First attempt at Live Composite on my Olympus OM-D E-M1.

My Olympus OM-D E-M1 camera has a pretty amazing feature called Live Composite. As Peter Baumgarten explains, “…a live composite image is one made of several separate photographs that are combined in the camera over a period of time.” ( I had never used this feature before going to this year’s Out of Chicago photography conference. I made it one of my goals, therefore, to learn how to make a Live Composite image from the master, Mike Boeing, who I knew was going to be at the conference.

Jamie MacDonald & Mike Boening, Olympus Trailblazers.

Mike and Jamie MacDonald, both Olympus Trailblazers, were scheduled to be located at the Chicago Theater on State Street for the Friday night Photocrawl. The idea of the Photocrawl, a brainchild of conference founder Chris Smith, was to have one or two presenters stationed at several key Chicago locations where there are good photo opportunities. Since Live Composite is a long exposure technique, the marquee of the Chicago Theater along with the lights from passing cars, cabs, and busses make for a great Live Composite shot.

I ran into Mike, Jamie, and two Olympus reps after the Rick Sammon keynote and walked with them up State to the theater. Mike also let me try out his Olympus 7-14mm Pro lens since I've really never used an extra wide angle lens. With a 35mm-equivalent focal length range of 14-28mm, it provided a nice wide capture of the scene. Mike set up his E-M5, Mark II on his MeFoto DayTrip tripod by the curb across from the theater and showed me the settings. Following his lead, I made sure my E-M1 was well balanced on my super lightweight LolliPod tripod (I left my DayTrip in the apartment) at a very limited extension to add to stability. I then set my aperture to f/22 and ISO to 200, the lowest native and true ISO on the E-M1, and searched for the menu items for Live Composite.

To set up Live Composite, you go to Gear menu E (Exp/Meter/ISO) and scroll down to the "Composite" Settings selection. Press OK button to adjust settings. Mike recommended trying 1 second as an exposure time per image. Once I had my camera positioned low by the curb with the theater positioned as I wanted it in the frame, I dialed my shutter speed down past the slowest speeds until the selection "livecomp" appeared. Now, I was ready to start shooting. Since it was dark enough I waited until there was no traffic and pressed the shutter button to take what's called the establishing or base shot on which all subsequent shots will be laid. Once the traffic began moving I pressed the shutter button once more to begin the Live Compositing shots. Now the fun began as I watched my image building before my eyes as the camera took a 1 second exposure every second. When I was happy with the appearance of my composited image, I pressed the shutter button a third time to stop the captures. The camera processed the image and displayed the resulting image when finished. Happy? Great! Not happy? Do it again. (Check out Mike's description of the process at

My results were not show-stoppers, but I learned the process. And I was fascinated by it. It is really magical to see your image being built before your eyes. I now see why Mike is obsessed with Live Composite! I will now look for opportunities to use it.

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