Is there any harm in leaving my camera in high speed burst even when it's not specifically required? Will it have a negative affect on my photos when I'm not shooting action shot, such as portraits and so on?

Currently using the Canon 7D, but I don't think it would hurt to point out if certain cameras perform worse than others.

  • A some what related question: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/7009/… – Vian Esterhuizen May 6 '11 at 16:26
  • 17
    One downside of leaving it on burst mode is that if you hand someone else your camera to take a photo you'll end up getting about fifty! – Matt Grum May 6 '11 at 18:30
  • 2
    There is no downside. – dpollitt May 6 '11 at 21:26
  • 4
    I'm curious as to what additional information @ChrisFletcher is looking for beyond what has already been stated... – Jay Lance Photography May 8 '11 at 21:44
  • Yeah, I'm not sure if @ChrisFletcher is looking for more technical facts or what he's after ... – Vian Esterhuizen May 9 '11 at 15:27

12 Answers 12


Remember, the camera is engineered around the 'burst mode'. The shutter box, mechanics, and computer+buffer are designed to enable and function at 8 frames per second. The electronics can handle even higher throughput of 30 frames per second, but of course without the mechanics of the shutterbox involved.

So there would not be any 'downsides' to keeping the camera in a mode for which it is designed. Shoot away, have fun.

About the only thing I can imagine might be a downside is unintentionally taking extra frames you did not want, and therefore shortening the life of the shutter by a bit each time. Still, the 7D has a 150,000 shot shutter, so it will take a while.

  • 1
    I like that you mention the camera is designed to function at that high speed. Never quite looked at it in that perspective. – Vian Esterhuizen May 9 '11 at 21:49
  • Well, if you are using external flash, you better turn burst mode off. that's the only downside – Bick May 14 '11 at 8:28

A related problem: just because you're intentionally in burst mode and ready to take a burst of shots, you shouldn't necessarily do it always. A less-important burst might make you miss out on a more-important burst.

On digital cameras, there's a "burst buffer" that queues up a series of shots for internal processing. If you take more shots than this buffer can handle, the camera will reduce the speed/frequency of subsequent frames until it can clear the buffer.

More than once, I've filled my buffer on a "hey, that's neat" burst, then kicked myself as I missed a "woah, that's awesome" burst.

Lower-end digital cameras have smaller buffers, so this problem becomes more pronounced.

  • 1
    Very good point. I've run into the same issue starting a burst too early and filling up the buffer before the sequence reaches its peak. – Vian Esterhuizen May 6 '11 at 16:25
  • 4
    This is a good point, but doesn't really answer the question. If you hadn't had your camera in burst mode, you would've had no chance of getting the "woah" shot at all. – Hank May 7 '11 at 18:47
  • @Henry: Yup, it's definitely tangential to the specific question asked. However, I figured it was a decent place to bring it up: having your camera in burst mode doesn't do you any good if you can't use the burst mode when you want it. – Craig Walker May 7 '11 at 18:52

Not really - even on non action shots I fire off a couple and usually find that my 2nd or 3rd shot in is the sharpest.

The biggest problem now is that you have 2-3 times the number of pictures to go through in post if you took more than you would have normally taken because of this. Its time consuming and its time you could be spending taking more pictures.

Of course taking more, also eats up more shutter clicks if thats something that bothers you.


You did not say which camera you have and that makes a huge difference.

On most DSLRs, you will not encounter any downsides if your camera is set to Focus Priority other than the volume of photos as @rfusca said. If it is set to Release-Priority you may get out-of-focus shots.

On compact cameras, the burst-mode often turns off preview and you end up following action with the image of the previous frame rather than a live-preview. This makes it extremely difficult to follow a moving subject.

Some cameras adjust the way they unload the buffer to be able to shoot continuously and you will notice that the post-shot review takes longer to appear.


I gave up on automatic burst modes when I realized that even with 5 to 10 fps, there's still plenty of time between each shot when shooting e.g. fast paced sports action. For that reason alone, I think it's better to learn to anticipate the moment and press the shutter manually. I think you have much better chances at capturing great shots this way.

