Live view is a handy feature that many DSLRs and mirrorless systems have, yet many photographers don’t use. There are practical reasons for this - holding the camera away from your face to look at the live view screen means you don’t have as stable a base for taking photos. At the same time, viewing the scene through the viewfinder rather than the LCD panel allows you to track moving subjects with greater ease, be that your kids playing in the park or a deer prancing across a field.
Despite this, live view can help you improve your photos in many tangible ways. Let’s explore a few benefits of utilizing live view.
Focusing is Easier
There are a lot of elements that are critical to the success of a photo, and being in sharp focus is one of them. When looking through your viewfinder, there are focus points visible to help you determine where your camera is trying to focus. But even today’s autofocus systems - which are better than ever - aren’t infallible. They might not get far-off subjects totally in focus, and if the subject isn’t within one of the focus points, it can be difficult to get the subject super sharp.
But when using live view, these problems are circumvented because you can zoom in on the subject (or another specific area in the frame) to inspect it for sharpness. That magnified view gives you an added layer of protection from blurry photos. Naturally, using this technique requires that your camera be mounted on a tripod or another stable surface so the camera remains absolutely still as you zoom in.
Depth of Field is More Accurate
The optical viewfinder on your camera does not show you an accurate representation of depth of field. Rather than showing the actual depth of field based on the camera settings you’ve dialed in, the optical viewfinder shows what the image would look like at your lens’ widest aperture. The reason this is the case is because at the widest aperture, the view in the viewfinder will be brightest, thus making it easy to see the scene. However, the preview you see is not accurate from a depth of field standpoint.
Most cameras have a depth of field preview button to get around this issue. When pressed, the depth of field preview button changes the view inside the optical viewfinder such that it is accurate. But, although you can get an accurate view by pressing the button, it’s much easier to get an accurate view by simply using the live view feature.
Unlike when using the optical viewfinder on its own, when in live view, the lens’ blades adjust to the setting you’ve determined, giving you a precise preview of what the image will look like once you press the shutter button. This means that as you make adjustments to the aperture, you will get an immediate view of how those adjustments change the look of your image. Macro photographers use live view for this very reason, but it’s a feature that is useful for other genres as well, from portraits to landscapes and everything in between.
More Easily Adjust White Balance
The color of the light in the image, or white balance, is a critical setting that will determine how your image is rendered. Get it wrong, and the image might have odd color casts that ruin the photo. Get it right, and the image will be enhanced, having a greater visual impact.
Even the most advanced cameras can have trouble determining the white balance on their own, which is why it’s often recommended that you take charge and set the white balance manually. Though you can do this while viewing the scene through the optical viewfinder, you won’t see the differences that each white balance adjustment makes to the photo. But with live view, those changes are viewed in real time, making it much easier to select the appropriate setting. Granted, your camera’s LCD is a calibrated display and isn’t a perfect representation of the colors in the scene, but by and large, it will get you a lot closer to the colors you desire than by blindly choosing the white balance and using the optical viewfinder.
So, the next time you’re out shooting, brush off all the naysayers who say live view isn’t worth it, and see how using this important feature can help you create better photos. From focusing to depth of field to white balance, there are just too many things you can adjust with greater precision not to give it a try!