What is Burst Mode? And how should you use it?

Do you want to capture action images of youngsters running, birds soaring, basketball players dunking, split-second street situations, and more?

You can, of course, if you know how to utilize your camera’s burst mode.

Burst mode, often known as continuous shooting mode, allows you to capture a number of photographs in fast succession without pausing. You may record 5, 10, 20, or even 60 shots per second, depending on the capabilities of your camera, and each one provides another opportunity to capture a once-in-a-lifetime action snapshot.

In this post, I’ll cover everything you need to know to use burst mode like an expert, from the fundamentals to advanced continuous-shooting recommendations.

Let’s get started.

What exactly is burst mode?

Burst mode is a camera feature that allows you to take a sequence of photos in rapid succession. Holding down the shutter button when in burst mode causes your camera to take a series of photographs.

The particular burst mode speeds vary per camera; low-end and older cameras have burst modes that run at 3 frames per second (i.e., 3 photos per second). Sports cameras with the highest frame rates in their class give 20, 30, or 60 frames per second. In addition, the typical camera provides 6-12 frames per second.

Also, keep in mind that certain cameras have different burst rates based on the size and quality of the shot, the focusing mode, the shutter mode, and other factors.

Unfortunately, most camera burst modes do not have a limitless duration. As you snap pictures, your camera’s buffer (where images are held before being saved to a memory card) fills up. When the buffer is filled, your burst mode will be disabled (at least until the buffer frees up space, at which point you can start shooting bursts again).

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There are exceptions when capturing lower-quality photographs or when utilizing top-of-the-line cameras, but in general, holding down your camera’s burst mode will cause it to stop.

When should burst mode be used?

Technically, you can utilize burst mode indefinitely. As long as you don’t hold down the shutter button for too long at a time, you may take a burst of photographs whenever you come across a new subject.

However, I do not advocate that you utilize your continuous shooting option on a regular basis. For one thing, it will encourage you to become lax in your photography – you’ll shoot in bursts and never learn how to time wonderfully framed shots. Furthermore, persistent burst mode will generate a large number of files. Memory cards and hard disks will both fill up quite quickly.

Instead, I recommend using burst mode when you know you’re going to be capturing activity or a once-in-a-lifetime moment.

For example, if you’re filming a sporting event, you may leave burst mode on throughout the event so that anytime anything interesting happens — a slam dunk, a turnover, a buzzer-beater – you’re ready to catch the crucial moments. The same goes for photographing fast-moving wildlife like birds, a child’s soccer game, or an agility course for a dog.

Burst mode is also great for capturing fleeting moments (even if they don’t include activity). If you’re shooting your child as they walk across the stage during graduation, using burst mode will almost certainly result in a snap of them getting their diploma. When taking a portrait subject, using burst mode increases your chances of capturing an expressive emotion or stance. In addition, if you’re capturing a street scene, burst mode allows you to capture split-second exchanges, such as couples establishing eye contact.

By the way, burst photography may also be used to capture technically demanding subjects. If you’re manually focusing on a flower at high magnifications, you might take a succession of shots while gradually adjusting the point of focus, and you’d be more likely to achieve a lovely result:

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Here is a list of photography genres that frequently employ burst mode:

  • Sports photography
  • Pet photography
  • Bird photography
  • Wildlife photography
  • Street photography (sometimes)
  • Event photography (sometimes)

How to use burst mode (step by step)

Now that you’ve learned what burst mode is and why it’s important, let’s look at how to utilize it effectively.

Step 1: Activate burst mode on your camera

Activating burst mode is dependent on your camera (and it varies from model to model, so don’t assume that all cameras from the same brand or even series are the same).

In general, you should seek a Drive or Shooting mode menu. Some cameras have dedicated Shooting mode dials (as seen on certain Fujifilm models), while others have Shooting mode buttons (as seen on many Olympus cameras), and still, others require a menu dive to change the shooting mode.

Once you’ve found your Shooting mode menu, choose Continuous or Continuous High, which is sometimes represented by many stacked frames (see the icon in the bottom right corner of this Canon 5D Mark II display):

If you’ve tried and failed to enable burst mode, examine your camera’s handbook or go online for help.

Step 2: Select the relevant focus mode

You’ll also need to select the proper focus mode when in burst mode. It’s preferable to utilize your camera’s continuous focusing mode for action photography, which is known as AI Servo on Canon and AF-C on most other camera models (including Nikon and Sony). Continuous focus can track moving objects even while you hold down the shutter button, allowing you to keep your subject in great focus as it travels across the landscape and you snap bursts of shots.

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If you’ve already constructed a photo but want to ensure a nice stance, a lovely moment, or whatever, I’d recommend utilizing your camera’s single-shot focusing mode, known as One-Shot on Canon and AF-S on most other models. Simply half-click the shutter button to lock focus, then fully press the shutter button when your subject enters the frame to shoot a burst.

Step 3: Carefully choose your settings

Finally, you’ll need to fine-tune your camera settings for your specific shooting circumstances. While these may vary depending on the scenario, make sure your shutter speed is moderately rapid; otherwise, you’ll wind up with blurry photos (or, if your shutter speed is too slow, your camera’s burst mode will not function correctly). For slower-moving items, I’d recommend photographing at 1/250s or higher, and for faster-moving objects, I’d prefer shooting at 1/1000s or higher.

If you’re having trouble getting the shutter speed you require, consider widening the aperture or increasing the ISO.

Step 4: Capture a burst of images

Now comes the exciting part! Hold down the shutter button as soon as you identify a subject worth photographing, and your camera will fire off a burst of shots.

As I mentioned before, it’s crucial to use restraint when shooting in burst mode; otherwise, your camera’s buffer will overflow and you’ll miss important moments. So, wait until a nice photograph appears — if you’re using single-shot autofocus, you should normally lock focus ahead of time – and then fully push the shutter button to get the ideal shot.


Now that you’ve read this article, you know everything there is to know about continuous shooting photography – and how it can help you enhance your results.

Spend some time putting it through its paces. Find an active topic and have fun shooting bursts of shots at it. You’ll become more adept at utilizing burst mode, and you’ll have a greater understanding of your camera’s capabilities and limits.

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