One of the best methods for gaining more control over your auto-focus system is to use back-button focus. This technique has numerous applications both for landscape, wildlife, and action photographers. In this episode, Juan and David discuss why they recommend using back-button focus and cover a variety of real-world scenarios where it comes in handy. Back button focus is one of those things you want to try out and practice at home first before you go out on that next big trip. It makes it much easier to use things like servo (continuous) auto-focus and enables you to quickly get the composition you want. For landscape shooters, it helps tremendously when hand-holding shots. It also keeps you from having to constantly switch from Auto to Manual Focus and back again. Watch the video and learn how powerful back-button focus can be!
There are a lot of functions built into the shutter button. The camera is metering the scene, engaging the auto-focus system, and firing the shutter. From our experience, you can gain more control over your auto-focus if you decouple it from your shutter button.
When you use back button focus, the camera no longer activates the auto-focus system via the shutter button. Instead, you have to press the AF-ON (or similar button) on the back of your camera to invoke the auto-focus system. This in turns gives you full control over when the camera is focusing and where it is focusing. How to set back button focus for your particular model of camera is beyond the scope of this article. Please refer to your camera manual or a YouTube video for the specific steps.
Back-button focus allows you to work with your AF systems strengths and avoid its weaknesses. Watch the video above for a more in-depth discussion on this and why back-button focus is such a big help in the real world!
Back button focus is especially useful when using Continuous or Servo Auto-Focus. It allows you to focus and recompose without having to constantly be changing auto-focus points and or zones.
In the video, we discuss how back-button focus is also useful for shooting landscapes. It helps prevent you from having to switch back and forth from auto to manual focus and it ensures your focus is set right where you want it for best depth of field.
But there are some drawbacks to back-button focus. First, it can be a steep learning curve. Make sure you practice using it at home. Definitely don’t try using it for the first time on a big photo trip or workshop! It will take some retraining to get yourself used to hitting that back button. Next, if you hand your camera to someone else to take a photo, they won’t know about the back button and you could get blurry shots. You can always setup a custom mode on your camera that re-enables shutter button focus for that scenario.
We love photographing amazing landscapes and wildlife at Action Photo Tours. Are you looking to improve your photography while visiting some epic locations? Check out our page and join an upcoming photography workshop!
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