Shutter Lag Doesn’t Have to be Fatal When You Point-and-Shoot

One of the biggest annoyances that photographers have to suffer with is “Shutter Lag.” Particularly common in point-and-shoot cameras this is what occurs when the shutter button is pressed and there’s a delay before the pictures is actually taken.

Shutter lag is very noticeable when timing is critical, say, at a sports event with a lot of action. You see the shot you want, the shutter is pressed, and by the time the camera snaps the shot your image is something totally irrelevant. It can mean the difference between a photo that works for you and one that does not. (Shown at top is one of the better shots that were captured using a point and shoot digital camera that demonstrated excessive shutter lag.)

A friend called and provided an open invitation to see his brand new digital point-and-shoot. To check out its performance attention was given to the bird nest located in a bush outside his house. Trying to time it to get the best visual impact when the mama bird was feeding the small ones was challenging. Image after image  proved to be one disappointment after another due to shutter lag. In order to get photos that were more desired a technique known as “pre-focusing” was required. You can do this by pointing the camera where you want it to focus and squeezing the shutter in halfway. When the action occurs continue to press the shutter all the way down. (See Tips Below.)

(Notice the difference between the two images. In the second one the effect of shutter lag caused the moment of impact to be lost.)


Generally speaking, the less expensive the digital cameras the more noticeable shutter lag. While this is not always true it is more of a rule-of-thumb. Most manufacturers say that to improve shutter lag can add significant costs to the manufacturing. These additional expenses are always passed to the consumer. In reality,  companies merely want potential customers to upgrade or buy more expensive interchangeable cameras that don’t suffer from this. Of course, that means that a customer won’t stop with just the camera body and one lens. You’ll probably buy an external flash as well as more lenses, too.

In the meantime, there are things that you can do with your point-and-shoot cameras. These tips may certainly help your game.

I. Point and shoot cameras generally will not let you take a picture unless it has auto-focused first. The more difficulty there is to focus the longer it will take to get the shot. So, press the shutter halfway and get it focused. Keep the shutter slightly depressed to keep the camera “focused.” If you release the shutter before taking the picture you will have to focus again.

Once you subject is in focus depress the shutter all the way to get the picture.

II. If you’re shooting something like sports pre-focus on an area of the field where you think or anticipate the action will occur. Find the spot, keep the shutter pressed halfway down to lock the focus. When the action comes to that spot go ahead and press the shutter button all the way down. It takes a little practice but after a while you can improve your shots.

III. a point-and-shoot camera focuses best in bright light or when photographing brightly lit subjects. The faster the camera can focus the quicker you can get your shot.

IV. If your camera has a Sports Mode, or any other mode that can apply, be sure to use it to your advantage. This tells the camera you want the shutter to get the priority/advantage when taking photos. Some Sports Modes actually let you take a sequence of 3 or more images in a burst just by pressing the shutter one time!

(Shown is the Sports Mode icon.)

V. Always keep your camera loaded with fresh or newly recharged batteries. When batteries get weak any camera slows down in performance.

VI. Lastly, look at cameras that cost more, such as DSLRs or Digital SLR cameras that accept a multitude of different lenses and accessories. They are designed with a wide variety of shooting styles in mind.

One Response to “Shutter Lag Doesn’t Have to be Fatal When You Point-and-Shoot”

Read below or add a comment...