Back Button Focus

Nikon Back Button Focus

Nikon Back Button Focus

Have you ever heard of using the back button to focus on your DSLR?  It seemed very odd and foreign to me when I first heard of this.  With my finger already depressing the shutter ½ way down to focus it was easy to actuate the shutter.  The thought of adding an extra step in how I shoot make very little sense to me.  Still, I kept hearing about this back button focus thing.  So I decided to give it a try.  Here is what I discovered:


  • Continuous Focus:  You can leave your camera in continuous focus mode in all shooting situations.  So long as you keep the back button focus pressed it will continue to focus.  While it is possible to set your focus to Continuous Focus without using just your back button it was not practical in most shooting situations.  When using just the main shutter button to focus each and every time you press the shutter in continuous mode the focus will shift.  With back button once you have established your focus you can remove your thumb and the focus will remain locked.  This means you can leave the focus mode in Continuous all the time so there is never a need to switch.
  • Focus Lock:  Once you have established where you want your focus you can release the back button.  The camera will maintain the focus point.  This makes it a little easier to focus and recompose the image and you can do this even while in Continuous Focus (See above).


  • Multitasking:  At the very first your brain will hurt when you pull your camera up to start focusing.  The added extra step will fill very strange in the beginning and this can take some getting used to. 
  • Confusion:  The confusion isn’t for you.  The confusion happens when you hand off your camera to someone else.  They will not have a clue how to focus if they are not used to this aspect.

Bottom Line

I will not go back to using the shutter release to focus.  This is the best and easiest method to focus that I have found and by allowing me to leave the camera in Continuous Focus it’s always ready whenever needed.

Check your owners manual for instructions on how to make this happen. Chances are once you do it and get used to it you will wonder how you made photographs before finding this. 

***A word of Caution*** 

Do NOT make the change to the back button focus before an important shoot.  This is something you need to do and practice long before you have a gig.