Why Does My Digital Camera Have a Clicking Sound?

Like a lot of other smartphones nowadays, my phone has a camera. When I take a picture, there is a sound that is made that is just like the sound the cameras of my youth (when I was young)  made – a long clicking sound.  In the old days, before the explosion (rapid increase) of electronic devices (small machines), there were lots of sounds made by the physical movement of a machine’s parts.  When you took a picture, there was a sound made by the shutter (an internal part of the camera) as it opened and closed rapidly.  It wasn’t something added to the camera; it wasn’t extra.  It was just a sound the machine made due to (because of) the way it was built.

Digital cameras don’t make any sound, or at least, they don’t need to.  But the makers of digital cameras add the sound you used to hear.  Why?  Mostly because that is what people are used to hearing, what they associate with taking a picture. And we are slow to change.  We want to feel comfortable with the new technology, so keeping some of the old sounds, shapes, and the “look” of previous technology has become quite common.  When you move from one page to another on an iPad, you see something that looks like a paper page turning.  For most of us, that’s what reading a book feels like, and we want to keep that experience even when it is no longer necessary.

This process of keeping some of the old to help people transition (move from one place to another) to new technology is itself old.  When we moved from a system of transportation provided by horses to the steam engines of the 19th century, the amount of power was called “horsepower,” since that was what people were familiar with.  And we continue to use that term in English, even though most of us have probably never ridden a horse and have no idea how much power could be provided by, say (for example), 140 horses.

There are many examples of this way of designing technology – think of “folders” on your computer, or putting things in the “trash” to delete them.  Can you think of others?  Are there sounds that you don’t hear anymore that you wish you did?


Photo credit: Canon PowerShot A95, Wikipedia CC

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23 Responses to Why Does My Digital Camera Have a Clicking Sound?

  1. Luigi says:

    I think the clicking sound is used as privacy, so that you cannot make a photo to another person without him/her to know what you are doing.
    Thank you for your beautiful article Jeff and all eslpod team.

  2. Julia Polov says:

    As far as I know also it was done to make people know that one takes picture of them. In case they hear such sound they can ask to delete the photo because if private property etc.

  3. sara says:

    Dear Dr.Jeff it was a great topic(in fact I hadn’t noticed it before) and needs time to find something interesting for share.
    Thanks for it.

  4. kuong do says:

    I think that the sounds are very important to us. People always want to hear the familiar sounds that they have listened to them for a long time. I love the sounds of my camera and my computer.
    Thank you, Jeff, for the interesting post.

  5. Peter says:

    I never noticed that
    Now that you brought it up
    I came to realize that u are right
    The shutter sound
    Another thing is the sound that iPhone makes while keyboarding it is like the sound of typing with a typer machine

  6. Sergio says:

    I hope reading ebooks about whatever topics or the ESL learning guide on the kindle or on the iPad the good and fragrant sheets of paper smell could be ever… smelled!

  7. Peter says:

    I gotta hand it to u Jeff
    Today’s topic is neat( old-fashion for cool)
    I can think of plenty of theses built-in sounds in different gadets
    It is silly,though
    It does not give me any sense of comparison or flas-back
    Most people not even notic it
    U are a kind of guy who pay attention to small details ,but the majority have the attention span of a kid
    So, why bother
    Thanks for bring it to our attention though
    It is rad(cool)
    Hang over 2 is open to public tomorrow and tonight is the premier. my girlfriend is invited to the premier and asked me to tag along.
    It is the sequel for hang over.
    This time they go to Bancock.
    All the critics are gonna be there tonight, and some actresses perhaps:)
    However ,I can’t make any move. I have my hold-up there :)))) funny
    I mean my ball and chain (wife) there:)
    How is your ball and chain:)
    Please don’t put this comment for long up there
    She sometimes check what I put down here. Still not warm enough for me to sleep on the street 🙂
    Let’s bunk 🙂

  8. Eduardo says:

    When I was a child in my grandmother’s there was a clock on the wall, and this clock was used to make a sound like a “cuco”. When was one o’clock, it rings once and two o’clock it rings twice. The problem was twelve o’clock, it rings twelve times. Now I noticed those sounds made me thought about my childhood. Thanks grandmother for all your care!!!!


