Tips and Tricks

Silent Photography Ⅱ: Preventing Vibration in Landscape Shots

Narrated by YAMANO Yasuteru

A Variety of Features to Prevent Vibration

One reason to use silent photography is to prevent vibration. In addition to silent mode, there are a number of other “vibration suppression” features available to prevent vibration originating in the camera, including mirror-up mode, exposure delay mode, and the electronic front-curtain shutter. I’ll outline these features here; use them according to your goals.

A situation where you’ll want to prevent vibration: Landscape photography using a telephoto lens
Left, silent photography (Mode 1); right, silent photography off

  Mirror-up Mode

In mirror-up mode, the photographer presses the shutter-release button once to raise the mirror and again to start the exposure. Delaying the start of the exposure until after the vibrations from raising the mirror have died down prevents blur caused by “mirror slap”.

Using a remote cord in place of the camera shutter-release button not only smooths the action of pressing the shutter-release button twice, but also helps keep you safe from camera blur caused by handling the camera directly. Combining mirror-up mode with the electronic front-curtain shutter is guaranteed to prevent camera blur, given that “shutter shock” caused by the operation of the shutter can still cause camera blur even in mirror-up mode.

  Exposure-Delay Mode

Exposure-delay mode delays the start of each exposure until a set time after the mirror has been raised. The delays that can be chosen according to your expectation of how long it will take the vibration from the mirror to die down are 0.2, 0.5, 1, 2, and 3 seconds. Exposure-delay mode can be thought of as an automatic shutter release that takes place a set time after the mirror has been raised.

  The Electronic Front-Curtain Shutter

The electronic front-curtain shutter starts the exposure without engaging the mechanical (front-curtain) shutter. Because it requires that the mirror already be raised, blur caused by the mirror and shutter is not a concern and any worries about blur during single-frame photography are effectively eliminated. In burst live-view photography, however, there is the possibility of blur due to vibrations from the mechanical (rear-curtain) shutter that have not have died down before the next photo is taken, making silent live view photography a valid choice, although one needs to be aware of the potential for a rolling shutter effect. It’s probably best to decide which setting is optimal for your purposes based on the potential for camera and subject movement.

The Exposure delay mode menu (D850)
The Electronic front-curtain shutter menu (D850)

  Some Effective Uses

Synthesizing the information to this point necessitates some repetition, but in single-frame photography, or in other words in situations in which burst photography is not required, any anxiety you might experience with respect to blur due to vibration originating in the camera can be eliminated by shooting with the electronic front-curtain shutter after the mirror has been raised. Given that this option can appropriately be used with the camera mounted on a tripod, you can make doubly sure by using a remote cord or otherwise taking steps to avoid handling the camera directly. If you don’t have access to a remote cord or other equipment for remote photography, the electronic front-curtain shutter can be combined with exposure-delay mode, which also eliminates concerns about the rolling shutter effect that can occur during silent photography.

If you’re not using a tripod but are instead taking hand-held photographs with the camera at eye level, you will not be able to frame shots in the viewfinder when using the electronic front-curtain shutter to prevent blur, as this would require that the mirror be raised during shooting, but you can instead frame shots in the monitor when the mirror is raised during live view. In this case a third-party hood loupe is recommended, as it not only prevents leakage of light from the monitor but also allows photos to be taken with camera at eye level, making the camera easier to hold.

  Other “Silent Photography” Options

Silent photography is also available during time-lapse movie recording and interval-timer and focus-shift photography. Silent photography is recommended in these situations not only because it mutes distracting sounds but also because it eliminates concerns regarding wear caused by the operation of the mirror, shutter, and other camera mechanisms. Select On for Silent photography in the interval-timer, time-lapse, or focus-shift menu. Photos will be taken in Mode 1 even if Mode 2 is currently selected for Silent live view photography.

  Combining Silent Photography with Other Features

Camera attached to astronomical telescope
Camera attached to astronomical telescope

Although I personally use silent photography a lot in order to keep vibration to a minimum for astrophotography, particularly when the camera is attached to a telescope, I sometimes find it useful to combine it with other features, one of which I describe below.

A 9-frame exposure bracketing sequence of the crescent moon
A magnified view of a shot of the crescent moon taken with an exposure time of 1/30 s

Sample image: A 9-frame exposure bracketing sequence of the crescent moon. Astronomical telescope (Takahashi FCT‑150, aperture 150 mm, focal length 1050 mm); Camera: D850; ISO sensitivity: ISO 64; Silent photography: On (Mode 1); Bracketing: Exposure bracketing (9 frames); Exposure mode: Manual; Image quality: 14-bit NEF (RAW); Picture Control: Neutral, chosen during NEF (RAW) processing; Exposure time in seconds is shown under each frame

These are photos of a crescent moon. In this phase, one can see not only the bright area of the moon but also the area in shadow, faintly lit by earth-shine. Given the considerable difference in brightness between the two areas, I chose to use exposure bracketing to help find the optimal exposure, with the additional goal of creating suitable raw material for later tone compression. Here is what I hoped to achieve:

(1) Goal: To complete 9 shots separated by 1 EV in as short a time as possible. Means: Exposure bracketing.
(2) Goal: To prevent vibration when the camera is attached to a telescope. Means: Silent photography.
(3) Goal: To record pictures in NEF (RAW) format so that colors and tones can later be fine-tuned. Means: Mode 1

As a result, I was able to shoot with maximum efficiency without worrying about camera vibration, allowing me to get good results with extreme ease. The objective that brought about this state of affairs was to shoot an exposure bracketing sequence in a short time without having to worry about camera vibration, but it seems probable that one could have many similar motivations.

I want you all to use a variety of camera features, including silent photography, for optimal settings that produce the best results given the type of subject and the state of the camera system.

Tips and Tricks > Silent Photography Ⅰ, the Basics: Taking Photos Silently

Profile of YAMANO Yasuteru

Photographer and researcher of photographic techniques. Born in 1954 in Kagawa. Has been publishing photos and articles in astronomical journals since the 1970s. Has published many digital photos and articles relating to digital astronomical photography since the year 2000. Member of the Society of Photography and Imaging of Japan (SPIJ).

Violinist courtesy of KYO-GEI INTERNATIONAL LLC. 
ZACUTO Z-Finder Pro courtesy of Nobby Tech. Ltd.
SLIK Light carbon E83 FA courtesy of Kenko Tokina Co., Ltd.

Functions Used for Silent Photography Ⅱ: Preventing Vibration in Landscape Shots
View detailed information on the settings and procedures used.

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