Yellow Mounds, Badlands National Park, 66 Second Exposure
Landscapes,  Olympus / OM System,  Photo Gear

How to Use Live Time for Long Daytime Exposures on Olympus and OM System Cameras

Olympus and OM System cameras have 3 different modes for photographing long exposures:  Live Bulb, Live Time, and Live Composite.  A lot of times, these modes are used for night photography shooting fireworks, star trails, car tail lights, etc. 

On cloudy days, early mornings, late afternoons, these features can also be used for long exposures to show the movement of the clouds in your landscape photographs by adding a 10 stop ND filter.

What’s the difference between Live Bulb, Live Time, and Live Composite?

Both Live Bulb and Live Time will display the image as it is being exposed on the LCD screen.  The difference is in how the exposure is started and ended.

  • Live Bulb will start the exposure when the shutter is fully pressed and ends the exposure when the shutter is released.
  • Live Time also starts the exposure when the shutter is fully pressed but it ends the exposure when the shutter is fully pressed again.

Live Composite blends multiple images in camera but only adds to the final exposure if when new light is added to an area of the image leaving the background with the exposure from the initial image.

For photographing cloud movement in landscape photographs, I like using Live Time the best.

Reasons that I Use Live Time for Photographing Movement in Clouds

  • You don’t need to continuously hold down the shutter or remote shutter release like Live Bulb.
  • With Live Time, you can also refresh the exposure on the LCD screen by half pressing the shutter or remote shutter release instead of just waiting on the display refresh interval.
  • Live Composite can give the clouds a streaky look which is interesting but can also look unnatural.
Barn, Infrared, 93 second exposure
Barn, Infrared, 93 second exposure

Equipment Needed for Landscape Long Exposure Photographs during the Daytime

  • Olympus / OM System Camera.  Most Olympus OM-D cameras and the OM-1 have Live Time.
  • Landscape lens
  • 10 Stop ND Filter
  • Tripod – You’ll want to use a tripod since you will be shooting long exposures 30 – 90 seconds or longer
  • Remote Shutter Release or OI Share App. 

My Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark III camera does not have a Remote Shutter Port so long exposures need to be taken with the OI Share App.  I used the OI Share App with the OM-D E-M10 Mark III in Live Time mode for the black and white infrared barn photograph in this blog and it worked great.

You will need to turn on the Half Press Shutter (called Half Way Release) in the settings in the OI Share App. See the picture below.

OI Share App - Remote Shutter
OI Share App – Remote Shutter

Olympus Camera Settings for Landscape Long Exposures

  • ISO 200 or even one of the Low ISO settings (L64, L80, L100) depending on the lighting.  The Low ISO settings available will vary based on your Olympus camera.
  • Small aperture (f/16, f/18, f/22) depending on how light it is.
  • I used Single Autofocus (S-AF) and a Single Point AF Target Area that was focused about a 3rd of the way into the composition.  This got the entire landscape in focus since I was using a small aperture.
  • Exposure Time will vary based on the lighting conditions, ISO, and aperture.  On brighter days, you can try stacking multiple ND filters.
  •  Long Exposure Noise Reduction.  When taking really long exposures, it helps to clean up the noise using Long Exposure Noise Reduction. It will take double the time for your exposure if you turn on noise reduction.
  • The Live Time refresh interval can be set by pressing the Menu Button while in Live Time mode.
  • In the Live Time options, you may also want to increase the brightness of the LCD for viewing in the daylight.  On Olympus OM-D Cameras, this is located in the Gear Menu, sub-menu E or E2, Bulb / Time Monitor.  On the OM-1, it is located in the Shooting Menu, 2nd tab (Other Shooting Functions), Bulb/Time/Comp Settings, Bulb / Time Monitor.
Cloudy, Rainy Day at Badlands National Park, 37 Second Exposure
Cloudy, Rainy Day at Badlands National Park, 37 Second Exposure

Using Live Time

  • Put the camera is Live Time mode
    • On the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, E-M1X, and the OM-1 Live Time can be accessed from the Bulb Setting on the Mode Dial.  Rotate the rear dial to get to Live Time shooting mode.
    • For other Olympus cameras, Live Time can be accessed by rotating the shutter speed past the lowest setting on the camera when in Manual Shooting Mode.
  • Press the Menu button to set the Refresh Interval.  You are limited in the number of total LCD screen refreshes for the total exposure.  The total number of refreshes vary based on the ISO.  The number of display refreshes that have already occurred as well as the total display refreshes available for that ISO. Will display on the LCD during the Live Time exposure.

Number of Live Time Refreshes Available By ISO

ISOMax Display Count
Low24
40019
80014
16009
  • The Max Display Count numbers are consistent across all the OM-D cameras that I own. 
  • This table will also display when you press the Menu Button while in Live Time mode.
  • When you are ready to take the photo, fully press the shutter button once to start the exposure.
  • A histogram will show on the LCD screen along with the exposure.  I use the histogram to tell when to stop the exposure before the whites in the clouds are blown out.
  • You can wait for the automatic refresh or press the shutter release button half way to refresh the exposure on the LCD screen.  Just be careful, half pressing on many shutter releases is touchy and you may inadvertently end the exposure. 
  • Fully press the shutter button on the remote shutter release to end the exposure.

Written by Martin Belan

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