It has been said that the best love affairs generally start off as friendships. So what does that have to do with photography you ask? Well, I started with a lukewarm friendship when Live View first arrived on scene in 2007 with Canon’s release of the 1DMKIII camera. I must admit, for the first year, I hardly touched it. Then, slowly, I began to tinker with it. I actually have to credit one of my workshop students with really showing me its potential as a serious tool when I noticed her checking critical focus. Hmm, now it had my rapt attention!
Today, I simply cannot live without it. I’ve truly fallen head-over-heels in love with this technology and use it on every landscape image I capture. Here are (6) reasons why I find it an indispensable tool.
1.) Exposure Simulation: This is becoming standard on many cameras and I use it faithfully with my Canon 5DMKIII. Simply put, you can now see what minor changes to aperture, shutter and even ISO will do for your overall exposure. I preach to my students to never base 100% of their exposure decisions off an LCD screen and I stand by that, but with their real-time RGB histograms activated, they can fine-tune their exposure in the field alleviating any need to bracket.
2.) Real-Time RGB Histogram: As stated above, exposure simulation must go hand-in-hand with an understanding of what is going on with your histograms. You have a choice of either a Luminosity (an average of the RGB channels) or RGB (which displays as three separate channel histograms). The latter is the way to go as you now have information regarding all three channels. The key for me is the righthand side of each histogram as that is the highlight side. The left side will let you know your shadow information. The key is not to clip your highlights (unless they are spectral). You can also make a better informed decision regarding shadow clip also.
3.) Focus: This may have been the biggest tipping factor that got me using my Live View on a regular basis. Perhaps it is my aging eyes, I’m not sure, but I can now dial-up the magnification (I leave mine set at 10x) and simply toggle around the LCD to check critical focus. I also take a frame, then blow that up to check my Depth-of-Field. In the image above, I wanted a slight drop-off in focus as the path wound into the forest. Obviously, it was critical for me keep the leaves in sharp focus as that is where I wanted to direct my viewer’s eyes.
4.) Grid Lines to Aid Composition: By activating the Rule-of-Thirds grid lines, I can better check the critical placement of elements within my composition. I’m not a freak about rules so I don’t adhere strictly to the Rule-of-Thirds; instead, I tend to trust my sense of balance more than some grid lines, but I nonetheless utilize them to move elements off-center when I feel it is needed. I also use the grid lines to help me balance my horizon. I’m often in contorted positions (the camera was 6 inches off the ground for this image) and it’s nice to have some guidelines to help my sense of balance!
5.) Real-Time Grad Placement: Another benefit of Live View is the ability to offer real-time aid with grad placement. I do not use holders with my graduated neutral density filter; instead, I handhold. I find the ability to fine-tune the transition line of the grad enormously helpful.
6.) Aid for Perimeter Check: My final reason for using Live View is that it allows me to slow down and check for any distracting elements that may be residing along the edges of my frame. My friend Gary Hart refers to this as “border patrol.” I did not place or alter any of the leaves in this image. In fact. the front of my lens (set at 14mm) was literally inches from the foreground leaf. But what I was able to do was fine-tune the composition. A slight movement of the camera’s placement here and there was all it took.
Add this all up and I think you’ll understand my love affair with Live View. Are you using Live View? If not, it might be time for you to fall in love all over again!