When you anticipate the moment, you also have better time to verify the focus and exposure settings are right when you go from half-press to full press on the shutter button.

With a little practice, you can manually shoot several times per second, enough to fill the buffer when shooting in RAW.


One downside I experienced was: When I did not want to shoot multiple pictures, I had to release the shutter right after pressing it. No problem, until I remarked that I did not hold the camera as steady as before anymore since my hand was already prepared to release the shutter.

I usually keep Sigle Frame mode where I do not need to worry whether my finger rests another part of a second on the shutter button in order to stabilize the camera.


Unintentional bursts, which I do on occasion. In turn, this can mess with your flashes (they have to struggle to keep up with the shutter).

However, I haven't noticed much of a problem in image quality with this.

There's also the consequence of those extra & unnecessary frames you shoot. On digital, they're an annoyance. On film, that's real money you're burning.

By and large, these aren't a big deal for me, and so I leave my camera in burst most of the time. I'd prefer to throw away an occasional (digital) redundant photo than miss a high-speed sequence because I wasn't in burst mode already.

  • Yeah, I feel the same. I'd rather deal with the annoyance and I've never specifically noticed an issue with image quality, I just wanted to know if there's something I'm missing. – Vian Esterhuizen May 6 '11 at 16:15

I find burst mode a bit distracting if taking photos in a controlled environment (shooting). The camera shoots without you really being able to control what it shoots. That is when I use the slow burst mode (D90) - with two pictures a second I really can capture a pose redundant and can stop soon enough if it differs from what I like.

Downside: (subjective) loss of control over photo.

Concerning sports I side with Kim Burgaard post - I discovered fast that anticipated photos always were better than burst mode-series. I really use burst mode only if I really don't know what to expect at all.

Downside: not giving best results in predictable high-speed situations.

(By "I really use" I do mean: burst mode is on nearly all the time, but I snap only one picture and depress again in most situations. Only in unknown situations I keeping pressing for burst.)

Upside: You don't have to burst shoot in burst mode ;)


I use the camera in burst mode (nearly) all the time. I don't always shoot bursts, but it's ready for me to do so if I wish, which I often do because:

  • things move; if I am outdoors, stuff will move around, so a burst will perhaps give me some different options to choose between
  • people move; when shooting portraits (mostly kids), I do a lot of bursts, because people move their head around, blink, make funny faces and so on
  • and more along the same lines...

There is one occasion when I always switch the camera to single shot mode, and that is when I am making images with multiple exposures. Then I want to be certain that I get exactly one exposure each time I press the shutter.


The main downside of can think of would be if you are shooting with external lighting.

Except for High speed flash, the recycle time on flashes (studio and gun) would be greater than the speed of frames per second your camera is capable. If you are shooting wirelessly you may encounter overheating


There is no real disadvantage except that sometime you will have multiple copies of the same picture. This can be annoying because you definitely would not need them and will delete them which would take some time. Also if your shooting in RAW you will have memory problem because it consumes a lot of space. And storing everything will not be practical unless your willing to burn it into cd's or buy hard drives. Also the life of your camera reduces with the shutter or any mechanism going on. Increase in processing time also can be a issue.

Another major thing will be if you exhaust your memory card then in the process of sitting and deleting the unwanted pictures from the camera, you might miss the good shots while you were trying to delete the pictures. Also burst mode sucks up a lot of battery.

Use it wisely and it will do you good.


I think burst mode is great for all of the reasons listed. However, in my opinion, it is not needed for things that are static or subjects (e.g. waterfalls using ND filters) where I am intentionally using a longer exposure and want the movement or blur. But, when I am shooting people or animals, etc., that might move and I am afraid of not getting the shot I want, then I use it.

One additional point I would add that I shoot a lot of wide angle shots (street, groups, etc.) and in that situation I am dealing with the fact that I do not see everyting the lens is capturing. Also, since I do not have control of the environment things like people moving, gusts of wind, a bird flying, or something else might affect the shot so having a few to choose from is a reat option.

In terms of culling, I do it after every shoot over a coffee and it takes very little time.

Obvious other point: battery life!

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.