A self-timer can be a very useful tool for your film camera. The self-timer, when set, will provide anywhere from about 5 seconds to 10 seconds of time between the moment the shutter release button is pressed and when the shutter actually opens to expose the film. Self-timers are limited to modern day equipment and cameras that use batteries for certain functions. If your film camera has through-the-lens metering or other battery-powered functions, it is likely that it may also have a self-timer.
The self-timer is set in a few ways for different cameras. Some cameras have a dial switch, while others may have tabbed slot on the front of the camera that pulls up. Please consult your camera manual to find where the self-timer button is on your camera. Typically, the self-timer is activated for only one exposure, requiring the photographer to set the self-timer once again for additional shots.
Self-timers are most commonly used for self-portraits, giving the photographer a few seconds to get into the shot before the film is exposed. A tripod is necessary to hold the camera in place, or at least a solid surface, as the photographer will not be holding the camera in hand. Self-timers also act as a good way to ensure absolutely no camera shake occurs when the shutter release is pushed, ensuring pristine focus and clarity.
Alternate to the Self-Timer
As an alternate to the self-timer, photographers may opt to use a camera accessory called a cable release. The cable release, which comes in various lengths, allows the photographer to step away from the camera and release the shutter without having to push the shutter release button. The only minor drawback to the cable release is that for self-portraits, the cable release is often seen within the photograph. The self-timer, conversely, does not have this problem. However, the large advantage to the cable release is that the shutter can be released at the photographer’s discretion instead of rushing within the few seconds provided by the self-timer.
To read more, please see the cable release page.