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March 2016 Updates!

In Blog by Jerad Hill0 Comments

Hey all! I hope all is well. Things are moving along over here at Hill Academy. We are working on some new courses and a few course updates. I have been spending a lot of time trying to decide which direction I want to go with this website. My initial inclination is to teach about all of the things I am passionate about. This would include photography, website design, graphic design, small business, mobile devices and more. My only worry is that Hill Academy might become fragmented and lack direction. That can happen to a website. If there is no clear focus, it can be confusing for the users of the website. On the other side of this thought, I feel that specializing on one subject would leave a lot of content with no place to live. 

Let’s spend a moment talking about these different categories of education I have created content for and am considering to add into the mix here at Hill Academy.

Photography – The first full length course I created was a photography course. The launch of this course lit a fire under me that has been driving me to create more content. Prior to producing the Ditch Auto – Start Shooting in Manual course, I had been putting our short tutorials on YouTube and an occasional blog on my website. Having a complete course out there was a real accomplishment for me. It was also very fulfilling to see people take this course and share photos they were able to capture using the techniques I described. If I had to choose one subject to teach on, it would be photography. I have learned a lot since I started in photography back in 2005. Over 100,000 people have taken the Ditch Auto course which is amazing and at the same time humbling. 

Website Design – I have been building websites twice as long as I have been a Photographer. I built my first website for a business I wanted to start. Having a website built in 1998 was expensive. I taught myself how to build websites and a few years later I was designing them for clients. Much has changed online over the last 18 years. My experience in starting my own businesses has provided me a unique perspective when designing websites for clients of mine. I love building websites and watching them get found by people through search engines. Whether it’s a business or a blog, publishing something for the world to see is pretty fantastic. To provide the most value to my clients, I continue to learn and grow as the Internet becomes more complex. I produced my first website related course on WordPress to help my clients and others learn more about using WordPress. I have a lot more website design related information I would like to put out there. 

Small Business – I have been a small business owner since I was a kid. It started with a lemonade stand. I gave traditional education a go, but it didn’t work for me. It taught me how I didn’t want to be educated. I was always a hands on learner. I typically only needed to see something done once and I could do it myself. It was easier for me to learn by example. This has made for an interesting journey as a small business owner. Though I often learn my lessons the hard way, it happens fast and early. It allows me to adapt and pivot when I need to. I have made decisions that have grown my business year over year and I have held on to other businesses too long resulting in wasted time and effort. As I write this, I am 18 years into working for myself, 16 years since I quit my last job. I have not made all of the right decisions, but I have a long track record of running businesses that can support my family and employees.

Technology & Mobile – I was that kid in high school who had a Palm Pilot. I didn’t like paper and binders. I wanted all of my information in the smallest form. I had smartphones before the iPhone came out. I was first in line to buy the new iPhone and bought the first ever Android phone. Technology is my outlet. I love it and I love learning more about it. From smartphones to camera drones, I love learning about new technologies. It’s my hobby and my outlet. I enjoy learning about new technologies and if I find value in them, teach others about them. James, who has been part of the Hill Media Group team for four years feels the same way about tech as I do. He takes part in helping me produce some of the technology courses.

The goal here is to build something. That is always the goal. When I set out to start taking photos for other people, I wanted to build a business. When I started creating content online, it was simply to teach others and help them create the kind of freedom in their lives that I have been able to create. Everything that I have figured out has either came from an online article or video, or from trial and error. I have learned a lot from others and I always feel the desire to give back. That is why so many of my courses are free.

As I continue to figure out what I want this site to become, I will keep working at it. The feedback I continue to receive from many of you helps a lot. It helps me understand where the crossroad is between the value I have to offer and the value that all of you want. Even if I can just help one person create some freedom in their life it was all worth it.

Check back often, as I will try and keep this blog updated with what we are working on. I am going to use social media to post more as well which will include some behind the scenes content as well.




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Why Dropping Sony E Mount for Pro Photographers is Stupid

In Photography by Jerad Hill19 Comments

Earlier today, a popular Youtube Photographer voiced his opinion on the Sony E Mount system and how it is no longer a system he can use as a Professional Photographer due to their customer support. This Photographer did not really do his homework nor did he produce a valid comparison of services between other professional camera manufacturers.

As a Professional Photographer shooting primarily with Sony cameras this video frustrated me. I have been more than happy with Sony and the support their Pro Imaging Support service has provided. I decided I needed to speak up to add the missing facts and help this guy understand what he is talking about.

I am a Photographer and Educator as well. I take pride in the content I put out on the net. Though I have at times made mistakes, I have never created content that would put a brand in a bad light without doing my homework first. I am sad because this video of his will been seen by many and will keep some people from experiencing what I and many others have experienced with Sony Pro Support.

