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It’s Possessed! 5 Weird and Annoying Camera Issues and How to Solve Them

When your camera doesn't work like you expect it you may want to scream, cry, pull out your hair, or smash the stupid thing. But fear not, don't do any of those things just yet – there's help coming!  In this article, I'm going to tell you what to do if your camera seems possessed! Sometimes you can run into some really odd things happening with your camera. Here is a quick list of five of the most common camera issues, and how to troubleshoot it and find a solution for them.

common camera issues
Got camera issues? Let's see if we can solve it!

Problem #1: Your camera is not focusing at all

Possible solutions:

  • Make sure you have autofocus switched on (check both on the camera and lens if you shoot Nikon).
  • Take the lens off and remount it (this is often caused by the contacts on the lens and the camera body not making a proper connection). This is a very common issue, I often see this in my classroom and on my photo tours. Make sure when you attach it to the body you hear a click and it is solidly in place. If it's not locked you risk the lens falling off as well, and you do not want that!
  • You may simply be too close for your lens to focus, back up a bit and try again. Your lens has a minimum focusing distance, so unless you have a macro lens you can't just put your lens right into that flower and expect it to focus. Most lenses focus at a minimum of about 12 inches. Back up a little or buy a macro lens if you tend to want to get closer a lot.
camera settings lens contacts
The metal contacts on the back of your lens must make a good connection with the camera to function properly. Image by Alexandar Faust.

Problem #2: Your exposures are erratic

Possible solutions:

Exposures being erratic and all over the place could be a couple of things.

  1. Your AEB (auto exposure bracketing) may have been turned on by accident. This is where your camera is set to take a series of exposures, one normal, one or more underexposed, and one or more overexposed. These exposures are to be used for making HDR blended images, or in extreme lighting conditions to cover your bases. All other times, make sure it's turned off. If you aren't sure where to find that setting on your camera, consult your camera use manual.
  2. Check to see if you are in Spot Metering mode (if so switch to Matrix or Evaluative). Spot metering is for very specific things and I tell my students it is for intermediate to advanced photographers only. So if you aren't there yet – switch to another mode.
camera issues
If your exposures look like this you may have accidentally turned on bracketing (AEB).

Problem #3: All of your images are too dark

Possible solutions:

camera issues
The Exposure Compensation button may look similar to this.
  1. The first thing that you want to do if all of your images are too dark is to check the Exposure Compensation setting. Look to see if it has been dialed down to -1, or more, to underexpose. Sometimes it happens accidentally, so figure out how it this setting gets adjusted and make sure you don't bump it inadvertently. Also, note that Exposure Compensation does not revert back to zero after you do one shot. So, if you dial in say -1.33 it will stay there until you put it back.
  2. Check the brightness setting on your display. If this is turned down, the images may look dark on the screen but are actually exposed correctly. Make sure you use the histogram to check your exposure and do not rely on a visual inspection. This is why!

Problem #4: Random weird issues

Perhaps the camera won't fire, you can't focus, or you see an error message on the LCD or top display of the camera. This is when you really think your camera is possessed! Don't beat it with a baseball bat or throw it in the river just yet though!

Cristian Escobar

Possible solutions:

When really weird stuff is happening just shut the camera off for a few seconds (10 or more), then turn it on again. That often works – it's just like a reboot on your computer. If that doesn't do the trick turn the camera off, take out the battery, wait a full minute, then put it back and try again.

Worst case scenario if that still doesn't solve it, turn the camera off, take out the battery and the memory card, remove the lens (cover the opening with a body cap to keep dust out) and wait ONE HOUR. Then put in just the battery and try it, fingers crossed! If it still doesn't work and you get an error message, try Googling that message and your camera model to see if there is a recorded reason and solution for it. Ideally, if you have another battery handy, try that one.

If you can't solve it Google the error message you are getting on the camera.

Sometimes batteries suddenly die or fail and may need replacing. Always have extras! Other times humidity can play a factor so waiting is the only solution.

Once you've tried everything your last option is to head to a camera store with a repair department and see if they can do an analysis for you. An overhaul and camera cleaning may be in order. It's a good idea to have your camera and lenses serviced periodically anyway (like doing an oil change in your car).

