What is a Remote Shutter Release? Everything You Need to Know

This is a guide covering remote shutter releases.

In this glossary definition you’ll learn about:

At first glance, the remote shutter release is just a tiny addition that every photographer owns. It looks so unessential that you wouldn’t even notice its absence, right?

Unfortunately, you’re wrong. Remote shutter releases have been one of the most essential pieces of kit since the early days of photography!

Let’s dive in.

remote shutter release

What is a Remote Shutter Release?

The vast majority of photographers will always carry their beloved remote shutter release in their bag. Photographers that have just entered the scene are also placing this item as their “must-buy” list. So, what does it do?

Well, the remote shutter release definition is a remote trigger that can be connected to your camera using a cable or wirelessly to remotely release the shutter. Quite self-explanatory indeed, the equipment lets you capture images without physically touching the shutter button.

Physically touching the shutter button is quite troublesome. The trigger will only take photos after being pressed and release, which is the biggest problem since you don’t want the slightest camera shake.

The ability to take a shot without physically touching the camera will greatly reduce potential shaking, making the item essential in every photographer’s arsenal. It comes in two forms, tethered and untethered. Both of them have their own advantages and disadvantages, which you can read more about below.

remote shutter release
Photo by Anete Lusina

How Does a Remote Shutter Release Work?

The steps and knowledge required to use a remote shutter release are not that high. It all starts from you setting up your shot/frame by mounting your camera onto a tripod or stable surface. Only after mounting should you run through your camera settings.

In general, photographers would go into the manual mode and start changing the settings to meet their needs. Since they’re using a remote release, they’re most likely to set their camera to a slower aperture and slow their shutter speed down to match it.

Sometimes, they will also use bulb mode if the landscape/lightings are quite dark.

For your information, some camera models have instant access to bulb mode, while other models will automatically go into bulb mode after exceeding the 30-second mark. After achieving your aperture and shutter speed, now you just need to press the button.

When using the Cable shutter release, the control becomes really streamlined and simple. You just press the remote shutter release button and you’re done.

Why Use a Remote Shutter Release?

The remote shutter release definition clearly explains its reason for existence. You will easily remove one of the human errors that might affect your images. The device is so handy, it makes professional photographers rest easy without worrying that their images will turn into a blurry mess.

If you fiddle with your camera’s settings long enough, you’ll soon realize that shooting under high magnification and slow shutter speed is very prone towards camera shakes. Even the most delicate hands would risk the quality of the images.

And imagine that shaking problem is gone, all with a click of a button. Regardless of the remote shutter release being tethered or not, will help you achieve high-quality and shake-free images in a single try.

This piece of equipment will easily aide beginner photographers in mastering shooting without any camera shakes. This item also saves the professional photographer valuable time, which would otherwise be used to retake the image.

Besides the camera, remote shutters will also help you take images that use a slow shutter speed, high magnification, and even high-speed events. A water drop, lightning striking the ground, or a car speedily passing by can be easily captured by using a specialized remote shutter release.

Before purchasing a remote shutter release, it is important to learn the compatibility of both your camera with its remote release.

camera on tripod
Photo by Anete Lusina

What is an Untethered Shutter Release?

First comes the modern-ish shutter release, with no strings attached (quite literally). It can easily connect to your camera by using infrared or Bluetooth. So how compatible is it with other camera models?

Generally, manufacturers will always provide information about the model’s compatibility with devices. So, give that a check before buying.

You may think that an untethered shutter release would be a no brainer purchase, right?

Despite the superior flexibility and versatility in many situations, it still has a huge caveat. The fact is that it is expensive and you will need to carry batteries. Similar to every Bluetooth device, the batteries will run out pretty fast. Make sure to bring more batteries than you would usually need, especially for those long outdoor photography sessions.

So, what can the untethered shutter release do?

Firstly, the most important advantage is its ability to let the photographer be in the frame. There will always be that one moment where one group member is excluded from the photo, just to take it. Sometimes they can just use a timer, but what if you’re in a rush? Luckily, the convenience of this remote release lets you pose comfortably and take the photo easily.

