Our camera can become an extension of our arm and hand, and changing the muscle memory we use to control it can be pretty daunting. However, spending time trying new ways of working can also be rewarding, especially when it makes life easier in the long run.
This video, brought to you by Sam Docker, discusses the fundamentals of why we might use back-button focus and gives a complete walk-through and setup demo. Sam is a very well-respected wedding photographer based in the UK. A few years ago, he turned part of his attention to educating photographers and has gained a following in the industry. His YouTube channel is fairly new, but is already bursting with content. His personality is cheeky but likeable, which reminds me of the great content from Taylor Jackson or Eric Floberg. I recommend taking a look.
Anyway, back-button focusing. This technique, in short, separates the autofocus system from the shutter release button. We then assign it to one of the buttons on the back of the camera under our thumb. At first, this feels simply wrong, but once we wrap our heads around what is going on and, more importantly, why, it all starts to make sense.
Ultimately, our reason for using back-button focus is control. Sam also goes on to talk about speed. We can focus and then recompose using this method. I love that my metering system is still attached to the shutter button, and I enjoy using spot metering with the half-press to lock my exposure while using the back button to focus my shot and keep it there.
Not everybody will gel with this technique, but every photographer will benefit from understanding the advantages.