  9. emiliano says:

    There is a sound that I miss a lot and it is the sound of the trolley car that goes up and down Bravo Murillo street in Madrid by the
    time I was a child also a young boy.
    This sound takes me back to my first youth when I was living at home with my parents and life was easy with a lot of years ahead of
    We have nothing more than a radio and the streets to play with the other boys and girls.
    No cars, no TV. people siting out the doors in summer to be more fresh and just talking each other while we children were playing in
    the street that it was not of concrete but only of sand either.
    To have more fresh people used to water the sand and it smelled so nice…, that is another sensation I miss a lot, just smelling
    the water mixed with the sand at nights in summer.
    Now and then a trolley went through the next principal street and made a peculiar sound that I have not ever heard again
    after those times.

    It seems that sounds are quite important to remember all kinds of sensations and events of the past that we have lived before.

    A nice post Jeff, thank you.


  10. Betty says:

    Hi Jeff, thank you very much for this clever topic. It is funny, isn’t it, we all associate the click sound from any camera with the ‘completion’ of taking a picture.

    As usual, I searched the internet for answers again this time. I found a discussion with a title: “Want to Disable the BlackBerry Camera Shutter Sound? You Can’t” on the ‘www.technipages.com’.

    It provided me very interesting read.

    Jeff you do help us use our brain everyday, thank you again.


    About some of the sounds I miss:

    1. the clickety-clack of the old style mechanical typewriters,
    2. the church bell of my primary school,
    Last, but most of all, the sound of all the people and pets in my life when I was little.

    Now Jeff and Lucy’s voices become part of my life, I hope to hear them forever.

  11. Peter says:

    Seems like ,you got everybody Here

  12. Florian says:

    Hi Jeff, hello everybody!

    I think another reason for the “clicking” sound is, to get an audible feedback if you take a picture. In many cases we need this kind of reply to recognize that things work as we expect.

    Beside “folders” and the “trash”, we’ve many objects on a computer system which are deduced from things of the real world. E.g. the tools scissors, broom, rubber and the brush.


  13. Kayo says:

    Today’s topic is very interesting.
    I am a computer graphic designer. CG is very different art from traditional arts but I think it’s connected to all other arts. I sometimes use gradation effect like water color, I also put Japanese traditional Kimono pattern in the design though it is pretty defferent from actual water color and Kimono pattern. I belive we can built something new on traditional things like Jeff’s degital camera.

  14. Sergio says:

    What Christ would think about digital technology? Definitely they would agree!

    One more time I would like to be provocative, dear all friends at the ESL PODCAST…

    And boring too, surely, and I apologize for that – but much more for my bad English (please, correct me, Emiliano…).

    Yes, obviously, after reading the nice Jeff’s post first everybody thinks: I remember this, I remenber that and I something else instead… Me too (the smelling sheet paper)…
    However… which is the actual problem? What’s the matter?

    This is my idea: the digitally-aholic era is pushing us away towards forgetting the physical world, what George Harrison would say “The material world”.

    So, a fake camera sound, a fake clock tick, a fake phone ring… All that sounds like: we need to find again our physicalness, that body which Christianity has killed two thousand years ago and now…
    The human body seen as a sin way to hell… Outdated things? Did you hear sometimes the pope’s speeches?

    We don’t have to simplify: Jesus (the God’s son, a prophet or a simple man) is very important for every man. Anybody who don’t like the modern digital technology? I adore my smartphone!
    But so much we’re gaining as we’re losing…

    Excuse me, my Hal is telling me something, I must go: you know, his voice sounds like the Angelina Jolie’s voice…


  15. emiliano says:

    Hi Sergio, all is perfect and I have a story to tell too:

    I have been buying vinyls from the age of fourteen, first singles and afterward LP.
    When I got married I had nearly one thousand of LP and singles.

    But, a few years later appeared the Tapes, Walkman, and all kind of little devices where you may carry tapes previously
    recorded for you in new machines that we called “tape desks” it was a heavy big device where you may introduce
    a virgin tape and afterward you may record the LP vinyl in the little tape.
    Another heavy device appeared too, it was the amplifier that it was necessary to make all this complicated work and also
    to listen to the music better and higher.
    No, it was not enough and a new machine appeared from Japan, it was Sony or Philips I believe which create something that was
    called CD reproducer and it was like magic as a little brilliant records that were called CD were the new music support.
    At the beginning the CD reproducer was incredible expensive, the same with the CD records, but after some years the
    reproducer was cheap and the Cd continuous being expensive.

