For many of you, (I included once upon a time), you would compose your shot, depress the shutter button part way and then fully press and take the shot, right? Easy……but what if there was another way, possibly a better, more convenient way?
What is Back Button Focus (BBF)
Traditionally your camera focuses when the shutter button is pressed halfway, and then you take a picture when the button is pressed in fully. BBF makes it so the shutter button doesn’t control the focus activation at all, but instead assigns another button on the back of the camera (hence the name) to activate focusing on the camera.
Why is this a good thing? Well if you are working in the exceptional low light you do not want your camera refocusing every shot, you set it once and forget, often focusing and then switching the camera to manual mode to prevent it from trying to refocus next shot. Same with studio shoots for portrait or still life, you only need to focus once, as long as the distance between you and your subject does not move. The best reason is for high-speed action, animals, kids, sport you can hold the BBF with your thumb while taking multiple shots, always keeping your subject in focus.
A little confusing at first? Yes…….but once you get a handle on it, it is amazing and you will wonder how you got along without it.
How does it work?
Most DSLR cameras have three types of focus, Manual, Single and Continuous, by using BBF you get all three;
Manual: Take your thumb off the back button and focus by rotating your lens barrel. (Note: do not do this if your lens doesn’t have an “M/A” focus setting. If it is in full autofocus you will be forcing the gears)
Single: Press your thumb on the back button until your camera is in focus, and then lift your thumb up to keep the focus locked until you press the button again.
Continuous: Hold your thumb on the back button as long as you want, forcing your camera to continually adjust the focus until you take a picture. (Note: you must be using Continuous focus mode for this to work).
Why should I try it?
Because this is a game changer, using Servo Mode (Or Continuous Shutter) greatly improves your focusing accuracy according to many people in the know, but manufacturers leave it turned off for fear of confusing new users. If you enjoy photographing kids, animals or sport, even things in low light like Fireworks or Light Painting, this can really change your shooting style, I know it certainly did mine.
How do you set up BFF?
Each manufacturer is slightly different, and each model has a different way to set it up. Check your User Manual for Back Button Focusing or Google “How to set the Back button focusing on my [insert model here]”. It won’t take long to find written instructions, blog posts and video tutorials on how to set it up and how to use it with confidence.
~ Desley & Julz, xox