Using Live View – GPU Mode

GPU Mode has better live view features and analysis tools than non-GPU mode.  You can change the mode in the Preferences screen, Live View tab.  Here is a summary of the differences:

  • Use the new GPU mode if you are using high resolution monitors like 3K, 4K to help keep up an acceptable live view frame rate. It offloads workload from the CPU and uses the GPU instead.
  • If you don’t have a compatible OpenGL 3.1 video card and video card memory (at least 128MB), you will see a white screen in live view. In that case, upgrade your graphics card drivers, or graphics card and try again or go back to using the old non-GPU mode.
  • ISO Pinning is now called Brightness and is located in the Image group in the Layers tab.
  • Noise Reduction is no longer available in non-GPU mode. It is available in GPU mode and is called ‘Jitter Reduction’ in the Image group in the Layers tab.
  • The layers tab for GPU mode is completely different than non-GPU mode. The toolbar at the top of the live view screen is the same though, and the method of using the toolbar buttons are the same.
  • The motion detection trigger requires the non-GPU mode.

You can view your composition and exposure using live view. This is normally displayed on the LCD screen on the camera body, but ControlMyNikon allows you to view it in a window.

This video shows the non-GPU live view usage.  The Layers tab is different in GPU-mode, and we’ll have a video tutorial for that soon.


Some camera functionality is limited during live view. This is a Nikon firmware limitation. For example, a D4 can change aperture during live view, but a D7000 cannot.

The exposure and histogram functionality of the live view window are only valid for tthose bodies that can display live view with the actual exposure levels. All other bodies automatically adjust live view brightness so it isn’t too bright or too dark, irregardless of your exposure settings. This auto-brightness causes the live view histogram and exposure data to be incorrect. This is a Nikon firmware limitation.

You can enable/disable exposure preview by using the menu item under the tools menu. For D800/D800E/D810/D850 only.

Starting Live View

To start live view, click on the ‘Live View’ button.

Stopping Live View

To stop live view, click on the ‘Close’ button on the live view screen.


Like the image browser window, the live view window is embedded in the main ControlMyNikon window. However, this can be changed. This allows you to detach the live view window and resize or put it on another monitor. To control this, go to the Tools menu and find the following items:

  • Live View – Attached – This is the default. If the live view window is detached, click on this to reattach it.
  • Live View – Detached – Click on this to detach the live view window. You can then resize and drag it.

Image Quality

Most Nikon bodies send twenty four 640×420 JPEG Basic Quality images to the computer per second. The D5 and D500 uses JPEG Fine Quality and have an option for 1024×768. You’ll need a fast computer and USB3.0 to stream JPEG Fine at 1024×768 due to there being up to 40 times more data per image transferred compared to the lower resolution modes.

Some bodies allow you to set the live view resolution. If your body allows this, you will find a Live View Image Quality menu item in the View menu. You can only set this while live view is not active. The setting can be stored in a profile.

Each streamed live view image is a reduction of the full normal image size, so you may notice image artifacts on the live view image. You can also enable the ‘Jitter Reduction’ feature in the Layers tab, Image section to get a slightly better quality preview image. The final captured image will be of a much higher quality and larger than the live view image.


Focusing in live view requires that the camera body and lens autofocus to be enabled. Be sure to read the Preparing Your Camera help for more information on how to set your camera.

ISO Pinning (now called Brightness in GPU-Mode live view)

Some bodies have a very dark live view when used in manual mode such as when using strobes. This makes composition and focus adjustments through live view very difficult because the live view image is too dark. ISO Pinning (the Brightness control in GPU live view) allows you to lighten the images shown in the live view stream, but use your set exposure when capturing images.

  1. Set up your strobes, aperture/shutter speed/iso.
  2. Set the camera to manual mode, then start live view.
  3. The live view image will be very dark. Go to the Layers tab, Image section and increase the Brightness value.  The live view display is now brighter and if you went back to the Body tab, you would see that the ISO has increased.  Don’t touch the ISO settings.
  4. Adjust focus and composition.
  5. Capture the image by pressing the ‘Shoot’ button in ControlMyNikon. The capture will use the ISO that was set BEFORE you increased the Brightness slider.  So you view live view at one iso, and then shoot at a different ISO.  This all happens automatically.
  6. When you are done with live view, click the Close button and you will notice that your body tab ISO has returned back to the original value.
  7. Note: If you need to change the shooting ISO, return the Brightness to default and then change the ISO in the body tab. Then close live view and open it again.  Then adjust Brightness as needed and shoot.