Secondly, you can take sights that would otherwise be impossible to take. This applies to shooting wildlife animals that actively avoid or attack humans on sight. This gadget will allow you to take tricky and dangerous shots at a safe distance.

What is a Tethered Shutter Release?

The tethered release is also widely known as “cable release.” It is essentially a remote release that is connected to your camera via USB. This option is friendlier towards your budget as it is the more affordable alternative.

Your first decision when purchasing the tethered release will be the brand or model, followed by the length. Short cables will start from 4 to 6 inches, while the longer cables can span over 5 feet.

In this particular case, yes, longer is certainly better. The main reason behind photographers purchasing remote releases is to reduce physical contact.

This is because physical contact would potentially shake the camera and result in blurry images. Longer cables will lessen the probability of you shaking your camera and getting blurry photos.

The only disadvantage of the tethered shutter release is the length. Having a 5 feet long tethered shutter release is surely beneficial for your photo shoot, but is it practical? Dragging a 5 feet long cable will take up a lot of space in your bag, not to mention the weight too.

When Should You Use A Remote Shutter Release?

Yes, you can use your remote shutter release excessively for every single occasion. Fortunately, there are also other situations where the usage of the remote shutter release becomes extremely useful.

1. Shooting timid, aggressive, or dangerous animals

Photographing animals may be impractical and outright dangerous to both your equipment and life. This is the moment for your ridiculously long cable shutter release to shine! Wildlife photographers will often set up their cameras on a tripod near the subject or areas where they are usually sighted.

Set up some bait and wait for your subject to come into action.

animal photography
Photo by Pixabay

2. Slow shutter speeds because of the low light

This is quite obvious. Thanks to the concept of exposure, we need a longer shutter speed to catch more light. The longer the shutter speed, the more light comes in, the brighter the image becomes.

Sadly, all of this will be ruined if your camera shakes ever so slightly. Further emphasizing the importance of a remote shutter release.

3. Slow shutter speed to intentionally catch motion blur or “light painting”

Sometimes, photographers want to add a sense of moving to our still object/subject. The best way to do this is by light painting or the incorporation of motion blur. This can be done by moving bright objects around your object/subject while using a slow shutter speed.

You can literally draw with lights or capture the “city that never sleeps” themed image by using vehicle tail-lights as the source of light.

light painting
Photo by Pixabay

4. Exposure Bracketing or Shooting in multiple exposures

Taking images of landscapes will often expose you to the blinding light and pitch-black areas. To recover these scenes, they will usually use exposure bracketing. The method captures a scene at different exposures, one under-exposed, one correctly exposed, and the last one overexposed.

These three images will then be combined into one image by taking the best looking parts from each shot. It’s important that the camera doesn’t move or shake at all, making the presence of a remote shutter release very important.

Final Remarks

This article discussed “what is a remote shutter release” and here is the recap of it:

  • The remote shutter release definition is a shutter release that removes physical contact from the original shutter lens on a camera. They will be either tethered (cable) or non-tethered (wireless).
  • A remote shutter release works just like your shutter release button. Some of the expensive ones will have a few little add-ons depending on its type.
  • It is recommended to use one since it can save you from retaking shots, getting attacked by an animal, or scaring away timid subjects. This equipment allows you to take images from a safe place without risking shaking the camera and your life.
  • Untethered is basically your tv remote, but it controls your camera. They are a luxury and quite expensive, but they do have interesting features that may aid your photographing journey.
  • Tethered is essentially the cheaper remote shutter releases. They may be heavy depending on the length of the cable you chose, but they serve as a cheaper alternative that does just as well as its untethered brother does.
  • You can use this item in many situations. Starting from photographing at low-light conditions, wildlife, light painting via slow shutter speeds, exposure bracketing and many more.

A little investment for a future full of shake-free images. There will always be a product that matches your camera model, and using it is quite simple too! I hope that this article successfully explained all the nook and crannies about remote shutter releases to you.

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