Remote shutter releases and how to choose the right one

Remote shutter releases and how to choose the right one

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So now, you have gotten serious about your photography adventure. You have invested in expensive camera gear and a tripod.

Still you are a bit unsure how to set off that camera without moving it and ruining the picture with motion blur.

What you need is some kind of shutter release. There are a few types of these camera triggers out there.

There are mainly two categories: The wired and the wireless shutter release.

The wireless kind can be divided into two subgroups: Infrared (IR) and radio triggers.

The IR wireless shutter release

My small, and very handy, pentax shutter releases
My small, and very handy Pentax IR shutter releases

I will talk about this type first, as this is my favorite for most situations where you are located close to your camera.

If your camera supports IR, this is in my opinion the most convenient way to trigger your DSLR.

You need to be within a few feet of your camera, with a clear line of sight to the IR receiver.

Sometimes you might experience some interference by direct sunlight or fluorescent bulbs, but overall I prefer this kind of shutter release compared to the cable release.

Another downside is that these small IR remotes are battery operated, and sometimes it can be cumbersome or downright impossible to change the battery without prying the thing apart.

The battery lasts a very long time in the first place though.

They are small and light weight. It’s easier to move around, and you’re not tied to your camera.

Some examples:
I used my small Pentax IR remote to trigger my camera when I took this picture under the moonlight, this photo of ice and water, and this series of panorama shots.

Extended functionality may differ depending on the camera and remote model, but most of them only work as plain shutter releases and quite well at that.

Here are some wireless IR triggers at

The radio (RF) shutter release

Hahnel RF Shutter Release and Pentax K-7
The Hähnel Giga T Pro II RF shutter release connected to my Pentax K-7

This is a bit more advanced than the IR remote. It works on radio frequencies, so there is no need for direct line of sight.

It can also work over greater distances (300 ft/100m or more).




These types of triggers usually consist of two parts:

  1. A receiver that connects to the camera via a cable (as a standard cable release). Depending on the model of the remote, this receiver may be mounted in the camera’s hot shoe.
  2. A transmitter that you can take with you and trigger the camera from a distance.

Both of these are battery operated.

An example of a trigger that the pros use is the Pocket Wizard.

These triggers can be used to set off a camera (or flash) individually, or in groups from hundreds of feet away. They are also very expensive.

At the other end, you can get some RF shutter releases cheap on eBay, but the build quality and functionality may not be very good.

I use a remote control that’s somewhere in between.

I can recommend the Hahnel Giga T Pro 2.4GHz Wireless Timer Remote.

It can be used wirelessly from about 100 meters (320ft.) away.

It can work as a standard cable release.

It has a timer, so you can do time lapse photography, or do timed exposures (bulb mode).

Just remember to get the one with the right connector for your camera brand (the Canon version fits most Pentax cameras).

The cable shutter release

My pentax cable shutter release
My Pentax cable shutter release

This is the simplest, and most often, the cheapest kind of camera trigger there is.

The cable shutter release plugs into the remote control socket, and you can trigger the shutter without touching the camera.

The most important thing is to find one with the right connector for your camera.

In its simplest form, this type of shutter release has one advantage over all the other types, it doesn’t require batteries.

You can get this type of trigger with a timer as well. Then you can use it for time lapse and timed exposures.

Browse some cable triggers for your camera here at  

Your phone as a shutter release

Yep. That’s right.

You can use your phone to trigger you DSLR camera. Via IR.

If your phone comes equipped with an IR transmitter, you can just download an app.

I use this app for my android phone.

With this, you can download remote signals for popular IR devices or you can “teach” it your own.

If you have a phone without built in IR or an IPhone, you might need some additional hardware (IR adapter) for this to work.

I find it a bit cumbersome to use my phone as a camera trigger, in most cases, but it’s a nice thing to have in a pinch.

Just in case, you forgot your main shutter release at home.

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