BD Richards, Gary Hunt, and many others have been wondering what back button focus is and how you use it.
Back button focus is a camera configuration that assigns the focusing action to a different button, separating it from the shutter button.
Normally you press the shutter button halfway down to make the camera focus, and when you press it the rest of the way down it takes the photo.
With back button focus, when you press the shutter button, the camera immediately takes a photo, regardless of what the camera is focused on.
That’s all back button focus is, which is pretty simple, but using it can make your photography easier in a several different ways.
First, it helps you avoid unnecessarily refocusing on the same subject over and over again.
For example, I’m often shooting a model that’s holding a pose that I want to get several shots of.
With back button focus, instead of having to focus the camera for every single shot, I can lock focus with my focus button, and then quickly shoot as many shots as I need with the shutter button.
The second way it helps is by allowing you to maintain focus on your subject in a dynamic scene.
Let’s say you’re shooting street photography.
You’re focused on a subject across the street, and as cars and people pass in front of the camera, you want to make sure the camera stays focused on your subject.
With normal focus operation the camera could change focus from your subject to the cars and people moving in front of the camera.
With back button focus that won’t happen because as you shoot with your shutter button your focus will not change no matter what’s happening in front of the camera.
And finally, back button focus is great for sports and wildlife photography.
In this case you’d change your focus method from single shot to servo/continuous focus.
With this setup, you can hold down your focus button, and track the subject as it moves, using the shutter button to shoot.
When the subject stops moving, you can release your focus button and keep on shooting with your shutter button!
When the subject starts moving again, hold down your focus button and you’re back to focus tracking just like that.
You should definitely try back button focus, but here’s the thing, don’t go to an important shoot and try back button focus there.
If you do that, I guarantee you’ll hate it because you won’t be used to using it.
Instead you should practice with it, and if you want to give back button focus a try, to help you out I’ve created a free back button focus guide.
Your camera is an amazing tool, but it’s no good to you if you don’t know how to use it!
If you want to take control of your camera and use it to take amazing photos like a pro, check out my Guide to Shooting in Manual Mode video course.