Picture This: Finding a New Angle
Flip-out screens on cameras add flexibility and convenience to photographic endeavors.
By Earl Nottingham
One of the easiest things a photographer can do to add interest to any scene is to photograph it from a nontraditional angle — in other words, a perspective from which we don’t normally expect to see it. Most of the time, unfortunately, we tend to take the easy approach and shoot from a standing upright position at eye level, the realm where most snapshots (yawn) are taken.
Finding that nontraditional angle might involve getting the camera down very low and shooting upward, or very high, shooting down.
However, getting into those positions is often easier said than done. It’s not easy planting your camera, and your face, at ground level in order to compose an ant’s-eye view looking up through flowers. It is equally difficult to shoot from high viewpoints such as over a crowd or a fence.
Enter the photographer’s new friend — the flip-out LCD (liquid crystal display) screen found on many current digital cameras. While these types of screens have been common for many years on consumer-level and professional video cameras, they have only recently become popular on still cameras, largely because of the inclusion of video capabilities.
Also called vari-angle or articulated screens, they rotate around a hinge or pivot, allowing the photographer to view the screen from a variety of positions, independent of the direction in which the lens is pointed — whether tilted up or down or at almost any angle. For instance, the camera can be placed on the ground with the flip-out screen angled up for easy viewing, or can be held high overhead with the screen angled down, a definite plus for someone with limited mobility.
The sleuth can now shoot around corners by angling the screen outward, while the “selfie” aficionado can rotate the screen toward the front of the camera – admiring that perfect pose.
The flip-out screen also helps when shooting stills and video from a tripod by freeing up the photographer from having to constantly bend over to look through a viewfinder. Some even incorporate touch screens, which make access to menus and functions even easier. After shooting, the screen can be protected from damage by closing it with the LCD side rotated toward the inside of the camera. Most users will just leave the screen “parked” in its normal viewing position where it will look and function like any other nonarticulated screen.
One Achilles heel of the flip-out screen is the hinge or pivot, which can be accidentally broken if excess force is applied to the screen. Undoubtedly, camera makers will make these mechanisms more robust in future designs. For now, be careful about carrying the camera around with the screen extended.
As you can see, the ability to place the camera in previously difficult locations opens up a new way of seeing for the creative photographer. In fact, I take a compact point-and-shoot camera with a flip-out screen along on assignments and many times find that it is my go-to camera for images that otherwise would be very difficult, if not impossible, to obtain.
Check out an articulated screen for yourself. It may just be the tool you need to take your photography to new levels.
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