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How to Make Your Digital Camera Shoot Faster

how to make your camera faster
Photo By Jeff Meyer

How can I make my digital camera take pictures faster? This is one question many people ask especially when faced with situations that require capturing fast moving subjects. Some genres of photography like sports and wildlife especially call for faster cameras; the ability to shoot just a few more frames per second can really make a huge difference in your success rate making sure that you have successfully captured that decisive moment.

The speed of a digital camera is determined by many factors, including focusing speed, frame rate, amount of butter memory available, read/write speed of the memory card used, shooting mode, file format used, use of flash etc.  Here are some tips to make sure your camera is set to shoot as quickly as possible.

Make Sure The Camera Battery is Fully Charged

A lower powered battery can make cameras behave sluggishly so make sure you have fully charged batteries in your camera. In my personal experience I have found that using battery grips which allow you to mount two batteries at once speeds up things a bit.

Pre Focus / Manual Focus

making digital cameras faster
Photo By Glen Peterson

One of the major factors affecting the speed of your camera is the focus delay. The time between the press of the shutter and acquiring of focus. One way to combat this lag is to pre focus on an object which is approximately the same distance as your subject is and either press and hold the shutter button halfway to lock focus or shift to manual focus.

Use the Focus Limit Option

Some advanced lenses have a feature called focus limit that really speeds up focusing by setting the lens to search for objects only at a set distance.  For example the canon 100-400mm zoom lens have the option to limit focus to  6.5 mts and further or 1.8 mts and further.  So if you know for a fact that your subject is going to be farther than 6.5mts then there is no point making the lens search all the way. Focusing will be much faster if you limit it to 6.5mts and further.

Enable High Speed Shooting

how to make digital camera shoot faster
Photo By Eduardo Amorim

Some modern cameras have a special mode just for high speed shooting; you will have to enable this mode which is usually done by the drive mode selector. Check your camera’s user’s manual whether it has such a mode and if so how to enable it.

Shoot in Manual Mode

how to get faster frame rates for digital cameras
Photo By Byron Chin

The camera's exposure meter takes time to figure out the lighting and calculate exposure values depending on the exposure modes chosen and compensation applied and so on. Even though it might only take a microsecond, it still counts. If your subject is already in the frame then meter and set the exposure values manually else set focus and exposure by pointing the camera at something that’s roughly the same distance and is under similar lighting as your subject will be.

Turn Off Flash

If you can make do without it, turn off your flash and it will immediately make things much much faster. No more waiting for the flash to recycle between shots. If it is unavoidable then try setting the flash to lower power settings and compensating by increasing ISO. You'll need to find a balance between these two based on your specific requirements.

Turn off In Camera Processing Functions

Image processing functions like noise reduction, sharpening, colour enhancements etc put extra load on the cameras processor and so should be turned off. There will be plenty of time to do all this later during post processing with more powerful processors that your computers have and also the power of various image editing programs like Adobe Photoshop and Apple Aperture.

Turn Off Instant Preview

digital camera frame rate
Photo By Eduardo Amorim

The instant preview function displays the image you took briefly on the LCD monitor at the back of the camera. Turn off instant preview; there are cameras that don’t allow you to take another picture during the preview period, even if your camera allows it, it is just additional burden on the cameras resources.

Only Shoot in One File Format

Most cameras have the option to capture photos both in RAW and JPEG simultaneously.  But if maximum speed is your goal, stick to shooting in only any one of the formats.

File Size Matters

The larger the file size the longer it takes for the camera to process it and write it to the memory card. Analyze your requirements and set your requirements to the lowest resolution that will serve the purpose.  If your aim is to make a 4*6 inch print out of your pictures there is no need for you to shoot at your cameras maximum resolution of say 21 or 36mega bytes.

Use Fastest Memory Cards Your Camera Can Support

The mantra here is not to buy the fastest card available in the market but to buy the fastest card that your camera can support. As you can easily load a UDMA 6 card in a camera that only supports up to UDMA 5. The card will work just fine, only thing the card costs twice as much as a UDMA 5 card and in that particular camera it will only be as fast as a UDMA 5 card.

One final tip, some memory cards work faster on some cameras than others, look up for speed tests involving your cameras make and model and specific cards and choose the ones that match.

If Everything Else Fails

Photo By Jaybird

If everything else fails, you just can't get the timing of the shutter right and you are still at a loss as to how to figure it out, then there is one quick fix solution which is especially good if you only need lower resolution photos. If your DSLR camera has video recording function, switch to movie mode and record a brief video clip. Later you can pull frames from the video to be used as still photos, only problem is the limited resolution.
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