Go to the Viewmenu and select Live View Monitor. This launches a secondary live view window. This window does not have any layers or features. It can be used on a separate monitor to show a preview of the next shot to clients, models etc while you have overlays enabled on the main live view window.

Toolbar Buttons

From left to right

  • Close – Ends the live view session.
  • Time Remaining – Shows the time remaining before the body will close live view. This is to prevent heat (and noise) buildup on the sensor during prolonged live view sessions. Newer bodies don’t seem to have much of a problem with this. You can set live view to automatically restart after a set duration in the preferences screen.
  • Autofocus – will try to autofocus on the current focus box location. The body will adjust the focus and look for as much high contrast as possible. Once it has found it, it considers it to be focused, whether it looks focused to the user or not. – Good lighting and contrast is essential to the autofocusing working well. Clicking on the screen will move the focus box. Double-clicking on the screen also causes an autofocus.
  • Adjust Focus Near – Coarse – this moves the focus closer to you by an amount set as the coarse step in the Layers tab.
  • Adjust Focus Near – Fine – this moves the focus closer to you by an amount set as the fine step in the Layers tab.
  • Adjust Focus Far – Fine – this moves the focus away from you by an amount set as the fine step in the Layers tab.
  • Adjust Focus Far – Coarse – this moves the focus away from you by an amount set as the coarse step in the Layers tab.
  • Shoot – Captures an image. Same function as the capture button on the main window.
  • Zoom Level 1 – Zooms all the way out.
  • Zoom Level 2 – Zooms in one level.
  • Zoom Level 3 – Zooms in two levels.
  • Zoom Level 4 – Zooms in three levels.
  • Hide Layers – Hides the grid, focus box etc. This is a good one to set a shortcut for so you can toggle it.
  • Record Movie – Starts recording.

Layers Tab

You can adjust how the live view image is displayed as well as overlay guides and information on top of it. To access these settings, go to the View menu and select ‘Layers’.

  • Many of the sliders in the layers tabs have small buttons on the right side.  Click these buttons to return the slider value to default.
  • The settings in the layer tab are stored in the current profile.
  • The final captured image is not affected in any way by the settings you make in the layers tab. These settings affect the live view stream only.
  • The non-GPU Copystand mode is not supported in the GPU mode.  Use Rotation:Invert instead, which produces the same effect.


Note: To be able to see the background solid color or checkerboard, you must reduce the opacity in the Image section.

  • Color – sets the color behind the image when the checkerboard is not enabled.
  • Show as Checkerboard – use this to display a checkerboard instead of a solid color behind the image.
  • Checkerboard Color 1 – sets the checkerboard tile color.
  • Checkerboard Color 2 – sets the checkerboard alternate tile color.
  • Checkerboard Size – sets the size of the checkerboard tiles.


  • Reduce Jitter – this reduces noise and jpeg compression artifacts from the live view stream.  This is very useful in high-ISO configurations.  It causes a bit of a ghost effect for moving objects though.
  • Show as Positive – this adjusts the color so that if you are going to capture an image of a photo of a photo negative, this simulates what it would look like once it has been converted to positive colors.  You can use this to better visualize the final, converted-to-positive in post-processing image.
  • Show as Grayscale – use this to suppress image colors.  This is useful if you have a very colorful image and the overlay, focus box, and other layers are blending into the image colors, making them difficult to see.
  • Save on Capture – use this to save a .lvbmp of the current live view image displayed when you capture the main image.  You can use this bitmap file later as an overlay.  This will be a much smaller image than the final captured image.
  • Opacity – use this to make the image more or less transparent.  Setting it to a low opacity is useful when you have a lot of active layers, such as the focus box, focus peaking, exposure and overlays.
  • Gamma – this changes the gamma of the live view image. You can use this to make the image brighter in low-light conditions, however this is not the same as increasing ISO.  Increasing a dark image’s gamma too high will result in blocky areas of darkness as areas that were underexposed just can’t be increased in gamma correctly.
  • Brightness – this is the ISO Pinning function used in the non-GPU mode, but it has been simplified.  Use it to increase the brightness in live view if it is too dark, such as when you are using strobes and your modelling light is too weak.  Increasing the brightness actually increases the ISO in live view so you can see what you are doing, but when you capture an image, it reverts back to the ISO used before you entered live view.  This allows you to view live view at one ISO, and shoot at another.


