It happens more often than any of us care to admit: the dreaded error message blinking on and off, or worse yet, your camera simply locking up and refusing to do anything. Digital cameras are amazing pieces of technology, but even the best designed system is prone to mechanical or electrical confusion from time to time. What can you do when your camera suddenly betrays you, and you're racing against time to get the shot? Don't just hang there with a stupid look on your face—take charge of the situation! Here are five simple solutions that can get you up and running again.
Fix #1: Turn off your camera
This one usually works to correct most malfunctions. Simply turn your camera off, and then turn it back on again. If you camera still isn't working, move on to fix number two.
Fix #2: Take out the battery
Sometimes simply taking out the battery and putting it back in will get things back to normal. You might even try swapping in a fresh battery if this doesn't work.
Fix #3: Take off your lens
If something interferes with communication between the camera and the lens (the lens isn't mounted 100% correctly, or there's some dust or moisture in between the contacts), this can cause the camera to seize up. Try taking the lens off, and then putting it back on again. If this doesn't work, try a different lens, just in case it is the lens (and not the camera) which is malfunctioning. Another thing to try is to turn off your autofocus; in certain shooting modes, if your camera can't lock focus, the shutter won't fire. If working in low light or contrasted backlight, your autofocus might have problems locking on. In such situations, switch to manual focus and you should be good to go.
Fix #4: Unplug your electronic remote shutter
Unfortunately, your electronic remote is your camera's Achilles' heel, the point most likely to fail. If nothing else seems to work, try unplugging the remote. More often than not, a faulty remote is the culprit when your camera wigs out (especially if you are using a cheap off-brand remote). Problems with the remote usually manifest in one of two ways: either the camera seizes up, or the shutter starts firing continuously. Just having the plug in at an odd angle can cause problems, and simply taking it out and putting it back in (correctly this time) can get you up and running. A wet remote can cause problems too, but should be okay again once it has had a chance to dry. If the remote is failing, unplug it and switch over to the camera's self timer to eliminate vibrations after you manually trigger the shutter.
Fix #5: Take off your lens cap
Okay, I'd be kidding if I didn't see this happen so often. We've all had those moments when we forget to do something basic and obvious, like leaving the lens cap on or forgetting to turn the camera on. When all else fails, go back to the basics and make sure you haven't simply made a rookie mistake!
What if these don't work?
If you try all of these and your camera still won't function properly, then your camera likely has a serious issue. Sometime, moisture can invade the camera's electronics and cause problems, so put the camera in a warm, dry place and try it again when it has completely dried. If things still won't work, it's time to send in your camera for professional servicing.
About the author
Whether hanging over the rim of an active volcano, braving the elements to photograph critically-endangered species, or trekking deep into the wilderness to places most people will never see, world-renowned professional photographer Ian Plant travels the globe seeking out amazing places and subjects in his never-ending quest to capture the beauty of our world with his camera. Known for his inspiring images and single-minded dedication to creating the perfect photo, Ian has reached hundreds of thousands of people around the world in his mission to inspire and educate others in the art of photography. Ian is a frequent contributor to many leading photo magazines, the author of numerous books and instructional videos, and founder of Photo Masters.