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Friday, August 28, 2009

Combat Shutter Lag: Anticipate and Pre-Focus

© 2009 Simon Hucko

We've all been there - you see a moment you want to capture, grab your camera, jam your finger down on the shutter button, and then wait an eternity for the picture to actually be taken. By that time you've missed the decisive moment (wikipedia), and are left cursing your camera. This is especially common with digital point n shoots, which are notoriously slow to focus, but even fancy DSLR's have some amount of focus and shutter lag.

How do you overcome this? Learn to anticipate and pre-focus.

Anticipating a great photograph is not always easy (or possible), but there are plenty of circumstances where you know what's coming. The kiss at a wedding. Your 5 year old niece blowing out candles on her birthday cake. A batter swinging at a pitch. By knowing what's coming, you can have your camera out and ready to go.

That brings us to the next step: pre-focus. Focus on your subject by half-pressing the shutter and make sure you frame the shot how you want it (keeping in mind that there may be some subject movement or additional elements added before the decisive moment).

Now when the moment happens you'll be all set to capture it, and don't have to wait for the camera to figure everything out. All cameras will still have some small amount of shutter lag, so you will still have to compensate by shooting a little bit earlier than the moment you want to capture. This requires some timing and practice, but the nice thing is that it's consistent so once you've got it down you'll be able to get it right just about every time.


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