My main point is this: If you are a Professional, you should use gear that is professionally supported in your region. That means that if you live somewhere that does not offer support that a professional would need to be a professional, you are on your own. Should consumer level support be a good experience? Of course. This guy should have received good support on the consumer level. I have no complaints about someone calling out a company for poor support, however, you can not compare the professional support services of other leading manufacturers to that of a consumer level support that is available in your region.

Lastly: If you are trying to decide which platform to use as a Professional Photographer, go with what is supported best in your area. If you feel that you will need Pro Services from your camera manufacturer, do your homework first before investing in the gear. A professional would have done this in the first place rather than complaining about it after the fact.

Welcome to Hill Academy

In Blog by Jerad Hill0 Comments

You found our blog and you are probably wondering what Hill Academy is. Let me do my best to break down what Hill Academy is at the moment and what my goals are for this website for 2016.

In one way or another, I have been teaching online for over 15 years. It started with a blog. I loved sharing information. This led to starting a variety of podcasts and YouTube channels where I would share my knowledge on different subjects. A little over three years ago, I published my first full length photography course titled “Ditch Auto: Start Shooting in Manual.” The course was designed to help people get to know their cameras and learn how to use manual mode. Understanding how to use manual mode will yield much better results than the camera’s auto mode.

Since that time, I have published over a dozen courses on different topics of photography, social media and WordPress. I originally published these courses on a up and coming platform called Udemy. It was simple to use and it allowed me to spend more time working on courses and less time figuring out how to get them in front of others. It took me three years to realize that Udemy was not the platform for me. My courses resulted in tens of thousands of new users for their platform, but it was hard for me to engage with those students. There also was no incentive for me to create paid content for their site because their commissions on my content was so high. For a few years I would continue to produce free content and share it with the world.

To better engage with those who had taken my Ditch Auto course, I created a Facebook group. My ability to connect with students of the course was much improved and we were actively sharing with each other on a daily bases. It didn’t take much time before I realized that I needed to find a way to connect with students in all of my courses in this way. This fed my desire to create my own platform to share my courses and communicate with students of those courses. As I had time, I would try to develop this platform on my own. After several failed attempts due to time constraints, I finally jumped in head first and started building my own platform on top of WordPress. After a few weeks of working on it, I barely saw a light at the end of the tunnel. I wanted to start connecting with students, not be stuck building my platform from the ground up. This is when I found and instantly fell in love. I was able to import my Udemy courses directly into my new site and start to customize the site as I wanted it. We are now well on our way to having something tangible. is where I will host my current and future courses. Now having the platform in place, I can focus on building courses I have wanted to get out there, instead of building the platform. This blog is a separate but connected piece to the puzzle. This blog is powered by WordPress and is separate from the Teachable platform. Over time, this blog will house a variety of content related to the topics covered in our courses. At the time of writing this, I have four courses I am currently filming and we have six more we plan to start as soon as the first four are live.

Hill Academy will cover a wide range of topics starting with the topics I consider myself a professional in. Hill Academy is an online educational hub for the type of person who likes to learn how to do things on their own. Whether you want to take better photos, build a website, start a business, or learn how to use your smart devices better, we are there to help. Hill Academy will grow and change over time. The community that has surrounded me as a result of my courses have provided me with so much feedback and continue to provide even more, which is what led me to this place and will help lead me into the future with this website.

I am excited for the future. I love teaching and connecting with people over a common interest. As a result, I end up learning from others as well.

As most of you know, many of my courses are free. As I now am running my own platform, I will continue to produce free content. Some of the free courses will be here on, others will be posted to our YouTube channel. The goal will be to always choose the best platform for sharing information.

The Ditch Auto brand is being combined with Hill Academy to become Hill Academy Ditch Auto.

I would like to personally thank you for visiting our new website and blog. My team and I hope that you will take some time to join a course on a subject that interests you. If you don’t see something of interest, please let us know what you would like to see. Your feedback will help us continue to grow our community and assure we are only producing content that truly adds value.


Jerad Hill
Founder – Hill Academy

Canon Rebel T6i Guides

In Photography by Jerad Hill0 Comments

Ditch Auto is dedicated to helping you grow as a photographer and learn the skills and techniques involved in creating great photography. In pursuit of this mission, we will be creating guides for some of the most popular cameras used by aspiring photographers. We started with the Canon Rebel T6i, the latest entry into the prosumer-grade DSLR family. The T6i includes a slew of great features to help enhance your photography—as long as you know how to use them. Below you will find links to our guides for the T6i that walk through the most important aspects and features of the camera, and how to use them.

