HDR Shooting Without a Cable Release

Shooting really good HDR images usually means using a tripod to get perfect alignment in your different exposures. Another thing to consider is using a cable release to trip the camera’s shutter so that you don’t induce any movement in the frame, especially if you are shooting long exposures. But what do you do if you don’t have a cable release or just forgot to bring it with you? You could use the self-timer on your camera and activate it three or more times, depending on how many exposures you want to take, but that also means touching the camera repeatedly.

Well if you have a newer Nikon DSLR, the chances are that it has a Self-Timer mode that will help you out. The Continuous Self-Timer is a function that let’s you not only use your camera’s self-timer but also have it take a predetermined number of shots. So if you have your camera set up to take 3 bracketed images, you can also set up the Continuous Self-Timer to take the three shots you need without having to re-activate the timer between shots.


Here’s how it works on my Nikon D7000. Consult your owners manual for your camera to see if it has this function.

I prefer to set up my bracket first so to do that on the D7000, press and hold the BKT button located directly beneath the pop-up flash button. While holding the button in, rotate the Main Command dial to set the number of exposures to 3 and use the Sub-Command dial (located under and in front of the shutter release button) to set the exposure bracketing to 2 stops per image (+2, N, -2). This info is visible on the top LCD screen or by pressing the info button to activate the rear LCD.

The next step is to set up the self-timer. To do this, press the Menu button and then navigate to c3 on the custom menu screen and press the OK button.

I usually like to use a 2 second timer delay and then set the Number of shots option to 3.

I also like to set the Interval between shots option to 0.5 seconds. The less time between shots, the less likely something will move in the frame.

The final step is to set the Release Mode dial to the Self-Timer icon. Now you are ready to roll. Just remember that the bracketing and self-timer will not turn off by turning off the camera so don’t forget to reset them prior to resuming your normal shooting.


On my Canon T3i/600D, the operation is even more simple. The first thing I would do is set my Auto-Exposure Bracketing to 2-stops over and under by pressing the Menu button and then going to the 2nd Shooting menu and selecting Expo.comp/AEB. Next, using the Main dial, the bracket is set to 2 over/under exposure frames at 2 stops each and then press the Set button.

The next step is setting up the Self-Timer. To access the controls, you simply press the left button on the Cross Keys to bring up the Drive Mode options. Move the cursor to the 2 second option and press the Set button. The camera will then proceed to take the three bracketed photos you need from just one push of the shutter release button.

The only thing left to do is compose the shot, lock the camera down on the tripod, and press the shutter release button. The camera will do all the work from there.

The Continuous Self-Timer on the Canon can be used to take multiple shots in self-timer mode but you don’t want to use it if you have bracketing set up. You should use it to take multiple shots of say, a group that you wanted to be included in. Instead of running back and forth from the camera so you can grab 2 or 3 group shots (because you know someone will blink or look goofy), you can set up the number of framesunder the Continuous Self-Timer mode and then go around to the group and the camera will do the rest.

So there you go, some quick little tips for using your self-timer mode for some creative purposes. Next time you are shooting on a tripod and don’t have a release handy, give it a try.


  1. For Nikon, I prefer using the interval timer rather than the self timer.

    For Canon, you can shoot in AEB in Live View mode with silent shooting mode 1, and you won’t have the mirror slapping up and down between shots and the three shots happen very quickly.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    I am reading your Exposure: From Snapshots to Great Shots. Love it and so easy to follow. Are you planning on publish a nikon d7000 book? Please let me know. Thanks!

    • Thanks for the props on the Exposure book Jean. I’m not doing one on the D7000 because there is already one in the series. It was written by John Batdorff, who also co-authored the composition book with Laurie Excell.


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