Use Back-Button Focus for Wildlife, Nature, Sports & Portrait Photography (VIDEO)

What if you were told you there is a much better way to focus, and pros use it all the time for faster, more precise subject acquisition? If we just grabbed your attention, read on to see how it’s done.

The video below involves a technique known as back-button focus, and it works wonders for just about all types of images you shoot; everything from landscapes, wildlife, and sport/action photos, to portraits and more. In barely 11 minutes you’ll learn how to set up your camera and use this technique for optimum results.

Instructor Mike Smith is an accomplished British landscape photographer who regularly posts behind-the-scenes tutorials that demonstrate the secrets to his success. Back-button focus is one of these, and configuring the camera properly is super simple if you follow his advice.

You may have to dig around in the menu a bit, because the necessary settings are located in different places from one brand of camera to another. Smith says that once you’re ready to go, your camera will “become a focusing machine and blurry photos will be a thing of the past.”

The process involves reassigning the focusing task from the shutter button to a button on the back of the camera. You’ll find that by doing this and holding the camera in a comfortable and intuitive way, your index finger will snap the shutter while your thumb controls focusing on the subject. Doing this enables you to more easily capture fleeting moments because you won’t have to wait for a half-press of the shutter button.

Smith organizes the lesson into different categories, each devoted to a different type of subject matter. He first describes the benefits of back-button for shooting landscapes, moves on to portraiture, and then concentrates on sports and other forms of action photography.

You’ll see why Smith typically uses a “focus and reframe technique,” and how he determines exactly where to focus within the frame. He also describes how focus areas interact with back-button focus, and how the focus mode you choose factors into the equation.

Smith explains a few advanced techniques too, like setting the camera properly for real-time AF tracking. You’ll also see how to configure one of the camera’s Custom buttons to toggle between AF and Manual focus.

After watching the video head over to Smith’s instruction YouTube channel where there’s much more to learn, especially if landscape photography is your thing.

On a related note, don’t miss the tutorial we post last month from another pro, with nine unconventional tips for sharper landscape and wildlife photos.