How to capture photos remotely – and why you'll want to

For wildlife, night-time and landscape photography, as well as self-portraits, learning how to control your camera remotely is a must. Here's a quick guide to the benefits of remote shooting and how to do it.
A woman in a yellow sundress poses on a curving footbridge, with a Canon EOS R10 on a small tripod set up to photograph her.

Remote shooting might seem like an advanced technique, but it's a lot easier than you think, and it has some major benefits. Learn how it works, when to use it, and how it will benefit different kinds of photography with this helpful guide.

What does remote shooting mean?

A user holds a smartphone running the Canon Camera Connect app, showing the same view as on the screen of a Canon camera behind it.

You very likely already have the kit you need for remote control photography – a wide range of Canon cameras can be controlled using the free Canon Camera Connect app on your smartphone or tablet.

Remote shooting simply means controlling your camera and its shutter from another device instead of the controls on the camera itself. The traditional solution for this was a remote shutter cable which could be plugged into your camera, but wireless control is now possible. A wide range of Canon cameras have Wi-Fi connectivity, and recent models including all EOS R System cameras also have Bluetooth. With the Canon Camera Connect app, this gives you the option to control a broad range of settings and trigger the shutter straight from your smartphone or tablet.

When would you use a remote shutter?

There are several benefits of using a remote shutter. First, because you're not physically touching the camera, it eliminates any risk of jarring when you trigger the shutter, which makes this a great way to prevent camera shake and get the sharpest pictures. Second, it's also useful for capturing pictures that might be difficult to frame while holding the camera in your hands, including group photos with yourself in the shot or photos of shy animals in the wild.

Shooting remotely is a useful tool for many different photographic genres, such as the following:

A long-exposure photo of a river in a steep valley, taken on a Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II. The long exposure has made the flowing water look like a milky blur, while the rest of the scene is sharp.

The long exposure here has blurred the moving water while keeping the rest of the scene sharp. For this effect, it's critical that the camera doesn't move, so it's very helpful to be able to trigger the shutter without touching the camera. Taken on a Canon PowerShot G5 X Mark II at 8 sec, f/11 and ISO125. © James North

Remote shooting for landscape photography

Triggering the shutter remotely is ideal when you shoot landscapes from a tripod, particularly when you're using long exposures, because not touching the camera prevents any camera shake. When you're shooting time-lapses, it also helps ensure you don't jolt the camera and change the framing, which would cause the eventual video footage to hop about distractingly. With the Canon Camera Connect app, being able to change settings from a smartphone between shots also means you don't need to keep returning to the camera or check pictures on the camera screen. You can even add star ratings using your mobile device to aid further selection, sharing and processing.

A person's finger taps on a photo of an owl in the Canon Camera Connect app on a smartphone screen.

It's easy to focus when shooting remotely using the Canon Camera Connect app on your smartphone. Simply tap the area of the screen where you want the lens to focus and watch as your subject snaps into view.

Shooting remotely in wildlife photography

Remote shooting is ideal when photographing or filming timid or elusive subjects, such as wildlife. You can place your camera in the best location to get the shot, even if this may be somewhere it would be awkward or dangerous to position yourself, and then hide out of view so you don't scare your subjects off or disrupt their natural behaviour. Shooting remotely is great for close-up and macro photography of tiny subjects where even the slightest movement of the camera would in effect be magnified, spoiling the framing or throwing the subject out of focus. The same applies if you use the technique of focus bracketing to take a series of macro shots with different parts of the subject in focus, in order to combine into a single image with more of it sharp – keeping the camera stable is critical. Again, being able to change settings and check preview shots from your smartphone, and even magnify the view to check the focus, means you won't have to keep returning to the camera and disturbing the scene. When you've got the shot, geotagging – adding location data to the image from your smartphone using the Canon Camera Connect app – will give you a precise record of where you spotted that rare animal.

A person uses a smartphone to remotely adjust the settings on a Canon camera, which has a sunset scene on its screen.

Night and low-light photography often also demands long exposures, and remote control is invaluable here too, making it possible to capture images without any risk of jarring the camera when you trigger the shutter.

Astrophotography using remote control shooting

With astrophotography, you'll often need to shoot very long exposures of between 30 minutes and a few hours. Being able to shoot remotely means you won't introduce camera shake when you trigger the shutter, which is critical for sharp sky images. What's more, you can be a good distance away from the camera, perhaps even keeping warm in your car or a shelter while you wait for the exposure to finish. For astrophotography you rarely need to adjust many settings, but if you want to do so, or even switch from autofocus to manual focus, you can do it all from a distance. In addition, you can keep the camera's LCD screen switched off, which means less unwanted light to spoil the exposure.

A group of adults and children sit together at a table, and the man on the left uses his smartphone to trigger the shutter on the Canon camera on the table in the foreground.

Creative self-portraits and group shots are made possible when using the Canon Camera Connect app to frame everyone perfectly and change settings from the app.

A photo taken with a Canon EOS R10 using remote shooting, showing a woman in a yellow dress standing framed in an ornately decorated archway in Seville.

