Most people press their camera's shutter button half-way down in order to autofocus.  When focus is achieved, you then press the shutter button all the way down to take the picture.  Did you know that you can customize your camera and use a different button to autofocus?  It's called back button focus (BBF) and I want to tell you why I love it.

When you back button focus, you are no longer using the shutter button to autofocus.  Look at the picture below to see the button I use:
I push the button shown above with my right thumb to autofocus, and then I push the shutter button with my right pointer finger to take the picture.  Why would anyone want to do this?  Well, here are a few reasons:

1. It's easier to use the focus-recompose technique.
With back button focus, I can focus on my subject, recompose the shot, and take as many pictures as I want without having to continually go back to my subject to grab focus in between each and every shot. 

However, when the shutter button controls autofocus, I have to focus, recompose, take one picture, then aim at the subject again, focus, recompose, take one more picture, etc.  It's tedious, time consuming, and easy to miss a shot this way.

2. My images are sharper and I have more keepers.
Sometimes that split second between pressing the shutter half way to pressing it all the way is enough of a time lapse to get an out of focus picture.  With back button focus, I can simultaneously press the focus button and the shutter button so there's no time lapse at all.  This helps tremendously with moving subjects (kids!).

3. It doesn't matter if something gets in your way.
Have you ever been in the middle of taking a picture when someone or something enters the picture area while you're shooting?  Your autofocus gets completely thrown off for a moment.  This doesn't happen when you BBF. 

4. The D7000 has a sensitive shutter button.
Compared to my old Canon Rebel XSI, the D7000's shutter is extremely sensitive.  When I tried to press the shutter button half way to focus, I kept accidentally pressing it all the way and it would fire off about 6 shots!  My husband jokingly said the D7000 shoots like an automatic weapon and it's true!

How do you switch to BBF?
This will differ depending on your camera so please check your manual.  But on my Nikon D7000, I had to do the following:
MENU
CUSTOM SETTINGS MENU
f5: ASSIGN AE-L/AF-L BUTTON
AF-ON

When you first switch to BBF, it takes a little getting used to using your thumb, but it quickly becomes second nature. Let me know what you think if you give it a try!  Or if you already BBF, do you like it better?

6 comments:

The Charlebois says:
at: April 29, 2011 at 9:07 PM said...

I had no idea! I'm going to try this. I always admire how sharp your photos look.

crazybeautifulchaos says:
at: May 1, 2011 at 10:58 AM said...

so does this button allow you to choose your focal point and it tracks it?

Homeschooling Momtographer says:
at: May 1, 2011 at 11:29 AM said...

Yep! I toggle my focal point all the time. Everything else works the same, it just changes the button you push to autofocus.

amsynicole says:
at: May 6, 2011 at 9:47 AM said...

I too just invested in a nikon d700 with a 50 mm 1.4 and a 85mm 1.8 also for taking better pics of my kiddos! Still learning all I can about my camera and THANK YOU for the back button lesson! I LOVE IT! Oh and I am starting homeschooling in the fall (preschool) too! Very neat to find people who think like we do!

julie says:
at: January 23, 2012 at 8:43 PM said...

Hi! I just found your blog because I am having issues w/ BBF - I just got a Nikon D7000 and am using the AF-ON setting and AF-C to set my focus, but when I recompose the camera will not take a photo unless the active AF sensor is currently in focus. So if I recompose in a way which takes the active AF sensor off the subject the camera still will not take the photo since it thinks it is not in focus. What am I doing wrong?!?! Does that mean I have to toggle my focal point each time? It is driving me bonkers! Thanks in advance!

julie says:
at: January 23, 2012 at 8:45 PM said...

I AF-ON and AF-C set on my Nikon D7000. After I focus, when I recompose the camera will NOT take a photo unless the active AF sensor is currently in focus. So if I recompose in a way which takes the active AF sensor off the subject the camera still will not take the photo since it thinks it is not in focus. What am I doing wrong? Does this mean that I need to just learn to toggle my focal point each time? Thank you in advance - this is driving me bonkers!