Remote Shutter Release Versus the Built-In 2-Second Timer


It’s no secret that being a photographer, amateur or professional, can be quite expensive. We both travel and we want the latest and best equipment but we can’t always afford it all. Being selective with the equipment we choose to purchase can be wise as it’s better to spend a few dollars extra purchasing something of quality. A lot of the gear we have isn’t essential and can easily be done inside the camera itself. Let’s look at using a remote shutter release versus the delayed timer built into the camera.


A self portrait captured by using a remote shutter

A remote shutter is something you may have heard repeatedly that you need to purchase, especially if you’re into landscape photography. One of the main uses of a remote shutter is to minimize the vibration when taking a image to get a sharper result. What you also may know is that your camera has a delayed shutter function, typically of 2 and 10 seconds. So do you really need to purchase a remote shutter when you can do it in the camera? Let’s look at some pros and cons of using each – a remote shutter release and delayed shutter.

Delayed Shutter

Most digital cameras have a Delayed Shutter function. In fact, even smartphones have it.

Since I was close to the camera I could use a delayed shutter

Since I was close to the camera I could use a delayed shutter

A delayed shutter is, in simple words, a function that tells the camera to wait a few seconds after you push the shutter before it takes the picture. This allows you to either run in front of the camera and take a selfie or reduce the amount of vibration. This function is especially useful when you’re using a slow shutter speed and have your camera mounted on a tripod. If you use a shutter speed of 0.5 seconds and press the shutter you’ll see that the image will come out less sharp than if you use a delayed shutter.

Pros of the Delayed Shutter:

  • It’s a standard function in most digital cameras and smartphones.
  • It’s free.
  • It reduces vibration and leads to a sharper image.
  • You can choose between a short delay or a longer delay.
  • You have the time to position yourself in the image after pressing the shutter.

Cons of the Delayed Shutter:

  • It’s not flexible.
  • If you’re photographing something with motion it’s hard to time the shutter release perfectly and you might miss the shot.
  • In some cameras, the function is found deep in the menu.

Remote Shutter Release

Remote shutter release can vary in form, shape, and price. Some are tiny and inexpensive, while others are larger, with more options but also a less attractive price tag.

I used a remote shutter and interval timer to photograph myself on the edge

I used a remote shutter and interval timer to photograph myself on the edge.

Choosing the right remote shutter release can be a hassle sometimes as you may not know your needs. You may only need a simple one to avoid any motion when taking the image, or may need something more advanced that lets you do interval timing or perhaps something that has a “Bulb lockup”.

Once your needs are established, you have to sort out if you want a cable release or wireless. I won’t get into the topic of which is better, but again you need to consider your needs for a remote.


Pros of remote shutter releases

  • Wireless remotes allow you to stand far away from the camera and take pictures.
  • Advanced models have many options such as interval timers.
  • You can use “Bulb Mode” without having to hold the camera’s release button and cause vibration.
  • Many models have LCD screens with a timer.
  • Take a picture at the exact moment you need.
Freezing the exact moment with a cable release

Freezing the exact moment with a cable release

Cons of remote shutter releases

  • More advanced models can be very pricey.
  • It takes extra space in your bag.
  • It might be hard to choose the right model.
  • Cables break quickly on low-end cable releases.
  • Small, wireless remote shutters are easy to loose.

What is best?

To be honest with you, they both have their advantages. It would be wrong to say that one is better than the other in any case.

That being said, as a landscape photographer, I am dependent on my remote shutter. A lot of the time I can’t wait the extra two or three seconds before the image is taken, as the moment is gone by then. When I’m photographing rushing waves I need to capture the image at the exact moment I want, ergo I need a remote shutter. If I’m in the woods and not photographing anything that might move, I don’t need the remote shutter (even though I use it by habit).

Shutter speeds over 30 seconds requires a remote shutter

Shutter speeds over 30 seconds require a remote shutter

If you only photograph still landscapes and you don’t need a shutter speed of more than 30 seconds, I don’t see a reason to purchase a remote shutter. If you photograph anything with motion or need a shutter speed of more than 30 seconds I recommend you to purchase one.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Christian Hoiberg Christian Hoiberg is a full-time landscape photographer who helps aspiring photographers develop the skills needed to capture beautiful and impactful images. Visit his website to get a free download of his eBook 30 Tips to Improve Your Landscape Photography.

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  • Pete Mueller

    Suggest that for many purposes when triggering shutter remotely from in front of the camera is all that you are trying to accomplish (i.e. posing yourself in the landscape pics), a super-cheap IR trigger can be found on Amazon or Ebay… I mean two or three bucks! Makes them almost ridiculously disposable and cheaper to replace than even buying a fresh battery when the original one expires. I have had nothing but good results from mine. As long as you have clear line of sight to front of camera (which should be true in these instances) you can get far away from camera and still trigger the shot. Most cameras will indicate the shutter activation with a unique blink pattern at the front LED that is flashing when camera is set to receive remote actuation, so you can tell from your position that the shot took place.

  • Rik Thornton

    Yongnuos remote flash trigger is the kit for me. I’m talking here about the RF600TX, under £20 on eBay in the UK. Range is 100m+ and there is eTTL support too (I’m a Canon shooter currently, other marques are supported too) – the major bonus with these is that you can get a cable for a couple of quid to link the receiver unit to the camera and presto! One wireless remote, as well as remote flash. They don’t do ‘bulb’ exposures, but are plenty good enough for light-painting etc.

  • Rik Thornton

    Yeah, valid point! I got a new Canon one for about £1.50 I think? Shocking cheap kit. Must admit I use my Yongnuo kit more often though 😉

  • Who’s watching the camera while you walk away and climb to the other side of those mountains?

  • Christian Hoiberg

    Exactly! For the purpose you describe an expensive remote is not needed. Go to any electronic shop and get something cheap.

  • Christian Hoiberg

    Nobody – that’s the benefit of being at remote places or during hours that others don’t visit 😉

  • mike walling

    Thanks, I have been waiting for this discussion for some time. I was surprised that there was no mention of mirror lock-up. Is that a common feature? Would a remote function the same as the shutter release button with Mirror lock-up?

  • Colin Barnett

    My Nikon D750 has a menu option that enables me to use a wireless remote
    shutter that does mirror lockup and shutter release. One
    click raises the mirror and the next click triggers the shutter. I use
    this anytime I need a remote shutter unless what I am photographing
    requires me to click the shutter at a precise time; then I don’t engage
    the mirror lock up.

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  • @parablade

    Fortunately for Lumix operators, we get a free wireless remote c/w touch screen focus pull / shutter release in the proprietary iPhone app ?

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  • je

    Thank you for answering the exact question I had! I wasn’t sure if I should try to get a remote before my Iceland trip in a couple of weeks, but I think I’ll be all right without one since I’m not equipped enough to take the type of photography I’d need a remote for.

    I’m trying to imagine how you got on that rock in the delayed shutter shot without leaving any footprints in the sand. Your feet and pants look dry, so I can’t imagine you went through the water. Must’ve been a big leap.

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