Live View

Live View 4Most cameras now have Live View, meaning you can see exactly what the lens sees in real time. Even though many, many photographers have cameras with Live View, I am finding that many are not taking advantage of this technology. I think every photographer can benefit a lot from using Live View at times. Today, I would be unhappy using a camera without Live View. I especially like Live View with a tilting LCD, like that found on my Lumix cameras.

Live View 1If you haven't used Live View (and I mean really used it, not just tried it once), here's what's great about anyLive View:

1. Sharper photos with slow shutter speeds – this alone makes Live View worth using. One challenge with slow shutter speeds is that as the mirror of the camera moves up and down, you get vibration that can degrade image sharpness. Even on a tripod with a mirrorless camera, you can have camera vibration issues that affect image sharpness. This is at its worst with telephotos and close ups. When you take photos with Live View, you have no mirror bounce because the mirror is already up. I consistently get sharper photos this way.

2. Better focus – on most cameras you can magnify what is seen through Live View so you can very precisely focus on something in a scene. I use this all the time for focusing on details in a landscape or when I am shooting close-ups from a tripod. I have also used it for wildlife when they are in a constant location and distance from the camera. With a little practice, it is very easy to use this focus aid quickly.

3. You see your image as a photograph, rather than something targeted by the viewfinder – you literally have a little photograph on the back of your camera to view, rather than sighting through the viewfinder. This makes the camera act like a little view camera. The difference between seeing a photo versus targeting a subject is significant. I see big gains in better compositions from photographers doing this.

4. You see exactly what the sensor sees – when you look through an optical viewfinder, you see the world as your eyes and brain perceive it, not as the camera records it. Live View shows you what exposure, focus and white balance actually will look like in a photograph.

A tilting LCD makes this even better:

1. You can put your camera low and still see what the camera is seeing – you can even put the camera on the ground for an unusual point of view and you don't have to lay on the ground to see the LCD or look through the viewfinder.

2. You can put your camera high and still see what the camera is seeing – it is not uncommon to set up a tripod that is perfect for the view, but the viewfinder is higher than you can see through. Tilt a live view LCD and that is no longer a problem.

3. You can shoot at any height without straining your back – good nature photography often requires us to put the camera at heights other than the easy eye-level. At other heights, it can be awkward and hard on your body to see through the viewfinder, so a tilting live view LCD is very, very handy.

Live View 5


About Rob

I am proud of the work I have done as a photographer, author, naturalist and nature photographer, editor and videographer. I love the natural world, and that can be a native bee in my native plants garden as much as a visit to a national park. I am a husband of a beautiful and smart wife, a father to my outstanding son and daughter, and one who lived in Minnesota most of my life, but now loves the variety and very long growing season of Southern California. I have written and photographed a lot of books and magazine articles but what is most important to me about them is knowing that I have helped people become better photographers and gain a better connection to nature. I work to help people connect with photography and nature through speaking and as a workshop leader, too. All of this has gained me a Fellow award with the North American Nature Photography Association. Many people knew me as the long-time editor of Outdoor Photographer magazine and I am still connected with them as a contributing editor. A short list of some of the books I have done: Landscape Photography: From Snapshot to Great Shot, Magic of Digital Landscape Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Photography, The Power of Black-and-White in Nature Photography and Reports from the Field (an iBook). My website is at; my blogs are at and
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5 Responses to Live View

  1. Rob,

    I borrowed my wife's Canon 50D today and used the live view for the first time. No wonder she has a greater percentage of macros in focus. I'm hooked. Its just a matter of time now before I must get myself a new camera. Two features I would add to your comments on live view are: 1. the ability to zoom with live view and get even more precise. 2. when using depth of field preview with live view the screen does not get as dark as the view finder, making DOF preview an even more powerful tool.

  2. Aubrey Silvertooth, Jr. says:


    I have chattd with you before briefly about the Olympus system. I shoot an E-500 and would like to upgrade soon. Here is my quandry--I will be able to retire from teaching in about nine years. I will have a decent retirement but plan on supplementing my income with photography when I can. I really love the ergonomics of the Olympus E-system, but am a little scared about their development of gear. I have thought of switching to either Canon or Nikon simply because they seem to be a little more stable in the market place. I am even considering Pentax again with the release of the K-7 and K-5 (love the handling of the K-7). Everybody seems to have better low light/high ISO performance than Olympus, but the photos I get with the old E-500 are beautiful! If possible, can you give me some pointers? I do not want to spend money on a dead end system. That said, I am intrigued by what the Pen series might offer in the future. Also, my main shooting of late has been of birds and landscapes.
    Thanks so much for your time,

    • Rob Sheppard says:

      I think very highly of Olympus and shoot with the E-3 (I also shoot Canon). The lenses are superb. I would worry more about Pentax than Olympus -- Pentax has a very nice niche in the market, but it is unlikely they will do anything more than that. Olympus just announced the E-5, which will do better with higher ISO settings, and shows their continuing support of the system. Olympus' Pen system is getting a lot of support from the camera. These cameras give outstanding results in a very small package.


  3. Anthony Di Novella says:

    what about setting a timer of 2 sec,when using a slow shutter speed.

  4. Winston Shaw says:

    Good points all. One thing I would add, however, is the use of a Hoodman loop when focusing with live view. Ambient light levels ofttimes make it difficult to view the LCD screen but the loop blocks out stray light and gives you a more accurate view. I know I'd be lost without my loop.

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