8 Great Tips to Get More Out of Your Camera Batteries

Olympus's Micro 4/3rd's camera

Wouldn’t it be an absolute nightmare to have your batteries die in the middle of an important shoot? Granted, we’re all responsible people that take great care to ensure that something like that doesn’t happen when we’re out on the job. However, after shooting with different systems one can easily see that the battery life of cameras from different companies can vary. Being in the tech industry, I’ve learned tips for conserving battery power and extending overall life. At the beginning of the year, I’ve started applying those tips to cameras: with amazingly positive results. Here are 8 pointers to keep in mind no matter what type of camera you shoot with.

1. Don’t Overcharge

Something I see often amongst other photographers (and even myself when I first started) is that when they pack their camera’s away they put the batteries in the charger and leave them in there for a long period of time well beyond the battery’s point of being fully charged. Doing this kills the Lithium Ion cells in the battery–therefore lowering the potential longevity of its life. Don’t overcharge your batteries. When the light on the charger turns green, take the batteries out.

2. Dim Your LCD Screen

Not all cameras have this option, but the ones that do allow for a blessing on your battery life. Dim the screen to the lowest brightness possible while still allowing you to see and read the information. LCD screens use quite a bit of battery life no matter how high quality they may be. The dimmer it is, the less energy will be pulled.

3. Let the LCD Screen Go to Sleep

More importantly, let the LCD screen go to sleep. I’ve shot alongside some photographers who try to keep their LCD screen on for as long as possible. The longer it stays on, the more life will be pulled from the battery. Most of the information you may require can be seen in the viewfinder. Shooting in RAW will allow you to customize your white balance, saturation, contrast etc later on in post.

4. Stay Out of Live View As Much As You Can

Using Live View is another way of using the battery to power your LCD. Live View is extremely useful in many situations (studio, over-the-head shooting, and others) but looking through your viewfinder typically gives you a much better viewing experience.

5. While on a Shoot, Only Delete Images When You Need To

There are many good reasons as to why you should delete images only when you need to. Besides missing great shooting opportunities while spending time deleting your images, deleting your images on camera uses more battery life. You should only do this if your memory card is running out of space. Further, you should also use your training and what you’ve learned from your mistakes to get the shot perfect in the first place in under three shots. While your deleting your images, people sometimes look over your shoulder and say stuff like, “Oh that’s a nice shot.” In a situation like that, you spend more time with your LCD screen not asleep. That continues us onto the next point.

6. Buy A Faster Memory Card

As a pointer: if you’re going to clear the space on the memory card, there is the option of doing so while it is hooked up to your computer. However, it is recommended that you format the card on your camera so that they two stay synced closely together. Depending on which card you have, the formatting process may take much longer. For example, on my Olympus E-510 it is much faster to format my PNY CF card than my Olympus xD card (I’m talking about 1 sec. vs 15+ sec.) Obviously the longer formatting will use more battery life.

7. Clean The Sensor Yourself

I’ve seen some photographers turn their cameras on and off over and over again just to clean their sensors. Doing this uses a lot more battery power. Instead, what you may want to do is pick up something like an Arctic Butterfly. This little brush can keep your sensor very, very clean when used in addition to your system’s self-cleaning methods.

8. Use An External Flash

Bush And Abu Ghraib

Using an external flash can tremendously cut down on the need for extra juice from your battery. I’ve done a shoot with just an on-board flash before. While the pictures (like the one above) came out looking very good the battery life on my camera was cut down tremendously and I went through both of my batteries very quickly.

Elven Model

Using an external flash means that the camera will be pulling less power from the battery. External flashes run on their own batteries, so use those instead. You’ll get very nice results as externals are usually much more versatile.

Maria Sharapova and her Canon Powershot Diamond Collection

However, there is always the option of shooting without a flash too. Chances are that if you’re shooting an event that other photographers around you will be using their flashes too. In that case, just time your shooting with theirs and you’ll get almost the same results by using less battery power. That was done in the image above: I shot alongside AP, Daily News, NY Post and other photographers–all of whom had flashes.

What Did I Miss?

Do you have any other pointers to help the rest of us make the most of our camera batteries?  Share you tips in the comments below.

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Comments

  1. sabari says

    I like the “use external flash” to save power idea…..what about use “external camera” to save power in my camera ?

  2. says

    Number 1 is completely incorrect. All Lithium Ion batteries have a control chip that stops the charge current from reaching the cells after a full charge. It is automatic and is visible by the changing of the light on the charger.

  3. Peter says

    Re: #1 (overcharging)

    All mainstream LiIon chargers cut off charge current to the battery when they turn that LED green. There’s no danger of overcharging. There may be some off-brand chargers that don’t but they’re risking more than battery damage (think “exploding cellphone” here)

    //I design with LiIon charger ICs at work

  4. Carmine says

    What should I look for in a faster memory card for a point-and-shoot camera? I have a Nikon Coolpix 4200.

  5. Lon says

    Last paragraph “Chances are that if you’re shooting an event that other photographers around you will be using their flashes too. In that case, just time your shooting with theirs and you’ll get almost the same results by using less battery power”

    That seems pretty far fetched – not only is it difficult to synch the 1/60th of a second both curtains are open to that precise moment in time, your shots would also likely not be exposed properly for the available light (unless you are shooting in manual and know the flash exposure settings the other photographer is using).

    Though I have heard about wiring an optical slave to your shutter release in order to get the shot when the flash goes off (some photographers use this technique when trying to capture lightning)

  6. Lon says

    Also, if you are planning on longer sessions it would make a lot of sense to simply buy a spare battery. For DSLRs you may also be able to get a battery grip which uses multiple batteries (may even be loaded with AA sized ones) and also has the bonus ability to extend the grip and provide one for portrait orientation with an additional shutter release button too.

