Photo by Peter Bargh. The self timer can be useful when shooting in low light.
What It Is And How It Works
The self timer feature is something which is available on most camera models and it's a shutter delay that when activated, stops the shutter from firing and taking the picture when the shutter button or release is pressed. This delay on most cameras is 10 or 12 seconds, but some also have a two second delay. The longer delay is the obvious option to use as it gives the camera operator time to move around to the front of the camera and appear in the picture, which was this little function's main reason for being included.
Some cameras such as the Olympus OM-D EM-1
have quick action buttons which you can press to access specific controls such as this. If you struggle to find your camera's self timer options, take a look at your camera's instruction manual but a quick look through your camera's menus should find it quite easily.
Self Portraits And Group Shots
The idea is you can take self portraits without having to be seen stretched out as you fire the camera at arms' length. All you do is activate the timer, press the shutter release and run in front of the camera, strike a pose - all within the timer's limit - and then you'll be the focus of your photo.
It can also be used to ensure you're in a family or group shot. You can arrange a small or larger group of people and allow space for yourself, activate the timer and move into shot. This saves you having to give the camera to the waiter or tourist to take the photo, preventing an embarrassment or even potential theft!
Close Up Work
The other advantage of having a timer is to save you having to use a cable release when the camera is mounted on a tripod or resting on a secure base. You set the timer and the delay means there's no hand contact that could potentially cause camera shake when the shutter is pressed. The 10 second delay is not really necessary for this, so that's where the shorter delays come in handy.
It's useful for when you're taking photos in low light, such as the fungi close up to the right, shot in dark woodland.
Check Your Focus
There are a few things to do to help improve your photos when using the self timer. The first is ensuring accurate focus. If you're doing a self portrait you are not in the picture when you press the shutter and some cameras focus at that stage. So the picture could be blurred if the camera locks focus on the background. One way around this is to point the camera at something that is at the same distance that you will be when the photo is taken. Press the shutter release and recompose before running in front of the camera. In a group shot this is easy - make sure you either focus on a person to the side, if you're going to be in the centre, or focus on the centre person and join the group at the edge.
Check The Edges Of The Frame
The other thing to avoid is a table edge being in frame when you are taking a group shot in a restaurant or bar and decide to use a nearby table as support. The camera, when set to wide-angle, may pick up an edge of the support. Move the camera so it's right at the edge of the table, making sure it's balanced well and cannot fall off!
Another problem you may be faced with when resting the camera on a flat surface is that the height may not be right when you look through the viewfinder and often the heads or feet of your group will be cut off. If this happens, try and angle the camera so all of your group is in shot.
Olympus OM-D E-M1 - The whole package. In a perfectly-sized package. Click here for more information on the most advanced compact system camera ever produced. The E-M1 comes packed with technologies such as the enhanced Live MOS sensor, TruePic VII image processor, Dual Fast AF and extended WIFI controls.