How to extend your camera's battery life

Here are some tips to help squeeze out every last bit of juice from your camera's battery pack.

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Need to snap a couple more important photos, but the battery indicator on your camera is looking rather grim?

Here are some tips to make sure the battery goes the distance.

Turn off the LCD screen

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If you are shooting on an SLR you can conserve plenty of power by using the optical viewfinder to compose your images rather than relying on the LCD and live view.

On a compact camera, however, this might not be possible unless it comes with an optical viewfinder. In this case you will also need to take into account parallax error -- the difference between what the viewfinder sees and what the photo will actually look like once taken. This occurs because the optical viewfinder does not directly see what the image sensor and lens does. Note that parallax error is not an issue on SLRs.

Read up in your camera documentation to find out the viewfinder's coverage or field of view. This determines whether the viewfinder is seeing exactly the same coverage as you would when composing with the LCD.

Good battery maintenance

Travelling to a cold climate? Help your batteries last longer by keeping them warm, either in a pocket or in a bag. Some photographers even carry heat packs to wrap around the camera, although this is more to help with general camera operation rather than extending battery life.

When storing the camera for a prolonged period of time, take out the battery, as it can drain slowly when stored inside of the body.

Power-saving modes

Can't turn off the LCD screen completely, or don't want to? Deep within your camera menus, there may be power-saving options that can help conserve battery. These range from sleep modes, which will turn the camera off after a period of inactivity, to LCD brightness options.

Auto LCD brightness adjustments can sap battery power more quickly than a fixed setting because the screen is constantly trying to adjust to the ambient lighting situation.

It is also worth turning off image review as soon as a photo is taken, as this also eats into battery life.

Turn off features

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Fancy features like image stabilisation (IS) use up plenty of battery. In bright outdoor situations, or when using a tripod, turn off IS to squeeze out a few more shots.

Also consider switching off autofocus (AF) and venture into the world of manual focus instead. Constant AF hunting drains power quickly, especially in low-light situations when many body and lens combinations struggle to achieve focus.

If you can't bear to be without AF, try to set the mode to single-point AF (or the equivalent) so the camera is only hunting for one point in focus rather than several throughout the frame. Also, avoid half-pressing the shutter button to focus unnecessarily. Only do so when you're ready to shoot.

Does your SLR have GPS or Wi-Fi connectivity? It's good practice to turn these features off when they are not needed. Some cameras also might continue to hunt for a GPS signal even when the power is switched off. Check your camera manual if unsure and deactivate GPS completely for better power management.

Invest in a second battery

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Buying a spare battery is the obvious way to keep yourself constantly powered when on the road. There are some caveats to bear in mind, though, such as double-checking its compatibility. Panasonic is one manufacturer that blocks third-party batteries from being used in its cameras.

Some SLRs and interchangeable lens cameras (ILCs) have the benefit of being compatible with battery grips. These units clip or screw on to the camera, and provide extra juice to supplement the main battery.

Shoot without a flash

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Lexy Savvides/CNET

Using the built-in flash on your camera does use up a lot of power. Where possible, turn it off from within the camera menus. Otherwise, if you're shooting with an SLR or ILC, think about using an off-camera flash that's powered independently to your main camera.

Avoid long exposures, video and burst

Long-exposure photography is a guaranteed battery drain. Keeping the shutter open for a prolonged period of time with the extra processing time needed to develop the image really does take its toll on the battery.

High ISO sensitivities and burst or continuous shooting also require more processing time, leading to the battery draining quickly.

The same applies to video, particularly when shooting in full HD or at a high frame rate. Not only does video recording involve intensive processing, but also extensive use of the LCD screen.

Finally, if the camera is really running out of battery and you just need one more shot, turn the power off for a few minutes. Normally, this will give you enough charge for one last photo.

Also make sure to check out Stephen Shankland's take on how he managed to get through his recent vacation after leaving his camera battery charger at home.

 

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