Digital Photography: How Shutter Modes Can Affect Your Images

Sometimes  in the world of Basic Digital Photography, it’s real easy to forget exactly what shooting modes are and how they can affect the quality of your images.  Most cameras will have a variety of choices based on what you shoot regularly, or what types of subjects you shoot most often.

The cameras these days will have the basic “One shot” option.  “One shot is exactly what it sounds like, you press the shutter release buttton one time, you get one picture.  The “One shot option is best for non-moving subjects, or posed photographs where your subject will not be doing a lot of moving.

Usually, right next to this option is a shooting mode called “Continuous”.  Most people, including me, don’t really see the value in keeping your camera set in this mode.  At least, I didn’t used to.  The more time you spend shooting candid photography, children, wildlife, or any other dynamic subject, or a still subject in a dynamic environment, this is going to be the mode for you.  Why?  Because in this ever-changing world we live in, something or someone is going to get in the way, or your subject is going to be stuck behind something right when your camera fires, leaving you with an interesting image, but probably not the picture you were looking for.

Next on the shooting mode menu is usually something like a timer-released shot.  These are the famous pictures where you set your camera down, or on a tripod, press the button, then you have about ten seconds to get into the picture before the shutter fires.

Some cameras have included a two-second timer release option for their cameras.  This option is not for running really fast to get in front of your camera before it takes the picture, but for allowing the maximum stability and sharpest pictures because you take the picture by pressing the button, when you take your finger off of the shutter release button, it takes the picture two seconds later.  This option is so your touching the camera doesn’t shake the camera and you get your sharpest image.

Cameras are coming equipped with infrared sensors these days, too.  They can be fired remotely using devices very similar to television remote controls, through an infrared beam, much like the electronic car  remotes for your vehicle.  This is getting too advanced for most , so I won’t spend a lot of time on it.

The last shooting mode that can really have a dramatic impact on your photography is the “Bulb” mode.  This is usually triggered by a remote cable or cord attached to your camera, you can either hold down the button on the cable, keeping the shutter open for as long as you have the button pushed, or the is usually a locking switch to hold the shutter open until you unlock it. This allows you to keep the shutter open for minutes during night or low-light photography, without touching the camera shaking and blurring your image.  There is some mystery as to where the term bulb mode came from.  My theory is that it is named after the manual type of release that came before the cord.  There was an air-filled bulb that the photographer would squeeze to open the shutter and then he or she could manipulate a screw on the bulb that would not allow the bulb to reinflate, holding the shutter open. 

All of these types of shutter-release modes are there on your camera waiing for you to tell it which one you want to use.  My preferrred mode, for day-to-day camera operations?  Contnuous.  Why, the pictures don’t cost anything asnd can mean the difference between this picture…


Digital Photography Before

And this one…

Digital Photography After


Have a great day,


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  1. Kevin Bettencourt

    Really good explanation. I was wondering, inthis day of digital phography, some company must have added a remote for the run into the picture shot. Yes?

    Las Vegas Air Conditioning Service & Repairs

  2. Dewayne, you are so good at explaining cameras, have you thought of getting a Youtube chanel done?
    Scott Sylvan Bell
    The Body Language site
    Now go implement!

  3. Thanks for the explanation Dewayne . I can see how it gives you more choice in selecting which moment in time you wish to capture .

  4. Now I want to check all my cameras to see if they have a continuous shot mode. But, I’m not sure exactly what it does. What I think you are saying is that once you press the button to take the picture, the camera will keep taking shots continuously. If this is the case, how many will it take? Do you keep pressing the button or will it just take 10 shots? I’m very interested. Is this the type of thing photographers use when shooting models or do they always press the button manually?

    Lisa McLellan
    Babysitting Services, Nanny Services, and Nanny agencies

    • Hey Lisa,

      Hope all’s going well with the babysitting world. I don’t see how you have the energy to keep up. It certainly keeps you on your toes. As far as the continuous setting on the camera, as long as the button is held down, the camera keeps taking pictures. Some cameras can be set for a specific number of shots. As far as the best use for continous mode on a camera, children and wildlife, you never know what to expect and where they’re going to be from oner moment to the next. Traditionally, with models, you don’t have to worry about continuous mode, because they’re trained to expect things like flash, are usually stationary or posed in a specific postion, the photographer can use continuous mode, but it is usually a single shot, one push for one shot scenario. But,, in order to minimize the chance for ruining a picture by a subject being in the middle of a blink, continuous can certainly be used to reduce the chance of that inopportune moment in the middle of a blink, and it is really handy when you’re working with a model who is constantly moving in order to add variety to a shoot (more frames to choose from).

  5. I agree with Scott and wonder when you’re going to start your own YouTube channel and have mini lessons on there for learning digital photography.

    Brainstorming Lesson