Photography

How to use your Android as a dSLR remote

Some Android handsets can act as an infrared remote for a dSLR. Here's how to get started.

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If you're looking for a way to remotely fire your dSLR's shutter but don't have a dedicated remote, maybe your Android device can help you out.

What you need:

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To check if your Android is capable of acting as a remote, you'll need to determine if there is an infrared (or IR) blaster on board. Many new handsets have this feature, such as the Galaxy S4, Galaxy S5, Note 3, Note 4, LG G3 and HTC One M8. If you're not sure, a quick web search will tell you.

Once you have checked for an IR blaster, download DSLR Remote from the Play Store. This is a free app that will let you fire the shutter of your dSLR from a compatible Android device.

Start the app and choose the brand of your camera. It's compatible with most major brands, though do be aware some high-end dSLRs do not have an IR receiver on board (I'm looking at you, Nikon D800).

Now, set up the remote option on your camera from the settings tab. For Canon models you can usually find this combined with the self-timer. Find the AF/Drive button and scroll through the modes until you find a variant of 2-sec/remote control.

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Depending on the Nikon model, you can find the remote shooting mode either underneath the mode dial or in the menu. Look for "release mode" under the shooting options sub-menu, then choose one of the remote options. For other camera brands, consult your manual for instructions.

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At this stage it is also worth disabling your camera's auto power off mode, so it doesn't turn off after periods of inactivity.

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Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

Once remote shooting is activated on your dSLR, head back to the app. You should see four options on the main screen: Remote, Timer, Random and HDR. Choose Remote to get started.

Depending on your dSLR, the screen will either show up with just a remote release button (with an S) or a timed remote release button (with a 2S). Touch this to fire your camera shutter.

Do be aware that you need to be within line of sight for the remote to work because we're using infrared -- and make sure you are aiming the handset towards the IR receiver on your dSLR.

Some dSLRs have two IR receivers positioned at the front and the back so you can remotely trigger the shutter from either side.

Advanced options

On top of using your Android as a standard remote to take photos on demand, DSLR Remote has other cool features to play with. Trigger the shutter with sound by entering into Remote mode, then tap the settings icon at the top of the screen. Find "Audio trigger".

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Screenshot by Lexy Savvides/CNET

The screen will now give you a reading of the current ambient audio level.

One way to fire the shutter with a sound is to set the trigger to a value above the current ambient noise level.

For example, you could have the app set to take a photo when a whole bunch of people say "cheese" or clap their hands, but not if people are having a quiet conversation in the same room.

You can work out the sound level that will trigger the shutter by staying silent and letting the phone read the ambient noise level. Take a note of this number, then say something loudly at the same level as the word you want to trigger the shutter. Again, observe the noise level and enter a value slightly below this number in the "trigger at a value" box.

Make sure to set the check box to "above" so the trigger only fires when the sound is higher than this level. Choose whether you want to use the audio trigger just once, or continuously, and then press Start. When the phone detects noise above the level, the app will send an IR signal to the camera, firing the shutter.

DSLR Remote can also act as an intervalometer. From the home screen, press Timer and enter an interval value. For example, if you wanted to take one photo every minute, tap the number under the minute column under the interval heading. Set this value to 1, and press start. The camera will take one photo each minute until you tell it to stop, or set a number of fixed shots.

Explore the app further for even more creative ways to use your Android as a dSLR remote. For even more fun, check out this method of using your Android device to control many more shooting options on your dSLR when tethered via a cable.