How, When and Why To Use Burst Mode

Most cameras, even point and shoots, have the option of taking photos in burst mode (also called continuous mode) What this mode allows you to do is to take several shots in rapid succession and is very useful for action shots, such as jumping or sports, when it's hard to press the shutter at the exact moment you need. I use it for action shots - so for things like jumping, or running or even dancing. This way I know I can make sure that I have the  "perfect" moment captured!

How To Get Burst Mode on Your Camera

Burst / Continuous Mode is usually not set as standard on your camera, so you'll need to go into your camera settings to turn it on - where it is located on your camera is different for everyone I'm afraid! In both Canon and Nikon DSLR's you will probably find a choice of modes - you can select single frame shooting mode which just gives you one photo at a time (this is standard) or you can change it to continuous low (CL) or continuous high (CH).   

In continuous low,  your camera will take three or four images quite slowly,  with a small delay in between each one.  In high speed continuous, it's like rapid fire - you keep your finger on the shutter and it will reel over a huge number of images one after the other. 

I personally have mine set to High - I find that is much better at capturing motion images that the Low version. 

How Many Images Can I Take In Burst Mode?

How many images you can take each time in burst mode is determined by your camera. For example, my old point and shoot would only take 3 photos in a row but my DSLR will take a lot more,  and also how quickly each shot can be taken.  Your camera also determines how quickly you an take each shot. This is your frames per second, and the more expensive your camera is, the more likely you are to get a higher amount - obviously the quicker the camera can take the image, the more chance you have of capturing the moment you wanted! As a whole, point and shoots tend to quite slow but DSLR's are generally much faster. 

Sounds Good! What's the catch? 

There are a couple of downsides to using burst mode. The first is that after taking a few shots on burst mode, your camera will stop for a moment or two to process these photos onto the memory card. This is called buffering. It can be a total pest to have to wait for your camera to catch up, and can sometimes defeat the purpose - you have to stop taking photos to allow those ones taken on burst mode to be processed. (It does help enormously to have a memory card with a decent write speed, such as the SanDisk Extreme Pro) In addition, you will find yourself having to weed through a number of photos to get one "keeper', especially if you go a bit mad with it, so for these reasons I would recommend only using it when you need to (rather than a "click and hope" method!) and also only try to take only three or four frames at a time, trying to anticipate the action instead of reacting to it. At least, as much as you can anticipate what a crazed four year old will do anyway!

using burst mode

When To Use Burst Mode 

Use burst mode whenever there is high speed action, and it's going to be difficult to press the shutter at the exact moment you need.  Things like running, jumping, dancing and so on are all good candidates for using burst mode! 

Remember that when taking photographs of action, you are going to need to be extra careful with your focusing - you can read the following tips on Getting Sharp Pictures with Moving Subjects that you will find helpful! 

P.S This is just one setting on your camera that can make a difference - there are a few more! You can learn exactly what settings to use in my step by step program, Auto to Awesome