  1. How to Change Focus Modes
  2. Metering Modes
  3. Shooting Modes
  4. Drive Modes
  5. ISO Speed Settings
  6. How to Set White Balance
  7. How to Set Custom White Balance
  8. White Balance Shift & Bracketing
  9. How to Use Movie Mode
  10. How to Use Picture Styles
  11. How to Disable Camera Beep
  12. Must-Have Lenses
  13. How to Use Dust Delete Data
  14. How to Enable Grid Display
  15. Image Adjustments
  16. LCD Display Settings
  17. How to Use Wi-Fi & NFC
  18. How to Update Firmware
  19. How to Use “My Menu” Feature
  20. How to Use Quick Control
  21. How to Use Mirror Lockup
  22. Custom Functions & Advanced Settings

Shooting Modes on Canon Rebel T6i

In Photography by Jerad Hill0 Comments

You will have probably noticed the large dial with a myriad of symbols on the top right corner of the Canon Rebel T6i. This is your shooting mode selector dial, and switching between the different modes causes your camera to behave differently based on the mode selected. Let’s go over all the shooting modes of your Canon T6i and what each of them helps you accomplish:

The Mode Dial has ten different shooting mode selections, and can be largely separated into two categories: the Basic Zone, and the Creative Zone. The two zones determine a number of settings that are either set automatically or manually. Basic Zone shooting modes enable the user to simply point and shoot, without having to adjust most settings manually in order to get a well exposed and in-focus photo. Creative Zone shooting modes put more control in the hands of the user who would prefer to adjust more parameters by hand.

The Basic Zone modes are:

  • Scene Intelligent Auto (Green A in box). This mode is the most basic mode where the camera does almost everything automatically. All you have to do is point and shoot. The camera will focus on the subject when the shutter is half pressed, and will automatically adjust ISO, shutter speed, aperture, and flash for the best exposure.
  • Disabled flash (Box with line through lightning symbol) (Intelligent Auto with disabled flash) is exactly the same as Scene Intelligent Auto without flash, for situations where bright flashes are discouraged or not allowed.
  • Creative Auto (letters CA inside box) gives you a unique feature as well as control over a handful of settings. In Creative Auto, you can make the background of your image blurry so that your subject stands out, adjust the ambience to give the photo a different mood, and change both the drive and flash modes.
  • Special Scene Mode (SCN) has seven settings available to dial in the most useful settings for some of the most common situations. Available modes in Special Scene are: Portrait, Landscape, Close-up, Sports, Night Portrait, Handheld Night Scene, and HDR Backlight Control.

Creative Zone modes are less limited, and give more user control over various aspects of shooting. You are free to adjust Autofocus modes and zones, metering, and more.

The Creative Zone modes are:

  • Program AE (P). In Program, the camera automatically sets the shutter speed an aperture, leaving the exposure adjustments left to you. You can also use Program Shift, which lets you shift (using the main dial) the automatic balance set between the shutter speed and aperture for even more control.
  • Shutter-priority AE (Tv) automatically locks in the exposure and aperture so that you manually control the shutter speed. This is a great creative tool to to either add or subtract movement from your shots by using slower or higher shutter speeds.
  • Aperture-priority AE (Av), as you might guess, the final of the three priority modes, giving you manual control of the aperture of your camera while automatically setting shutter speed and exposure. Adjusting the aperture gives you control of how much of your shot is in (or out of) focus.
  • Manual (M) puts all three of the main adjustments in your control. Using the two control dials and the ISO button, you’re given free reign over everything to compose the shot to your liking.
  • Bulb (B) is a mode wherein the camera shutter stays open for as long as you are holding down the shutter button. Bulb mode is useful for long exposure photography, and is meant to be used with the camera on a tripod (don’t try to handhold the camera and expect a decent photo in Bulb mode).

Custom Functions & Advanced Settings on Canon Rebel T6i

In Photography by Jerad Hill2 Comments

To get the absolute most out of your camera and to customize its operations to your exacting preferences, the Canon Rebel T6i includes thirteen advanced features for fine-grain control and customization. Check out our guide to the Canon T6i’s Custom Functions:

To access the custom functions, open the camera’s Settings menu, navigate to the second-to-last tab (the last tab with a wrench icon), then open the Custom Functions (C.Fn) menu. Scroll to the left and right to view each function.

