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DSLR Photo Tip: What The Heck Is Back Button Focus?

Today’s DSLR photo tip continues with this series of tips covering functions on your own camera that you're most likely not using. Let’s speak about back button focusing.

Normally, to spotlight a subject, we find the focal point we wish, then depress the shutter button halfway. This sets your vehicle focus (along with the exposure, should you aren’t using manual mode). Then we recompose the shot so that the centerpiece is where we wish it inside frame and depress the button other way to fire the shutter. Most with the time, that is OK. But in certain instances, it's really a real pain inside the patootie!

focusing camera

“Focus” captured by Joseph Asbery (Click image to view more from Asbery)

Have you ever tried to photograph a scene in low light conditions? Often the lens can’t find the focus and will excersice back and forth searching for something to focus on. By the time it actually does concentrate on something, the shot has long since passed. Not to mention that a final focus isn’t always in which you want it to get.

Speaking of the last focus point not being that you want it to get…

I’m specifically considering a shoot where I was looking to get a portrait of the young girl with a bunch of tree branches and leaves framing her face and the body. My lens kept focusing on the branches, and I had a heck of an time obtaining the girl in focus for every shot.

outdoor portraiture with shallow depth of field focus

“Untitled” captured by Alexei Jurchenko (Click image to see more from Jurchenko)

Or, suppose for some reason you would like your photo to become out of focus? This is common in stock photos. The photo subject is out of focus plus they later incorporate a sharp focus product image and sales copy.

Or what in case you’ve got a moving target like a kid over a swing? You will want to concentrate on one spot and shoot every time the kid hits that location. If your lens refocuses every time, you are most probably going to miss the shot.

In exactly the same vein, what in case you are in a race of some type. You’ve picked a perfect spot. The background is perfect and since the bicyclers or cars or runners round most, the action is at its peak! To get the shot, you'll want to concentrate on one spot and shoot as the subject gets there-and not must refocus whenever.

One method to handle the catch is to use manual focus. This requires that you turn the target ring about the lens to manually set the main objective. There is a danger here in that you may inadvertently affect the exposure. (Don’t discount this, I’ve done it!)

But the main reason to avoid manual focus is that many of us don’t hold the best eyes, and autofocus is merely plain better. This is one from the few times I recommend an auto setting over manual.

A better way (than manual focus) is to make use of back button focusing.

What this will is get rid of the focusing function from the shutter button and move it to another button. Most DSLR cameras have added a button for the back in the camera for this function. (That’s why method . back button focusing.)

In short, after you set up the digital camera for back button focusing, when you depress the shutter half way, it doesn’t affect the target. You can focus with all the back button along with the focus point will stay a similar no matter how many shots you adopt and even in case you change the exposure settings.

Now, in that low light situation, you set the target once so you don’t ought to keep re-finding it. You can set your focus to possess blurry shots if you want them, and pre-centering on a certain spot isn't any problem.

Here are three negative aspects of back button focusing:

  • First, if you’ve never used it before, it takes a bit of becoming familiar with. But one or two sessions and it will be as second nature because shutter button focus is.

  • Second, in the event you let somebody else use the digital camera, count about the fact that your shots will all be out of focus. They won’t follow simple proven steps.

  • Third, you will must actually get out you guessed it-your camera’s manual to determine how to set it up to back button focus.

It seems that the menu settings are slightly different for all the various kinds of camera, so it would be a waste in an attempt to describe the settings here. Sorry, but you are likely to have to bite the bullet and in actual fact read your manual.

Once you might be comfortable with back button focusing, you may most likely leave you got it on those settings, nevertheless it can easily be changed forwards and backwards to fit your situation.

Today’s DSLR photo tip is to discover the way to set you got it on back button focus and experiment. Practice changing the settings back and forth so you're comfortable with them and can choose the way you want to pay attention to any particular session.

About the Author:
Dan Eitreim writes for ontargetphototraining dot com. He has been an expert photographer in Southern California for over 20 years. His philosophy is that learning photography is easy should you know several tried and true strategies.

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