The digital camera self timer is a tremendous benefit. It allows the photographer to take a photograph after a specified time delay. Many digital cameras have a self timer, and some are more sophisticated than others.
Normally, a digital camera's self timer can be set to take the picture from 1 to 15 seconds after the shutter button is pressed. You will generally want to mount your camera on a tripod or set it on a solid surface when using the self timer feature.
Benefits of a self timer
The first reason for using a delayed shutter is so that the camera holder can become part of the picture. This is usually when taking a group shot of the family or some other group. When doing this, it is a good idea to let the other members of the group know where the photographer will place himself in the picture so that those around that spot will be ready.
When all are ready, make sure you have the camera set to a 10 second delay. At that point in time, you will press the shutter button half-way down to focus the shot, then press the button all the way to begin the timer. Quickly take your place in the picture before the 10 seconds are up. The camera will snap the shot.
Sometimes you will want to take a self portrait rather than a group shot. This can be a bit more tricky since you can't focus on yourself while you are holding the camera. One way to accomplish this is to put an object right where your head will be, focus on that object, then move to the right spot and take the place of the object.
A second reason for using a self timer is to avoid camera shake. If the camera shutter activates a couple seconds after you press the button, there is a chance that the camera will be steadier, especially if you have a tendency to jamb down on the shutter button.
In this case, you can set the delay for a shorter period of time, such as 2 seconds, rather than 10 seconds. This is good when you know that the shutter speed is extremely slow, such as in low light situations. and when you have to set your aperture on a very high number to get more detail in your shot.
Controls in self timers
There are some cameras that require you to reset the self timer each time you want to use it. This can be somewhat annoying if you want to take a series of shots using the timer. Other cameras will keep the setting until it is changed. This can catch you by surprise if you have put your camera away without changing the setting back to single shot. You grab your camera, aim, focus and press the shutter button... only to discover that the shutter is on a 10 second delay.
There is another feature on some of the higher end cameras called "bulb." This is a time of another sort. When the bulb feature is engaged, it opens the shutter when you press the shutter release, and it keeps the shutter open until you press the shutter release the second time. This feature is good for pictures that will have extremely long exposures, such as nighttime photos of star trails.
The self timer can be a valuable tool. If you think it is a tool that will benefit you, make sure the camera you are thinking about buying has that feature as part of its offerings.