As we’ve seen so many improvements in technology, with higher and higher resolution images, decreasing costs of storage, and faster  burst rates with every new generation of gear, I know a lot of photographers tend to move toward the attitude of “it’s just digital, so why not just shoot in burst rate?”  To some this may make sense.  If there is a best shot in a particular scenario, shooting rapid style in that scenario means youwill get the shot.  One of those 200 frames will be the right moment when say, for instance, you are doing a portrait session and the model has a perfect smile or laugh, right?  Fast-moving scenarios like sporting events, running kids, a burst rate will give you a much better chance of getting the shot you need as well.

Continuous Burst

On the flip side of this, I also know many other photographers who argue that using the burst rate is a crutch.  It’s fine to start out with it while you are learning, but that a true professional should not be “spraying and praying”, because a professional should know how to get good results through timing, knowledge, experience, and all the rest. Arguments against using the burst mechanism also include other considerations like post production and undue wear and tear.

The first of these holds that if there’s only 1 shot in those 200 that is the “keeper” – you have to find it, right?  That could be time consuming, and extra post production where it’s not needed is a waste of time. The “Wear and Tear” point notes that shutters are built for limited actuations, and over-shooting can result in going through the mechanism prematurely.  Replacing a shutter mechanism could be costly, and spending money when you don’t need to is a bad idea.

Single Shot

Moving back to the original position in favor of burst rates, the response usually is “why does that matter, if I am okay with it, why should anyone else pass judgement on me for how I shoot and spend my time”.  After all, it’s digital, the cost of replacement is low enough, and I enjoy spending the time looking through all the shots – it gives me a certain degree of comfort and security in knowing that the best shot is in there somewhere for me to find!

For me, I do think that using the burst mode on your camera can be very beneficial, especially in the beginning of your photographic development.  But, as you advance, and start to find that your keepers are occurring earlier and earlier in your shot sequences, that perhaps there might be a time to move away from burst mode.  There may be times and places for it like fast moving scenarios, HDR capture times (when you have several bracketed shots), and others.

Three Shot Burst

Imagine this though – what if you could get a semi-burst of shots to handle these scenarios?  On most cameras, you have the single and burst rate modes as shown and discussed earlier, but you also have a 3-shot or 5-shot burst mode.  This might be a good compromise scenario for those of you that can see the merits of each.  This is what gets my vote in the “To Burst or Not to Burst” debate.  What about you?

Which mode to you most often shoot in with your camera?

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4 thoughts on “To Burst or Not to Burst…

  1. I would think this would be entirely dependent on the scenario. For myself I predominantly use single frame, however, if I am shooting an action oriented event I will employ burst mode periodically. Trying to time a dancer leaping…very difficult to do in single frame.

  2. I use burst for different reasons: rather than merely choose one good frame from a sequence and waste the rest, I exploit the inevitable jitter of hand-holding to make a larger image, with enfuse to choose the best pixels from all the images taken – a hybrid of super-resolution and noise-reduction through realignment and stacking.

  3. I tend to use burst in many different situations. I’ve found it useful while shooting at a low ISO in low light and hand holding the camera. While it certainly will never be a replacement for a tripod or monopod, if one gets caught out without one of those tools, than burst mode can save the day. You may only get one sharp image out of 20 images, but having that sharp image is all that counts at the end of the day. Also, burst mode is a MUST for action photography! Often, the action is going so fast that you never know what you’re really going to get until you’re in post. Again, hand holding a camera while shooting action, even in broad daylight and at high shutter speeds, will yield a greater amount of sharper images. I say, fire away!

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