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Re: Canon Rebel XT
Your camera is a digital SLR and does not have "Live View" you cannot see what you are taking a picture of on the LCD before taking the picture with this model, the camera isn't capable of displaying it.
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There is a minimal focusing distance for all lenses. If you move closer to the subject than that distance then the camera won't focus on it. Check you lens manual for minimal focusing distance. It is 11 inches for Canon EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 USM, for example.
Canon EOS Rebel XT / 350D does not offer Liveview shooting option which newer cameras offer. It does not have contrast based auto focus system like the ones you see on point and shoot cameras either. LCD is used to review pictures taken or navigate through the menu system. Besides, LCD on the back of the camera is so small and lack the details anyway. You are better off using the small viewfinder it offers.
I own Rebel XT and Canon 50mm f1.8 MKII lens with plastic mount and noticed many pictures with missed focus, either front or back focusing. Meaning objects slight forward or below the intended subject is in focus. I've sent my body and the lens to Canon for evaluation and thet adjusted my focus sensors on the body. I still have problems and there are many threads related to focusing on this camera with 50mm f1.8 that the sensors on this camera do not do so well with fast lens and prone to missed focus.
Test your camera's focusing ability with a book or magazine where you focus on just one specific line and see if it is truly in focus when you review the picture.
(metering mode on first menu1) evaluative metering - standard setting, takes account off all areas of scene. Partial metering - effective when background is much brighter than the subject due to backlighting etc. Centre weighted average metering - the metering is weighted at the centre then averaged for entire scene. ------ pressing the right hand button of the two little ones top right corner of camera brings up display on lcd, using thumb wheel you can select where the metering takes place. in the viewfinder the display lights a red dot for areas selected.
Try these settings to see if this helps in your situation.