Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Back button focusing - Why and how to use it (video)

One of the most common questions that I get after people have watched some of my videos is, "How do you setup and use back button focusing?" So...I decided to shoot a video with me showing you how to set it up (using a Canon DSLR in this case) and also why and how to use it.

You can watch the video here on the blog or directly from YouTube here.

And here is a quick written overview of back button focusing.

What exactly is back button focusing?

This is a technique where you change the setting of your camera so that the shutter button triggers the shutter but does not initiate the focusing of the camera. Instead, the autofocus of the camera is initiated with a separate button. In my case, I choose to use the AF-On button on the back of the camera.

Why would you want to turn off focusing from the shutter release button?

Because there are many times when you will want to prefocus on a spot and then shoot without having to wait for the camera to achieve a focus. Using the back button focus technique, you can set a point and then shoot (and reframe) as much as you want without having the camera change the focus.

There are many times when I shoot in Servo focus (otherwise known as follow focus) where the camera will change the focus depending on where my lens is pointed. I like the having the ability to use this at some points while shooting and not at others.

If I am shooting an event where the subject are at the front of the Temple or Church, I like locking the focus on them and knowing the shutter button will only be used for capturing photos. This is similar to turning off the AF switch on the lens. I can use the back button to focus or manually focus.

I hope this helps all of you!


If you are interested in purchasing any camera equipment, please click here to go to B&H Photo, as I get a referral from them if you enter this way. I would really appreciate that.


Steffen said...

I'm shooting a lot of team handball, and I tried backbuttonfocus, but I wasn't really happy with it. I think you can compare shooting handball with shooting basketball, if you don't know the sport.
Would you backbuttonfocus a basketball match or not? You can't prefocus good, because everyone is moving all the time...
Thanks a lot for your videos and your blog!

Unknown said...

Another reason to use back button focusing is ease of composition. I set my camera to focus only on the center point for maximum control. I focus and meter on my subject (with back button and maybe ae lock), then recompose my subject using e.g. the rule of thirds, and shoot.
Without back button focusing, (1) I would lose focus while recomposing or (2) I would need to change focus point every time or (3) I would need to shoot only with the subject in the center.

Leandro Bernardes said...

Awesome Jeff, I've been using the back button few days and I can tell you that is a huge difference when you shot sports.
Great tip

Unknown said...

Do you know how I can change the settings, you show in this video, to my "old" Canon 600 D? Have looked into the manual but nothing there about these changings, only the common stuff about focuslocking.

Ben said...

Lotta, on the 600D you have to go into the custom functions and into the Autofocus/drive section. Since the 600D doesn't have an AF-ON button, you have to assign to the * or focus point select button. I would use the * button. Consult your manual for exact instructions.

Unknown said...

Okey Ben. Thank´s for your answer. I will look again in the manual.

Unknown said...

Why would you not back button focus? Is there a time when it isn't good to except when handing your camera to someone else?