  7. Adirec Torytski says

    Wow great tips. Thanks, the best one is the first one, for me anyway. I have always just put the batteries on the charge and then left them there sometimes for a few days. Now I know why the life I am getting from the batteries is not what it should be.

    Perhaps this is too basic, but also turning off the sound in the camera must save some battery power or is that just supposed to be common knowledge. I always have mine off and pretty much turned it off from the start but I know there are some who don’t think about this, perhaps I am wrong and it is so negligible in the amount of energy saved?

    Anyway, thanks for the other tips. Hope I can improve the length of power I have with my batteries now!

    Cheers
    Adirec

  8. DavidD says

    if you want to browse through the images on the card, switch the camera to view mode before turning it on so it doesn’t waste power opening the shutter and returning to the last zoom position. (not sure if all cameras offer this but my Panasonic Limix does)

  9. says

    I’m not sure comparing CompactFlash memory cards and xD memory cards is fair. Sure the CF is quicker to format. But that doesn’t actually say much about the power draw.

    Maybe it’s because they’re TWO COMPLETELY DIFFERENT TYPES OF CARD.

    And which multimeter did you use to CHECK if the power draw was lower, or just assume that less time = less power?

  10. Alan B Steele says

    Don’t let your batteries get cold, or hot – just warm. Remove your batteries from the camera when not in use.

    Many cameras take more than one type of battery so keep a cheeper set charged and ready as a backup.

    Digital Cameras are ideal for experimetation; after all you don’t have buy or pay for processing expensive film so go ahead and shoot as much as you like in as many situations as you can using as many and varied settings as you feel you want; and make notes.

  11. says

    with all do neceseary respect – 2,3,4,5 are completly “well duh ! ”
    1 is plain bull berries and demonstrates no knowledge of battery technology whatsoever and like others said using other people flash is cow cookies : you cannot obtain any predictable results – you’ll end up shooting probably 50 frames to get one properly lit and in sync – but by then the subject would be gone.

    So give up those 10 things to know type articles written just for the sake of the keywords and produce some real content instead.

  12. Tony Konabie says

    The problem I have with multiple flashes going off at the same time that I’m shooting avaliable light is I always seem to get a washed out shots on the side where the “other” flash are going off.

  13. says

    I thought the last one was balogona too, but while reading your tips, I turned down my display light. Good tip.
    Anyway, it also takes power to edit your images on the computer (as long as your camera is attached). I have a power adapter, but don’t like messing with it, so I go through and do a rough first edit of deletions, then copy them to My Pictures for further editing and PP processing. This way the camera is only hooked up for a fairly short time.
    Then I can take my time with final decisions and later go back to delete rejected ones from the camera. That just take a minute or two.
    Even though I try to be as conservative as possible, I shoot a lot and go through at least one batter per day. Have never gone through two, but like you, I use an external flash. Onboard flash really eats batteries.

  14. Flyfisher says

    I can think of only ONE way to reply to the 8 tips on saving battery power. Carry a fully charged Spare or set of spares . That means “The best quality, long life battery that your camera deserves”

    Flyfisher UK.

  15. leo says

    Good tips, the most of them seems very logical to me and I already apply them. I also carry a spare one, or more. So is it so important to safe the energy? I like to have a brite LCD screen. A spare battery cost nothing compare to fast cards, I always buy off-brand battery’s. Cleaning the sensor yourself, which I do with my Canon 5D en Eos1 Mark II cost a lot of energy. You even get a warning when your battery is low, so there is no possibility that your mirror comes down while cleaning. When it is low then you have to put a battery in with enough power.

    It is good to know what eats your energy from your battery, but is it all that important? For me it is not.

  16. photogeezer says

    Icebox, lose the attitude. Starting a post with “with all do neceseary respect” [sic] does not give you license to be sarcastic and rude. You impressed no one. It’s far more productive to submit a factual rebuttal in a civil manner.

    #1 does, in fact, apply to the NiMH batteries which we use in our external flashes. A good charger (I use a Maha MH-C801D) will reduce to a tiny trickle charge when the charging is complete, thereby avoiding overcharging. It is also capable of providing an optional conditioning charge which prolongs battery life.

    Thanks for the article, Chris.

  17. Mr T. says

    I have to agree with Alan B Steele : Keep the battery warm. Heating the battery in my hands or in my trousers pocket have kept me shooting several times in less than warm weather despite being low on battery.

  18. says

    The biggest battery saver I know is completely missed here. Hooking your camera up to your computer to download or manipulate photos is a huge camera-battery waster. I never connect my cameras to the computer with a cable. I remove the SD Card from the camera and insert it into a card reader on my computer. Transfer of pictures from card to computer causes ZERO drain on camera batteries. Batteries in my Canon S3 IS last a week or two, taking hundreds of pictures with flash, or hours of video, before needing changed. I always carry an extra set of charged batteries, and rarely have to change them. If I used a cable to connect to the computer to transfer my photos, I’d run out of battery in the camera in a day or two.

  19. Rachel Resnick says

    Make sure your batteries are completely discharged before recharging them. That’s advice from my (Sony) camera manual.

  20. Colin Powell says

    Don’t overcharge: bull****. Chargers know when the batery is full, and most fast chargers only charge up to 80% capacity unless you leave the batteries in for a couple more hours.

  21. Jorge Luna says

    When shooting with my dSLR I usually turn it off after shooting a photograph and turn it on for the next one. I’ve always wondered if this saves more or less power than keeping it always on (LCD off, of course) any info on this?

    Thank you

  22. Iany says

    The last advise (as to using the light from other flashes around you) is stupid because the sync speed of a flash is rather fast and pressing the shutter exactly at the same time with another camera is actually impossible.
    Bad advise.

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