Using the Canon Camera Connect app to shoot from a distance also means you can capture the entire scene with yourself in it. Taken on a Canon EOS R10 with a Canon RF-S 18-150mm F3.5-6.3 IS STM lens at 35mm, 1/2000 sec, f/5.6 and ISO12800. © Diana Millos

Hands-free portrait photography

If you want to try your hand at creative self-portraiture, then remote shooting is ideal. Frame yourself easily and make sure you get everything that you want in the shot. Being able to change settings, such as the aperture, means you can experiment with different effects without having to alter your composition by going to the camera and back. Remote shooting is also very useful for group shots as you can check everyone is included (and smiling) without disturbing the scene. Review each shot on the spot and you can adjust settings as necessary or move people into better positions before the group disperses.

When working on a photoshoot in a studio environment, you can control your camera from your computer using Canon EOS Utility software, which gives you an even larger screen than your mobile device – more on this shortly.

What do you need for remote photography?

A woman in a yellow dress kneels down to adjust settings a Canon EOS R10 camera which sits on a tripod.

Controlling the camera remotely makes it possible to capture self-portraits from unusual angles – just set up your camera and then move into the frame, check the composition and adjust the settings using the Canon Camera Connect app, and take the shot when ready. A tripod is ideal but, if you don't have one, you can just place your camera on any stable surface.

Canon offers a range of accessories to choose from for remote shooting. The Canon Remote Switch RS-60E3 is a 60cm cabled remote release for EOS cameras with an E3-type socket, and the Remote Switch RS-80N3 is an 80cm remote release for EOS cameras with an N3-type socket. The Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3 (which may require also the Remote Control Adapter RA-E3) enables you to take pictures at regular intervals for time-lapse projects without touching your camera.

As for wireless solutions, the Canon Remote Controller RC-6 works over distances up to 5 metres using infrared. The Canon Wireless Remote Control BR-E1 works with Bluetooth-compatible EOS cameras at distances up to 5 metres.

However, you probably already own the kit you need for remote photography. The Canon Camera Connect app is free to download for iOS and Android users, and quick to set up on your smartphone or tablet. It's compatible with a huge range of Canon cameras – not just the latest mirrorless cameras, but some DSLRs and PowerShot compact cameras too.

Some of the functionalities of the app work over Bluetooth and others require a Wi-Fi connection, so enable both on your mobile device to get the most out of the app.

How to use the Canon Camera Connect app for remote shooting

Connecting to your camera is a straightforward process, with on-screen instructions within the app to guide you as you go. Once you're connected, you'll have several options to explore, depending on the camera model, such as remote shooting, adding star ratings to images, and transferring pictures and videos to share them with others.

You should be able to see an option called Remote Live View shooting, which will show a live feed of exactly what your camera sees. From here, you can make adjustments to the settings, such as the focus point, shutter speed, aperture, ISO, white balance, timer, metering and more. It's worth familiarising yourself with the interface when you first set it up.

You'll also see a large white button on the screen, which you simply tap to take your picture. If you want to record video, toggle the video icon at the top of the screen to switch to movie mode.

The Canon Camera Connect app also serves as a hub for other apps that are useful for your camera, such as the app for cloud-based image transfer and storage, making it your one-stop shop for the latest tools. With the EOS R3, PowerShot ZOOM and other EOS cameras released from 2022 onwards, it is also possible to update the camera's firmware through the Canon Camera Connect app, making it simpler than ever to stay up to date with the latest enhancements and new functions.

How do you focus when shooting remotely?

Three screenshots of the Canon Camera Connect app, showing how to adjust the focus point, using the example of a close-up photo of a green apple.

Use the Canon Camera Connect app to easily switch between manual focusing and autofocus, and set the focus point, depending on the shot you want.

Focusing via the Canon Camera Connect app is easy. You can tap around the screen to change the AF point and you will find that the lens automatically focuses where you place the focus point.

Manual focusing is also supported, which can be useful for close-up and macro photos where you want to fine-tune the focus on the subject. An additional benefit is that you can switch from Autofocus to Manual focus without having to return to the camera and use the switch on the lens – you can press the manual focus button within the app and use the arrows to adjust manual focus.

How do you shoot remotely using Canon EOS Utility software?

A laptop sits on a table outdoors near a camera on a tripod, with the screen showing the image feed from the camera plus settings at the side.

If you're working in a more formal setup with your laptop on hand, Canon's EOS Utility gives you a live preview and the ability to adjust your settings remotely, on a larger scale than your phone screen.

It's not just via your smartphone that you can shoot remotely. There are other ways which may be more appropriate, depending on your needs.

EOS Utility is Canon software for your computer which enables remote shooting. It can be used wirelessly or over a USB connection, it enables extensive control over the camera, and images can be saved directly to your computer or memory card. This can be a great option in a studio environment, enabling you to view images on the larger screen of your computer, adjust the settings, and ensure perfect framing in the live preview using grids and composition tools. You can also use it in conjunction with Canon's Digital Photo Professional software to edit and rate the photos you've taken remotely.

If you want to use your camera as a webcam, EOS Webcam Utility is an excellent option. It's compatible with a wide range of Canon cameras and is designed to enable you to use your camera for livestreaming and video calls, which is also great for broadcasting and recording pieces to camera.

Whatever your camera model, and whatever type of photography you're doing, Canon provides ways you can take pictures or capture video remotely. Why not try out remote shooting?

Astrid Pitman

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