Save A Life – How To Get The Most Out Of Your Camera Battery

This article has been authored by Neil Austin. Neil likes to write about digital wedding photography for his blog: Neil’s blog mainly focuses on wedding photography tips.

Get the Most out of Your Batteries

Digital cameras are packed with lots of great features and spiffy enhancements. But a lot of the goodies are big culprits when it comes to power usage. And there is no worse feeling in the world than having your digital camera battery run down in the middle of a crucial shot.

While you can quickly stop and put a fresh battery in, you can’t always go back and recreate what would have been a great moment for the camera. And even though you may have a few backup batteries, the real trick is to maximize the life of the one that you’re using so you can get the most shots per charge possible.

Here are some things you can do to help get more out of your battery’s life.

  • Give your LCD screen a rest and use the optical viewfinder. What ends up happening is with each picture you take, it will appear on your digital camera’s LCD screen, eating up valuable battery power. Looking through the viewfinder saves your power for taking more pictures. Of course, be aware that what you see on the viewfinder isn’t exactly what you’re going to see on the actual picture. Some of the scenes to the sides of the frame may be cropped off so make sure you’re focused on your subject if the LCD screen is off.
  • The same idea applies to previewing pictures on your LCD screen. Taking a picture, then pulling it up on the LCD screen to show your friends is a wasteful use of battery life. You can save more power by only looking at a previous picture on the LCD screen if it’s going to help make the next shot better. Save the photo sharing for when you’ve uploaded your pictures to your computer or burned them to a disc.
  • If leaving the LCD screen off isn’t practical, look at lowering the screen’s brightness to save power. Lower it to an acceptable level, remembering that you may have difficulty in bright sunlight viewing the screen. Shade it with the palm of your hand if this is the case.
  • Using your camera’s menu function, try adjusting the “sleep” option. What this will do is put your digital camera into a power-saving sleep mode after a designated period of time, but it still remains ready to be used and can usually be “awakened” by touching one of the camera’s function buttons or the shutter. You may even be able to leave your digital camera in sleep mode to squeeze more shots out of your battery’s charge.
  • Use the single focus feature whenever possible. You’re asking your battery to work that much harder when your camera is using continual focus, and that feature is really only necessary if you’re taking pictures of subjects with lots of motion – say, children playing or maybe shots of a sporting event.
  • Many amateur shutterbugs find themselves playing with the zoom out of habit. Use your zoom sparingly. The motor that zooms your camera’s lens in and out is another unwanted power drain, and you should only use it when you’re ready to shoot.
  • Only press the shutter button when you’re ready to actually take a picture. Pressing it halfway puts the camera into a preparation mode that drains power because it thinks it’s about to take a picture and needs to be ready – and it gets ready by resetting and refocusing the camera – a big expense of power.
  • Don’t charge your battery if it still has a relatively strong charge. This can diminish a battery’s ability to hold a charge, and that is something you will start to notice when you begin getting fewer shots per charge. Avoid dropping the battery too. This can affect its polarity and therefore its ability to properly charge.
  • If you’re shooting pictures in cold weather, keep your camera warm by keeping it close to your body. Colder temperatures cause batteries to drain faster, and your body heat can help battery performance remain at optimal levels.
  • Save the video clips for a video camera. Recording and playing back video clips eats up lots of power, and if you’re really wanting to shoot videos, get a camera dedicated for that use.
  • Don’t go cheap on the recharger. It’s true with some things you get what you pay for, and battery chargers are one item you don’t want to skimp on. A good charger will extend your batteries’ lives and charge them more efficiently.
  • Keep spare batteries handy, and rotate through the batteries you use so they all get used as equally as possible. This helps to ensure that battery life remains constant from battery to battery, and more importantly it also means you’ll grab a battery that’s been recharged, instead of the dead one you kept forgetting to charge.
  • Use the flash only when necessary. Most professionals will tell you that the flash on digital cameras don’t really add anything to a picture anyway, even at night.
  • Wait until you’re back safely at home before you start deleting pictures. Deleting shots only drains more power, and you can get rid of unwanted pictures after you’ve uploaded them to your computer for review.
  • If you’re using lithium ion batteries you’ll get more life out of them by making sure they’re charged completely and regularly. Lithium ion batteries typically hold a charge longer than regular alkaline batteries too.
  • When storing your camera for a week or more, remove the batteries to prevent an accidental discharge.

