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One of the biggest complaints about digital cameras has always been shutter lag. Even if you’ve never heard the term before you’ve probably experienced shutter lag: that annoying delay between the time you press the button and the time the camera actually takes the picture. While it seldom takes much longer than a second, it can mean the difference between a great, crisp image and a blurry picture of someone’s back.

Shutter lag is a big problem when trying to take time-sensitive pictures, but it can even be an aggravation when taking group photos because people don’t maintain a pose for long, especially kids. Fortunately there are a few different ways to conquer shutter lag, or more accurately, to work around it.

The most obvious solution is to buy a digital camera that has short shutter lag times. Digital camera technology has advanced enough that many cameras have a shutter lag time of less than half a second, and some have even reduced it to nearly a tenth of a second. This will automatically reduce some of the problems with shutter lag, especially in most normal situations.

Another important tactic, no matter what kind of camera you have, is to anticipate a shot. If you know what kind of lighting and setting you will take the picture in, you can use some of the presets programmed into the camera to prepare for the shot. If the camera is already set up for a certain scenario, it will take the sensors less time to set up the camera for the shot. While the benefits of doing this will only be fractions of a second, it may make the difference between a throwaway shot and a keeper.

By far the easiest fix for reducing shutter lag in a digital camera is to use the prefocus feature. Most cameras allow you to press the button down halfway in preparation for a shot. This causes the camera to set the focus and lighting sensors before you actually take the shot. When you do press the button, the shot will be taken almost instantaneously because the camera has already gone through many of the processes required to take a photo. The major drawback in using the prefocus feature is that you need to know where and how far away the subject of your picture will be. This is no problem if your subject is holding still, but if you are trying to capture a picture of someone in a race, you’ll need to have planned ahead before your subject is in view. One simple trick is to point the camera at something that is the same distance from you as your subject will be and hold the button halfway down. If you continue to hold the button halfway down, the camera will stay set to take a picture of anything at that particular distance.

While you can’t always anticipate every shot, practicing with your camera will help you adjust to its particular shutter lag. After a while you will be able to take shutter lag into account without thinking about it.

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