Teachable Moment - Shutter Release Modes - Which, When and Why?

 

Picture the scene - an incredible, once-in-a-lifetime moment is unfolding before your eyes and you manage to lift your camera, frame up and get your settings just right. This is it, you’re about to fire off a series of frames of this epic moment. You focus and you press down with the index finger of your right hand the camera takes one photo. Then stops. Hang on, why isn’t it….what’s… you press again to salvage one more frame but, alas, the moment has passed. You did everything right, but your camera’s shutter release mode was set to ‘single frame’ and it didn’t allow you to shoot the sequence of images you had hoped for.

If it makes you feel better, you’re not the only person who’s made this mistake. In fact, many people don’t realise you can change the shutter release mode. So, what are the options and what mode is best for which subjects? Lets take a look…

SHUTTER RELEASE MODES IN DSLR PHOTOGRAPHY.png
S - when you want to take one photo at a time.

S - when you want to take one photo at a time.

Single Frame Mode

Single Frame Mode is best for static subjects. If the subject of your photograph is stationary then you probably don’t need multiple pictures of it with the same settings. For example, if you’re shooting a landscape then you can press the shutter release button and know you won’t accidentally trigger the camera to take 2 or 3 shots of the same scene (an exception to this would be if you’re photographing waves washing in and out of the foreground of the image). Usually with landscapes, one shot is enough in each moment. You might wait a few seconds to shoot the next moment or you might want to change your settings slightly for a different look.

Good subjects for Single Frame Shutter Release Mode:

  • Landscapes

  • Still Life

  • Architecture

C - continuous shooting. Some cameras have options for Low and High frame rate.

C - continuous shooting. Some cameras have options for Low and High frame rate.

Continuous Shutter Release

Best for moving subjects / action. If your subject is moving then it’s probably best to use continuous shutter release. In this mode, the camera will continue to take photographs one-after-the-other for as long as you keep your finger pressed on the shutter release button. For example, a portrait of a friend or loved one. You pose the person, frame-up, get your settings right then crack a joke as you’re about to take the photograph. As the person laughs you can shoot a few images with one press of the button. You can imagine how continuous shooting is also an advantage with sport, wildlife and wedding photography.

Good subjects for Continuous Shutter Release Mode:

  • Wildlife

  • Sport

  • Weddings

  • Kids / Family Portraits

Delay Timer or Self Timer - when you can’t, or don’t want to, touch the camera to take a photo.  Or, for when you want a ‘proper’ selfie!

Delay Timer or Self Timer - when you can’t, or don’t want to, touch the camera to take a photo. Or, for when you want a ‘proper’ selfie!

Delay Timer

In the same menu as these settings you’ll probably find the delay timer. This is great for if you need to take a selfie or if you want to be in a photo with a group of friends. You set up the camera on a tripod (or well-placed wall, rock etc), press the button and quickly run around to the from of the camera to be in the photograph. Many cameras will have a couple of options for the delay (eg, 2 seconds, 5 seconds etc) and some will allow you to customise this. Delay timer is also handy for shooting long exposures if you don’t have a remote shutter release button and can even be used together with Bracketing to shoot a bracket of exposures without having to touch the camera between shots (thanks Aileen for teaching me that one!).

Good subjects for Delay Timer Mode:

  • Selfies / Group shots you want to be in

  • Long exposures

  • Bracketing in landscape photography

How do I change this mode in my camera? It will be different camera-to-camera. Some models will have a button on the camera body (look for a symbol with 3 overlapping rectangles) while others will have the different options on a dial and for some, this function will be in the menu - so it’s best to check your manual if you’re not sure.

In summary, while it’s good to have the right mode for each subject I find it simpler to use Continuous Shutter Release most of the time. OK, it can be annoying when you accidentally fire off 2 or 3 shots of the same thing when you don’t need them but, to go back to the beginning, when the camera doesn’t shoot a few frames continuously when you really need it to that is infinitely more annoying!

What mode do you find the most useful and why? Let me know what you think in the comments and remember to share this article if you found it helpful.

Graham Dargie.