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Photo Tip Thursday: Back Button Focusing

For this week’s Photo Tip Thursday, I’ll be covering back button focusing. What this refers to is going into your camera settings and changing them so that a button on the back of the camera controls the camera’s autofocus {in Canon and Nikon cameras, this is the “AF-ON” button on the back of the camera}, and the button that traditionally controlled both the focus and the shutter release now only controls the shutter.

Normally to focus, you press the shutter release button down halfway to focus, then with the focus locked, you press the button all of the way down to take the picture. You might not notice it, but this has a whole lot of disadvantages when taking outfit photos. Here’s a few reasons why:

1. When you go to take a picture, your camera refocuses every time. This can be particularly annoying when you’re trying to take group pictures. For instance, if you focus on a group, take a picture, then have them rearrange themselves in a slight manner, or try a different pose, chances are they haven’t moved that much and there’s no reason to have the camera refocus and chance having a blurry photo. To get around this without back button focusing, once you locked focus the first time, you’d switch your lens into manual focus so that the focus didn’t change every time you took a photo. This is really annoying, because it may work, but the next time you’ll need to snap a picture in a hurry, you’ll whip out your camera and try and take a picture and you’ll be dismayed when you miss the opportunity because your lens was suck in manual focus mode. With back button focusing you simply press the back button that you’ve assigned to handle your focusing, the camera focuses, and when you press the shutter button, your camera simply takes the photo without trying to refocus and you continue to take pictures as long as your subject doesn’t change positions too drastically.

2. When using large apertures, I tend to focus less accurately with traditional focus than I do with back button focus. What I mean here by accuracy is that a much larger percentage of my images that I shoot turn out sharp and in perfect focus when using back button focusing. This is advantageous to me as I almost always use large apertures when taking outfit photos. When dealing with the tiny depths of fields associated with these large apertures, you’ll naturally have a lot of photos that are out of focus. But I can say from personal experience, a whole lot more of them are in focus when using the back button focus method.

The “AF-ON” button at the top-right corner on the back of the camera serves as the focus button when using back button focusing.

To set your camera to use back button focusing, consult your camera’s manual or check online. The steps for each model will most likely vary slightly, but it usually involves changing the camera’s settings in one of the custom functions menus. Back button focusing might seem a little weird and counterintuitive at first, but once you get used to it, you just might never want to go back.

Thanks for reading!

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