Using continuous shooting mode on your camera is as simple as switching from single shooting mode (S) to continuous (C). Easy as that. Before we get into the creative fun that you can have with continuous shooting mode, let’s look at what it is, how it works, when to use it and things we need to consider when using continuous shooting mode.
What is continuous shooting mode?
Continuous shooting mode is often referred to as “burst mode”, because of the burst of shots you can take with just one press of the shutter.
On some cameras there are different continuous shooting mode settings, such as CL for continuous low and CH for continuous high.
The only difference between these two settings is the number of frames per second that your camera will shoot. Obviously CL will be a lower frame rate than CH. The actual frame rate varies from camera to camera. Your camera’s user manual will be able to tell you about yours.
What affects the frame rate?
A number of factors will affect how fast your camera can write images to your card. If you want to speed up the frame rate:
- shoot in JPEG instead of RAW (although I wouldn’t want to do that, but it is a factor)
- make sure that the write speed of your card is fast
- increase the size of your camera’s buffer – not that you can change it without spending a fortune on a new camera, but it is a factor
- switch off your camera’s noise reduction
- switch off your vibration reduction (or Image Stabilisation)
- use a low ISO setting
- set autofocus to continuous, so that the camera doesn’t have to refocus between shots
When to use continuous shooting mode?
I definitely don’t think it’s a good idea to use continuous shooting mode for a normal situation. It would be the “spray and pray” method of just shooting like mad and hoping something will be in focus and look good. You’ll never learn to master your camera or composition, but you will spend a huge amount of time on the computer working through mountains of images.
There is a time and a place to use continuous shooting mode.
The most obvious ideal time to use continuous shooting mode is when your subject is moving, or you’re moving. If your subject is running towards you, a high continuous frame rate setting (CH) is better than a low continuous frame rate setting (CL).
By shooting in continuous mode, with your autofocus set to continuous, you will be able to follow the action and make sure you don’t miss that perfect moment. It’s ideal for sports photography and photographing dancers, as well as photographing busy kids or dogs being happy, galloping dogs.
Here’s a handy cheat sheet to download if you’re not sure of focus area modes.
Get your focus cheat sheet here >>
Enter your email to grab your FREE focus cheat sheet and weekly tips.
(We'll protect your email address like we protect our cameras!)
Success! You'll be hearing from us. You might need to check your spam folder and "unspam" us.
For help with focus, check out these two tutorials:
4 continuous shooting mode points to consider
Of course, there is a bit more to think about when using all this wonderful wizardry.
1. Getting carried away
The more photographs you take, the longer it will take to load all the images to your computer and the more time you will spend on your computer selecting the right one. Some people are better at culling images from a shoot than others, but many struggle.
If you find that you are not great at choosing the best of the best fast, save yourself the frustration and be conscious of how much you’re shooting at the time.
Another point worth knowing is that, with your camera recording so many images so quickly, they won’t have a chance to load to the card straight away. So when you stop shooting, images will still be loading to the card.
This is the camera’s buffering system at work, holding onto the photo until it can load. It’s worth knowing that, when the buffer has reached its limit, you won’t be able to continue photographing until the images have been written to the memory card. It won’t take long, but you’ll have to pause for a moment.
3. Warning light
When the camera is buffering, a light similar to the one on this particular camera model will flash. As the images are still loading to the card, don’t switch off or try to take the card out until it has finished buffering and the light goes off.
4. Not all cameras are equal
Also, not all cameras allow you to just keep photographing. So, your camera might restrict the number of shots you can take when in continuous shooting mode.
The same goes for memory cards. Better quality, fast memory cards will handle continuous shooting mode far better than lower quality, slower memory cards.
3 fun uses for continuous shooting modes
Here’s the good news. Continuous shooting mode opens up avenues for getting creative!
1. Capture personality
Cranking up the energy and getting somebody in front of the lens to let go and have some fun is the perfect way to bring out personality in a shoot.
This is when (CL) low continuous shooting mode is best.
2. Create a gif
Put something different on your social media with a self made gif. You can create a little movie by uploading a burst of images to gifmaker.me, then download the gif ready for use.
Depending on the situation and subject, you could use either (CL) low continuous or (CH) high continuous.
3. Create multiple images of action in one photo
If you mount your camera on a tripod while your subject performs an action, you can later combine the images into one in Photoshop to show the various stages of the action. An example would be a skateboarder performing tricks, or a diver performing a complex dive from the high board. Anything that moves – let your imagination come up with some interesting scenarios and see what you can achieve.
I’d use the high continuous shooting mode (CH) in this instance.
If you have any questions about using high or low continuous shooting mode, let us know in the comments.
Also, we love good news, so if our shooting mode tips have helped you to understand how to use continuous shooting mode creatively, share that too.