Camera Parts

Digital camera self-timer

Written by Gail Bjork

A digital camera self-timer prevents camera shake and is useful for may types of shots. Learn how and when to use the self-timer effectively.

Self-timer symbolWhen the camera is mounted on a tripod or other camera support, using the self-timer correctly prevents camera movement. The self-timer can be used when taking photos of a group or scene, a self-portrait or close-up shots. It is also very useful when taking photos in low light without a flash, for long exposures and for taking panoramic shots.

Photo taken with a self-timer

Press the shutter button correctly when using the self-timer

You must press the shutter-release button in two steps even when using the timer. First depress the shutter button halfway to lock focus and exposure. Check the scene or subject in the viewfinder or the LCD, then fully depress the shutter-release button to trigger the timer. As you move your hands away, don’t nudge the camera from its set position.

Many digital cameras let you select the time it takes for the self-timer to release the shutter, usually between two and 10 seconds. Some models have a custom self-timer, which lets you set the countdown time and the number of shots to be taken.

Self-Portrait Timers

Digital cameras with Self-Portrait Timers use Face Detection technology to recognize when your face when it enters the frame. Afer a couple of seconds, it then snaps the shutter. Some self-portrait timers can be set to detect a specified number of faces.

About the author

Gail Bjork

Gail Bjork, who is passionate about digital photography, is the owner and editor of Digicamhelp.Gail is the author of three illustrated ebooks about digital photography. A number of her photos and digital photography related articles appear at other websites.In 2006, a series of her photos, People in the Louvre, were exhibited at the Underground Photo Gallery
in Iisalmi Finland. Eight of her photos taken in the Florida scrub are on permanent exhibition at Parrish Medical Center in Titusville, Florida.Gail served twelve years as an elected member of The School Board of Palm Beach County, Florida, one of the largest school districts in the U.S. She has also been the editor of a small town newspaper and a free-lance writer. Gail and her husband owned and ran several small businesses.


  • I have a canon and i accidently put the timer on and now i don’t know how to take it off…can you guys help me?

  • The self-timer is pretty standard on Canon compact digital cameras. Press the up down button or turn the dail and choose the icon that looks like a timer. Than press the Func/Set button. Press the button halfway until the camera locks focus, and then you’ll have 10 seconds before a photo is taken.

    You can change the delay time and the number of shots taken by the camera when the self-timer goes off. See page 75 in the manual.

    Once you’ve clicked on the self-timer icon, use the right and left arrows to make you selections. Press the Func/Set button again to lock in the settings.

    Try it a couple of times until you get the feel of it. Don’t forget to shut the self-timer off after you’ve completed using it.

  • I just purchased a Canon Power Shot SX 120 IS.  I have read manuel but still connot figure how to do self timer.  All those websites help me take a better picture but I need the first step.  Thanks.

  • I’m not familiar with the self-timer functions for most digital cameras, however I’ve owned several Canon compacts and they’ve all had self-timers that can be customized. If you’re not interested in a Canon camera, check the specifications online of other cameras of interest.

  • I personally don’t know of any digital camera that can be set to keep the self-timer on until you change it. The closest thing I can think of is the self-timers found on several Canon cameras.

    You can set the time delay between when the shutter button is pressed and when shots are taken anywhere between zero and 30 seconds. In addition you can set the number of shots from 1 to 10 for each sequence.

  • Most cameras require you to go through a couple of menus to do self timer and then you can only do one pic and then you have to reset it again. Is there a way or a camera brand that allows you to set the camera on self timer until you change it?