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Shooting with a wireless remote adds a lot of extra flexibility and scope to your options. Touching your camera is sometimes not practical or possible. Something as simple as pressing the shutter button with your hand can cause vibration and shake which compromises the image quality.
Being able to engage your camera to shoot while physically distant from it has a lot of benefits. There are cabled options which may be more cost-effective, but you are still limited by the range of the cable, and there are safety concerns. No one wants to trip over a cable and pull your tripod and camera over to smash on the ground!
Wireless remotes are a more expensive option but it offers up much more freedom with your shooting choices.
When working with a very small depth of field as in macro photography, sometimes measured in millimeters or less, you have to get your focus point exactly right to get the image sharp. The absolute slightest vibration can interfere with the focus accuracy.
When I shoot I make sure I am sitting some distance away from my tripod and I am very stable and grounded. Sometimes I even hold my breath.
Two changes that I made to my macro shooting workflow made a massive difference in improving the number of sharp shots I was able to obtain. First was getting a wireless remote. The second was shooting in Live View mode, with the view zoomed in.
This allowed me to focus very accurately, sometimes on auto, and sometimes with manual focus. Then by using the remote, it takes vibration out of the shot in two ways – not touching the camera shutter means no movement is introduced. Second, when shooting in Live View, when the lens initially engages, it moves the tiniest amount. By half pressing the remote button, it engages the lens and everything moves a tiny bit and then holds there until the remote button is fully depressed and the shot is taken.
This method has reduced the number of shots taken to capture a sharp image to around 3-5 with around a 50% sharpness rate. Previously over 20 images could be taken and none in focus.
My Canon 100mm F2.8 IS L Macro lens gets used for macro, food, flower and still life photography this way. It allows me to shoot much quicker as fewer shots are taken, and I have a much better feel for how good the shots are when using Live View. It’s a real time saver.
My work in fine art self-portraiture got a whole lot easier once the ability to shoot at a distance from the camera appeared in my hand, literally, in the form of a wireless remote. It still allows you to shoot using a time delay. So you can click the remote to start the timer, and then drop the remote out of the frame but within easy reach to experiment with different poses and angles.
This is also potentially useful for any portrait shots of pets or children, where it might be necessary to use your hands to attract their attention and direct their eyes toward the camera. It also allows you to walk away from the camera to fix hair, adjust the fall of a dress or veil for a wedding, and other portrait style shots and still capture candids.
My Canon 7d Mark II has a built-in Bulb mode that shoots over 2 hours, so for me, a remote is not needed for long exposure photography. However many cameras only shoot up to 30 seconds on Bulb mode, and so require you to either hold the shutter down manually or use a remote (cabled or wireless).
Minimizing camera shake is ideal, so not touching the camera is preferred. A remote allows you to hold the shutter open manually for as long as needed. Or as long as you are prepared to hold onto the button (some remotes will time the shot for you, or have a locking button so you don’t have to hold it).
Perhaps you are setup in a hide or near a preferred perch, with the camera all prefocused, ready to get the shot, but the critters are staying away. By having the option to move away from the camera and minimise human presence near the scene, it may help you to get the shot you want. Perhaps it might not be safe for you to be in the position, so you could shoot from the safety of a vehicle instead.
An intervalometer is a special kind of remote with extra functionality built-in which allows more advanced photography options including shooting time-lapse, light trails, astrophotography, and lightning. Wired and wireless options exist and they do the basic features described in this article as well as offer more control over other options.
Time-lapse requires a sequence of shots taken over a period of time. The intervalometer allows specific control of the interval between shots, and the time period over which the shots are taken.
Light trails and astrophotography are often taken using similar techniques with a longer exposure to allow for vehicle or star movement. Because they are usually done at night, with minimal light, the shutter needs to be open for a lot longer, hence the need for an intervalometer. Plus you can sit in the warmth of your car or the tent for several hours while the camera does its thing.
Having more control over how long the shutter is open and when it is open is a key factor for successful lightning photography if you are not using a lightning trigger and shooting manually.
For those seriously into high-speed photography, they will probably invest in a triggering device, that will operate by sound or breaking a laser beam. For those of us wanting to experiment at home, using a remote and timing it with the event is a more affordable option initially.
You may have to repeat the thing – like bursting a balloon or water droplets – many hundreds or thousands of times to get the perfect shot, and timing is the key. If you are working alone, then a wireless remote is a key tool to enable you to pull off this kind of experiment and get the shot you are after.
Minimizing camera vibration is a key to getting sharp shots. My camera has a custom function to lock up the mirror and hold for two seconds before taking the shot. This allows me to press the shutter button, let go and walk away and the camera does its thing. Another option is to not touch the camera at all, and use a remote, although you may also like to have a mirror lockup and pause in your process as well.
It’s also useful for getting your shadow out of the bottom of the frame, something that occasionally gets picked up when shooting with an ultra wide-angle lens like the 10-22mm.
It may be physically difficult for to you get into a particular pose that is necessary to get your eye up to the camera for a long time. Lying on cold wet ground may be unpleasant or even dangerous in winter environments.
Your safety may be at risk for a variety of reasons, so being able to be away from the camera but still shoot, is a key benefit to wireless remotes in these situations.
Since getting a wireless remote it has completely changed the way I shoot and vastly improved the quality of my work while allowing many fewer shots to be taken. The freedom to shoot while away from the camera has allowed for a lot of very creative self-expression in the fine art space. Having my hands free while doing food photography makes it much quicker to tweak compositions by small amounts.
The next phase on my journey to shoot wireless will be going to a device like a Cam Ranger, which not only would allow me to shoot via my phone or iPad but to see what the camera is seeing. That’s especially useful for my self-portrait work and easier to view on a much bigger screen for eyes that don’t focus as well as they used to.
However such a device is quite expensive, and a wireless remote is a much more affordable option and allows you a lot of flexibility to try many new things.
So a wireless remote might be for you if you are frustrated with not getting sharp macro shots, or want better control over how you shoot, improve your keeper rate, or just try something new that you couldn’t do before. Maybe you just want to be warm when shooting in wet/cold weather? Get yourself a wireless remote and enjoy experimenting with some different shooting styles.
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