If you’re not “back button focusing” and loving every minute of it then I’m going to guess that it’s because of 1 of 3 reasons:
- Your camera doesn’t have the option (iPhone, point n shoot, etc)
- You don’t have it properly set up to enjoy the benefits.
- You haven’t tried it for more than 1,000 frames.
In the case of #1, I can’t help you except show you another benefit of getting a “real” camera 😉
In the case of #3, I mention it because Back Button Focus (BBF from now on) takes some getting used to. Muscle memory is absolutely a real thing. So a lot of times when people try it for just 5 minutes they think it just “feels weird.” Well yeah it does! Your brain has literally wired your muscles to press the shutter half way down, recompose, and shoot.
You need to give your brain time to rewire to where BBF feels natural and normal. Most people say to “try it out for at least 2 weeks.” But 2 weeks might mean 10 shots for you, or 10,000 shots. So I say to try it for at least 1,000 shots. 2,000 shots is even better. The point is that you need to give it time.
In the case of #2, that’s what this tutorial is all about!
By the time we’re done here, and if you do #3, then I’m going to bet that you’ll be a BB Focuser for life!
1: WHAT is BBF again?
Instead of pressing your shutter button halfway down to lock your focus, you can instead press a button on the back of your camera that locks your focus. That’s essentially it.
2: “Seriously, that’s it? What’s the big deal?” (WHY)
I know right, that’s what they all say.
Let’s start with our 1st of 4 videos:
Here’s the basic idea:
Imagine you want to capture a sequence of laughter with your subject placed on the right side of the frame. You press your shutter button half way down, then recompose, then press the shutter button the rest of the way to take the shot.
Every. Single. Time.
BBF changes this to:
And all as fast as your camera can fire, whether you press “click” every time or just hold the shutter button down (continuous / burst / machine gun mode).
As you see in the video above, you’ll miss WAY less shots with BBF:
- You can fire more frames since you’re not spending so much time recomposing.
- You’ll often miss focus with all of the movement that comes with recomposing.
But wait, there’s more!
If it ended here, it’d be worth it. Seriously, just this little difference makes shooting “SOOO” much easier and more convenient…once you get a bit used to it (remember #3 at the beginning).
But, you can change your focus mode “continuous” (“AI Servo” in Canon land, “AF-C” in Nikon and Sony land) and get the best of all worlds all at once:
- Press and release the BBF button and your camera will lock onto that focus. It won’t change. Keep firing away. Focus is still locked until you press your BBF button on something else.
- Press and hold the BBF button and it will continually track your focus to your subject (continuous focus), perfect for when Junior starts moving around.
“So it’s like having single-shot focus AND continues (tracking) focus all at once?!”
Why yes it is ! And it’s completely rad!
Check it out in action in the video below (Part 2):
How to Set Up BBF
In the video below I’ll point out a couple important things to keep in mind when setting up your BBF:
One Important Catch: Some cameras will let you start AF with the AF-ON button AND the shutter release button at the SAME time. You’ll most likely want to disable AF start from the shutter release button. Otherwise you’ll have to press-and-hold the AF-ON button in order for it to work. Plus, you lose the added benefit of being able to use the AF-ON button in single shot mode (by pressing and letting go) and continuous mode (by pressing and holding). See video above for more discussion on this!
And as mentioned in the video, here’s some links to some popular camera models:
- Nikon D3100
- Nikon D3200, 3300
- Nikon D5100, 5200, 5300
- Nikon D7100, D7200 (at 1:03:52)
- Nikon D750
- Canon T4i, T5i, T6i, T6s
- Canon 6d
- Sony A6000, 6300
Don’t see your camera?
Well, we’d LOVE to start compiling more resources for our members. Would you be willing to peek at your manual for 5 minutes, figure out BBF on your camera model, then take a non-fancy video of how you did it? We’d love to hear from you if so! Just email us!
Lastly, an Optional (and more advanced) Setup
I used to set up all my cameras to where the AE-Lock button (or the * button) did just that: locked the exposure.
These days, I’m all into assigning that button to another focus area or mode if possible (this is possible on higher end cameras). But in case you’re wondering as to the benefits of using the * button to lock AE, then here’s a video: