Back button focus is a technique that usually has divided opinions amongst photographers. While some claim that they can’t live without it, others don’t like it as much. If you’re not aware of this technique, it simply de-couples the shutter release button from the focusing function. It then re-assigns some other button at the back of the camera for focusing. Doing so has its own advantages and drawbacks depending on what and how you shoot. Photographer Janine Krayer from Pangolin Wildlife Photography explains how wildlife photographers can benefit from back button focus:
The back button focus technique comes in handy when using the focus-and-recompose technique while the camera is set to continuous AF. As shuffling the focus points around can take some time, you can simply focus on your subject using the back button, let go of it, recompose without changing the distance, and then take the photo using the shutter button. If the shutter button isn’t decoupled, the camera will keep on hunting for focus while you recompose your shot with the shutter button half depressed.
Also, you can conveniently fine-tune your focus manually while the lens is set in auto-focus mode. As the shutter button has nothing to do with focus, it will not hunt for focus when you press it to take the photograph.
Finally, this technique also works great if you can predict whether the wildlife will be moving through a pre-determined area. You can focus once in a certain zone and later fire away when your subject passes through. This saves a lot of time and increases your chance of having the subject in focus.
“Give it a good two days of continuous shooting and you’ll get used to it pretty quickly. Getting used to back button focus is usually the biggest hurdle to overcome.”
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