that you don’t have to pick one or the other—the camera gives you the option to shoot in both RAW and JPEG simultaneously (Figure 2.3). This will take up a signifi cant amount of space on your memory card, but it’s a good way to transition over, or to just give RAW a chance.

To shoot in both RAW and JPEG simultaneously, follow the steps above to change your quality setting and use the Main dial and Quick Control dial to select both a RAW and JPEG image. Then press Set to lock in your changes.

CROP SENSOR VS. FULL FRAME

The 7D is what we consider a “crop sensor” camera. Many digital SLR cameras have one of two different types of sensors: full-frame or crop sensor. The sensor is the area in the camera that converts the image you see through the viewfinder into the digital file that writes to the memory card. All full-frame sensors have an area of 36 × 24 mm (the same size as a 35mm negative). The crop sensor on the 7D is slightly smaller at 22.3 × 14.9 mm (Figure 2.4). This will increase your focal length by a crop-factor of 1.6, so if you have a 50mm lens attached to your 7D, then you are actually seeing the equivalent of 80mm when you look through the viewfinder.

The center square in this image shows the visible area that the 7D will capture in relation to what a full-frame sensor would photograph with the same setup.

Canon 7D Updating the 7D’s Firmware

The great thing about digital cameras is that they are operated by internally running software, called fi rmware, that can improve operation or fi x problems that might arise. The 7D is no exception, and the Canon Firmware Update page (www.canon.com/eos-d/) provides all of the data you need to make sure your camera is up to date. It’s a good idea to check your camera’s fi rmware against this Web site to make sure you have the most recent version.

CHECKING THE CAMERA’S CURRENT FIRMWARE VERSION NUMBER

The fi rmware menu item on the 7D will tell you which version your camera has.

  1. Rotate the Mode dial to select P (it will not work in the Creative Auto or Full Auto modes).
  2. Press the Menu button to display the menu.
  3. Turn the Main dial to get to the third camera setup menu tab (third menu tab from the right), and you will see the currently installed fi rmware version number at the bottom of the settings (Figure 2.2). If this version is not the latest one listed on the Canon Web site, follow the steps in the next section to load the latest version.

UPDATING THE FIRMWARE DIRECTLY FROM YOUR COMPUTER

  1. Go to the Canon Web site’s digital camera page (www.canon.com/eos-d/) and fi nd the link to the Canon 7D. This will take you to the camera-specifi c Web page (A).
  2. From the “Drivers and Downloads” section, download the fi rmware update fi le that matches your operating system (Windows or Mac) (B).
  3. Extract the downloaded fi rmware fi le as per your operating system (C). (The fi rmware will automatically be extracted if you are using Mac OS.)UPDATING THE FIRMWARE DIRECTLY FROM YOUR COMPUTER
  4. Attach your camera to the computer via USB and turn the camera on (D). Make sure there is a CF card inserted in your camera.
  5. Open the EOS Utility program and select the Camera Settings/Remote Shooting option (E). (This program was included on the CD in your camera box. You will need to install it prior to performing this operation.)

    Camera Settings/Remote Shooting option

  6. When the panel opens, click the Set-Up icon and then click the Firmware button at the bottom of the panel (F).
  7. Click OK and then locate the extracted fi rmware fi le to begin the update.
  8. Click Yes on the confi rmation screen to begin the update (G). Note that the software will not allow you to continue the update unless the camera is plugged into the AC power adapter or the battery is fully charged.

    confirmation screen to begin the update

 

 

Canon 7D Formatting Your Memory Card

The fi rst thing to do when you have a new card is format it. When you format a card, the camera creates a layout for the images to be written more easily and saved properly. Formatting also “cleans” your card, making it a blank slate to write new images to, and is the recommended way of deleting data from the card. You should always format the card within the camera itself, because formatting it from the computer could render the card useless. You also want to be certain that your images and fi les on the card have been safely transferred over to another source before formatting your card.

I try to re-format my card before each use and after I have uploaded the images to my hard drive. I also format my card if it’s brand-new or has been used in a different camera. I like to start with a fresh card each time I shoot to simplify my workfl ow when I’m taking a lot of photos, so I can keep them organized and separated from my other images.

FORMATTING YOUR MEMORY CARD

FORMATTING YOUR MEMORY CARD

  1. Insert the memory card into your camera.
  2. Press the Menu button, and navigate to the fi rst setup menu tab (the fifth from the right).
  3. Rotate the Quick Control dial on the back of the camera to highlight the Format option, and press Set (A).
  4. The default selection for the Format screen is Cancel, just in case you didn’t really want to format the card (B). Turn the Quick Control dial to highlight OK. The screen will warn you that you will lose any data by formatting your card, so make sure that you have saved any images that you want onto your computeror elsewhere before formatting.
  5. Press the Set button to fi nalize the formatting of the card.