Definition: Shutter Button

Definition: Shutter Button | Glossary entry

Shutter button; shutter release, ‘release’

The shutter button is the button that is pushed to take a photograph. It is variously also known as the ‘release’ or release button, the shutter release and some other terms.

It is found on the exterior of the camera, normally on the right-hand-side-top. In the modern DSLR the shutter button has an important range of functions.
On a digital SLR camera there is normally a two stage push. The first type of button push is often referred to as the half-push. The button is pressed until a little resistance is felt and pushed no further. At this point a number of possible things can happen according to the context.
If the camera is in…
– sleep mode it will return to operational mode.
– operational mode – auto-focus on, the camera will normally focus.
– menu mode the camera may return to operational mode (dependent on model).
– displaying information on screen it’ll return to operational mode (model dependent).
– displaying a picture, the camera will return to operational mode.
Some cameras may provide other functions.

Some cameras allow the half push to fix the current exposure settings. This is useful for difficult lighting conditions. If the photographer sets the camera to expose for, say, a bright sky then holds the button at half push the current focus and exposure settings will be held. Then the camera can be re-pointed, holding the current settings, at something else for the shot.

So for example an overly bright sky would normally blow out when taking a shot of a person face-on. However, if the bright sky settings are held the sky will expose correctly. The person in the shot will be under-exposed as a consequence of the bright settings for the sky. However, it is possible retrieve the darker foreground exposure of the person later in post-processing if the picture is taken in RAW mode. Alternatively, fill-in flash could lift the foreground light without causing sky to be lost with over brightness.

The full push normally causes the camera to take a photograph. However, this may be modified or ignored according to context. A full press from non-operational modes like picture display or menu display may simply return the camera to operational mode ready to focus (model dependent).

Shutter control can be taken over by a variety of alternative methods. These may be mechanical, electrical or remote.
Mechanical shutter buttons use a mechanical plunger to activate the shutter from a “remote release” button on the end of a flexible tube. The flexible tube allowed less physical contact with the camera reducing movement in the camera during the shot. When pushed the remote button activated a mechanical plunger which released the shutter. In modern digital cameras the shutter is normally released by electrical methods. Mechanical release methods are now rare.

Modern DSLRs and some other cameras allow the shutter to be activated by a plug-in remote button on a wire. The hand-held button on the end of a wire reduces the physical contact the photographer has with the camera (normally tripod mounted). This reduces camera movement when the shot is taken.

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