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.
This image is at typical LCD size. Looks OK!
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
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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