  • Thickness – controls the thickness of all grid and rebatment lines.
  • Contrast – controls the contrast between the lines and the background image.
  • Crop – adjusts the cropping factor.  You can use this to simulate a final cropped image in post-processing.
  • Show Grid – turns the grid on or off.
  • Grid Divisions – sets how many horizontal and vertical lines there are in the grid.
  • Rebatment 1 – shows the rebatment line
  • Rebatment 2 – shows the other rebatment line. Rebatments (compositional lines), are explained here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rabatment_of_the_rectangle

Focus Box

Note: The focus box is not displayed in zoom levels 2 or higher as the center of focus is always at the exact center of the screen at those zooms.

  • Show – controls whether the focus box is displayed or not.
  • Opacity – controls the transparency of the lines of the focus box.
  • Thickness – controls how thick the lines of the focus box are.

Focus Peaking

You can use focus peaking to highlight areas of the live view stream that are in focus.  This can be useful if the scene has an object with odd detail, patterns and color that make visually determining if it is focus difficult.

  • Show – controls whether peaking is displayed.
  • Sensitivity – higher values reject more areas that are not sharply in focus.
  • Level – controls the opacity of the Sobel Transparent Method, and the simulated lighting direction of the Sobel Albedo Opaque method.
  • Color – controls the outline color  of the Sobel Transparent Method, and the overall color of the Sobel Albedo Opaque method.
  • Method – Sobel Transparent – draws and outline around areas of focus.
  • Method – Sobel Albedo Opaque – displays the image in an emboss-like effect that shows peaks and shadows.

Focus Step

  • Fine – controls the step used by the < and > focus buttons on the toolbar.
  • Coarse – controls the step used by the << and >> focus buttons on the toolbar.

Exposure Markers

  • The Inner and Outer Exposure layers show you which areas on the image fall within a certain range.  You can use this to see which areas may be too dark or too bright, and/or use it to show areas that are just right.
  • The histogram is not available in GPU mode.  Use the inner and outer markers to get an accurate indicator of where over/under exposure is occurring as a histogram cannot tell you this.  If you really do need a histogram to be able to evaluate the tonal range, capture the image and check the histogram in the image browser.
  • For the exposure markers to be accurate, live view must be displayed in ‘exposure simulation’ mode.  Most camera’s do this by default, but some cameras cannot do this at all.  You will know if it is this mode if you turn on live view and then see how bright it is, then turn off the lights.  If exposure simulation is not on, the body will boost the brightness of the live view image automatically (auto-gain).  This auto-gain will make the exposure layers inaccurate since we can’t see what the camera will use when capturing the final image.  Check your camera manual to find the setting needed to set it to exposure simulation mode. This mode can be useful, however, when using strobes and it is quite dark.

Exposure – Inner

  • Show – controls whether the overlay is displayed.
  • Cycle – controls whether the overlay blinks on and off.
  • Between x% and y% sliders – set these so that the overlay is only displayed for those areas in which their histogram value is beween x and y (technically it is x>= value <= y).  This is often used in video capture when you want faces between in a certain exposure range.
  • Opacity – controls how transparent the overlay is.
  • Color – controls the color of the overlay.
  • Channel – controls how the histogram value is calculated. This allows you to view the exposure by luminance or color channel.

Exposure – Outer

Same as Exposure Inner, except the overlay is displayed for areas that fall outside a range.  Use this to show areas that are under/over exposed.


Use the overlay to display an image on top of the main live view image.  You can use this to make your own custom guides/crop marks or use an older image of a scene as an alignment too when shooting the scene now.  Think ‘this is what it looked like a year ago and we want to get the exact same composition’ kind of thing.
Note: Images that are too large can cause GPU out-of-memory errors.

  • Show – controls whether the overlay is displayed or not.
  • Show as Grayscale – this is useful if overlaying an image of the same scene.
  • Click to use current LV image – use this to use the current live view image as the overlay.
  • Opacity – controls the transparency of the overlay.
  • Click to select file – use this to select a file for the overlay.  You can use jpg, bmp or png.  Do not use images that are larger that the current live view image.  To get an idea of how large the live view image is, check the Image/Save on Capture option and then capture an image.  Open the resulting .lvbmp (just rename it to .bmp) in an image editor to see what the dimensions are.  Make your overlay the same size.  You can even edit this .bmp a bit and use it as an overlay, as a test.


This controls the appearance of the message overlay you see when capturing an image, focus stacking, stop motion scrubbing or capturing video.

  • Font Size – controls the font size.
  • Text Color – controls the color of the text.
  • Background Color – controls the color of the text background.
  • Opacity – controls the transparency of the text and background.