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Archive for Sunday, January 20, 2008

Behind the lens: Tips will help overcome shutter lag

January 20, 2008

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Editor's note: Now you can start your own photo blog and join in on the discussion at Behind the Lens.

If you have a digital point-and-shoot camera, you likely experienced a story very similar to this one during the holidays:

You are standing in front of a sea of family members eager to complete the family photo. Aunt Wilma realizes that she wants a photo, too, as does cousin Seth and grandma Linda. Four amateur photographers armed with the latest in digital technology form a line and attempt to take photos. Aunt Wilma pushes down on the shutter button, but nothing happens.

"This camera isn't taking a picture," aunt Wilma snaps. She looks into the lens and the flash finally fires, blinding her. She is convinced that her new little digital camera is broke.

But Aunt Wilma's camera is not malfunctioning. She is experiencing what is referred to as "shutter lag."

Why do cameras have shutter lag? Simply put, the camera needs to know where to focus. Without shutter lag on digital cameras, your pictures would be out of focus and your camera battery would deplete very quickly.

How to overcome shutter lag:

¢ Prefocus: Slightly push down on the shutter button to bring your subject into focus. You will hear your camera lens jumping around into focus. When ready, push the shutter button down. The camera will fire.

¢ Avoid backlit subjects: Cameras tend to focus quickest on scenes with lots of contrast. If your subject in the foreground is considerably darker than the background, your camera will try, try and try again to bring your subject into focus. This increases shutter lag time.

¢ Focus manually: Some newer digital point and shoot cameras have the ability to focus manually, albeit digitally, by estimating the distance from the camera to the subject. If you want to photograph sporting events, this might be your best option.

¢ Anticipate: If you see something happen either through the viewfinder of your camera or on the LCD display, then the moment has already passed. Prefocusing on something of equidistance and anticipating the moment is the best option.

¢ Not all cameras the same: Shutter lag varies camera to camera.

Use a combination of these points to minimize your shutter lag time.

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