Have you seen people with those small digital cameras or smartphones, holding them at arm’s length, and viewing the LCD screen while taking a picture? As a serious amateur photographer, you don’t want to takes pictures this way. I have six good reasons for using live view screen when photographing from a tripod.
Do you remember the first compact cameras without a proper viewfinder? You had to use the LCD screen on the back to see what you were photographing. It became normal to hold the camera at arm’s length while photographing. Similar cameras are still on the market, although these little devices are being replaced by smartphones at a fast rate.
It is easy to associate the use of live view with the LCD screen of a compact camera or smartphones. Imagine using a DSLR like that. It would be difficult to keep the camera still, and bright sunlight could obscure the image on the screen. On top of that, the viewfinder makes it much easier to aim your camera and keep moving subjects inside the frame. Try to do this while holding your camera like a smartphone.
At first, I was skeptical about the live view function. Why use an LCD screen when the optical viewfinder has a beautiful magnification with all the basic information available. Live view might also drain the battery very quickly. But as time passed, I discovered the benefit of live view when using the camera on a tripod. Live view also became more evolved, making it more useable. Still, a lot of photographers I meet at my workshops and masterclasses never use live view.
Since I have been using live view when working from a tripod, I discovered six good reasons for the use of live view. It not only makes photographing much easier, but it can also bring a lot of fun too. These reasons may be very personal, but I see many become enthusiastic about it when I demonstrate the way I use live view for my photography.
1. Stay Connected With Your Subject
When you are peering through the viewfinder, you are seeing the world inside a small box. You will miss a lot of the things that surround you. When using live view, this changes completely. You will be more aware of the surroundings, seeing things and perhaps even experience a whole other way of photographing. I always feel much more connected with the subject in a way.
This not only applies to landscape photography, but it can also apply for model photography. If you don’t peer through the viewfinder, it's easier to stay connected with your model.
2. Very Accurate Manual Focus
Manual focus can be very precise when using live view. Autofocus is wonderful, quick, and often very accurate. But there are situations where the manual focus will work better. In live view, you are able to enlarge the image, often up to a magnification of 10x or more, making manual focus very accurate. This works very well with macro photography or focusing on infinity when photographing stars. It can also work with landscapes, especially when shooting through a foreground.
If you are a mirrorless camera user, you also have the ability to use focus peaking. It makes precise focusing even easier.
3. Preview the Exposure and the Histogram
It is possible to preview the exposure settings when using live view. Remember, you first have to activate the exposure simulation in the menu. When you do, it becomes easy to adjust the exposure settings to your needs. Even picture profiles will be visible, like monochrome settings or other special film simulations.
I’m aware all this is common in mirrorless cameras. For many photographers, it is one of the biggest benefits of these types of cameras. Fortunately, this function is also possible with DSLR cameras by activating live view. Just think of it as the mirrorless function of a DSLR camera.
4. Easy to Shoot From Strange Angles
Before live view existed, it could be a challenge to shoot from strange angles. Holding the camera a few centimeters above the ground or high above your head made it impossible to look through the viewfinder. On those occasions, you had to use an angle finder. With live view, this has become much easier, especially with tilted screens. There is no need for an angle finder anymore.
5. Making Composition Much Easier
I found live view a great help in finding good compositions. Many photographers have a problem translating the 3D world into a 2D image. Looking through a viewfinder still gives a sense of depth, although that is tougher because you use only one eye. But live view shows the image in 2D, just as you would on the monitor screen or a print. And it shows the image before you take the picture, making it easier to play around with the composition.
6. Automatic Mirror Lockup
If you are using shutter speed between 1/4 and 2 seconds, the movement of the mirror may become visible as motion blur. Also, macro photography, where large magnifications are used, can be very sensitive to any camera shake. You can activate the mirror lockup function, but it is much easier to activate live view instead. As previously mentioned, it is like the mirrorless function of the DSLR, getting rid of the mirror. When using live view, you never have to activate the mirror lockup anymore.
Mirrorless Camera and the DSLR
In my opinion, there is no real difference between a mirrorless camera and a DSLR with live view. You are using the LCD screen with both cameras, complete with the exposure preview and picture profiles. Both are used in the same way, and that is why I think live view can be considered the mirrorless function of the DSLR. The big difference is, with a DSLR, I can turn off the mirrorless function and start using the optical viewfinder if needed, which I find a big benefit. But that is a very personal opinion. Not all may agree with this.
How about you? Do you use the live view function of your DSLR or the LCD screen of your mirrorless camera for your type of photography? Or perhaps you only use the viewfinder. Please leave a comment and tell me what you prefer and why. I am looking forward to your comments.