    Being a fan of music I started to buy Cd and Cd and Cd…….at the enc I could had more than two thousand?
    Yes it is possible.
    All the vinyls were gone, there was not space to have so many things.
    All the tapes we gone by the same reason.

    Now all the Cd, two thousand or more, are inside a little device called iPod and a Mac Computer transformed to something that is
    called MP3.
    As a precaution I have all the music files in a PC. and I have at least two back ups (I like these words) in order not to lost
    all the Cd for ever.
    One of the back ups is inside something like a brick, 2 Teras, where I have all my Cd which were gone by the same reason of not
    space to have material things.

    Just in this moment I am listening to the “brick” (helped by a TV and an amplifier) or hard disk media player where are all my Cd
    are copied.
    It is incredible, all the titles appears on the screen of a big thing TV where is written all the information about my lost Cd.
    You could see everything, tittle, album, singer, kind of music, time past, time remaining….you may repeat aleatory or by order
    all the songs….at least the big heavy device “amplifier” has something to do about the sound and it sounds pretty well.

    This is the long history of my music, but what happened with the videos, VHS, Beta, Super 8 movies, and so forth….that
    is another story quite similar.
    All the movies, the videos, have gone and even the compact dvd are passing away to a new thing that is called Blue Ray
    but I think it is for a short time as there are bricks with files called mkv, avi, jpg, mpg, and so forth…

    Books, papers?

    Nearly all my thousands of books have despaired also, I have lived in three houses and lot of them were lost in the
    transportation, as we have not (as always) a place to keep them.
    Now nearly the remainders are in the room where we keep useless furniture or supplies…..
    An iPad / or a Kindle is taken the place of the books.
    No much paper odor, no the nice shape of a beautiful book either and also the weight of it holden in the hands.

    Yes, this is a crazy new marvelous world where you no have time to make your mind ready to assimilate so
    many things and changes.

    What is next? I don´t really know all is changing so fast that even in the science fiction books I used to read being young
    nothing of these devices appeared.
    We traveled to the stars or the planets, but nothing about the messenger, skype or the smart phones.

    But, I have Jeff and Lucy voices whichever place I like to go.
    They are always with me like friends and speaks inside my ears through a little device or by the phone
    from files that is called mp3.
    They never are tired of speaking and they are always in good disposition to teach something new or telling
    incredible new subjects about their beautiful country U.S. that seems so nice in Jeff´s voice.
    Inside the little device I carried also some music, too much music in fact, but I prefer always to listen to my friends.
    A long, long, very long post.
    Sorry friends, this is my day.


  16. Betty says:

    Hi Emiliano, very funny story about your music and books, I love reading it.

    It is a very familiar story for many of us.

    You know, there is a Chinese saying, something like: ‘Moving from the upper house to the lower house, you lose a load of hay’.

    I think it is best really with all the latest new technologies that money can’t buy.

    You feel so much more relaxed and stress-free now.

    Best Regards


  17. emiliano says:

    Hi Betty,

    I like the saying and I thing it is really true.

    Having three daughters who love to read so much, I have always thought that the books would be for them the same as the

    A big mistake, they have so small flats that is not possible for them to have nothing more.
    Even some of her things remained at home when they started their new life.

    Nevertheless I think they have the great opportunity of reading as much books as they wanted and listening to good (and bad
    too) good different music.

    I was not a waste of money or time as the most important subject remains inside them.

    You may laugh as it is funny but my new task now is providing Fatima my second daughter of all the Pod Cast she is always listening, audio books and paper books too, all in English as it is obliged.
    Sometimes she mail me and said….Daddy I need new material, and I am very very proud.

    Laura, the younger, is in Copenhagen now finishing her new licentiate as a biologic ….in English of course.
    Jeff and Lucy have been her English teachers as she has been along more than a year listening to their course to improve her English
    as much as possible.