  1. Exposure level increments
    This function can be adjusted to ⅓-stop or ½-stop, and changes how much each click of the main dial adjusts the exposure compensation increment. Selecting the ⅓-stop option allows finer control over exposure control, whereas the ½-stop option makes larger adjustments faster.
  2. ISO expansion
    Setting this function on will increase the highest selectable ISO for still photos up to ISO 25600 and movies up to 12800. This option is disabled when #3: Highlight Tone Priority is enabled.
  3. Highlight tone priority
    Enabling Highlight Tone Priority will improve the detail in highlight areas of photos. However, this often introduces more noise overall in your images.
  4. AF-assist beam firing
    Adjusts the quick initial burst of the flash unit that aids in obtaining focus while using flash. There are four options: Enable will use the AF-assist beam whenever necessary, Disable will turn the beam off entirely, External flash only will only use the beam when using an external flash unit, and IR AF assist beam only will use only the infrared AF-assist beam equipped on Canon Speedlite external flash units.
  5. AF area selection method
    Lets you adjust how the autofocus area is selected. By default (option 0), you can toggle between the AF area modes by pressing the AF area selection button. Option 1 lets you use the main dial to switch between the area modes after pressing the AF area selection or AF point selection buttons.
  6. Auto AF pt sel.: Color Tracking
    Auto AF Point Selection: Color Tracking is a function that alters the autofocus to recognize and prioritize skin tone colors. This function works in One-Shot AF and when Zone AF or 19-Point AF Auto is selected for the AF Area selection mode.
  7. AF point display during focus
    Adjusts when the AF point is displayed. Option 0 will constantly display the selected AF point, option 1 will constantly display all 19 AF points; option 2 will display the selection AF point during AF point selection, when the camera is ready to shoot, and when focus is achieved; option 3 will display the selected AF point during selection and when focus is achieved; and option 4 will only show when selecting an AF point.
  8. VF display illumination
    Sets when the AF points and grid seen in the viewfinder will illuminate with red light (as red light is less disruptive in low light conditions). Option 0 sets the viewfinder to illuminate in red only in low-light conditions, option 1 will enable red illumination at all times, and option 2 will disable red illumination entirely.
  9. Mirror lockup
    Lets you move the mirror away before taking the photo, thus eliminating vibration from the mirror’s movement. Check out our article How to Use Mirror Lockup to learn more.
  10. Shutter/AE lock button
    Controls the operations of auto exposure and autofocus when pressing the shutter button.
  11. Assign SET button
    This option lets you set a number of functions for the SET button when shooting. Options that can be selected are: Normal (disabled), Image quality menu, Flash exposure compensation, LCD Monitor On/Off, Menu, ISO Speed menu, and the Flash Function Settings menu.
  12. LCD display when power ON
    This function sets what is displayed on the LCD when the camera is powered on. Can be set to the default Display on, and shows the current shooting settings, or Previous display status, and will use whichever display mode in use when the camera was turned off. This option can be useful in conjunction with toggling the LCD display off to conserve battery life.
  13. Retract lens on power off
    On STM-equipped lenses, the camera will retract the lens to its shortest physical length when the camera is powered off with this function enabled. Lens will not retract even with this function enabled with the Auto power off setting enabled.

How to Use Mirror Lockup on Canon Rebel T6i

In Photography by Jerad Hill0 Comments

If you have been taking photos for any length of time, you know that to achieve the most tack sharp photos possible in any situation, the camera needs to move a little as possible, and zero movement if at all possible. This is especially true if you are taking long exposure shots and when the lens is wide open. The most obvious and prevalent method for keeping a camera still is to use a tripod, and this helps tremendously. The next step for even less movement is to use a self timer or remote shutter to get your hands off the camera when the shot is taken. But can we go even farther? The way a DSLR works is that a mirror sits between the sensor and the lens to reflect the view to the viewfinder. The mirror then swings out of the way when a shot is taken to expose the sensor. The swinging motion of the mirror, though small, causes a bit of vibration in the camera.

The Canon Rebel T6i includes a feature called Mirror Lockup that will let you move the mirror away before taking the photo, thus eliminating vibration from the mirror’s movement. In conjunction with other stabilization methods such as a tripod and remote shutter or self timer, this is the best way to get the stillest photograph possible. Here’s how to use Mirror Lockup:

  • Enable Mirror lockup by opening the settings menu, navigating to the second-to-last tab and opening the Custom Functions menu, then scroll to page nine. Select Enable to enable the Mirror Lockup function.
  • Return to shooting, and configure your camera for your shot. Mirror Lockup mode should be used in conjunction with a tripod and remote shutter.
  • Press the shutter button to move the mirror up and out of the way of the sensor.
  • Press the shutter button again to take a photo. Once the photo is taken, the mirror will swing back into normal position.

