Portland, Maine Photographer :: Back Button Focus – What is it, and why am I in love?


As a wedding photographer, there are a lot of fast paced times of the day where people are literally moving all the time. This can make it pretty difficult to capture amazing photographs! However, I recently figured out how to use back button focus, and I am in IN LOVE.

Back button focus is when your shutter is no longer used to focus the frame – it is ONLY used to take the photo! I am a Nikon user, so I will be talking about the buttons used on a Nikon. What I use now to focus my camera is the AF-ON button on the back of my camera, or on my battery grip! It’s the COOLEST thing ever. What’s so great about it is that you can push the button to establish your focus, and then re-compose your frame without losing focus on that point. Pretty cool, huh?!

What’s even cooler is that if you hold down the AF-ON button, you can track movement and keep that focus without waiting for your camera to hunt for a focus point! It’s great for moving subjects. It does take some getting used to, however. When I first started using it, it was a foreign concept for my hand to use another button to focus. You definitely don’t want your first time using this to be at a high-stakes session, such as a wedding! It takes some practice, but once your muscles have it memorized, I think it can be SO useful!

Here are the steps for a Nikon user to enable your AF-ON button:

  1. Hit your “menu” button. 
  2. Scroll down to your custom setting menu.
  3. Got to “a. Autofocus.”
  4. a5. AF activation
  5. You want to go to AF-ON only, and hit OK.

Now your camera ONLY focuses with the AF-ON button 🙂

For CANON users – I believe that you use the same button, AF-ON or it might just be AF. You would set it up under your custom setting menu, under shutter or AF activation 🙂 I recommend looking up how to set it up for your specific camera, or check your manual! The process of USING back button focus is the exact same way!

I challenge you to give it a try and see what you think!

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You can usually find me adding books to my never-ending “to read” list; challenging myself to do things like not shop for a year; sneaking crispy m+ms from my secret hiding spot so I don’t have to share them with my daughter; and melting over seeing my children smiling at each other.

Oh and I guess I should mention - I’m a seasoned Portland wedding photographer who provides not only kick-ass wedding photos, but also a meaningful and laid-back experience from the time you book to the delivery of your final images. 

I share all things personal, business, tips, and life as a mom and business owner here on the blog!

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i'm a mama of two, a razzleberry peace tea hoarder, and a photographer

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