One of the best things about the digital era in photography (compared to the analogue film era – for those of us who started there) is the fact that you are able to immediately check the result. You can right away on the image preview screen on the back of the camera see whether you got it or not. With film you were (and still are, of course – film is by no means obsolete) somewhat in limbo and had to wait until the films were developed, at least if you weren’t using Polaroid instant film. Now with the image preview screen, if necessary you can change the exposure or you standpoint or other settings to get the correct or best capture if you missed it the first time.
That’s the blessing of the image preview screen. It’s simply a huge advantage for today’s digital photographers, and can speed up the learning curve and development of the photographer.
But it can also hurt you.
The preview screen can break your concentration. That’s the curse of it. Again and again I see photographers checking the screen – after every captured image, to make sure they got it. In the mean time they miss out the best moment happening while their eyes are on the preview screen. In my workshops I almost always end up telling most participants to stop using the screen – to tape over it or turn it off or at least not check it all the time. If you are photographing a static subject it doesn’t matter, but when you are photographing people or events or on the street, the conditions change all the time – and rapidly. You don’t want to miss out the best picture just because your attention was on the preview screen. Then the preview screen becomes more of a curse than a blessing.
Taping the screen is probably an overkill, but turning it off so it doesn’t pop up after each exposure is a good idea. Then you don’t get inclined to check it all the time. What I usually do is check the screen after the first shot and then go with the setting that works till I am done. Of course sometimes the lighting conditions change and I might have to check again, but I try to keep my eye on the subject as much as possible. Well, I keep it on the viewfinder. The fact is that the more your eye is on the viewfinder, the more you increase your chances of getting the shots you want. I find it distracting when the image pops up after every exposure, and I urge you to turn off the automatic preview screen. You can always review it, simply by tapping the preview button when it’s necessary to check focus, composition and the histogram for the exposure. That way you get the blessing of the preview screen without the curse.
It may take some time to build the confidence to the point where you feel you don’t need to check the screen more than occasionally. When I am in the field and I know what I am looking for, I shoot, shoot and shoot. I want to give my full attention to what is happening in front of me.
A quote by master wildlife photographer Thomas Mangelsen regarding this: «I was with a good friend in the Pantanal in Brazil this summer and I am always giving him a hard time about chimping because we were watching jaguars, they’re rare, they’re endangered, they’re skittish and your opportunity is short. The jaguar would be moving along the river, and I would be looking, looking, looking and I’d look over at my friend and he would be chimping. I caught myself literally yelling at him a couple of times. “You know the jaguar’s here, keep shooting!” But he was so consumed with seeing what he got and his rationale was to look for a mistake, maybe he needs to fix exposure…fair enough. He was chimping and editing in the back of his camera, deleting, deleting, deleting, and I just can’t really tell. I can get the general idea of what I shot on the back of the camera, but I’m not so damn sure there might be something there I don’t want to throw away. I spend my time looking for the good stuff as opposed to deleting the bad stuff. I don’t really care about the bad stuff.»
What better after this quote to end with a picture of myself capturing an alligator in Pantanal. I definitely didn’t have to use the preview screen for this one…