Better Pictures How To: Reducing Shutter Lag

webemclimb.jpgOne of the things digital camera owners hate the most is shutter lag–that delay between the time you press the button to take a picture and when the camera actually fires the shot.

Shutter lag is unique to digital technology for several reasons. One, these are not simple cameras the way film point and shoot models were. Even bottom market digital cameras perform very complex calculations prior to each shot. They also have red eye reduction and exaggerated zoom, which causes the bulk of your shutter lag.

Here are three things that can reduce your shutter lag almost completely:

1. Prefocus your shot when you can by pressing the shutter button only halfway. Your lens has to move in and out as it figures out where to focus. This can be a long process if you are using a lot of zoom. Press your shutter button only HALFWAY instead of all the way down, until you get the confirmation beep that your camera has focused. Then push the rest of the way. The picture will happen almost instantly. So line everybody up, frame the picture, do your half-press, then tell everyone, “Look here!” As everyone smiles, you can take your shot confidently.

flashicon.jpg2. Turn off your red eye reduction if you can. When you are outdoors or in a brightly lit area, you don’t need the red eye feature, which delays your shot by sending out pulses of light. This is designed to make your subject’s pupils get smaller so that you can’t see the blood in the back of the retina.

eye.jpgTo change your flash setting, find the button marked by a lightning bolt. Push it and watch the corresponding icon on your screen. This can vary depending on your camera, but you should see:

A plain lightning bolt (flash on, no red eye)
A lightning bolt with a circle and a slash through it (no flash)
An eye or a lightning bolt with an eye beside it (red eye reduction on)

Make sure you have a plain lightning bolt (it’s okay if it has an “A” for “auto” beside it) and not an eye.

3. Give your camera time between shots to properly save the image and charge the flash again. When you take a picture, your camera needs a second or two to write the picture data to memory and to prepare the flash for another image. If you try too soon, you will get very long shutter lag. How quickly your camera recovers from a shot depends on the model.

But, you say, what if I’m at a soccer game? Or a track meet? Or my toddler moves at the speed of light?

Prefocus on where you think your child is about to be–for example focus on the finish line–and wait for your child to cross it to press the shutter all the way down. If the mad tricyclist is about to fly around the corner, focus on that corner and wait for the moment to happen.

The Shooting Digital web site has a great test where you can time the shutter lag of your camera.

Need more help? Find more of Deanna’s How To features on her blog, or sign up for one of Deanna’s camera classes. I have both total beginner classes for those taking their cameras out of the box, and intermediate walking tours where we capture the beauty of Austin. To make sure you don’t miss anything, you can safely join her mailling list and choose what information you want to receive.

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