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
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:
- Set up your camera on a sturdy tripod (a must!)
- Frame or compose the image
- Turn on Live View
- Zoom the Live View in so you can adjust the focus of each image to different distances
- Use Photoshop to process and blend the stacked images
2 – Manual Trap Focus for Macro Photography
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:
- Set camera to manual focus
- Turn the focus ring on your lens to the closest focus distance
- Turn on Live View
- 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
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.
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.
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.