What Do Your Camera's Different Drive Modes Do? :: Digital Photo Secrets

What Do Your Camera's Different Drive Modes Do?

by David Peterson 6 comments

On most cameras, when you press the shutter button, you get one picture. That’s usually the default setting, and it does the job for amateur photographers. But once you want to capture long sequences of action or take a self-portrait, you need to switch to a different drive mode. Your camera’s drive modes control the rate at which pictures are taken. In this article, we’ll show you how to use them to achieve the effects you want.

Back before digital cameras were invented, you actually had to install a drive on your camera to move the film through the chamber faster and get a sequence of images. That’s where the name comes from, and the technology has really improved since then. Some digital cameras can take up to 12 pictures in one second, and it keeps getting better every year!

How to take a series of images in continuous mode

If you’re a budding sports photographer, you’ll immediately want to switch your camera to its continuous drive mode. When you shoot in continuous mode, the camera keeps on taking pictures while you hold down the shutter. This can take a lot of the guess work out of action photography. When you don’t have to worry about timing your shot, you can focus on keeping your subject in the frame.

Like most drive mode settings, you can access continuous mode from your camera’s main menu. It’s usually under another menu called “shooting mode.”

There’s one more thing you’ll want to know about continuous shooting mode. It works best when you either pre-focus your lens or turn autofocus off. Why is that? When autofocus is enabled, your camera attempts to focus the scene between each new shot. Sometimes your camera will focus right away. Sometimes it won’t, and this can create quite a delay between shots.

You can pre-focus by starting off in automatic focus mode, holding the shutter halfway down to focus on your subject, and then quickly switching back to manual focus mode. When your camera is in manual focus mode, it won’t attempt to re-focus the scene between each new shot. Just as you want it to, it will keep firing away and producing new images. Nice! Be aware that when you do this to make sure your subject stays around the same distance from the camera. Otherwise it will become out of focus quickly.

Once you get more used to continuous fire mode, you’ll find yourself using it more and more often. My camera is set it to all the time because I never want to miss a single shot.

Self-Timer mode isn’t only good for getting everyone in the shot

You can also switch to self-timer mode from the main menu. Just like continuous mode, you’ll find it under the “shooting modes” menu on most cameras. You’ve probably used the self-timer drive mode for family portraits, but it’s got another surprising use. It can help you keep your images blur free, which is the reason it’s very popular among professional photographers.

How does the self-timer mode get rid of blurriness? Assuming you’re using a tripod, it gets rid of that little bit of camera shake that results from pressing down the shutter button. If you’re using a particularly slow shutter speed, you’ll notice the difference. Because you aren’t touching the camera while the image is being taken, your picture will be 100% camera shake free.

Most professionals setup the scene and position their camera on a tripod. Once they’ve figured out which settings they want to use, they switch over to their camera’s self-timer mode to take the picture. They press the shutter and wait. It takes a little more time, but the result is much better.

Some cameras also feature a multiple self-timer drive mode

When you switch your camera to multiple self-timer mode, it keeps on taking pictures long after the first shot. This is ideal for family portraits where it can take awhile for everyone to get organized. After the first shot, the camera will pause. Then it will beep some more before it takes the next picture. It’s ideal for the photographer who doesn’t want to get up and adjust the camera between shots.

That’s it for drive modes. It’s a good thing we no longer have to attach those old bulky motors to our cameras anymore. You can thank the digital revolution for that.

Which drive mode do you use the most often? Why is it your favorite? I want to know. Send me an email, or leave a comment below.

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  1. Basics Of Digital Camera Images says:

    Amazing things here. I am very happy to see your post. Thanks a lot and I'm having a look forward to touch you. Will you please drop me a mail?

  2. Cholo says:

    Nice tip... Thanks.... Keep it coming!

  3. Melissa says:

    Another amazing tip! :)

  4. Michel says:

    Hey thanks for the tips. I'm gonna try this next time the kids are here with their BMX.

  5. Wayne says:

    The timer delay is also useful when using a telephoto lens mounted on a tripod. Those long focal lengths show any kind a movement, but the downside is that sometimes your subject matter has moved or turned and you miss the shot you were trying for.

  6. Hank says:

    My camera, a Fujifilm S5100, has a 2 second self-timer mode. This mode is specifically for taking tripod shots without camera shake. It even mentions it in the manual.

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