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You finally get everyone lined up and looking at the camera when it happens: the battery dies. Or, perhaps, you’ve been sat patiently waiting for the perfect nature shot (maybe a bird looking the right way, or the sunset and the clouds finally arranged just as you wanted them) when the newly charged DSLR powers down, its power cell drained.

Soon you realize that you’ve been snapping photos – or waiting to – for far longer than previously thought, but still can’t shake that nagging feeling that the battery shouldn’t have run out just yet.

Well, you’re probably right. You could have squeezed more time out of your DSLR camera battery, but you’re making mistakes that are draining it. Let’s take a look at those mistakes (many of which are experienced by new DSLR owners The Best Entry-Level DSLRs For New Photographers The Best Entry-Level DSLRs For New Photographers If you want to take your photography skills to the next level, or you know someone else who does, then there's no better way than to enter the world of DSLR cameras. Read More  regardless of the camera’s price) and how you can avoid making them again.

You’re Using the LCD Screen

Probably the biggest mistake is to use the LCD screen rather than the viewfinder to setup your shot. It shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that the LCD uses a lot of battery power; after all, it’s used to preview shots as well as to review photos after they’re snapped.

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If you’re concerned about navigating menus to select the right mode Are You Getting The Most From Your DSLR? Are You Getting The Most From Your DSLR? A great shot is a split second event. Getting it right is knowing which camera feature to use and when. Here are ten DSLR features that could inspire you to power on your camera. Read More (and more besides), don’t be. Your DSLR should have a control dial to select shooting modes. The LCD is a great feature, but is simply the single biggest drain on your DSLR’s battery.

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If you don’t feel that you can stop using it altogether, at the very least reduce the amount of time you spend using it. Two suggestions are to disable post-shot reviews and to reduce the brightness setting.

Too Much Zoom

Think you’re glued to the spot? One of the rules of photography is that you should only use zoom if you can’t get any closer to the subject, so if you’re able, move yourself and your DSLR using your feet rather than the zoom.

Not only will it result in a better photograph in most cases, you’ll also find that your battery lasts a bit longer.

Why? Well, it’s all down to the motor that moves the lens. Each time you zoom, it whirrs around, using up power with each turn. Switching your DSLR on and off is bad enough, especially with the added weight of a lens attachment, so keep further use of the lens motor to a minimum if you want to maximize your DSLR camera battery life.

For the many DSLR cameras equipped with a manually adjusted zoom ring, battery life isn’t a problem here.

Autofocus Set to Continuous

Getting your subject in focus really isn’t as tough as you might think it is. The problem is that autofocus is controlled by tiny motors, each of which relies on the battery for power. Every time you hear the whirr of focusing components, that’s battery juice you’re losing.

Continuous focus is the worst offender. It’s (usually) only needed for action shots and sports-related shots, and can therefore be disregarded by anyone who is shooting portraits or landscapes. In these cases, rely on the one shot or Autofocus Single mode, which has a reduced impact on your battery.

You’re Pressing the Shutter Button

Here’s a battery draining mistake that everyone makes: the slight press on the shutter button to focus the shot before you take it. But each time you press the button, the lens resets and refocuses, once again setting those little motors off.

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It’s fair to say that using one of these – e.g. LCD screen, continuous autofocus, or shutter half-press – in isolation will have a negligible effect on your battery. But if you’re the type of photographer who regularly uses all three, reducing your reliance on these settings and habits can have a considerable impact on how often you find yourself recharging the DSLR’s battery.

You Have Automatic Flash Switched On

How often has your digital SLR’s flash illuminated a shot that it didn’t need to? Having automatic flash enabled is all very well for capturing shots at parties and other nighttime scenarios when adjusting the ISO setting doesn’t produce satisfactory images, but you rarely need it on for daytime shoots.

If your flash is going off in daylight, there’s clearly a problem (perhaps an overhanging branch casting a shadow on the sensor) but the best way to deal with this is to disable the flash, and thus save your battery.

Features You Don’t Need Are Active

Some DSLR manufacturers are guilty of wasting your time with pointless features that you’ll never use, or can apply with far better results in an image processing application. The best thing you can do with these is ignore them. There is little need to add graphical or caption overlays on your photos, and doing so just wastes time and battery life unless you plan ahead and configure these features in advance.

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Other features include image stabilization. This is very useful if you’re hand-holding your camera, but if you have mounted it on a tripod (other useful camera equipment is available 3 Websites To Find DSLR Gear & DIY Tips 3 Websites To Find DSLR Gear & DIY Tips Did you just get a DSLR for making videos? Did you believe that once you got it you would instantly be making creative, beautiful videos that would make all your friends think you are a... Read More ), it’s unnecessary.

Beeps and other sound effects are also battery drainers, and in 99% of photography situations they’re utterly useless, so disable them.

If you need practice with your DSLR, incidentally, it’s worth playing around with a virtual digital SLR camera 3 Steps To Learning The Basics Of Photography With A Virtual DSLR 3 Steps To Learning The Basics Of Photography With A Virtual DSLR Rather than learning your photography from books and tutorials, this web application from Canon Canada is the most fun yet. Outside of Auto from Canon is a gentle introduction to the basics of photography. Read More , which can give you the chance to focus on snapping shots rather than being distracted by features.

