Tuesday, May 4, 2010

P4C: Self-Timers and Remote Releases

There are a couple of functions cameras offer which really make it possible to shoot self-portraits -- the self-timer and remote releases. Not all cameras will have both functions, some don't have either, but both gives you the time to set-up the shot and get into the frame before taking the picture. In this article I'll just cover the basics, but look for future articles where I'll write about various situations when you'll want to use these.

The more common of the two features is the self-timer which is built into most cameras. Many times the self-timer function is accessed through a dedicated button, but sometimes you might have to scroll through menus or find it on a dial or switch. Check the camera's manual for access and settings, but look on your camera for a round icon with a dot at the top and a diagonal line for the hand of the timer. Once engaged the self-timer generally gives you audible beeps or visual blinks as it counts down (anywhere from 2 through 10 seconds) once you press the shutter release. You'll sometimes have options in the menus of the camera to control that length between pressing the release and when the photo is captured. 5 seconds is usually enough to walk into the frame and position yourself. For larger groups and longer distances you might find that 10 seconds works better. If you're just looking for a short delay when holding out the camera at arms' length then the 2 second setting is usually best. Most cameras only engage the self-timer for the one shot though and if you'd like a second you'll have to run back to the camera and reset for another go.

The more expensive option is the remote release. The cable release has been in use for more than a century and is the most reliable. Wired or cabled releases allow a direct connection to the camera and therefore aren't easy to interrupt. They can be painful to use since you're physically connected to the camera through some type of cable. Many newer cameras offer a wireless, IR release. This eliminates the cable freeing you from that physical connection to the camera. Because it's an optical connection, exactly like the remote for a television, you must have a clear line-of-sight to the camera and bright lights can render the remote useless. An interesting class of remote releases work on radio signals. These still cut the physical connection between the camera and the remote, don't need to be line-of-sight, and offer greater distances between the remote and the camera. They are illegal in some countries and subject to interference which can keep them from working at all, or trigger the camera erroneously. All of these are specific to a camera or manufacturer. Not all cameras support a remote release option, but those which do support them usually allow the remote to release the shutter directly or with the self-timer making them great options for grabbing your self-portrait.

For my part I use both the self-timer and the remote release. The camera and the situation tend to determine which modes I use and what types of remote release. I'll write more about that later, but in the meantime check your camera's manual for information about your self-timer and remote release options. Be prepared next time for some information about how a flash can help Geocachers with their outdoor photos.

Text and images in this post are copyright 2010 by Darryl Wattenberg, all rights reserved.

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