Using Live View for Composition

Author: Amy Novotny

Live View is a great tool featured on many new digital cameras and serves many purposes. It can help with focus, with shooting scenes in which the camera is higher or lower than the photographer, and with composition.

With landscapes and macro shots, Live View allows for greater control in manually focusing and creating sharper images. With auto-focus, the camera attempts to focus on a spot but might not be able to narrow down the focus to the specific object desired, especially if the scene contains a lot of different elements or objects.  This can lead to the focus being on a nearby object even if that object is not the desired focus point.  After switching to Live View, the photographer can then zoom in on the specific object that needs to be in focus and manually focus from there.


This can be used in macro photography as well when images are focus-stacked and the focus needs to be adjusted in slight amounts over multiple images and then be combined into one image that is fully in focus.


Live View can also help with shooting images in which the photographer cannot have his or her eye at the viewfinder. This can be beneficial if the photographer wants to photograph a scene that requires the camera to be much higher or lower than the photographer has access to. For instance, in the scene below, the Great Horned Owl was perched high in the canyon walls of the slot canyon, Canyon X. It was impossible to move further away from the bird due to being in a narrow slot canyon. Furthermore, having the camera on a tripod on the ground would not allow for the owl to be in the frame, so the camera was raised above the photographer’s head and Live View turned on. The shot was framed and composed in this manner and allowed for a clear image of this bird.


This tool can be useful in composing images that have a lot of detail in the scene. In the two scenes below, it can be difficult to find a way to isolate aspects of the canyon walls or balance the multitude of sunflowers in the scene. In both cases, Live View was turned on and the camera was swiveled on a tripod until the desired composition was seen. Various angles were attempted and slight adjustments were made to account for all the various shapes in nature. The resulting images were achieved through this method and possibly would not have been seen without Live View.



This is a great tool to experiment with and can even help capture sharper images that requires less post-processing or cropping.

Amy Novotny is a Volunteer Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Twitter: @amynovotnyaz
Instagram: anovotn