High Burst Rate Explained :: Digital Photo Secrets

High Burst Rate Explained

by David Peterson 2 comments

Have you ever attempted to take photos of a fast moving subject and failed miserably? Sometimes the moment you release the shutter is not quite the moment you actually wanted to capture. An advantage of a DSLR over a point and shoot is the quick reaction of the shutter to your finger. Even with responsive shutter release it is not always quick or timely enough to get the most important shot. You may snap away only to realize you barely missed the game winning goal. Wouldn't it be nice to increase your odds of getting a great shot? Using high burst rate mode is a way to take multiple shots with one push of a button, improving your odds of nailing it.

High Burst Rate

Before we move on to the fun stuff let's quickly discuss some terminology. High burst rate mode is what you will choose on your camera to utilize this feature. It is typically a button on top of your camera that looks like multiple frames on top of one another. Once you are in this mode, you can utilize the high burst rate feature your camera offers. On more expensive cameras, you should have choices in terms of how many photos to take in a burst and the speed at which they are taken. This will vary from camera to camera.

Burst rate refers to the number of consecutive shots your camera can take before it slows down significantly or even stops (temporarily). Any readers who are physics sticklers may struggle with this definition because it is not a "rate" in the true sense of the word. Your camera does have a certain shooting speed measured in frames per second that it is capable of shooting but that is a totally different animal. Burst rate is actually how many of those consecutive shots you can take before your camera throws in the towel. It is simply a maximum number of consecutive images.

Factors Affecting Burst Rate

To really understand burst rate (if you care to), you need to recall what happens in your DSLR when you take a photo. Your camera's image sensor is what records the image when light strikes it. From there the image is temporarily stored in the camera's buffer memory and then moves on to your camera's memory card. That buffer memory is where things can get bogged down. When shooting in burst mode, your camera will continue to fire off pictures as long as you keep the shutter button depressed. The shot rate will significantly slow down when your camera's buffer memory is full as it needs to wait until the images are transferred to your (slower) memory card before it can take more. Different cameras have different maximum burst rates.

The burst rate your camera is capable of changes significantly depending on the format you are shooting in. You have a much higher burst rate with JPEG images than RAW for example. RAW files are much larger and for that reason, you cannot take as many consecutive pictures when shooting in RAW. The resolution of the JPEGs is also a factor as is the speed of your memory card and the condition of your batteries.

Why Do I Care About This?

Well as I mentioned in the introduction, your response time may not always be spot on causing you to miss that "decisive moment" you seek. Switching to high burst rate mode allows you to fire off a number of consecutive frames with one push of the shutter button so odds are in your favor of getting a great shot. This mode is particularly useful for any photography involving a moving or unpredictable subject.

One obvious use of this mode is sports photography. You can shoot through the action by utilizing your camera's burst mode to hopefully capture the beginning, middle, and end of the exciting moment. You can review your shots later to choose the winner.

This mode is useful for any application with fast moving subjects. If you do get those NASCAR tickets, give it a whirl. But any fast moving subject will be an excellent candidate for burst mode. By taking a series of images, high burst rate may even allow you to capture that moment you were least expecting.

Speaking of images in series - high burst rate is the way to go! Try this mode to take a series of action shots that you can playback for a moment by moment, time lapse effect. He jumps, he sails through the air, he lands it…or not!

If you are beginning to think using burst rate mode is just for sports photography, think again. Wildlife photography is another great application. Animals are unpredictable and taking consecutive shots may allow you to get a shot you would be unprepared for otherwise. High burst rate really is great for beginners in just about any application. Anything you can do to take more photos in quick succession is a good thing. Small children can be as quick as pro athletes when the camera comes out, so for capturing the kids in your life this mode can be a lifesaver. Charge your batteries, insert a fast memory card, switch to high burst mode, and start working on your family's highlight reel today!

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  1. David Peterson says:


    I can't tell you where to look for your specific model as there are so many different cameras on the market. I recommend you look through the menu on your camera (or your manual) for a setting that says Burst Mode or Continuous Mode.


  2. Alan Hurwitz says:

    Enjoyed the piece a lot. Wondering if you have any tips for accessing this mode. Does just holding the shutter button down do it on most cameras? Is there a special setting? If so, what is it l;ikely to be called? I don't find Burst Mode on my Olympus OMD.

    Thanks, for the articles (this one and others) and for anything more you can tell me on this.


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About David Peterson
David Peterson is the creator of Digital Photo Secrets, and the Photography Dash and loves teaching photography to fellow photographers all around the world. You can follow him on Twitter at @dphotosecrets or on Google+.