It has been a couple of years now since I first discovered BBF or “Back Button Focusing”. From what I hear it is really one of those things that you either LOVE or you HATE. For me, it was looooove!
What is Back Button Focusing?
The default focusing button for cameras is the shutter button. On DSLRs, we learn to press the shutter half way, focus, then completely press the button to release the shutter. BBF simply stands for Back Button Focus. This is a term that describes using a button on the back of your camera for focus, thus separating focus and shutter from each other.
I heard about back button focusing a couple of years ago when the topic seemed to take a forum that I belong to by storm! It is one of those things that you will either LOVE or HATE. I happen to LOVE it and it really changed the number of in focus images that I get!
1. The focus and shutter buttons are separated.
No accidental firing of the shutter or missed focus by not pressing the button quite hard enough, or lifting prematurely. When using BBF, the subject is in focus, until you purposefully press it again.
2. Easy to use when using AF-C or AI-Servo modes.
Hold the button down while you track your subject and press the shutter button when ready. There is no lapse between focus time (even as minimally as it can be) when using 2 buttons instead of one. Depending on what you read, you’ll find some people will say that using back button focusing, you should leave your camera on AF-C or AI-Servo all of the time. I disagree with this. AF-S or Single Shot will also work while using BBF. I continue to switch between the different modes depending on the subject that I’m photographing.
3. Using the thumb on the back of the camera helps stabilize the camera.
This can result in fewer out of focus images due to camera shake.
I had to really think about the cons because I really haven’t run into any issues with it!
1.Moderately difficult to re-train yourself.
Instructions on setting up back button focusing:
In Nikons, the AF-On button is turned on.
The instructions for the D700 are as follows:
Press Menu > Custom Setting Menu >a Autofocus > AF-ON > OK
Instructions for the Nikons without an AF-ON button:
The AE-L/AF-L button can be programmed to function as an autofocus button.
Menu > Custom Setting Menu > Controls > Assign AE-L/AF-L Button > AF-ON
Menu > Set Buttons> Assign AE-L/AF-L > AF-ON
For Canon Users: (please correct me if I’m wrong!)
Canon Mark II
Custom Function 4 > Operation/Others > Set #1 to #3 AE-Lock Metering + AF Start > Set #2 to 1:Enable
If the settings are different for other Canon models, please consult your manual and look under Custom Functions. The lingo should be similar to what is written above. In reading, I am under the impression that autofocus can also be assigned to the * button on Canon cameras. Sorry that I’m not more help with back button focusing on Canon cameras! If you have questions, I promise to do my best to help!
If you are going to give back button focusing a try…
1. Give it a MONTH!
It will not seem natural to begin with. A month is a good amount of time to see a difference and realize if you love it or hate it! No one that I know that has used it a month has ever gone back!
2. At first, you will at times forget that you reassigned your buttons and think your camera is broken. It’s not! Just use the AF-On or AE-L/AF-L or * button and I promise it will work! With Canon users, pick the button that is most comfortable and natural for your thumb (whether it be the AE/AF-L button or the *).
2. Remember your camera isn’t broken!!!! I’m saying this again because I literally freaked out a dozen times before it seemed natural.
Have fun with this new trick! And I’m here to answer any questions! Canon Users: If you are having problems, I will do my best to help!
To go back to using the shutter button to focus, Nikon users:
Go to Menu> Custom Settings Menu> a Autofocus >a5 AF Activation> then Shutter/AF-ON (instead of AF-ON only).
And it isn’t a photography post without a picture….these are a few images that are close to my heart….and yes my boy is wearing girl clothes….go figure ;)