Giving my camera without the screen turned on to someone that has only ever used digital is almost as confusing as giving me a camera without a viewfinder. The viewfinder vs live view debate is very old school vs new school. Analogue vs Digital. Like most things though, both camps can learn a lesson from each other.
Like most things photography, if you have the option of both – experiment! There is no right or wrong, but expanding your bag of tricks is invaluable.
The first and most important advantage of using your viewfinder is simple. Holding your camera against you is a much steadier, balanced way of holding the camera. Tucking your elbows against your body and the camera firm against your face may seem awkward at first, but it’s one of the best things you can do to improve your photography. Less movement in the camera will result in sharper images and let you get away with slower shutter speeds. This becomes more and more important the heavier the camera is and the further you are zoomed in.
Secondly you are not affected by sunlight. It’s true screens on the back of cameras are bigger with less glare these days, but pressing your eye against the viewfinder allows you to get a better view. Settings such as exposure, aperture and shutter speed are still displayed in the viewfinder.
I also find that using the viewfinder helps me get “in the zone”. Closing your other eye lets you concentrate purely on your exposure, shutting out anything else for those vital few seconds. When taking images of Motorsport for example I’ll have both eyes open to get an idea of how far away the car is and what speed it’s coming in at, but as soon as it gets near my exposure I’ll close one eye and focus on the shot.
Ever found yourself lying in the dirt with a camera mashed against your face? Fret not, there is a better way! Live view is vital when you need to position the camera somewhere not face friendly. Some camera’s even have flip out screens which takes the guessing game out of holding the camera up over the crowd or getting a super low shot. If you are holding the camera out really far though, up the shutter speed to compensate for not being able to hold that thing steady.
Many Live View let you zoom. Enlarging the focal point of the image can be a great tool for accurately gauging your focus. Using the viewfinder, I often then immediately preview an image and zoom to check the focus. Imagine how improved my workflow would be if that was part of my image taking process.
Some displays will also let your view a histogram as you take an image via Live View. Use of Histograms is saved for a future blog though.