These battery maintenance tips will help you dramatically extend the life of your battery, while getting the most out of each charge. They’ll help you prolong your enjoyment of your digital camera. And they’ll help you and your camera to always be ready to take a great picture – no matter when the right photo opportunity arises!

This article has been authored by Neil Austin. Neil likes to write about digital wedding photography for his blog: Neil’s blog mainly focuses on wedding photography tips.

8 thoughts on “Save A Life – How To Get The Most Out Of Your Camera Battery

  1. Adirec Torytski

    Now who would have thought there could be so many tips. The one that I never see mentioned, and is often ignored at least by novice users is turning off the function noises, like when you move from picture to picture or options within the camera itself often they have an annoying sound playing, turn this function off. Now I have no proof that this will save battery power but it must??


  2. Nieruchomosci Gryfino

    I always have my screen brightness at the lowest possible levels. Same in my phone. The best example I had couple years ago – my SEk800i lasted about 1.5 days between recharging with a 100% brightness. When I lowered it to 50% (you weren’t allowed to go lower) the battery lasted over a week. All that energy was used up by the screen alone.

  3. Traveller

    Good tips, a lot of which I learned myself by making a lot of mistakes. I just want to add a note to your tip “rotate through the batteries”. If you are using more then 2 batteries put stickers with numbers on them. It will be much easer to rotate them and remember which one is already used, which one is not.
    And one more tip for saving power – if you are taking a lot of pictures with long exposure, buy shutter release cable or remote shutter release. As I am seeing so many people are taking night shots using timer function on camera. It not just waste of battery power, but also waste of time by waiting 10s. It doesn’t look long period for one picture, but if you are doing 50 shots per night, your savings end up in minutes not seconds. And in some situations (like photographing fireworks) you don’t have time to wait 10s.

  4. Gary

    Good tips on preserving battery life…

    My tip is the opposite. Buy more batteries… Compared to the cost of other photo goodies, they are reasonably cheap and easy to change out. Turning off features that you enjoy on your camera just to save battery life is backwards IMO.

    Use the features you bought the camera for, and then replace the battery when its dead.

  5. David

    Hello everyone. A couple more thoughts. If it’s cold in the room where you pack your bags, get the batteries inside a camera bag and close it up, the moment they come off the charger. I’ve noticed that this can make a significant difference in the winter months. Also, if your battery goes flat when it’s cold and you need a few more flashes out of that flashgun, put the batteries in your pocket for a few minutes to warm them up and sometimes you can get a few more flashes out of them.

    You need twice as much battery juice in cold weather. I charge my units via an APC block. If we get a power cut, my NiMh cycle doesn’t get interrupted.

    I agree with Gary. Buy more than you need. However, not on price for every unit. Have you bought a set of spares for your Metz 76 lately?

  6. Dan

    Lithium Ion batteries won’t perform any better by you keeping them charged up. These batteries have a shelf life and begin to lose capacity from the minute they are made. Keeping them fully charged or in a warm location will shorten this shelf life considerably. I think I read somewhere that the perfect environment is about 65 degrees F and the battery at a 40% charge. What that means to me is that it isn’t worth the work to try and sustain the battery life, so I just use the crap out of them and buy a new one when I need it.

    Regarding the tip about not recharging your battery if it has a relatively strong charge, this is mostly myth as well. Even Nickel-metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries don’t really have as much “memory effect” as people make out. It may happen if you recharge the things after taking 10 pictures day after day for 2 years, but you aren’t really going to miss 10 pictures worth of charge anyway.

    Our battery tech sucks, but they aren’t terrifically expensive anymore so it seems like the best policy is just carry a boatload of spares if that’s what it takes to actually use the features of your camera.

