One evening while I was out photographing, I had set up an awkward, uncomfortable composition that kept me looking through my viewfinder. I had to almost shoot blind, twist in ways only a gymnast should, and hope I got the shot. This was before I realized that I could be using the camera’s liveview function to better see what was set up in my shot. For a while, I was told that live view drains your battery and has no place in photography. While it does indeed drain your battery, I’ve learned that I simply cannot live without it.
Reasons for Live View
There are many reasons why camera’s liveview is better than using your viewfinder. The following describes several of them.
For one, you can see your composition right before your eyes (with no guessing) and you can adjust accordingly. Liveview also shows 100% of the scene while many viewfinders, especially on consumer cameras, show less far less to your eye.
My primary use of live view is for focusing. Zooming into your scene and pin-pointing your focus makes your images much sharper and detailed. Plus, if your eyesight is less than ideal like mine, the viewfinder can often play tricks and, although you may think your subject is sharp, it may end up being soft and out-of-focus.
Camera’s liveview can allow you to be more creative with your compositions. There may be times where you have to flip your camera upside down on your tripod over raging water to get that extremely low perspective. Or you have to squeeze your camera between sharp cactus needles… and none of us want to put our faces near our cameras when there are sharp needles an inch or less away. Trust me… I speak from experience.
Believe it or not, I even use live view at night. However, I only do it to maintain the focus on my subject by light painting the scene. I then revert to just snapping away once I have everything in focus. When doing this, I’m always mindful of other photographers in the area. The last thing I want to do is ruin someone else’s shot with my light painting.
Live View in the Zion National Park Narrows
While in the Narrows at Zion National Park, I primarily used live view to frame up scenes and the rapids within the canyon. This allowed me to get the exact compositions I wanted while incorporating the rushing water. It also allowed me to be more mindful of my surroundings. Having to look through the viewfinder, I may not have enjoyed the scene behind the camera.
By the end of a long of day of shooting, I had just over 50% battery life remaining on my first battery. For the following image, while I was shooting twilight in the Superstition Mountains, I used live view to get as close as possible to the cactus. This was actually an eight-image focus blend due to the close proximity of the needles to the lens. Using some light painting, I was able to focus on various layers of the scene and keep my face safe from any sharp needles.
Like I said at the beginning, the biggest drawback to using live view is the battery drain. It’s best to have a few extra batteries, especially for extended trips. Despite the amount of time I spend in live view, a single battery often lasts me two full days, and that’s while using my camera all day long. Remember that temperatures is a factor as well. I have seen live view failures due to the camera over-heating on extremely hot days in the desert. On a freezing cold day, battery drain occurs much more quickly.
If you haven’t tried using live view, make a few compromises and give it a shot. It’s been a huge help for me and my own photography.