Back-Button Focusing | Photog Friday

When I was just starting out I took every opportunity to second shoot. There were photographers I loved working with and some I didn’t. There were photographers who shared their wisdom with me and that knowledge became game changers for my business. One of those nuggets of wisdom was back-buttoning focusing.

I was second shooting with a photographer I adored and at the end of the wedding I was flipping through all the images on the camera and I noticed that at lot of them were out of focus. I felt terrible and immediately apologized to the photographer. I remember that she graciously told me that she gets photos out of focus, too. I felt better, but I also knew that I had A LOT of images out of focus. I just didn’t know why, I did. I was doing everything “right”. Then that same photographer asked me if I was using back-button focusing. And I wasn’t nor did I know what that was at the time.

Normally, your camera focuses when the shutter button is pressed half-way down and the picture is taken when the button is pressed all the way down. Back-button focusing is a setting on your camera, that you can change, that removes the abilities of the shutter button to focus. Instead, the ability of focusing gets moved to another button on your camera (or the back of your camera).

Sounds a little complex, but it is a game changer! I personally have found that using the shutter to focus takes too much time. And I if I have to move or change the composition of the photo, I have to refocus again. If I am trying to shoot quickly, I have also found that a lot of my images will be will out of focus because the shutter didn’t have enough time to focus between shots.

Using back-button focusing, you can focus on your subject for the first shot and the focus will stay as long as the distance between me and the subject doesn’t change. Back-buttoning is perfect for family portraits or a wedding day! I usually don’t move too often during family portraits, so I can focus once and shoot the entire family very quickly, and I know I will get crisp (in focus) images every time.

Back-buttoning focusing also is much faster with focusing, which overall allows you to get more images in focus over all and save you some time.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you how to change the settings of your camera to back-button focusing since it depends on the camera. But there are several articles and You-Tube videos out there that will show you step by step how to change your camera settings.


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    Diana Gordon Photography is a premier family photographer serving Hampton Roads, Virginia and beyond with their bright and elegant style.