When I started in photography, I spent a lot of time and money outfitting my kit with what I thought were the most essential items.
That, of course, included a camera body, a couple of lenses, a decent tripod, and even a cheap filter set (which I almost immediately regretted buying, but that's another story).
So I happily took all my gear out to take photos and learned a lot in those first few forays into the world of photography.
But I kept coming up against the same obstacles over and over again.
For starters, I noticed that when I zoomed in on my photos that they weren't totally sharp.
And as much as I hate to admit it, there were a few times when I wanted to take a selfie but didn't have any way to trigger the shutter. So what did I do? Set the timer and run back and forth from the back of the camera to my position in front of it.
There were also occasions when I wanted to try something more creative, like a long-exposure or even a timelapse video, but didn't have one crucial piece of equipment in my camera bag...
A camera remote.
Back in the day, I remember reading tons of photography articles, but they all seemed to frame the need for a camera remote as something that you only need for night photography or long exposures.
As I quickly learned, that just isn't the case.
Let's take a look at a few reasons why a camera remote is an essential piece of gear for any photographer.
You Can Use Slow Shutter Speeds
One of the primary benefits of using a camera remote is that you can use it to fire the shutter for much longer exposures than what you can dial in with the camera settings.
This is because most cameras only allow you to slow the shutter to about 30 seconds without using what's called Bulb Mode, which allows you to extend the shutter to minutes or even hours.
Naturally, you don't want to stand there and hold down the shutter button for minutes or hours. A camera remote means you don't have to.
Depending on the type of remote you use, you might just press the remote button to fire the shutter and press it again to end the exposure.
Higher-end camera remotes like the Alpine Labs Pulse actually allow you to preprogram settings for still photos, long exposures, time lapse videos, self-portraits...you name it!
That means you can control things like shutter speed right from the Pulse app (among plenty of other things). And since Pulse connects to your phone via Bluetooth, you can be up to 100 feet away from your camera and still have complete control. It sounds crazy, but it's true!
Reduce Camera Shake
One of the biggest problems photographers face is having photos that might look good from a compositional standpoint, but that just aren't completely sharp.
Though there are plenty of reasons why this might be the case, a common culprit is camera shake.
Even when using a tripod, camera shake can cause your images to be blurry because no matter how careful you are when pressing the shutter button on your camera, the simple act of touching the camera can cause enough vibration to get a blurry photo.
That's where a camera remote like Pulse (pictured above) comes in.
By removing the need to touch your camera at all, you can use the remote to get clearer, sharper images.
That works for all sorts of setups, from macro photography to images taken with a telephoto lens.
Just set up your gear on a nice, stable tripod, compose the shot, and use your remote to get the sharpest photo possible.
A Remote is Ideal for Light Painting
If you're looking for a fun and creative photography adventure, light painting might be it.
Painting with light is just what it sounds like...
You select a dark location, get your camera setup on a tripod, dial in the settings you desire, and use your remote to trigger the shutter.
Then, you use a flashlight, a headlamp, heck, even glow sticks, to create beautiful patterns with the light.
The beauty of doing light painting with a camera remote is that you don't need any help to get it done. Just dial in the desired settings, take your place with your light source in front of the camera, and start and stop the exposure with your remote.
If it sounds easy, it really is! Check out a quick tutorial on light painting in the video below by Kingston Technology:
Photographing Shy Subjects
I've tried photographing birds in my backyard I don't know how many times, yet I always seem to scare the darn things off.
The same goes for my forays into macro photography when I try to photograph an insect of some sort, which always seems to fly off the moment before I trigger the shutter.
A camera remote can help resolve such calamities, especially if you have a top-notch camera remote like the aforementioned Pulse.
Not only does a camera remote allow you to remove yourself from the equation, which makes getting photos of shy subjects more likely, but if you have a remote like Pulse, you can get instant image previews after you take the shot.
That means that every time you fire the shutter, you can simply look at your phone using the Pulse app to see how the photo turned out. You can even take a look at the histogram to investigate how the exposure looks, and then make changes to improve the shot right from your phone.
And remember, with Bluetooth connectivity, you can do all this from 100 feet away. That means the birds, insects, or other shy subjects you want to photograph won't even know you're there - because you won't be!
Getting Candid Portraits
For me, candid portraits are where it's at.
It's not that formal, posed portraits can't be great, it's just that I prefer the genuineness of a real moment captured by a camera.
A camera remote improves your chances of capturing candid moments, because, just like with shy subjects, you're removed from the situation.
Imagine photographing your kid's birthday party without having to constantly tell everyone to look at the camera and say cheese.
Instead, you can set up your camera and fire the shutter whenever you like and get sweet candid shots like the one above.
It's just human nature to stiffen up and force a smile when we see a person aiming a camera at us.
By using a remote, you can avoid that in favor of more genuine photos that will be much more meaningful to you in the long-run.
Besides, a camera remote frees you to be out from behind the camera and more involved in whatever activities might be going on. That's a win-win if you ask me!
Making Timelapse Videos
If you really want to expand your photography boundaries, a camera remote allows you to create timelapse videos that show how a scene changes over the course of time.
Again, this can be done with just about any remote, but the best camera remotes like Pulse give you all sorts of expanded capabilities that make your timelapse videos look like a professional movie.
That's because Pulse allows you to take charge of everything from the interval between each shot and the duration of each shot to the exposure settings used for the sequence.
In fact, Pulse gives you the power to dial in the settings you want, and then leave! Just set the parameters for your timelapse using the Pulse app, and then Pulse will take it from there. Your phone doesn't have to remain connected, so you're free to do what you want while Pulse handles the rest.
What's more, Pulse has advanced timelapse settings like exposure ramping, which allows you to make adjustments to the exposure settings as the light changes, like during the transition from day to night.
Better still, if you have two or three Pulse-enabled cameras, you can control all of them right from your phone. Just imagine the professional-looking timelapse videos you can get! See just how easy it is to create a timelapse with Pulse in the video below: