Your LCD Lies! :: Digital Photo Secrets

Your LCD Lies!

by David Peterson 17 comments

The LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) screens on digital cameras are fantastic because they allow you to quickly preview a shot before you take it, as well as show you the picture you have taken.

However, if you're taking images to record a special event (like a birthday or coming of age), please verify the pictures on a larger screen like your computer before the event ends. Don't wait until the next day when everyone has gone home.

Why? Because your LCD lies!

Lie #1 - Your Image Is Sharp

The resolution of the LCD screen isn't large enough to show you all pixels in the image. So your camera scales down the image to show you. While this will give you a great overall look at your photo, it won't show you any fine detail. This means that if your image is blurry (because your camera moved or the subject moved while the shutter was open), you won't see that!

Fix: Use your camera's LCD Zoom feature to zoom in on the image to make sure it is not blurry. Or if your computer is close, look at your photos on your computer's screen. Your computer has a much better resolution so will be able to show you more. Anti-Shake lenses can help you here too.

Oh, and for some tips to ensure your images aren't blurry in the first place, checkout my Stop Blurry Images secret.

Looks Good on LCD
This image is at typical LCD size. Looks OK!
But it's really blurry
But on closer inspection, it's very blurry

Lie #2 - Your Image Is In Focus

Similar to Lie #1, if your subject isn't in crisp focus, you won't see that on the LCD because the resolution is too small. The image can be out of focus for a number of reasons:

  • Focus on the wrong object. The focus might be on the background rather than your foreground subject. Or on a foreground object like a window rather than the scenery behind the window.
  • Low Light causes the auto focus on most cameras to not work properly.

Fix: Again use the image zoom (this is not the zoom lens of your camera) to zoom in as close to the image as possible to make sure your prized photo is in focus.

Lie #3 - Digital Zoom Rocks!

Point and Shoot cameras have Digital Zoom, which digitally takes a portion of the image and enlarges it back to full size. This gives a poorer quality image - and you won't notice the lower quality on the LCD screen. You certainly will when you look at that photo in print though!

Fix: Never use Digital Zoom. Remember, this was my Digital Photo Secret number 2! By not using Digital zoom, you're taking full advantage of your camera's image sensor to create a crisp image.

Lie #4 - Image Quality is Great

You should always use the highest jpeg resolution mode of your camera to save your photos. Most cameras have a low, medium and high quality setting for saving your photos. Your camera will be able to fit more images on your memory card with the low quality setting, but this will be at the expense of image quality. (Also see my tip on file formats)

High Quality Setting
High Quality Setting
Low Quality Image
Low Quality Setting (exaggerated for effect)

The lie is that low and high quality images look almost identical in the LCD. So you don't know you're shooting with low quality until it's too late.

Fix: Check your camera's setting before you start shooting. Or, as with the other fixes, take a look on your computer screen to make sure you have the highest image quality.

Lie #5 - Correctly Exposed Images

Your LCD screen won't show if your image is correctly exposed. It may show images as being darker or lighter than they will appear on your computer, or when printed. This will depend on the brightness of your LCD, and the ambient light (or lack of it) in the room or location where you're looking at the photos.

Fix: Shade the LCD screen with your hand or a LCD cover (like a Hoodman LCD Hood). Another solution is to show the same image on your computer and the LCD screen and adjust the LCD's brightness until the image looks the same on both.

Lie #6 - My Image Is Level

Again, because of the smaller size and resolution of the LCD, an image may appear level on screen, but it really isn't when you print it. Level images are pleasing to look at - particularly when you have a large flat horizon. You'd be surprised how much just the smallest tilt can affect how your photo looks.

Fix: Take your best shot at a straight image, then move the camera slightly and take another picture. Take a third for good measure. Alternatively, attach a spirit level to your camera, or straighten the image using an image editing program

The LCD is great for checking the general framing of your image (including finding out if anyone blinked!), but don't rely on the LCD screen to show you a perfect image. Be aware of the hidden gotchyas and you'll take great shots every time.

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  1. Vyolet says:

    Furrealz? That's marevlosuly good to know.

  2. Indro Poerwanto says:

    Great tips, David! Those are things I have never heard of before.
    Thanks very much.

  3. Bud Vincent says:

    David, I don't know how to say thank you any better than all of those fine folks before me.. I have learned a lot and hopefully will be a better photographer by reading your tips. Yes, I gotta get that book too. I hope Santa will be kind to me this year..

    I have probs with crispness, depth of field and focus..I have a Canon 40 D camera...I hope to conquer all of them soon, with your great support. Thanks so much from Canadaa's nicest and most photo genic province..Newfoundland and Labrador... Ya gotta come visit us..Who knows maybe we can create a reason to come here..I am sure that there must be some government agency that would support this. Give it some thought and let me know your thoughts. Thanks so much. Bud Vincent

  4. Este Stander says:

    Very informative!! I've recently baught myself a canon 450D camera and love experementing!

  5. Rose says:

    I love your tips. It has helped me take much much better pictures for our family events.. I have realised that my family are noticing that I'm taking better pictures..

    And its all thanks to you..

    From Singapore

  6. lois fontana says:

    regarding the LCD screen, i have found it to be troublesome as the hood can slide off and the LCD cover part breaks off fairly easily. by the way, i have found that having "invisibleSHIELD" applied to the LCD provides excellent protection (does not reduce glare). kiosks available at many malls.

  7. yubaraj bhattarai says:

    I learned a lot reading ur tips. It helped me so much that i can take good photos these days.Althogh i am far from u, but still feeling closer to you.When i touch a camera and think for good photos I always remember you. Thanks Mr. David.

    Yours truly
    From Nepal

  8. kenny says:

    i like your tips, they have helped a lot

  9. Jahaira says:

    Hey thanks for all your wonderful tips David. They are very helpful !! I appreciate it. Take care. :)

  10. bill symington says:

    great tips thanks david

    regards bill

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