A couple notes on using Mirror Lockup:

  • The mirror will be swung up and out of the way of the sensor between the two shutter button presses for thirty seconds, at which point the camera will automatically return the mirror. During shutter lockup, most camera functions are disabled (remote shutter and self timer are enabled).
  • Mirror Lockup Mode will be enabled for as long as the setting is enabled in the Settings menu. Turn Mirror Lockup off when finished.
  • The mirror in the camera serves the ulterior functionality of protecting the sensor when photos aren’t being taken. When the mirror is in lockup, the sensor is exposed and can be damaged from extended exposure to sun or bright lights. Don’t wait too long between the first and second shutter releases in Mirror Lockup mode.

How to Use Quick Control on Canon Rebel T6i

In Photography by Jerad Hill0 Comments

Did you know the Canon Rebel T6i’s LCD monitor is also a touchscreen? Yeah? Did you also know that, combined with Quick Settings, using the touch screen is one of the fastest ways to view and adjust almost all of your camera’s settings in one convenient location? Check out how to use Quick Control on your Canon T6i:

  • Quick Control is accessed by pressing the Quick Control button (the letter Q inside an outline) towards the top right corner of the LCD monitor on the back of the camera.
  • Pressing this button brings you into the Quick Control menu where you can adjust a myriad of camera settings.
  • The settings shown in the Quick Control menu depends on the shooting mode you’re currently in.
    • Creative Zone modes allow more adjustments than Basic Zone modes.
  • Any setting with a gray outline can be tapped on to get a description of the setting. Tapping again will bring you the adjustment for that setting.
  • Press the return arrow on-screen or the MENU button to return to the main Quick Settings page.
  • In Creative Zone shooting modes, the top row will be dominated by “the big three”; shutter speed, aperture, and ISO.
  • Below that, settings are organized roughly in order of most used at the top to least used at the bottom.

How to Use “My Menu” Feature on Canon Rebel T6i

In Photography by Jerad Hill0 Comments

You may have noticed the mysteriously empty last tab in the settings menu of the Canon Rebel T6i with just a single entry. This is a customizable settings menu where you can easily add six settings you use most so you can quickly come back to them without having to navigate through the extensive settings menu constantly. Here’s how to set up My Menu on Canon T6i:

  1. Select My Menu Settings in the last tab (with a star icon) of the settings menu.
  2. Select Register to My Menu.
  3. Add the first setting you wish to have quick access to.
  4. Continue adding up to six settings to add to My Menu.
  5. Press the MENU button to return to the My Menu Settings page.
  6. Open the Sort menu to customize the order that settings are shown in My Menu.
    • Tap any setting, then press the up or down buttons to specify its location, then press OK to confirm.
  7. Delete item/items lets you remove settings from My Menu, or click Delete all items to start fresh.
  8. Enabling Display from My Menu will automatically show My Menu whenever opening the Settings menu.
  9. Press the Menu button to return to My Menu.

Now you have quick and easy access to the settings you use most using My Menu.

How to Update Firmware on Canon Rebel T6i

In Photography by Jerad Hill0 Comments

Complex digital devices sometimes mean there are some bugs and inconsistencies in the software used in that device. Luckily for us, software is simply digital bits, and can be updated to provide bug fixes and even added features. Here’s how to update the firmware on your Canon Rebel T6i:

  1. Check the current firmware version of your camera by navigating to the Fourth Set-up tab in the Settings menu, and either write down or remember the version number .
  2. You can find the latest firmware on Canon’s Support & Drivers page and searching for the T6i (direct link here). Once there, find and open the Firmware dropdown menu.
  3. Find the latest firmware version and click directly on the package’s name to download. Do not open the downloaded file yet.
    • Often the latest firmware version on the download page will not be higher than what is currently on your camera. In this case, your camera’s firmware is up to date.
    • Make sure to only download and install firmware updates from Canon. Firmwares downloaded from other sites may be corrupt or infected with malware.
  4. If you have not already done so, install the latest version of the EOS Utility application on your computer. You may also need to install drivers for compatibility. Both downloads are available on the same page as the firmware download, under the Drivers and Software tabs.
  5. Launch EOS Utility on your computer.
  6. Turn off Wi-Fi/NFC on your camera, then plug the camera into your computer using the USB cable.
  7. In EOS Utility, click on the Camera Settings menu, then click Firmware update. Confirm that the version number of the firmware download is higher than the version currently installed on the camera.
  8. When prompted, select the firmware file downloaded from Canon’s website.
  9. Follow the instructions in EOS Utility to upload and install the new firmware on your camera. Do not turn off or attempt to use the camera while the update is running.
  10. After the update is complete, return to the camera’s menu to verify the firmware version number matches the update.