In this series, we look at making a small change to your photography can make big impacts on the quality of your shots.
If there was one thing that I could credit for making the biggest change to my photography, it would be switching to Back Button Focus.
In simple terms, for almost every model of digital camera the shutter button at the front of the camera does three things: it meters the exposure, it focuses the camera when pushed half way and it releases the shutter when fully compressed. While, this does make it a very handy button, having 1 button do all these things can mean that you have less control over what the camera is doing…and focus is often the first thing to go.
Things that can throw your focus out when using the Shutter Button for Focus and Shutter Release:
- Focusing and then recomposing your shot
- Tracking a moving object
- Pressing the shutter too slowly
- Shooting multiple shots of the same object
Keeping the focus button connected to your shutter isn’t usually a problem if you are photographing stationary objects in the centre of your frame, but in most situations, separating out the two will give you much more control.
With Back Button Focus (BBF), you change the functions of your camera buttons and move your focus control to a button at the back of the camera. Each model and brand is different, so you will need to check your manual. Here is a great post for Nikon and Canon users showing them how to turn on BBF on most models.
Once you have turned on BBF, it may take some time to get used to having the focus at the back, but the rewards will be huge. It is especially handy when shooting in a continuous focussing setting such as AI-Servo/ AF-C and tracking moving objects. Your BBF keeps the moving object in focus, allowing you to choose when to release the shutter for the shot you (not the camera) want.