    Thank you Jeff and thank you Lucy, you have done a very good work with Laura and I like to tell everyone here just what you have
    done to help her and me.


  18. Sergio says:

    Dear Emiliano,
    it’s really incredible! I thought never in my whole life I would have found someone who knew the… SUPER 8!!! My father had that big reader engine in his blue and long (like an old american cadillac) car!
    I saw you jumped all my last lines, but… nevermind. I think we have both about the same age (five six, me), then… here some music key words to you and other “no too young people”:
    1) Rain and tears (by the ancient Odissey country);
    2) Shocking but not pink (from Dutch);
    3) My sweet… (oh, my gosh, I’m agnostic!);
    4) Simpathy for… someone who’s not God;
    5) Master of reality (imagine many graves in an absolutely dark night);
    6) III (a cardinal number it’s enough for such a band as them);
    7) Hunting the fox (not exactly that, it could be a not modern dance…).
    I’m stopping over here: 7 is my favourite number.
    Bye for now.
    P.S. How do you practise spoken English?

  19. emiliano says:

    Hi Sergio,
    thank you very much and seven (three two) is also my favorite number.
    In fact seven is the magical number in arcane science to all the wizards.

    Some times I have said that I have had at least three different life in this world and it is true as just now I can´t identify the time
    I was working out home with the life I am living now.
    Everything as changed so much, me too, that this is like another opportunity of doing things I have not ever done before.
    One is writing here that was always one of my favorite desires, just write but not in English, this is like a dream.

    No, I am not so young as you are (thank you) plus ten and you´ll be near to my age.
    I like quite a lot all the songs you appoint me and yes I have just at least a hundred more or less of incredible imperishable songs too.
    Hotel California – The Eagles
    Dust in the Wind – Kansas
    The Sounds of Silence / The Boxer – Simon and Garfunkel
    and so forth….
    Leonard Cohen
    Mamas and the Papas
    Scott McKenzie – “San Francisco” (the hippies song)
    Deep Purple
    Michael Jackson
    Madonna…etc. etc.
    Little Richard
    Fat Domino
    Neal Diamond
    Dire Straits
    Frank Sinatra
    The Carpenters

    a long long list…..

    also classic along several years when I need to rest, like my friend Beethoven, Mozart, Vivaldi, ..bla….bla …bla and the great Haendel
    or Henry Purcell before him.

    Music has been always my life, my refugee the same as books.
    If there is a Heaven I would like to meet the singers and songs also the classical composer I like so much.
    I can´t conceive life without music.

    Super 8 ?
    Yes, of course, I took a lot of movies with the Super 8 camera when my daughters were little children
    and Eva, my first daughter, had rescued some of them and have put the movies in you tube what is absolutely incredible for me.
    It was such a surprise to see the old, very old movies in the Web that never could I imagine such a thing when I was filming the

    All the best friend Sergio.

    Spoken English?
    You may laugh now, I have a friend Ana (the daughter of Meli and Juan who are my friends of very long) that comes home to talk with
    me and she said I could teach her something.
    She is coming since a year and a half because she needs to talk and improve English that is necessary in her work.
    It is good for her but is really very good for me too.


  20. Sergio says:

    “Music has been always my life, my refugee the same as books.”
    And now studying English too, I would like to add…
    I totally agree, Emiliano. Curiosity killed the cat, but not… the man I hope!
    Thanks for your attention and words.
    Let’s carry on!

  21. emiliano says:

    Sorry, very sorry
    It is not pardonable I have forgotten “The Beatles” one of my best choices and pleasures along so many years.
    All of them are from my generation, John and Ringo a little older but Paul and George more or less the same age.

    In Spain I have been absolutely fan of Joan Manuel Serrat, my best singer and poet who is only a month
    younger than me.

    Dear friend,
    I can´t believe what you are saying to us Peter, I am deeply sorry knowing about your accident.
    Please take care and be all right as soon as possible.
    I send to you all my solidarity and good desires of a rapid reestablishment.
    All my best Peter.

  22. Tania says:

    Hi! I have to listen to the English Cafe 123 about Peanuts comic strip, comic books, television programs.
    I have never heard about Peanuts.

  23. Tom says:

    Many elements of digital typography comes from paper-based typography.

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