Wednesday, December 12, 2007

How to beat shutter lag

The biggest thing I hear folks complaining about with their new point and shoot cameras is the time between when they push the shutter button and when the picture is actually taken. That effect is called shutter lag. Lag doesn't affect DSLRs, that's a major reason why folks want the DSLRs!

Shutter lag is not your friend! If people are moving around and they're trying to capture a shot, it's blurred. Even if they are still it can be an issue. The key to understanding shutter lag , and working around it, is to understand what happens when you press down the shutter button. In the point and shoots, when you look at the screen, then press the button here's what happens (roughly). First, there is the travel time for you to push the button down (which should be the same as a DSLR). Then when the button reaches the half way point, the camera starts to "hunt" for a focus point, then focuses on that point, then the actual shutter is triggered and the image is collected. This can take from 1/5th of a second to much larger lag times, depending on the lighting and the camera itself. Dark areas take longer to focus than well lit areas. The solution lies in eliminating the hunting and focusing time. If you are taking a photo of a group, focus on them by pushing the button half way down, you'll see the camera lock on to your subject (hopefully). Now tell them to look your way and get the shot by finishing pushing the button down. Since the camera doesn't have to focus, the shot is taken right away. You can do the same thing with an action shot. Figure out where the action is going to be, pre-focus before the subject gets into the action zone, then continue to hold the button half way down till the subject gets to your preselected spot, then push the button all the way. Voila` in-focus pics!

If there is nothing to focus on that is at the point the action is going to occur, you need to pre-focus on a nearby point the same distance away from you with similar lighting, keep the button pressed down and then aim the camera at the focus point you like. Finish pressing the shutter down when the subject walks, floats, flys or stumbles into the prefocused point, then take the shot!
For example, say you are on a parade route with an empty street in front of you, and you know the float is going to make a great shot, but you don't want it blurred. If you point to the empty street, there is nothing to pre-focus on. Find a phone pole or crowd member that is the same distance from you as your predicted float spot. Pre-focus by pressing the shutter half way, keep it pre-focused by holding the button down, now pre-aim the camera where you wanted to take the shot, then wait for the float to enter the shot, and take it. Easy peasy!

Give it a shot, and report back if this tip helped you out!


1 comment:

stumpjumper said...

Thanks for this blog. I am sure it will come in handy as I get my feet wet with digital photography.