How & Why to Use Mirror Lock-Up Mode on DSLR Cameras

If you’ve dabbled in landscape photography, there’s no doubt that you’ve struggled with the headache of motion blur at one point or another. We often don’t overthink the issue; a tripod and remote shutter can drastically reduce problems stemming from movement nine times out of ten. But, for perfectionists, even the smallest touch can throw off the best composition ever so slightly. In fact, the functions going on inside the camera during an exposure can have an impact on image quality:

The culprit behind internal shaking is nothing more than a mirror that could fit in the palm of your hand. Under normal circumstances, it’s angled upward so that light entering through the lens is visible through the camera’s eyepiece. Behind the mirror rests the film strip or digital sensor that gathers incoming light rays to record an image.

Each time a photographer presses down on the shutter button, the mirror inside the camera flips up; instead of deflecting upward through the eyepiece, the light moves straight ahead and hits whatever rests beyond the mirror. Some consider the movement of the camera’s mechanical joints a necessary, unavoidable evil in making a photograph. Once upon a time, they would have been right. However, it’s now possible to eliminate movement from the equation entirely.

Mirror inside of camera

Without a lens in place, it’s easy to see the mirror that lies at the center of most DSLRs.

Mirror lock-up is exactly what it sounds like: a setting that locks the mirror up before making an exposure. Not intended for those just finding their way around a camera, this mode obliterates all movement except for the opening and closing of the shutter doors within the lens. A cable release or remote shutter is a must-have when employing this technique.

But as explained by SLR Lounge, the reward that comes with this minor inconvenience is a perfectly still exposure with the utmost clarity and sharpness possible, no matter the shutter speed. For many photographers that require complete stillness, the benefits that this trick brings to the table are indispensable.

Electronic First Curtain Shutter

If you’re one of the many professionals who’s switched over to a mirrorless camera, there are still precautions to take to minimize the movement happening in and around your camera. One of the most efficient techniques is to activate the camera’s Electronic First Curtain Shutter, which has been implemented in cameras both with and without mirrors in recent years. If there is a mirror present, it will flip up just as it does in lock-up mode. However, unlike mirror lock-up mode, the shutter stays open, as well. With a camera utilizing solely digital recording technology, it’s possible to prevent the camera from recording—-even in circumstances where light is directly hitting the sensor.

Each camera model out there is a little different. Activating these settings varies greatly between models. You may have to pull out your camera manual to figure out exactly how it’s done on your camera. However, giving this technique a try is well worth the hassle if you value perfection and precision in your personal work.

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