Oh, my beloved back button focus (BBF), I am so glad you exist!
It all started about a year ago. My photog friend, Ashley, and I were at the Wedding & Portrait Photography conference (WPPI) and we had a discussion about how we both hated how we constantly had to toggle to our desired focal point and how we wished there was an easier way. A few days later, she sent me an article about BBF and I have never gone back to shutter focus!
Here are the reasons why I love BBF:
1. You can set your focal point and quickly recompose (move your camera around) while remaining in focus.
2. It separates the focus and the shutter, which means I don’t have to constantly toggle to my focal point! This saves me a lot of time when I need to quickly photograph something.
3. BBF is AWESOME for moving objects! You can press and hold the BBF button (AF-ON for Nikon, * button for Canon) to achieve continual focusing. This is especially helpful during first looks:
And wedding processionals and recessionals:
4. If you press and release the BBF button, you achieve single focus.
5. If you don’t press it at all, you can manual focus.
WARNING: You have to be sure to stay in the same distance between you and the subject unless you lock in the focus (continue holding the BBF button, which on a Nikon is the AF-ON and Canon is ! This can be tricky if you are shooting with a shallow depth of field.
How to set BBF:
For Nikon Users…
1. Press menu
2. Scroll down to the pencil icon
3. Choose a) Autofocus
4. Scroll down and choose *a5) AF Activation
5. Choose AF-On only
For Canon users…(there may be other settings on newer Canon’s that I’m not familiar with since I’m a Nikon girl)
1. Go to custom function 4 and set it to setting 1 (setting 0 is the default).
2. Turn your AF setting to AI Servo.
Taking these steps will make the AF-ON button (on Nikon) on the back of the camera function as your focusing button. You will no longer focus with the shutter button. The shutter button’s only purpose will be to take the photo.
If you are trying BBF for the first time, make sure you practice this before going to a photo shoot! It can take some time to get used to it. Trust me, though, it will be worth it!
Nikki Closser, Seattle Wedding Photographer