A key component in your equipment is power.
Without power your camera stops. The battery is a most important link in the workflow of your shoot. Get it wrong, the shoot comes to an abrupt end. Here are some ways to make your battery power go further.
Cut the display time
The biggest drain on your battery is that big screen on the back of your camera. Modern LCD screens are pretty efficient compared to early models. They still use a lot of power. To cut power consumption reduce the time your shot shows on-screen. Most cameras are set to eight or ten seconds which is mostly a waste of power. Four seconds is plenty of time for a quick preview. You can easily pull the picture up to look again. The occasional ‘extra-look’ uses much less power than an extra four or six seconds of un-viewed screen time after every shot.
It makes sense to use screens less for other tasks. Where you can, use the viewfinder. Using ‘live-view’ is a really heavy drain on the battery. During live-view the screen is always-on. Also, if you have a DSLR, live view holds up the mirror. That too is a drain on the battery. Double whammy!
Here is another reason to use the viewfinder. The live-view screen shows much less contrast than your eye sees through the viewfinder. You cannot expect to frame a great shot when you can’t see the principle guide to ‘depth’ in your picture. Yup! Live view actually disables your ability to produce a great shot. Go figure!
If you have not heard the term ‘chimping’ yet, I wrote about it in “Examine Shots Before Shooting Again – Chimping“. Resist the temptation to re-examine every shot. Learn to trust your judgement. I am a great believer in chimping, but once you have your shot pattern and settings correct you only need to re-examine shots if you change things. Again, you will be saving battery charge.
Most cameras have a power-saving mode. Check your manual. Normally power saving mode will shut your camera down after a set period. It goes to sleep until recalled. Set power-saving mode to a reasonable time, say, 30 seconds or less. That can save a lot of power. Many cameras are set for a minute as default.
Cameras continuously monitor movement through the lens in continuous auto-focus mode. That mode is for times when your subject might move or is moving. If shooting still shots turn this off. Otherwise, the camera continuously hunts for focus, unnecessarily using power. If you’re using a tripod, continuous hunting for focus also causes vibration. You will actually soften your shot by running this mode on a tripod.
Pop-up or on-camera flash auto-mode
Pop-up flash is a really bad light. It also uses a lot of power. Sometimes you need it, most of the time you don’t. Turn it off, or use its manual mode. Then it will not fire when least expected, or when not needed.
Another point here… use an off-camera flash. It has an independent power supply. That way you can cater separately for the flash, get better control of your light and control the main battery power.
Lifting the mirror in a DSLR takes power. So does holding it open in some models. So, if you are using mirror lock-up mode then use it sparingly. “Mirror lock-up” is one of the pro-techniques for sharp shots. It is really worth knowing about, but, be prepared for battery strain.
Turn off your camera
I have done it myself. Left the camera on in the bag. Not generally a problem – auto-power-save sets for sleep after 30 seconds – right? Wrong. Beware ‘shutter-button gremlin’. Depress the shutter half way, it wakes the camera. My friend charged his battery overnight then took a four hour coach ride. The vehicle vibration continuously pushed the button against his bag. No battery left for the wedding! Disaster. Turn your camera off before bagging it.
It’s a fact. Batteries use more power in cold conditions. Keep Your camera warm. Under your coat, in a warm car or engine compartment – anywhere. It helps keep things moving in the camera, preserving battery life.
Batteries get damaged or gremlins strike. Pro-photogs carry at least one spare, often a charger too. Hobbyists often don’t. One spare and some of the other techniques here will give you a decent shoot even if one battery had been used/damaged/lost. A spare is your cover.
Prolonged storage can can cause batteries to break down. It’s prudent to remove batteries from the camera in storage.You don’t risk damage to your camera and can easily do a periodic recharge. I recommend you use and battery recharge batteries at least three times a year. Also, protect batteries from damp, chemicals, corrosives and contamination – especially salt. Protect them from hard impacts too. They can split and won’t work afterwards.
Batteries, including rechargeable ones, have a fixed lifespan. At the first sign they are not holding a full charge dump them and buy a new one. Some batteries fail rapidly. You don’t want to be caught at that ‘special wedding’ when the battery ran down after twenty minutes? Keep your spares in use. Swap it/them regularly with the working batter. One other tip… permanently mark every battery with the purchase date. It’ll keep tabs on its replacement age.
Look after your batteries and they will give you great service and long shoots.