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    What is burst mode and how can it benefit your photography?


    The post What is burst mode and how can it benefit your photography? first appeared at Digital Photography School. It was written by Megan Kennedy.

    When it comes to photography, timing can be anything. Whether you’re shooting a fast car or a static landscape, knowing when to press the shutter button is paramount. But the average human response time to a visual stimulus is 0.25 seconds, making it difficult to capture short opportunities. Fortunately, when frantically pressing the shutter button just doesn’t cut it, there’s burst mode.

    Let’s take a quick look at burst mode and see how it can benefit your photography.

    burst mode photography 737
    Burst mode is great for capturing fast-moving subjects. 1 / 250s | f / 9 | ISO 160

    What is burst mode?

    Burst mode is also known as continuous shooting mode or high speed continuous mode. It is a camera function that allows you to quickly take a series of photos. When burst mode is activated, a photographer can hold down the shutter button and the camera takes multiple photos, minimizing the interval between shots.

    burst mode photography cockatoo
    I used burst mode to capture this moment of a cockatoo eating grass seed. 1 / 8000s | f / 5.6 | ISO 500

    When is burst mode used?

    The burst mode can be used at any time, but is especially useful for fast-moving subjects and fleeting opportunities. Burst mode captures moments much faster than manually capturing an event frame by frame. This increases the chance of taking successful photos of momentary moments.

    What is burst mode and how can it benefit your photography?
    Holding with extension tubes can be tricky. Using burst mode is a way to increase the ratio of sharp macro images. 1/100 s | f / 6.3 | ISO 100

    Burst mode is often thought of as a setting best suited for shooting high-action sports events. But street photographers can use the mode, for example, to anticipate interesting photographic opportunities. Burst mode is also great for macro and wildlife photography and for capturing the nuanced expressions of subjects in portraits.

    How to use burst mode

    Activating burst mode may vary depending on the camera. For my Canon 5D Mark II, I activate continuous shooting by pressing the dedicated AF • DRIVE button on my camera and selecting continuous shooting on the main screen with the quick select button. If you are unsure how to activate burst mode, consult your manual or look online.

    burst mode icon on a Canon 5D mk II camera
    The burst mode icon displayed on a Canon 5D MK II. 1/60 years | f / 9 | ISO 500

    Also, if burst mode is on, make sure to set the correct focus mode. For burst mode photography, it is best to shoot in continuous focus mode. Known as AI Servo on Canon and AF-C on Nikon, continuous focus will follow constantly moving objects, helping to maintain sharp focus while burst mode is activated.

    Finally, set your camera settings (shutter speed, aperture and ISO) accordingly and you are good to go! Focus on a subject, press the shutter button, and the camera will burst images as long as the shutter button is held down (to a certain extent; see below).

    The technical bits of burst mode

    There are a few aspects that determine the performance of continuous shooting. The speed of a camera’s burst mode can largely depend on the camera itself. While some cameras operate at two or three frames per second (fps), high-end cameras can perform at 8+ fps per burst.

    In addition, burst mode photos are saved to a recording buffer before being transferred to your memory card. The size of the camera’s recording buffer and memory card determines how long you can shoot in burst mode and the writing speed of the pictures taken. For example, with a UDMA card, my Canon 5D Mark II can record a burst of 310 large JPEG files.

    Burst mode at
    Burst mode is good for capturing fleeting moments. 1/160 | f / 6.3 | ISO 400

    However, if I want to shoot in RAW, the buffer has the capacity for 13 images per burst with a UDMA card. This is important to know when planning a shot, as the requirement for a longer burst depends on your willingness to shoot in JPEG.

    Another option to improve the length of a burst is to change the camera’s settings per second. Not all cameras have this option. However, if you select a slower burst mode, your burst will last longer, but with a longer interval between each shot.

    An additional aspect to take into account when using burst mode is the battery life. Shooting in burst mode can shorten battery life faster than single frame shooting. If you plan to use burst mode regularly during a shot, it may be wise to bring an extra battery or two.


    Whether you’re shooting a family portrait with active kids, capturing a flock of birds in flight or covering a sporting event, the burst mode can capture the moments you would otherwise miss in a single shot. By putting your camera in burst mode, you can anticipate events and take a series of shots without worrying so much about response time.

    The post What is burst mode and how can it benefit your photography? first appeared at Digital Photography School. It was written by Megan Kennedy.

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