You Left Your Camera in Record Mode

A surefire way of draining the power cell on your DSLR is to use it as a video camera. While you should get good results More Than Just Photography: 10 Videos Shot With DSLR Cameras More Than Just Photography: 10 Videos Shot With DSLR Cameras We've put together a list of 10 stunning videos shot using a digital SLR camera that you an use as a point of inspiration for shooting your own videos. Read More , it will definitely result in you having to plug it in for a recharge a lot sooner than usual.

However, one of the problems with video camera mode is that you can forget the device is still recording. With the standard stills mode, if you’re using the LCD (which, as we’ve already seen, you shouldn’t be) then you’re going to see the image in the viewfinder displayed on the screen. The same is true of the video camera mode, but other than a couple of small icons, the display is almost identical.

A quick glance won’t necessarily tell you that you’re in video mode, and it’s all too easy to tap the shutter once thinking you’ve just taken a still picture only to find later when reviewing your device’s memory card that you have recorded a conversation and a trip home from inside the DSLR’s case!

The lesson here is simple: always make sure that your camera is switched off before you put it away, and disable the video camera function as soon as you’re done with it.

You Forgot Power Saving Mode

One way of avoiding the problem above to is to enable your DSLR’s power saving mode. Once activated, this will boost your battery life by shutting down the camera after a predetermined period of inactivity should you forget to switch it off manually.

Power saving settings are found in different places on different manufacturer’s DSLRs, so check your device documentation to find and activate.

Photos Are Snapped in RAW Format

Let’s get this straight: you need RAW format for taking the best photographs and ensuring the best results in post-processing. But you don’t always need RAW.

For situations like trips to the park with your family, you might prefer to switch to a different format, reducing resolution and thereby saving battery. RAW can be saved for those occasions where you need top-notch quality, such as for landscapes and beauty portraits.

Oh, And You Forgot to Charge the Battery

It might seem the most obvious mistake, but a mistake it is. Not charging your DSLR’s lithium ion battery to maximum between uses will result in the cell draining when you start snapping again.

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Whether you have an in-car charger or some other solution for recharging the cell, make sure you use it whenever possible. If this isn’t possible for whatever reason, the best thing you can do is make sure you have a backup battery, kept fully charged, that you can switch to when the first battery drains.

Battery care is important. If you don’t use your DSLR for a prolonged period, make sure you store the camera with the battery removed, preferably fully discharged beforehand. Make sure you charge the battery to maximum and use it at least once a year, otherwise you’ll need to purchase a replacement. Or just go ahead and buy a new DSLR From Beginner To Enthusiast: Replacing Your First Digital SLR From Beginner To Enthusiast: Replacing Your First Digital SLR If you want to upgrade your digital SLR, then you should. But there may be a few things you need to consider before you part with your cash... Read More

We’ve given you ten ways in which you might have let your DSLR camera battery drain unnecessarily. There’s a good chance that you know of more. Tell us about them in the comments.

Image Credits: LCD via Shutterstock, Photo of summer via Shutterstock, Shutter via Shutterstock, DSLR dial via Shutterstock, Camera and charger via Shutterstock

  1. Alfredo Meza
    October 29, 2016 at 12:21 pm

    Hello I have a Nikon D90 and it won't turn on at all. At first I thought it was the charger that wasn't charging three batteries so I got a new one and still nothing. So I went to buy a new battery and nothing. With the new battery it would show the battery blinking liked it was about to die and when looked through the view finder it would blink and show there battery life and almost dead but I had charged the battery for an hour. And now it doesn't do anything. The control panel doesn't turn on at all and when I look through the view finder nothing. Please can anyone help me or give me some tips on what to do.

    • Christian Cawley
      October 29, 2016 at 7:16 pm

      Hi Alfredo, you should definitely contact Nikon about this issue.

  2. Winfried Wilcke
    September 29, 2016 at 8:25 am

    Very good article , except the erroneous advice on how to treat the battery. For a lithium ion battery ( which virtually all modern cameras use) you maximize the life of the battery by storing it about half charged in a refrigerator but not in a freezer. Avoid charging the battery to more than about 80% if you don't need the full charge. The last 20% are 'deadly', especially at higher temperatures, I.e. 25C and beyond, because the various organic electrolytes all decompose exponentially faster with higher voltages, I.e. higher charge state. Also, never ever totally discharge a Li ion battery. They don't have memory effects, by the way.
    ( I've been managing a major battery research project at a large computer company for years)

    • M
      October 3, 2016 at 8:43 am

      Hi, Winfried, how can one establish when the battery is charged to about 80% while it is charging? and likewise, how would one know that it is about 50% discharged, when intending to store it in the fridge?

    • Christian Cawley
      October 29, 2016 at 7:17 pm

      Thanks Winfried for the advice.

  3. Me
    December 27, 2015 at 11:55 pm

    I had the same thought about the half press on the shutter. But I think the author meant to try not to use it any more than necessary. As a newbie to this kind of camera, it is sometimes tempting to re-frame a shot and half-press again, multiple times, just to 'see how it looks' before shooting the photo.

    I was hoping to find suggestions here on how to keep a battery at the ready for when you see something and want a snapshot. Planning 2 days in advance for a photo shot is not always how life happens. :) I want at least one battery at the ready every day. :)

  4. Victor Ong
    May 28, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I'd have to disagree with the shutter-button as being a "mistake." Half-pressing the shutter button, especially when using manual focus, really helps to stabilize the shot instead of having to ram your finger through two layers of buttons to take a shot, potentially ruining the photo.

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