A shutter actuation is an instance in which your camera’s shutter is activated. In other words, a shutter actuation is part of what happens inside your camera’s body when you take a picture. The number of shutter actuations that your camera’s shutter has sustained is also called the shutter count.
The shutter is a moving part in the camera and it is a fact of life that moving parts wear out over time. Therefore, the shutter has a life expectancy that is based on the average of the best and worst case scenarios. Your camera shutter’s life expectancy can best be found by doing a quick Google search containing the brand name and model of the camera and “shutter life expectancy” to see how long the shutter lasted for other users of that specific camera.
If your camera’s shutter dies, you have two main options: buy a new camera or replace the shutter. Which option you should choose depends on a few things including how much you paid for the camera, how long you’ve had it, how much it would cost to replace the shutter, and if you want to upgrade. Weigh the costs of your options and decide which is best for you.
If at any point you are considering buying a used camera, it is a good idea to find out how many shutter actuations the used camera has before you buy it. To do this, ask the seller to take a photo of the front page of a newspaper with the date visible and to send the image file to you. Verify that the image is current and analyze it to find the shutter count of that camera. Methods of finding the shutter count for a camera are described below.
How to Find the Shutter Count
Most DSLRs keep a shutter count somewhere, usually in the Exif data. There are many ways to find this bit of info, some of which I will briefly describe here.
First, there are a variety of software programs that you can download for free that tell you your camera’s shutter count. I can’t personally recommend any because I haven’t used any but a Google search will bring up some options and information about which brands and models of cameras they work with and so on.
If you’re an Apple user, Apple’s free pre-installed application called Preview may reveal your camera’s shutter count. Simply open your image in Preview, go to Tools, Show Inspector, i, click the Exif tab, and see if it will show you the image number. Remember that the image has to be one that was recently taken so that you’ll get an updated count.
The method that I use to find my shutter count is to upload a recently taken photograph to Flickr, view the Exif data, and find the image number. This is the most convenient method for me to use because I regularly use Flickr.
This information about shutter actuations and shutter life expectancy isn’t meant to cause you to take fewer photos in an effort to preserve your shutter. We buy cameras to use them so by all means, use them! Rather, this info is to encourage you to think before you press the shutter release button. Doing this will help you to grow as a photographer because you’ll learn how to get the shot that you’re going for with fewer attempts.