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What Is Burst Mode and How Should You Use It?

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Burst shooting mode of snowboarder jumping

Every year, cameras seem to get more and more advanced. With one great thing coming out after another, it’s easy to overlook tried and true features on cameras we use every day.

Burst mode is a feature that is often overlooked, but many amateur and professional photographers favor multiple pictures or videos. However, this user-friendly mode on a camera can remove much of the stress associated with taking multiple images with just a single touch of a finger. If you are curious to learn more about burst mode, continue reading.

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Defining Burst Mode?

In burst mode, a photographer can take multiple photographs with a single shutter button press. It is most often used for shoots where there is a large amount of movement, such as sports, weddings, and asking other people to take your photo. The benefit of shooting multiple images in sequence is that the odds of the perfectly timed shot being captured go up drastically.

Burst mode is also synonymous with continuous shooting mode, continuous mode, burst shot, or sports mode.

woman using camera

Image Credit: Piqsels

How Does Burst Mode Work?

To start, you depress the shutter button and hold it down for a short duration. The camera changes from a single shot to multiple images shot in sequence when the button is held down. The camera will continue to take photos until the shutter button is released or the predetermined number of pictures are taken. This rapid succession of shots allows you, the photographer, to select from the best-captured image and or create a sequence of photos showing the subject in a continuous motion.

What Cameras Have the Burst Mode Feature?

Good news! There are several kinds of cameras that are capable of burst mode.

Smartphones

With the technological innovations of smartphones, it’s never been easier to utilize burst mode. Simply open up the camera app, select the kind of photo being taken, and set up for the shot. Once your sights are set, simply depress the shutter button until enough photos are taken.

Once the photos have been taken, smartphones make it incredibly easy to cycle through each image and determine which is the best candidate for you. Select the individual photos you wish to keep because a high volume of photos will take up significant storage. Upon completion, tap “Keep Only Favorites”, deleting all the other unwanted shots. iPhone users may enter their settings and select the camera. Once there, by tapping “Volume Up” for burst, that button may be used instead of the shutter button for burst.

smartphone capturing picture

Image Credit: Piqsels

Overview for Smartphones:
  • 10 fps (frames per second)
  • Multi button control
  • Instant access to photos
  • Large storage capacity

Digital Cameras

Most digital cameras have a burst feature that allows them to take rapid photos in succession. Triggered by pressing down on the shutter button, the camera continuously shoots until the number of images is achieved or the camera runs out of storage.

Because digital cameras have limited storage, it’s important to note that only the highest quality images can be kept. Often with digital cameras, the first in the series of photos may be very blurry, so it’s essential to focus before shooting.

man using digital camera

Image Credit: Roman Samborskyi, Shutterstock

Overview for Digital Cameras:
  • 8 fps
  • Single-button control
  • Instant access to photos
  • Only capable of keeping high-quality photos

GoPro and Action Cameras

The shutter button can be sluggish in GoPro cameras, making it difficult to manipulate in any fast-paced environment. However, this can easily be remedied with burst mode. Because many of the newer models are voice-activated, all you have to do is enter into regular photo mode, click burst mode and specify a burst rate.

woman using GoPro camera

Image Credit: NeagoneFo, Shutterstock

Overview for Action Cameras:
  • 30 fps
  • Voice-activated
  • Delayed access to photos
  • Low storage capacity

Instant

Aside from several conceptualized models, there are no instant cameras that provide a burst mode.

When is Burst Mode Used?

Burst mode is most often used in several facets.

Sports

Finding the right moment with the perfect lighting during a sports event can often be tricky. A still frame photo is often challenging to capture with things moving so rapidly. In burst mode, photographers can depress the shutter button on their phone or camera and have multiple still frames of the proceedings in quick succession.

woman using camera

Image Credit: Billion Photos, Shuterstock

Weddings

Weddings can be filled with once-in-a-lifetime moments that don’t allow for a dozen photos to be snapped over an extended period. Instead of asking the newlyweds to stand still during their first dance or the ring bearer to stop midway up the aisle, burst mode allows the photographer to capture multiple photos of the happenings in quick succession and decide later which is best.

Portrait Photography

There’s plenty of trepidation when asking someone to take your picture. Often, we feel bad asking for a second or third photo because the lighting was off, the wind was blowing, or the angle was terrible. In burst mode, you can get as many images as you would like without feeling as though you are bothering the photographer. Rather than instruct the photographer to put the camera in burst mode, simply set it before handing the camera over and let the shutter button do all the work.

Advantages of Burst Mode
  • Multiple photographs in a condensed time frame
  • The ability to take stills of a high activity event such as sports or weddings.
  • Higher chance of getting the perfect shot
  • Quick series of photos that capture authentic smiles and movements
  • Allows you to capture moments before and after the perfect shot
  • Excellent for animations and flipbooks.
Disadvantages of Burst Mode
  • Consuming vast quantities of data and storage
  • Shortening shutter life

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. Does burst mode reduce the quality of photos?

It does not. Provided the camera remains in focus for every photograph and no variables that would negatively affect a regular photo are present, burst mode photos are the same quality as those taken regularly.

Smartphone Camera

Image Credit: Pexels, Pixabay


2. Does burst mode take up a lot of storage?

It can. While digital cameras require you to sift through each photo taken to determine your favorite and manually delete the rest, iPhones do not. Instead, a burst on an iPhone allows you to select your favorite from the lineup and delete the rest by choosing “Keep Only Favorites”.


3. Can you zoom in or out during burst mode?

Yes. An entire subset of photography is dedicated to zooming out during burst mode to create a unique photographic style. This is called Zoom Burst Photography, and it is achieved by zooming in lenses while the shutter is open. This creates a blur around the object in focus.

Panasonic LUMIX S5 Full Frame Mirrorless Camera

Image Credit: Panasonic, Amazon


4. Can you increase the frames per second in burst mode?

In some cases, yes. It all depends on the type of camera being used.

  • Smartphone: No. While the camera’s fps may be adjusted, the burst mode will remain the same.
  • Digital: In some cases, locating the camera’s drive mode will allow you to go in and adjust both the frames per second and shutter speed to the desired effect.
  • Action: Models usually have multiple settings available, ranging from 3fps to 10fps.

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Final Thoughts

Burst mode is an incredible tool in every photographer’s arsenal, often underutilized in favor of videos or multiple photographs. The ability to capture the moments before and after the perfect shot, the lifelike movements, the high-resolution shots of fast-paced scenery, all of which make excellent photos for animations or flipbooks, demonstrate the effectiveness of burst mode. With as little as the push of a button, the stress of the perfect shot is gone, and you can focus on picking the right one for you.


Featured Image Credit: Lilkin, Shutterstock

About the Author Robert Sparks

Robert’s obsession with all things optical started early in life, when his optician father would bring home prototypes for Robert to play with. Nowadays, Robert is dedicated to helping others find the right optics for their needs. His hobbies include astronomy, astrophysics, and model building. Originally from Newark, NJ, he resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where the nighttime skies are filled with glittering stars.

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