Tag Archives: Spare battery

Can you really trust your camera battery? 12 ways to protect against battery failure.

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.

Live view

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.

Power-saving mode

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.

Continuous auto-focus

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.

Mirror lock-up

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.

Battery care

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.

Ten important additions to your camera bag

After camera and lenses your camera bag should hold some other essentials.

The things you need are not always obvious. But things happen when out shooting. Some extra items in your bag help you to carry on without a hitch.

What people commonly carry in their camera bags

Well, camera and lens(es), of course, but also most people carry something to wipe the lenses clean and possibly a tripod. The latter being the third most important piece of photography equipment. Lots of people also carry an off-camera flash too – it is much more useful than the on-board flash.

Items that might save the day…

Here are some things that when the chips are down you will find most useful to have in your camera bag.
Spare battery: Everyone should have a spare battery or batteries. Batteries can be a problem for many reasons. I dropped one onto concrete once when trying to put it into the camera after charging. It split – and, well, it took three hours to buy another one. That was most of my shooting time gone. I learned a lesson there!
Modelling putty: or something similar. A small spot of putty can be used to stick things down while you photograph them. Wedding photogs use it for holding the rings in place for the ring shot. But there are dozens of other on-location reasons for holding something in a particular position. Small and easily hidden the putty can do the job and be out of sight. You can buy it in craft shops or there are sticky putty packs for putting pictures on walls. That works too.
Memory Cards: These get old and sometimes fail to work. If you get an error on your camera check the card. It may be the cause. They are also easily lost, damaged and stolen. You may lose your pictures, but if you have spare(s) on hand you can at least shoot some more. Check out theses articles for more on memory cards…
20 Ways to Protect Files on Memory Cards (Part 1)
20 Ways to Protect Files on Memory Cards (Part 2)
Always keep more than one memory card. I actually carry quite a few and rotate them. Memory cards on Amazon
Light modifier: if you use a pop-up flash or an off-camera flash you should have a way to diffuse or deflect light from the flash. It is often the case that you will want to create fill in light, especially on a bright day. It counteracts the contrast created by strong ambient light. A modifier can also be used to create deflected or diffused light for portraits. This helps to avoid nasty highlights or washed out colour on the face.
Two clothes pegs (clothes pins): I use these for a number of things. Most often I use them to pin back my camera neck strap when the camera is on a tripod. This stops the strap from blowing in the wind which reduces the vibration. However, they are also great for hanging reflectors up or clipping back wires so they don’t catch on things and damage the wire.
Remote button release: (essential) If you want your tripod shots to be sharp you will definitely want to be able to fire your camera without touching it. A cable release, or hand-held remote are quite cheap items and will make your shots sharper by a long way.
Spare lens caps: Lens and end caps for your camera are small, light and fit in a bag tucked away. If you lose one you will have to put your precious lens into the bag without a cap – against that harsh material. You can bet your lenses will be scratched. No fear if you have spares.

Macro extension tubes: You can buy them for most cameras. They weigh ounces, fit into a small place and are quickly fitted to any lens. They extend your capacity to be able to do macro work without carrying big, heavy and expensive lenses. They cost remarkably little and can be bought online. A full range of macro tubes can be found on Amazon for all cameras.

Camera manual: My dad used to say, “If all else fails, read the instructions!”. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard. So keep your camera manual on hand. You never know when you need to use one of its functions and don’t know how. Or, this classic… your camera shows an error and you don’t know how to get out of it. The manual tells it all.
Compass/sunshine calculator: OK, this one is not for everyone. But I always carry a compass when out taking landscapes. You never know when you are going to get caught in fog, or just lost off-road. My compass is also set into a small card used to calculate sun angles so I can calculate sunset or dawn times. Again, not for everyone. But I like to be prepared!

There are probably some other wonderful things we could carry. If you have an essential item you think we should know about please leave a comment!