Use Your LCD

How I use LiveView to get well composed, sharp and perfectly exposed images every time.

In my opinion the LCD has been critical to the success of the digital camera. In this article I share how I use LiveView to get well composed, sharp and perfectly exposed images every time.

If you take a look at the back of my camera you will probably notice that my view finder is permanently blacked out using the small rubber doo-dad provided by Canon. This is for 2 reasons:

  1. I take a lot of long exposures (and light leaking in from the viewfinder can ruin long exposures)
  2. I always use my LCD for setting up my shots (at least when it’s on a tripod which will be for 99.99% of my landscape photographs)

Making full use of my LCD screen has been the single biggest factor in improving my photography since I upgraded from the Canon EOS 350D (Digital Rebel XT) to the Canon EOS 6D that I use today.

I am now going to explain why.

Making full use if my LCD screen has been the single biggest factor in improving my photography.

Composition

OK, so when I say “well composed” I mean relatively so. I am after all no Ansel Adams when it comes to composition.

However, using LiveView rather than the viewfinder does help me to create better compositions.

The viewfinder on the 6D only has ~97% coverage; that might seem close enough to 100% but trust me, it is not. When using the viewfinder on the 350D (which also had ~97% coverage) I was forever including distracting objects at the very edges of the frame.

LiveView has 100% coverage and that allows me to get the perfect composition (relatively speaking) every time.

When using the viewfinder on the 350D I was forever including distracting objects at the very edges of the frame.

Focus

My approach to focusing is simple and very effective. I never, ever use autofocus. Instead I manually focus all of my shots using LiveView following this very simple procedure:

  1. I identify the area of the image where I want to focus. This is usually, but not always, the main subject.
  2. Using LiveView I zoom in to the area at 10x magnification
  3. I manually adjust the focus until it is perfectly sharp

See, I told you it was simple! By zooming in on the area it is so easy to see if it is in focus or not.

But it gets better. If I am not sure that the aperture I am using is small enough to keep everything acceptably sharp I can use LiveView and the depth-of-field preview button that all DSLRs have to check key areas of the image.

How easy is that?

By zooming in on an area [using LiveView] it is so easy to see if it is in focus or not.

Exposure

With my composition set up, my focus point set and the most appropriate aperture selected all that is left for me to do is to set the correct shutter speed to properly expose the image.

This is where the LiveView histogram is invaluable. As I reduce the shutter speed the histogram will show if I am close to clipping the highlights.

It will also help me to determine if I need to use a graduated ND filter to darken the sky which I position (yep, you guessed it) using the LCD.

As I reduce the shutter speed the [LiveView] histogram will show if I am close to clipping the highlights.

Making full use of the LCD on the back of my camera has helped be to improve my photography in a number of ways allowing to produce better composed, sharper and better exposed photographs.

What feature of your camera could you not live without?

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