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Tips For Taking Digital Photography Using Live View

Bakari Chavanu 31-10-2009

Tips For Taking Digital Photography Using Live View Live View 355mm camerasNearly all digital cameras these days come with an LCD screen allowing users to instantly review photos as they are taken. This one feature has drastically changed and improved how we take photos. However, an equally useful feature on digital cameras is what is called Live View technology, a feature that allows you to not only view the subject of your shots, but to also get a simulated preview of the exposure before you click the shutter button. The following tips for taking digital photography cover this new feature.


This feature has been a part of most point-and-shoot cameras for quite some time, but many camera users don’t use the feature to its fullest extent. Also, in the last few years, Live View has been built into 35mm DSLR cameras. Latest models of both the Canon and Nikon 35mm cameras feature Live View.

How it Works

With traditional digital cameras, you look through the optical viewfinder at the top of the camera, and compose and take your shot. Then you look on the back of the LCD screen to see how the photo came out. But with Live View, you don’t use the small optical viewfinder. You use the actual LCD screen to frame your photo while at the same time getting a simulated preview of your exposure settings before you take the shot. Many users, however, basically use Live View as the viewfinder and but not for previewing exposure settings. That’s because many users don’t shoot beyond the automatic mode of their camera. The following tips for taking digital photography will guide you through the process of using Live View to it’s fullest capacity.

Live View on Non-35mm Cameras

Live View works best on point-and-shoot and compact cameras because there’s no mirror inside that needs to pop-up to reveal the sensor. So in Live View, if you change any of the exposure settings, including ISO, aperture, shutter speed, exposure compensation or White Balance settings, you get a simulation of your settings on the LCD screen when you press the shutter halfway down. It works similar to automatic focus when you press the shutter halfway, you see the subject of your camera come into focus.

With larger monitors on the back of digital cameras, you can actually compose shots better using the screen as the viewfinder. The Canon Powershot series, especially the last three models (G9, G10, and G11) each sport a 3-inch screen that makes the traditional tiny viewfinder nearly useless. You can simply see more and compose better with the larger size screen.

The G9, for example, comes with the option to use Grid Guidelines that appears when you’re in live shooting mode. The grid is divided into 9 parts so you can use the traditional Rules of Thirds in photography to compose shots or just line up a subject.


tips for taking digital photography

Exposure Settings

Here are a few illustrations of Live View in action. In the first example, Live View mode is engaged and the shutter priority speed is 1/60 of a second, at f/2.8, which means there’s less light coming into the camera. In the second example, I changed the shutter priority to â…™ of a second, and as you can see more light is allowed into the camera. Before the advent of Live View technology there as no way you could preview exposure in this way.

tips for taking digital photography

tips for taking digital photography


In another example, I’ve changed the White Balance settings to demonstrate another exposure simulation in Live View. With feature, you now can see if your White Balance is correct or what type of color cast you will have on the lighting before you take the photo. This takes a lot guessing on out the process, and makes for more accurate settings.

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Live View on 35mm SLRs

Live View technology works best on point-and-shoot and compact cameras, but not as well on 35mm cameras.  Why is this? Well, Ben Long explains it best in his book, The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XS/1000D Companion Book: “To create an image on LCD screen, the image sensor needs to be able to see out the lens. But in an SLR [35mm single reflection camera], there’s a shutter and mirror between the sensor and lens, so the sensor is effectively, blind. This means there’s no way for it”¦to show you an image on the LCD screen. The XS, though, provides a special feature called Live View that does let you use the LCD screen as the viewfinder.”

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With Live View on 35mm cameras, the auto focus is slower and there’s a slight lag in the capture of the photo. Even Canon points out the disadvantages with Live View: “The disadvantage of the Quick Mode AF is that to perform it, the camera has to momentarily lower the mirror and Live Viewing will “black-out” for a moment, as you press the button to activate the AF. Once you remove your thumb from the button, when focusing is completed, Live Viewing instantly returns.”

I use Live View on my Canon 50D for difficult-to-reach shots such as at a dance recital, concert, or even sometimes for group photography photos using a tripod. On the Canon cameras, Live View also features silent mode shooting, which comes in handy in places like churches or wildlife photography.

Also, many Live View features include facial detection which helps improve image focus faces. Of course, this feature is best used for group portraits instead of candid shots where subjects are moving around or are not directly facing the camera.

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Though Live View is being added to both consumer and top of the line professional 35mm cameras, I would strongly suggest not purchasing such a camera for that feature. If you want the full of advantage of Live View, you’re better off purchasing a compact camera with that feature.

Finally, I recommend Live View as an effective teaching tool for digital photography. I use the feature on my Canon Powershot G9 in workshops to show how exposure settings work in the camera. And because of the live simulation, students are able to grasp the concepts a little faster. The ability to view, compose, and evaluate exposure settings in the LCD monitor is another breakthrough piece technology that makes taking digital photos easier and better.

So is Live View a feature on your camera? Which camera do you use and how well does the feature work?

Related topics: Digital Camera, Photography.

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  1. eugene benson
    March 13, 2017 at 5:49 am

    I, started using it yesterday its amaseing, I love it.

  2. Bakari
    December 3, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    Paulo, you're right. I think digital photography is going to change how we use cameras. Going fully manual is about having more creative control of what you're shooting. But when you first starting out in photography, shooting in Program mode and working on composition and capturing good subjects should be the key objective.

    Thanks for your feedback. Wish I could afford one of those seven thousand dollar cameras.

