How to Use Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

Here’s how to use the Nikon D3500 self-timer and the options you can set with it.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer Continuous Shooting Release Mode Button
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Cameras have had self-timers almost from since they started being put in the hands of everyday consumers. They’re the original selfie mode. But they can also have other uses. It’s useful for the most obvious–for when you want to be in the photo yourself. But it’s also useful in situations where you want to minimize the risk of camera shake from pressing the shutter button, such as with long-exposure photos using a tripod. 1

Here’s how to use the self-timer on the Nikon D3500 and the options you can set with it.

The process is quite straightforward, but it’s worth knowing about how it behaves and some settings you can change.

How to Turn on Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

To start the D3500’s self-timer, you press the button on the back that has the countdown clock icon next to it. It’s the button in the center of the photo at the top of this page.

That will bring up the Release Mode screen:

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

Select the right-hand option for self-timer.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

With the D3500 engaged, you’ll see an icon on the main status window on the back screen.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

And in a useful feature, the self-timer is engaged once at a time. What I mean by that is that it will disengage automatically once the sequence of self-timer photos has been taken. If you want to use it again, you’ll need to engage it again.

This behavior is useful, because on other cameras, it’s very easy to accidentally leave it engaged and then find that shutter isn’t responding when you press it and end up missing the shot (it’s happened to me more than a few times).

Taking the Photo/s with the Self-Timer

With the self-timer engaged, when you press the shutter button, it won’t immediately take a photo (of course). But you’ll know that it’s working by the flashing light on the front of the camera next to the grip. It flashes quickly at first, and then right before it takes the photo, it’ll stay solid for a couple of seconds. So if you and your group are in front of the camera, you don’t have to be guessing when to smile and not blink.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer Settings

There are some settings you can use to have some control over how the D3500’s self-timer behaves.

You find the Settings for the self-timer under:

MENU > Setup menu (wrench icon) > Self-timer
Nikon D3500 Self-Timer Setup Menu

There are two settings you can change.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer Delay Settings Screen

Self-Timer Delay

This is the time between pressing the shutter and it taking the first shot.

The available options are: 2, 5, 10, and 20 seconds.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

Self-Timer Number of Shots

By default, the D3500’s self-timer will take a single shot. But you can change that and select up to 9 shots.

Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

The delay between each subsequent shot is around 4 seconds (you can’t control this with the delay setting).

This can be very handy as a safety precaution. If you’re taking a group shot, for example, it will give you more photos to choose from if someone has their eyes closed or looking the wrong way.

Uses for the Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

The most obvious use for the self-timer is the traditional one: for selfies or group photos where the photographer is in the photo. You know the ones–you line up the group, compose and focus the shot, press the shutter, and then race around to join the group.

A less common use for the self-timer, but still very useful, is when taking long-exposure shots on a tripod. It’s a handy way to reduce camera shake when activating the shutter. Because whether you’re taking night-time photos of cityscapes or star trails in astrophotography, the less the camera shakes, the better. And using your finger on the shutter inevitably shakes the camera. Having the camera activate the shutter itself still isn’t perfect–there’s what’s called mirror slap, as the DSLR mirror rises and falls back into place–but it’s much better than doing it by hand. Some more advanced cameras have a mirror lock-up feature that eliminates that, but the D3500 doesn’t have that. (The D3500 does have a Lock Mirror Up For Cleaning feature, but that’s different from the kind of mirror lock-up that’s designed for minimizing mirror vibrations in long-exposure photography.)

Another option that works well for this is to connect the camera to your mobile device through the SnapBridge app and use it to activate the shutter. Both methods are touch-free ways of minimizing camera shake when taking photos. (The D3500 doesn’t support external shutter remotes.)

FAQs About Nikon D3500 Self-Timer

How long is the Nikon D3500 self-timer?

The available options for the delay on the Nikon D3500’s self-timer are: 2, 5, 10, and 20 seconds.

How many photos can you take in sequence with the Nikon D3500’s self-timer?

The Nikon D3500 can be used to take 1 to 9 shots in a single sequence.

  1. The Nikon D3500 isn’t compatible with cable shutter releases, and there’s no mirror lockup mode on this camera. While the self-timer is not as effective as either of those methods, it’s still a useful option to have available and typically results in much less camera shake than manually pressing the shutter.[]
David Coleman / Photographer
by David Coleman

I'm a professional freelance travel photographer based in Washington DC. Seven continents, up mountains, underwater, and a bunch of places in between. My images have appeared in numerous publications, and you can check out some of my travel photography here. More »

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