Answering Your Common Camera Shutter Problems

The shutter is an important element of the exposure triangle. And mastering it is an important step in becoming a great photographer. But what do you do when your shutter starts misbehaving?

Shutter issues are a common camera problem for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Below, we’ve outlined two of the most cited shutter problems by camera owners. Read on to find out what causes these problems and how you can overcome them!

up close camera shutter

Common Camera Shutter Problems

The Shutter Won’t Open or Close

The shutter in your camera is raised for a prescribed amount of time to dictate the amount of light that passes through the lens. If the shutter refuses to close or open, it can create huge problems for photographers.

If your shutter won’t budge, it’s likely jammed. You’ll end up with overexposed photos (if the shutter stays open too long) or dark images if the shutter is stuck closed.

Of course, there can be other causes for over- and underexposed images. So to figure out if your shutter is at fault, you may want to do a quick check:

  • Set your camera to any mode other than Auto.
  • Turn off the flash.
  • Point the camera towards you.
  • Look down the lens and press the shutter release.

If you see a little flicker, your shutter is working fine. But if that flicker is absent, you’ve got a jammed shutter.

What Causes a Jammed Shutter?

There are a few reasons why your shutter could be jammed. These include:

  • You haven’t used your camera for a while.
  • You have a faulty timer.
  • The shutter curtains could be misaligned.

How to Fix a Stuck Shutter

We don’t advise you to try to fix a jammed shutter yourself. You could further damage your camera or void the warranty on it. Fixing a camera shutter is a tricky task best handled by experts.

The Shutter Lags Too Long

If you’ve ever tried to take a fast-moving subject with a slow shutter? The result is usually that you’ve missed the shot entirely or you’ve caught nothing but a blurred subject.

Shutter lag time can be an issue for many photographers, though it is usually only common in compact digital cameras or phone cameras.

woman holding old phone camera

Your shutter lag time is the time taken between you pressing the shutter button and the camera actually taking the shot. In quality DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, shutter lag isn’t usually an issue. But even a lag of less than a second can spell disaster for a carefully timed shot.

What Causes Shutter Lag?

Three possible things could cause shutter lag:

  • Your camera takes too long to autofocus, especially if it’s a fast-moving subject or low-light scene.
  • Your camera has a slower shutter release lag.
  • You haven’t had enough time to focus the image before fully pressing the shutter release

There is little you can do about autofocus since many inexpensive cameras just aren’t fitted with a quick-responding AF function. More high-end cameras have a red assist beam to help cameras register an object in the dark before you take your shot.

How to Fix Shutter Lag

Shutter lag isn’t necessarily a camera problem that can be fixed since a fast shutter is either built into the camera or it isn’t.

The best way to avoid shutter lag is to buy a quality camera that has a built-in fast shutter speed. Failing that, here are a few other things you can do to reduce shutter lag:

  • Shoot in good lighting where possible.
  • Try to position yourself so any moving subject is coming towards you rather than across your shot.
  • Try to pre-focus your shot. That is: Focus your camera on a certain spot and wait for the subject to move into the frame.
  • Shoot in manual control and manual focus modes.

So there you have it, two of the most common shutter problems for cameras. Naturally, the best way to avoid these problems is to invest in a quality camera, protect it by storing it in an insulated camera bag, and performing regular maintenance.

If you do find your camera requires repairs, always refer to a repair and maintenance professional.

Many Camera House stores offer repairs, which may be included under your warranty. Contact your local Camera House store to find out if they offer repair services.

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