    • Paulo M Vasconcellos
      December 4, 2009 at 2:00 pm

      Hello Bakari, I hope things really change. To work photos out in Photoshop why buying an expensive full frame ? The cheapest point and shoot could also make it. I used to stay 10 years with my analog cameras. Nowadays we are always chasing a camera that can satisfy our needs as "a better WB, DOF, Focus, Lens" etc. Truly saying, we'll end up shooting with mobile phones and working photos out in Photoshop. Cheers.

    • eugene benson
      March 13, 2017 at 5:53 am

      you do not have to pay that much for a good camera, try a Nikon d 5300 & a couple of lenes.

  3. Paulo M Vasconcellos
    December 3, 2009 at 10:51 pm

    I'm not Pro, just an enthusiast. I love cameras and photography. I had Nikons, Olympus, Pentax, Mamiyas, Canons, Ricohs, Minoltas, Leicas and so on. In the good old times we had only apperture and exposure on manual mode and a couple of good lenses (all were pretty fast) and our photos came out nice and beautiful. Nowadays, unfortunately, photographing has turned out a buy and sell market. Seems most amateurs are not satisfied with their toys (for which I fully agree) once, after paying almost 7 grand for a good camera and lens, PHOTOGRAPHING TAKES MUCH LONGER (SETTING OUT OUR CAMERAS), BESIDES, WE STILL MUST MAKE DUE CORRECTIONS IN PHOTOSHOP. Truly saying, in the good old times new models came out yearly (which means was good stuff), nowadays we have new cameras monthly (which I doubt is good stuff - most of them). I hope fully manual (digital) cameras should be a good choice as the discontinued Panasonic DMC-L1. My apologies for my poor english. Paulo from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

  4. Sotiris Z
    November 1, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    I agree with all the advantages Live view offers but i would like to add a little disadvantage: extreme battery consumption.For an amateur like me -who's not using a power pack- it's really important.Thanks for the tip though :-)

  5. Yvonne
    November 1, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    the feature for simulated previews of an exposure is really terrific

  6. Bakari
    October 31, 2009 at 7:43 pm

    “like all these features, they all have their good points and weaknesses.”

    Oh Stacy, I totally agree with you. The point of having camera is know all its features so that you can make the best use of them for getting the type of photos you want.

    “Also, a great disadvantage of live view is that you can’t shoot lower f.”

    Excellent point, Haplo, there definite disadvantages to live view, esp. for 35mm cameras. Who knows, though, the feature might get perfected in future models.

    Thanks for all the feedback, my fellow readers.

  7. Stacy
    October 31, 2009 at 7:03 pm

    like all these features, they all have their good points and weaknesses. I am still of the belief that regardless of all these fancy featurse the photographer should not rely on any particular one but be able to choose and use any mode including manual to get the best result

  8. cliff
    October 31, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I've used Liveview a few times on my 450D, I feel it's a nice feature to have, but certainly not essential.
    For instance, it's good having live view where it's difficult to use the viewfinder (like macro shots near the ground), of course using a tripod definitely helps in those circumstance too. Another instance of Liveview is when composing a shot with a few people in, I would switch to liveview, then get my background set and move the people in, I can see at a glance if I need to move people about or move the tripod etc. Once I'm ready to take the shot, I would take Liveview off and carry on as normal.
    Oh, one final time to use Liveview is when there is a crowd of people in front of you (between you and the subject) and you need to hold the camera up in the air.

  9. Haplo
    October 31, 2009 at 10:59 am

    Also, a great disadvantage of live view is that you can't shoot lower f. The camera shake is greatly increased by holding your camera with your arms extended, as opposed by holding it with your elbows bended.

    AND, using live view on a DSRL makes you look really dumb ;)

    • George Klein
      November 1, 2009 at 9:15 am

      Who looks really dumb depends on how you take your photographs. Shooting lower "f" is practically impossible without a tripod to achieve desired sharpness. What about achieving maximum depth of field? Live view with manual focus is a great tool for landscape photographers (like myself) to get the desired maximum depth of field.
      So, were Canon and many professional photographers dumb to have Live view on EOS 5D mark II camera? I seriously doubt it.

      • Haplo
        November 1, 2009 at 2:51 pm

        I can shoot about 4s without tripod and achieve "decent" pictures, and I'm aware that not everyone can. Also, obviously if you require maximum depth/sharpness, you have to use a tripod.

        I never said it was a bad feature, or an undesired one, or an superfluous one. I said you looked dumb with a DSRL in the shooting pose of a point and shoot.

        When did I said that Canon were dumb? When did I said that the users of such cameras were dumb? I said we LOOKED dumb shooting like that.

        Please, don't turn this into an ad-hominem atack, because mine certainly wasn't.

        Best regards!

        • George Klein
          November 1, 2009 at 5:18 pm

          My reply was not an attack on anyone, including yourself.
          It was a response on behalf of those who looked "dumb" (in your words) using Live view on their DSLR's.
          Your sentence: "AND, using live view on a DSRL makes you look really dumb" was totally inappropiate, and bordered an "ad-hominem attack".
          For short sighted people, who need prescription eyeglasses over the maximum adjustment allowed in Canon's EOS 5D viewfinder (3.0) looking in the viewfinder they will never see anything perfectly sharp. This caused me problems in the past using my EOS 5D camera, since my eyeglasses are 3.75.
          Live view has eliminated this problem. Now I can look on the 3" screen and clearly see where the sharp areas will be in the photograph. This way I can take the sharpest pictures this camera can offer.