What Remote Should I Use?

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Have you ever seen images of  lightning, star trails and even light painting and wondered how the photographer captured it?

This little article is all about revealing some of the magic….using one of the low light photographers favourite tool – the camera remote.

The original screw in shutter button remote your grandparents had for their trusty camera certainly doesn’t stand a chance against the modern remote of today.

Old school remote cord

A retro screw in remote cable

Wireless, timer, WiFi and even Bluetooth are common terms associated with this great device that will change the way you tackle your newly found photographic subject. Remotes are most useful when the camera’s shutter speed exceeds 30 seconds in a mode called bulb mode. When the bulb mode is used you can extend the camera’s shutter speed to what ever time limit you want (although you are limited to your camera’s battery). Shooting in bulb mode means whatever happens in the scene will be captured while the shutter is open.

Some classic examples of using a remote with bulb mode are star trails, lightning and firework photography.


Photographing star trails


Star Trails using the Canon RS-80N3 Remote Cord


Using a remote cord photographing fireworks


Lighting and fireworks captured using the Canon RS-80N3 remote cord

I find I use my corded Canon RS-80N3 remote for the majority of my landscape photography.  The reason I rely on one of my favorite photographic tools is to minimise the vibration of my finder pressing the shutter button. If I didn’t use a remote of some kind most of my images would appear with a slight blur caused from the vibration of my clumsy hands knocking the camera.

A good tip for you all – if you forget to bring a cable release on a shoot simply use your camera’s built-in self timer. At least that way you will get a maximum of a 30 second exposure and you won’t have to disturb your camera in the process.

There are various types of camera remotes which can be broken down into the following categories.

Corded Remote – A corded remote is the most common remote used by landscape photographers. For instance if a landscape photographer wants to slow down the water by using a long exposure then a corded remote is used. All the photographer needs to do is hold the remote cable and half press the shutter button to autofocus. Once focus is gained continue by fully pressing down on the button to take the photo. Some corded remotes also have a locking system built-in to allow continuous shooting for time-lapse photography. Entry level Canon models will use the RS-60E3 remote and some Nikon Digital SLRs will use a MC-DC2 remote.

Nikon remote to suit DSLRs

Nikon MC-DC2 Corded Remote

Timer or Intervalometer Remote – The timer remote is often more expensive than the standard corded remote due to its features. As the name suggests the timer remote is able to take a photo at a timed interval. On most timer remotes the user can set the time to take a photo at a chosen time or interval. Again this remote is mainly for the landscape photographer or videographer who wants to delve into time-lapse photography. Timer remotes can be wireless or corded. Newer Pentax and Nikon Digital SLRs have built-in intervalometers so there is no need to  obtain an extra accessory. Also some mirrorless Pentax and Nikon models also feature the intervalometer built-in. Old Nikon DSLR models will require the MC-36 timer remote.

timer remotes

Hahnel Giga T Pro II and Nikon MC-36 Remote

Time lapse video by Paul Pichugin

Wireless Remote – The most basic of remotes. One button – no wires. Great for selfies and family pics. These little remotes can fit straight in your pocket and are inexpensive to replace if you put them through the wash! Canon RC-6 will suit most Canon DSLR models whist the ML-L3 is designed for most Nikon Digital SLRs.

small remotes for Digital SLRs

Canon RC-6 and Nikon ML-L3 Remote

WiFi or Bluetooth Remotes – Technology has evolved and no longer do we need to buy an accessory to trigger the shutter. Tablets and smart phones can now be used to fire the camera’s shutter by some great cleaver apps which anyone can download at a fraction of the price. These brilliant app ideas transform the humble remote into a gadget bag of goodies capable of covering all the remote types in one. Some great apps include: DSLR Camera RemoteioShutter Camera (corded) and DSLR.Bot.

apps for remote photography

Remote control apps for smart devices

Go Pro are probably the biggest known company who have embraced the technology of WiFi. With the new Go Pro Hero 3 Black Edition camera users are able to connect wireless to their cameras allowing for a true mobile experience. The footage from the Go Pro Hero 3 camera is beamed via WiFi back to the phone so the viewer can see exactly what the camera sees right on the their mobile device.

In Camera Timer – Have you ever noticed the egg timer symbol on your camera? On compact cameras it can be commonly found on one of the navigational buttons on the back of your camera and on Digital SLR’s you will often find them through a quick menu or on a dedicated button on the top of the camera. All in camera remotes are timer remotes so it means you will have a 2 second or in some case a 10 second time. This setting is very popular for the traveller wanting to take their own photo. Just make sure you secure you camera to a sturdy tripod or have it on a stable service otherwise this may happen.

Timer remote symbols

Self timer function found on most cameras

I hope you found this insight into remote photography helpful. So now you have read it what are you waiting for? Get out there and start the beauty around you!

Until Next Time – Happy Shooting.

(via Leigh Diprose)

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3 Comments on “What Remote Should I Use?

  1. Kelly

    Your third sentence is going to offend every other photographer on this planet. “Grandparents”? Really?? Are you still in high school? Geez…. I stopped reading after the third sentence. You can’t possibly be old enough to write a sentence. Very offended.

    • Leigh Diprose

      Hi Kelly,
      Thanks for your comment. It was not my intention to offend anyone. My writing is based on my own personal experience. My grandparents used to have a screw in shutter release cable for their old camera. I even have one for my Fujifilm X-Pro 1 (so I suppose you could say I was talking about myself).

      I can understand why you are offended and if this site isn’t for you I completely understand.
      To answer your questions I am not in high school (far from it) and yes based on my photographic experience (highly experienced just google my name) I feel I am more than capable to write about this subject.
      Thank you for your thoughts.