Monday, March 8, 2010

Increase Camera Battery Life – Outdoor Photography Tricks and Treats


Unless you are a dedicated and hard core outdoor photographer it is highly unlikely that you would carry a solar panel with you when you venture away from the civilization, to charge your batteries. One of the biggest concerns of any outdoor photographer is how to conserve the battery power to the maximum possible limit. Since most often you can’t recharge the batteries in the outdoors you have to prolong its power by optimizing your usage pattern so that you get all the pictures you want and not let your battery die on you. The intrinsic battery power to a large extent depends upon the type of battery your camera uses; a lithium battery is much more powerful than normal pencil AA cells but needs to be recharged, whereas in AA cells always go for Duracells. I will discuss more on the battery type and power features and safekeeping in the outdoors in a separate post. The obvious solution to prevent running out of batteries is to carry extra sets with you and keeping them dry and warm till they are needed in a safe weatherproof pouch somewhere inside your backpack. Needless to say you must recharge your camera batteries to the maximum possible from the last possible place before you step out into the wild outdoors. Now let’s see what all you can do to increase your camera battery life to the maximum. You can blindly follow these tips and I can guarantee that your battery life will go up by at least two times if not more.

a) Turn off auto-flash feature. Use flash very judiciously only when you need it. Don’t use it for backlit compensation or night photography. You can do all touching up later in photoshop. Most of us avoid flash anyway since flash kills all effects. Though flash can be used very creatively to create effects and illusions, you don’t have such luxuries in the outdoors. Carry external flash for unavoidable situations. They have their own batteries and take much less energy out of your camera.

b) Avoid ‘Auto Camera’ mode as much as possible. Go manual or use one of the aperture or shutter priority program modes.

c) Go manual focus mode, switch off auto focus motor.

d) Turn off light beam aided focus feature. The camera would still focus in auto-focus mode unless the subject is really dark or indefinite.

e) Turn off LCD review screen. These days you have huge memory cards so keep shooting instead of needing to review each and every shot you take. Even if you need to keep the LCD screen on, dim it to the barest minimum.

f) Turn off all features that make a beep or an audio sound (like for auto-focus, etc).

g) Do not start reviewing, editing or deleting the pictures from your album while on the move. Most modern DSLR or point and shoot cameras have versatile features to edit your pictures like day light and exposure compensations, cropping, rotating, etc and it is tempting to start doing that when you are resting at night, etc but please don’t do it.

h) Don’t keep switching on or off your camera frequently. Switch it off only when you are sure that you are not going to take a picture for duration of 30 minutes or more.

i) Minimize using the auto zoom function. Zoom manually if you need it and your camera has that feature.

j) Keep the camera out of cold, snow, water, etc anything that can make it go cold when not in use.

k) If your camera comes with ‘Auto Power Saving’ mode, always use it when not taking pictures

l) Don’t use red eye compensation feature. Any red eye can be removed later in photoshop or picasa, etc

m) Select the picture resolution (raw/NEF/large/medium/small/fine/high/low) judiciously as per your requirement. Higher the resolution you chose, higher the battery consumption and for most regular pictures you really don’t need the highest resolution of your camera. Be selective about the resolution. I personally select lowest resolutions for pictures that I take only for memory and not for any aesthetics, etc like the name of a road or a village, or just the face of a person I wish to recall later.

n) Use viewfinder to focus and stop using the LCD screen for focusing. These days’ DSLR have started coming out with Live View modes as well but I doubt how many of us really use it.

o) Stop using multiple shot or multiple exposure features unless you are taking wild life and bird pictures. Use single shot mode.

p) At night remove the battery from the body and keep it inside your clothing or sleeping bag to keep it warm.

q) Don’t fiddle with your shutter button unless you really want to take a picture. While composing a shot just view the scenery through your view finder without pressing the shutter half way down, etc.

r) Always go for a faster memory card which can capture and store your images at a much lesser time. There are several brands in the market, and ask your dealer to suggest to you the fastest one.

s) If there are two or more of you and need to use flash then it is a good policy to use only one of the camera flashes while the others synchronize and shoot within that flash. You can count and at ‘3’ all of you click and only one camera lights up the view with its flash.

t) While charging your battery at home or anywhere, always take out the battery from its charger the moment you see the light showing that it is fully charge. Do not overcharge. By keeping it under charge beyond this point will actually lessen the life of the battery (besides increasing your electricity bill of course).

u) Always delete all previous pictures and format your battery memory card before starting to shoot new pictures. This will keep your memory card fast.

v) Turn off ‘clean sensor’ feature that in many cameras happen automatically every time you switch on or off the camera (Canon / Nikon etc)

Things you can do if you can:

1. Carry several sets of fully charged extra batteries. Keep them warm, dry and out of the weather in a safe place till you need them. Keeping batteries near an open fire or cooking gas is not a good idea to warm or dry them up

2. Carry solar panel and charger and adopter for your camera

3. Read the camera manual carefully and do a thorough research about your camera features on the net or with knowledgeable friends and simply turn off all features that you are not going to use. You will be amazed at the number of features all modern digi-cams offer and even more amazed to learn how little of those we really need and use.

6 comments:

  1. Hey Satya, Very helpful tips. A series of posts on photography would be welcome.

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  2. Thats a really long list! And a useful one. :)

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  3. i thin the solar charger battery is a good option to save electric energy, it is not necesary carry solar panel, i think we can charge it in our home.

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  4. "a lithium battery is much more powerful than normal pencil AA cells but needs to be recharged"


    I bought a pair of non-rechargeable AA Lithium batteries for 300 INR (approx) at Staples (Koramangala, Bangalore). It lasted for 600 shots over 10 days during YHAI Goa trek 2009.


    I think Duracells/Energizers are alkaline.

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  5. I still can't manage the lovely crimson's and pinks and violets you get in your captures :-(((((((((((

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