6 Ways to Use Live View to Get Sharper Images

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The LED monitor on the back of a camera is most often used to review captured images. But here’s a tip: Live View can also be a useful tool, helping you to focus your camera before taking the shot. In fact, Live View may be the most accurate means of focusing a camera. Let’s take a look at six ways you might use Live View to focus.

1 – Focus Stacking

Use live view to focus on different depths of field to use for focus stacking

Use Live View to focus at different distances for focus stacking.

Focus Stacking is similar in principle to HDR. However, when doing Focus Stacking, images are captured with different parts of the image in focus, then combined in Photoshop to create an image with more depth of field than would be possible with a single exposure. This method is a useful tool when doing macro photography. Calm winds are a must to capture focus stacking images. Use Live View to accurately focus each image. Here is the step-by-step outline of the process:

  1. Set up your camera on a sturdy tripod (a must!)
  2. Frame or compose the image
  3. Turn on Live View
  4. Zoom the Live View in so you can adjust the focus of each image to different distances
  5. Use Photoshop to process and blend the stacked images

2 – Manual Trap Focus for Macro Photography

Use live view to manually trap focus a macro photography subject.

Use Live View to manually trap focus a macro photography subject.

Manual Trap Focus can also be useful in macro photography. Set your camera to manual focus, and using Live View move the camera until the subject is in focus. Used in conjunction with a focusing rail on a tripod, or hand held, move the camera to focus the image. Another benefit of this method is that it also gives you a Live View of the depth of field for the image you plan to capture. See steps below to give this method a try:

  1. Set camera to manual focus
  2. Turn the focus ring on your lens to the closest focus distance
  3. Turn on Live View
  4. Move your camera closer to your subject until it is in focus. (Using a focusing rail can help you master this method.)

To fine-tune the focus, use the zoom feature in Live View to get the most accurate focus point possible.

3 – Focus on any point in your scene

Live View is not restricted to the usual focusing points in your camera’s main focusing system. Most newer camera models will have 51 or more focusing points. However, these points are clustered around the center of the image. In Live View, you can move your focusing point all the way out to the edge of the image.

4 – More Accurate Focus

Use live focus to zoom in for a more accurate focus on waterfalls.

Use Live View focus to zoom-in for a more accurate focus on waterfalls.

Live View also provides a more accurate focus than a camera’s main auto focusing system. The Live View system is based on the contrast of the image actually captured by the camera’s sensor. It is slower-focusing than your camera’s regular phase detection autofocus system, but it is more accurate. This works great for focusing in on subjects within landscape, and portraiture where a slower-focusing method doesn’t affect the ability to capture the shot.

5 – Manual Focus in Low Light

When photographing in low light situations, such as astrophotography, auto focusing often fails to provide a desirable result. Using Live View, in conjunction with manual focusing, can help obtain a sharp image. While in Live View, use the zoom to enlarge the subject’s image and then use manual focus to tweak the photo’s sharpness.

Use live view to focus when capturing low light images.

Use live view to focus when capturing low light images.

6 – Focusing on the Eyes

For the most compelling portraiture and wildlife photography, the most important focus is on the eye(s) of the subject. Using Live View, it is possible to isolate the eye for either auto focus or a manual focus. This method is limited to images that are posed, or with little movement.

Use live view to focus on the eye to fine-tune the focus in select wildlife images.

Use Live View to focus on the eye to fine-tune the focus in select wildlife images.

Conclusion

These are just a few ways that you can use Live View mode to focus your camera. Remember that using these methods will be much harder on your battery life. Always keep a spare, fully charged, battery with you when you are shooting. If you have any other ideas for using Live View for focusing, please leave them in the comments below.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Bruce Wunderlich

is a photographer from Marietta, Ohio. He became interested in photography as a teenager in the 1970s, and has been a passionate student of the art ever since. Bruce recently won Photographer’s Choice award at the 2014 Shoot the Hills Photography Competition in the Hocking Hills near Logan, Ohio. He has also instructed local classes in basic digital photography. Check out Bruce’s photos at Flickr

  • Thanks for this great article! I always make sure that I use Live View to focus when I have the opportunity e.g. waterfalls or macro photography

    Thanks
    NVeal
    http://www.solihullphotography.com

  • marla

    This was so informative. Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for all the excellent tips!

  • John L Jackson

    Great information and easily understood. Very good article. I am looking forward to getting out this weekend and trying this technique. Thank you for the info.

  • Bruce Wunderlich

    Thanks John, please share your results here in a comment.

  • Leonard

    Thanks, good info. When I first tried using the live view I often had trouble seeing the image on the screen due to a bright sky. I found an inexpensive magnifying device that shrouds the screen. Problem solved.

  • David Fulford

    Without Photoshop, Hugin (free software) can be used to align a photostack and blend the photos.

  • Gopinathan K

    Simple, easy-to-use, useful article. Thanks

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