  7. Jim Stearns

    Battery Care and Maintenance
    What is the difference between NiCad, NiMH and Lithium Ion batteries?
    Batteries in portable consumer devices such as a laptop, camcorder, cellular phone, etc., are typically made using either Nickel Cadmium (NiCad), Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH) or Lithium Ion (Li-Ion) battery cell chemistry. Each type of rechargeable battery chemistry has its own unique characteristics:

    NiCad and NiMH:
    The main difference between the two is that NiMH battery (the newer technology of the two) offers higher energy density than NiCads. In other words, the capacity of a NiMH is approximately twice the capacity of its NiCad counterpart. What this means is for you is increased run-time from the battery with no additional bulk or weight. NiMH also offers another major advantage: NiCad batteries tend to suffer from what is called the “memory effect”. NiMH batteries are less prone to develop this problem and thus require less maintenance and conditioning. NiMH batteries are also environmentally friendlier than NiCad batteries since they do not contain heavy metals (which present serious landfill problems). Note: Not all devices can accept both NiCad or NiMH batteries.
    Lithium Ion

    Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) has become the new standard for portable power in consumer devices. Li-Ion batteries produce the same energy as NiMH battery but weighs approximately 20%35% less. This is can make a noticeable difference in devices such as cellular phones, camcorders or notebook computers where the battery makes up a significant portion of the total weight. Another reason Li-Ion batteries have become so popular is that they do not suffer from the “memory effect” at all. They are also environmentally friendly because they don’t contain toxic materials such as Cadmium or Mercury.

    The Do’s and Don’ts of Battery Use

    Battery Do’s:
    Fully charge/discharge battery up to 4 cycles before achieving full capacity of a new battery
    Fully discharge and then fully charge the battery every two to three weeks for battery conditions.
    Run the device under the battery’s power until it shuts down or until you get a low battery warning. Then recharge the battery as instructed in the user’s manual.
    Remove from the device and stored in a cool, dry, clean place if the battery will not be in use for a month or longer,
    Recharge the battery after a storage period
    Ensure maximum performance of the battery by optimizing the device’s power management features. Refer to the manual for further instructions.

    Battery Don’ts:
    Do not short-circuit. A short-circuit may cause severe damage to the battery.
    Do not drop, hit or otherwise abuse the battery as this may result in the exposure of the cell contents, which are corrosive.
    Do not expose the battery to moisture or rain.
    Keep battery away from fire or other sources of extreme heat. Do not incinerate. Exposure of battery to extreme heat may result in an explosion.

    My new battery isn’t charging. Is it defective?
    Usually NO. New batteries come in a discharged condition and must be fully charged before use. It is recommended that you fully charge and discharge the new battery two to four times to allow it to reach its maximum rated capacity
    It is generally recommend an overnight charge (approximately twelve hours). It is normal for a battery to become warm to the touch during charging and discharging.
    When charging the battery for the first time, the device may indicate that charging is complete after just 10 or 15 minutes. This is a normal with rechargeable batteries. New batteries are hard for the device to charge; they have never been fully charged and not “broken in.” Sometimes the device’s charger will stop charging a new battery before it is fully charged. If this happens, remove the battery from the device and then reinsert it. The charge cycle should begin again. This may happen several times during the first battery charge. Don’t worry; it’s perfectly normal.

    How can I maximize the performance of my battery?
    There are several steps you can take to help you get maximum performance from your battery:
    Prevent the Memory Effect – Keep the battery healthy by fully charging and then fully discharging it at least once every two to three weeks. Exceptions to the rule are Li-Ion batteries which do not suffer from the memory effect.
    Keep the Batteries Clean – It’s a good idea to clean dirty battery contacts with a cotton swab and alcohol. This helps maintain a good connection between the battery and the portable device.
    Exercise the Battery – Do not leave the battery dormant for long periods of time. We recommend using the battery at least once every two to three weeks. If a battery has not been used for a long period of time, perform the new battery procedure described above.
    Battery Storage – If you don’t plan on using the battery for a month or more, store it in a clean, dry, cool place away from heat and metal objects. NiCad, NiMH and Li-Ion batteries will self-discharge during storage; remember to recharge the batteries before use.
    Sealed Lead Acid – (SLA) batteries must be kept at full charge during storage. This is usually achieved by using special trickle chargers. If you do not have a trickle charger, do not attempt to store SLA batteries for more than three months.
    Jim Stearns 01/21/2009 Page 3 of 3

  8. Ignas

    Dear Neil,

    I just bought a D300s – my first DSLR. I have been using it regularly for practice and each day after using it, I keep the DSLR in a Dry Box with 42 RH. I d not remove the batteries as I am using it often-daily. Is this good? I have seen many comments that it should be kept in a cool, dry, clean place BUT about RH. I live in Malaysia – very high humidity area.

    The instruction book only addresses the temperature but does not address humidity.

    Please advice

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