Speeding up your cameras response time

Before you consider how to use shutter speeds most effectively, you need to know how to make your camera respond to your needs.

Modern cameras (both film and digital) have to accomplish an amazing number of tasks before the shutter fires. They need to take light meter readings, make auto-exposure settings, and lock auto-focus in a split second. In addition, digital cameras often add another step. If you're using a micro-drive as your media (as your "digital film"), you're working with a miniature computer hard drive. Its micro-drive platters (which receive the image data) need to be spun up to the proper operating speed for recording data.

The time necessary for your camera to accomplish all these tasks is known as shutter lag. It's the reason why nothing happens when you first press the shutter button. Depending on your camera, there are usually some things you can do to compensate for shutter lag.

Some cameras allow you to press the shutter button halfway down to activate many of the systems just mentioned. If your camera has this functionality, it's wise to develop the habit of pressing the shutter button halfway shortly before you anticipate taking a photo. Be mindful that this technique drains your batteries faster, so be prepared with extra batteries.

Another way to make your camera more responsive is to pre-focus it. This trick resulted in sharp images long before the advent of auto-focus, and it still increases the odds of getting an in-focus shot—even with the best auto-focus systems.

Pre-focusing works with almost any type of digital camera. Simply focus the camera on the spot where you anticipate the action will happen. Although this technique may not give you the perfect shot every time, at least you give your camera a head start on focusing. This technique helps your camera lock focus faster. These are the kinds of tricks pros use to get the most out of their gear. I've certainly relied on them for many of my favorite photos.

After you tweak your camera's responsiveness, you're ready to concentrate on getting the shot.

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Digital Camera and Digital Photography

Compared to film cameras, digital cameras are easy to use, fun and extremely versatile. Every day there’s more features being designed. Whether you have the cheapest model or a high end model, digital cameras can do an endless number of things. Let’s look at how to get the most out of your digital camera.

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