Photography: Mastering Burst Mode


A split second can make the difference between shooting a good photo or a world-class one. Simon Thomas explains how you can increase your odds of nailing the perfect shot using your camera’s burst mode

Do you ever hear a camera going click, click, click, click as a paparazzi photographer shoots off a dozen photos, and you think to yourself, wow, they must be professional? Well, almost all modern cameras have a burst mode that can do just that, so it’s not just for the pros.

If you need to capture high impact, sharp action shots of anything from your kids playing football to your mate tearing across a sand dune on his adventure bike, then you need to have your camera’s burst mode capability in your skillset.

Why Should I use burst mode?

Burst mode is a shutter release option on your camera that allows you to take multiple photographs in sequence automatically, by pressing the shutter release button down and holding it.

It’s great when you’re photographing a fast-paced motorcycle rider as it allows you to capture up to 30 images per second, depending on the model of camera you have. This gives you 30 images where the compositions and the objects in the frame will slightly differ. You can then choose which of your multiple images looks or feels the best and delete the rest.

Selecting burst mode

On most cameras, there is usually a button or a dial on the outside of the body that activates burst mode. So, find it, and press it or turn it. Yep, it’s that simple, but you still need to compose a good photo.

So, for this shot of my wife Lisa riding her BMW, I selected aperture priority mode, which allowed me to choose what part of the image was in focus (Lisa and her bike), and what I wanted to be out of focus (the distant background). I then opened the lens as wide as it would go (f3.5) and, with my camera set to burst mode, I pointed the camera towards Lisa, held down the shutter button, and reeled off a dozen shots.

A little luck

OK, confession time. Sometimes luck plays a big part in taking a great image. Obviously, I had no idea that lightning was going to strike in the background when I crouched down to take the photo. But if I hadn’t used burst mode as Lisa rode towards me, it’s highly unlikely I would have caught the split second when lightning struck. Happy? Hell, yes I am.

The techy bit

How many and how fast your camera can create images while in burst mode will depend on the make and model (and yes, how much you spent on it), as well as a few other factors. For burst mode to work at its best, you’ll need a highspeed memory card, which directly effects how fast your camera can actually record and store the images.

The file type you select to photograph in also effects how fast your camera can record images. Choosing to shoot in JPG instead of RAW will give a substantial boost to your camera’s burst speed because JPGs are smaller files. For example, my Fujifilm XT-3 can shoot 11 frames per second in RAW format, but it can shoot 30 frames per second when I choose to record in JPG because each file has less data to record.

Lastly, make sure you have a spare battery on you. Burst mode is going to chew up more power than clicking a single image at a time. OK, over to you. Find your burst mode and have fun. If you get a moment share your favourite images to us at