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July 20, 2015

How to Improve Photos Using Back Button Focus

Harrisonburg Virginia Photographer

[part of the Monday for Moms blog series – small tips and tricks that will make big changes in photos of your children]

One driving force in creating this blog is my desire to give back pieces of what I’ve learned that can help moms (or dads, grandparents, and all people who have a child they love out there ūüėČ ) take better photos. ¬†We can all have professional photos taken (and should – at least yearly, more on that another time) BUT it’s the every day moments that we as mothers really treasure. ¬†The super smiley mess at the end of a spaghetti dinner, that time we accidentally left a magic marker in reach and our home turned into an [unauthorized] temporary tattoo parlor‚Ķ These moments are the special ones that we want to remember, and the lessons I share in this blog series are meant to help you capture these moments even better.

So…on to lesson Number 1: Back Button Focus

Picture this: He has just stepped up to the plate. ¬†You snap a quick picture while he awaits the pitch. ¬†He swings, your camera is still focusing, and by the time you are able to actually take the picture, he’s made contact with the ball and has already taken off down the first base line.¬†Ever missed a photo op because the shutter wouldn’t release – all you heard was the cranking of the lens looking for focus? ¬†By the time the time the camera focused and the shutter snapped, it was too late.

Back button focus MOVES the focus button off of the shutter release button, and on to another control on the back of the camera that is operated by the thumb.  While most DSLR cameras have this option, the actual details of setting the feature differ by camera make and model.  A quick look in the camera manual or google search will give you the run down on how to make this change on your own camera.  This glorious feature allows you to lock focus in using your thumb just before a special moment arrives and fire away once YOU decide you are ready, not the camera.  This makes burst (continuous) shooting easier, and allows you to capture many more moments giving more opportunities to capture the personalities of little ones.  The best part is that they are all actually in focus, because you can hold the back focus button the whole time you are shooting.

Keep in mind, there are a few different autofocusing modes to use at different times. Al Servo/Continuous/AF-C is meant for moving objects Рgreat for sports, animals, and especially kids on the go!  Use One Shot/Single/AF-S mode on stationary subjects, or choose a hybrid mode, Al Focus/AF-A to let your camera decide if the subject is still or moving.

Do yourself a favor and allow the shutter button on your camera to have just one job Рreleasing the shutter!  Moving the focus button to the back of the camera will allow you to achieve focus easily and consistently AND makes it possible to use a few more techniques to improve focus and exposure (these lessons to come later in the series Рcome back again!)  Fair warning, this will take a few days of practice to get used to, but once you do you will never look back!

Happy snapping!

– Nikki

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