Problem #5: The camera is unresponsive and the screen is black

Possible solutions:

  1. It's possible that you have it set to a really slow shutter speed and the camera is taking a long exposure. Look for a red light which indicates the camera is working/thinking. Shutting the camera off will cancel the exposure.
  2. If you have a locking camera shutter release (trigger) and it's accidentally set to the lock position (and you're in continuous shooting mode) the camera will keep taking photos until you unlock it.
If you have a shutter release similar to this one, check that the button isn't in the locked position.

Conclusion

I hope you find these tips helpful. If all else fails, Google it!

Have you experienced any other weird camera issues? How did you solve the problem? Have you got any you weren't able to solve? Please share in the comments below so we can compare notes, and see if we can't troubleshoot any other camera possession issues.

Cheers,

Darlene-1-250x130.png

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  • Earl Whitt

    Some lenses have an aperture lock that, if not engaged, will keep the camera from being able to control focus and aperture. It essentially makes the lens fully manual. Tun the manual aperture adjust ring (like all lenses used to have) until the slide latch lines up with the indentation and slide it over the red index mark. That will restore the camera-controlled lens functions.

  • Alden

    thanks, good to know ! Im doing my first wedding this Saturday and no wifi !! if everything fails I’ll have my iphone!!!

    • Yikes good luck. Make sure you have a second camera body as back up. If yours fails you’re hooped. Rent one if you have to. And have double the amount of batteries and memory cards that you think you’ll need. And an assistant!!

      • Alden

        Thanks!
        I couldn’t follow any of your advice omg. Except if you call iPhone as a backup lol
        It wasn’t perfect but it wasn’t hopeless either. I even had some “respectable ” shots!! Lol
        But My nightmare came true. There was a wedding photographer attending the wedding and had to let him use my camera (old rebel) to take photo of me and the bride. I was so embarrassed but it all went well. He even offered me a job! But that’s another story.
        Your article helped me a lot. Thank you.

  • traveller 66

    A month or so ago, I converted my camera (Canon t3i) over to back button focussing. Did not use the camera for an extended period and then forgot the change I had made over to back button. Of course, the auto focus no longer functioned on the shutter button. Of course, my daughter laughingly referred to the failing memories of us aged shooters!!

  • Jeff Jones

    A common one I run into with my high school students is setting the camera to self-timer mode and then forgetting to put it back.

  • Oh my GOSH, Darlene! Great article. Almost all of these are “operator error” and I’ve done ’em all! How silly you feel when you discover you have left your camera on a setting you forgot about and that’s why things are haywire. But you LEARN, don’t you? :). Thanks.

    • Exactly! Which is why I wanted to share these things. Most are easy solutions but it shows not to freak out. Just check a few things.

  • Gayle Neufeld

    I had one that drove me crazy – my camera would just stop working. I thought it was a drained battery at first, but putting in a new one didn’t fix it. Got it home, and after an hour it would start working again. Turns out that the batteries didn’t like the “cold”. I thought it was hysterical because after moving to Anchorage (-5 to -10 C) from Fairbanks (-40 C), I didn’t think it was cold at all! Ended up getting a new, better camera.

  • Matt

    Another one is setting the timer to a two second delay and forgetting that the next time you shoot! Took me 10 minutes to figure out what I had done on my camera and none of my baseball shots in that time worked out!
    One that I never could figure out is why my D5100 randomly took some of my pictures as a creative sketch. I had been shooting in RAW and thought it strange to have a few JPEGs littered in there with that option. I remember taking the picture but, that is not an option to do direct from pressing the shutter button (to my knowledge anyway). It only happened once, but it was weird!

    • That is odd. You didn’t edit it on playback? That’s an option on most Nikons.

      • Matt

        Nope – reviewed the playback and it was already in that mode. It only happened the one time but no one there could figure it out. It’s been working perfectly aside from that for the past 4 years! Maybe it truly was possessed! 🙂

  • Keep them coming, these are great! I’ll compile all the extra ones and add them to the article for everyone!

  • Gallopingphotog

    When the really weird, unexplainable stuff happens — which it never will at the camera repair store — I yell at it, making threats and using words that would earn me a smack upside the head if my mother were still here. Sometimes it actually seems to work.

    • LOL yup, works on computers too. Sometimes! In extreme cases, chocolate and/or wine may be required (for me, not the camera/computer).

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