If you have glasses and picked up a camera for the first time, congratulations. You’re about to begin a journey experiencing the fun and passion so many other photographers feel. The designs around using cameras for people who wear glasses have improved over the years. But they’re still not the best they can be. Arguably, they’re not where they should be. So if you’re photographing with glasses on, here are some important tips.
If you’re reading this, consider that I’m legally blind. That means even with corrective eyeglasses (some of the strongest prescribed lenses ever), I can’t see well enough to drive or ride a bike. I see the world kind of like a painting. My condition is called keratoconus, and it’s very difficult to see at times. However, it doesn’t mean I can’t shoot. Here’s what I learned about photographing with glasses over the years.
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Why is the Viewfinder Blurry? Adjust the Diopter
First off, know that your camera most likely has both a viewfinder and an LCD screen. If there is no viewfinder, then skip forward to the next tip. But if there is a viewfinder, then consider why it’s blurry. In most cases, if you’re wearing glasses then you’re not going to get a clear image from the start. There are a few reasons for this, including your own eyesight and eyeglass thickness.
It should go without saying that I’m talking about mirrorless cameras here because they’re the most common cameras around. But here’s a big tip from another piece we wrote a while back:
Both EVF and OVF work differently though. With an EVF, it’s mostly a matter of looking through the viewfinder, turning on text displays and adjusting the diopter until you can see the text correctly. But when working with an OVF, it can become much trickier as what you’re seeing is optical and not electronic. For optical viewfinders, we recommend taking the lens off, pointing the camera at a light source and looking at the focusing points through the viewfinder. Then adjust the setting accordingly until you see them the clearest. When this is done, you’ll have set the diopter for your eye.
When you look through the viewfinder, press the info or display buttons until you can see overlays on the image in the viewfinder. Now try to read them and be honest with yourself. Are they clear or have you seen a sharper display? If they’re not perfectly clear, adjust the diopter. It’s a little circular knob on the side of the viewfinder, typically with a + or – sign on it.
Some of us don’t necessarily need our glasses when shooting. So for you, the answer to photographing with glasses could be to simply take them off.
Further, every camera’s menu system has some sort of setting that can make the viewfinder brighter or have more contrast.
Additionally, my favorite thing to do is to increase the frame rate of the viewfinder and turn off the exposure preview. Brands call these different things like the Live View setting effect or other things. Though you’re not going to see exactly what the camera will give you, you will be able to make a better decision about other factors of the image.
Alternatively, you can set the camera to give a preview of what the exposure will look like when you autofocus only. This can make the process of photographing with glasses on much easier if you aren’t reading the meter. However, as a photographer who’s been shooting for nearly half his life, I’d say to learn how to read the meter. Lots of photographers will recommend reading histograms because you can then fix them in post-production. But I don’t like fixing my images in post-production.
The viewfinder is also a great way to frame because it keeps you focused on one thing in particular while also working to eliminate reflections where possible.
Keep in mind, too, that all this is cumulative and compounding. For the most part, you’re not going to be spending minutes at a time with your eye in the viewfinder. You’ll get breaks from it.
Using the LCD Screen and Getting Sharp Photos
Alternatively, from the viewfinder you can capture the scenes in front of you using the LCD screen on the back of the camera. This makes photographing with glasses much easier. However, LCD screens aren’t as highly detailed as viewfinders, so bear this in mind.
To make the LCD screen easier to read while photographing with glasses, there are a few things you can do. The first one is turning off the exposure preview and raising the FPS readout. This will prevent visual tearing of the image. Sometimes you want this though, so you can set it up to only preview the result on autofocusing.
Another thing you can do is adjust the brightness. Some cameras will do this automatically, but I’ve been in situations in bright sunlight where the sun overpowers the screen. So in situations with bright light, make the screen brighter. Conversely, when photographing in super dark spaces, I’ll turn it down pretty much all the way. A dim screen also saves battery power.
On top of this, there are a few other tricks like asking the camera to magnify the focusing point so you can ensure you’re tack sharp in focus. Combine that with something like focus peaking, which is the camera telling you whether or not you’re in focus. However, take note that most cameras don’t perform focus peaking perfectly. It’s mostly carry-over technology from the video world.
Selecting Specific Autofocus Points and Using Touchscreen Autofocus
Touchscreen autofocus is also a fantastic way to shoot. In fact, it can sometimes be the fastest way to shoot a photo. To do this, make sure your camera has this setting enabled. Most cameras have a few options for this:
- Turn off touchscreen use
- Tap to focus
- Tap to focus and then shoot
In the case of the latter, you’re going to get some of the absolute fastest camera performance out there. The smaller the sensor, the better it will be. So, in this case, Micro Four Thirds cameras and APS-C cameras will have the best time.
If you don’t want to use the touchscreen, make sure you’re using the viewfinder and that you’re selecting the focusing area mode you really want to utilize. Always remember that the smaller the focus point, the slower the autofocus will be. However, it’s usually to be more accurate.
Using AI Scene Recognition Features
In the past few years, one of my favorite things involves dedicated cameras: AI and machine learning. It started with face detection and then eye detection. Soon after that came animal detection. So if you can’t find an animal or a bird in the scene easily, the camera will assist you.
To use scene detection, ensure it’s enabled with your autofocus mode. Point the camera at a scene and then focus. In some cases, the camera will be able to easily find the subject. In other cases, it will need help. I’ve tested nearly every camera on the market, and all of them have problems trying to focus on birds in trees. But if you have the diopter set up right, you’ll have less of a problem finding the birds depending on how your vision works. With that said, you can use the touchscreen or the joystick to move the focus point on top of the bird. Then, just shoot.
Clean Your Glasses and About Reflections
Here’s the last thing I really recommend: cleaning your eyeglasses. Many times, they’re smeared and can cause reflections, which make it difficult to see fine details clearly. If your glasses don’t have anti-reflective coatings, they can cause a few reflections and glints in your vision. So make sure they’re clean.
For what it’s worth, using the viewfinder helps here a lot too.
Lastly, I’d recommend bringing a microfiber cloth with you. They’re fantastic not only for cleaning your glasses, but also your lenses, the viewfinder, and the LCD screen. If you’re wearing jeans, you can always store them in a pocket.