No More Re-Composing: Use Your Camera's Custom Functions

No More Re-Composing: Use Your Camera's Custom Functions

I know that I am not the only one that runs into this issue. I set my focal point, get the focus that I want and go to take the shot, only to have my focus change when I re-compose. By going into your camera's custom functions, you can set up your camera so that it will only focus when you hit the star button with your thumb.

Since I only have a Canon, I can't be sure that this process will be the exact same for Nikons. As you can see in the images below, you select the second option in "1" in "Function IV: Operations/Others" and first option in "2".

photo 2

photo 1

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Edward Szczepanski's picture

Works with Nikon too. Most pro-sumer and up bodies have an "AF-ON" button which defaults to rear focusing although you do need to turn off the shutter button focus in the "custom functions" menu.

George Socka's picture

set focus to one shot and dont take finger off half pressed shutter on 6D 5D 60D and probbaly all the other canon D

Timothy Logan's picture


Mr Blah's picture

Yep. On Nikon, set it to AF-S and half press the shutter....

That's the kinda thing you know if you took some time to read the manual....

Joshua Davis's picture

Correct me if I'm wrong...isn't this more commonly referred to as "back button focusing"?

Matt Devlin's picture

It is, I made the switch about three years ago after hearing someone rave about it. I wanted to see if I liked it and now all three of my cameras are set to back button focus and I can't imagine going back, it should be the default setting out of the factory.

Richard Neal's picture

agreed, it just seems more natural to me

Chris Pickrell's picture

Focus/Recompose is just as simple as holding the shutter halfway till you get the shot you want. It's not complicated. And the star button is the exact same thing. As I recall, you have to hold the button down in order to fire a shot as well or else it won't. But I could be wrong I don't use it.

Nick Fancher's picture

You don't. After you press the button and get your focus, you can shoot as many times as you want with no re-focusing (unless you hit the button again).

Chris Pickrell's picture

Hmmmm, I always had to re hit it. Granted, I did fast motion event type work, so it wasn't practical for me.

Nathan Hamler's picture

Another way to do basically the same thing, is to set your AF activation to the shutter release, and then set your AF-On button to LOCK the AF.....that way, you can focus on your subject, then press and hold the AF-On button to keep the AF from focusing on something else.....I keep my cameras in AF-C (AF servo) mode all the time, and then move the focus point where i want, and if i have to recompose, i just hold the AF-On button and it locks the focus.....

ngiardina's picture

Yep. Focus with a half-press, then lock with the lock. Requires no custom settings and I don't have to teach myself anything new!

Anders Petersen's picture

This is exactly the same as I do. Back button to focus doesn't make sense to me (and makes the camera unusably unintuitive when I hand it to friends). Servo + Lock lets me transition between following action and locking focus to prevent hunting/unnecessary refocus without changing AF mode.

I also use the similar thing for exposure lock, but use the star-button instead of the AF-ON-button. So yes, I use my thumb to hold in both buttons at the same time. The lesser known "one-two-three punch".

Oh and I do the same thing for drive mode. Hi-speed continuous always, and a short shutter press for a single image. I don't even understand why single image exists, unless you have >15 fps...

And last but not least, my aperture dial doesn't change exposure, because it automatically compensates with shutter speed. Because why make life more difficult than it needs to be.

This is called back button focusing. If you search your camera model and that term you should be able to find out how to set it up with each camera. Most models above consumer level offer it in their settings.

Fstopperswhyunolikegoopitures's picture

Funny thing about the button right next to the funky star button....


Fnoobers, the behind the scenes blog for mildly incompetent amateurs.

Mark Kauzlarich's picture

You could have said the same thing, less trollishly, more intelligently, and I would have ACTUALLY voted you up.

Product Photographer's picture

You could use the AF-ON button to do the same thing but if you have a grip on your camera like I do, you may not have the AF-ON button there so this method is a great option. I use Back-Button Focusing and have for a long time. Once you get used to it, you will never go back to the old way.

Patrick Downs's picture

On my Nikons I focus using the half-press on the shutter release, but have a button set up to use focus lock. Focus, lock, re-compose and shoot. This works well for me ... for example, last night I was shooting a bald eagle's nest, waiting, waiting. I had pre-focused on the birds in the nest, my pinkie was pressing the focus lock button, and when one of them moved to take off all I had to do was raise the camera and fire and it was already focused. I used to use the back button for focus when I shot Canon. For the Nikon, when follow focusing action I like it all in the shutter button. Am I missing something w/Nikons?

Dan's picture

Ok... this is known as back button focusing and has been around since forever. This article is written like it is something new and novel. It is not. There are hundreds of articles about this.

Secondly, "I can't be sure it's the same for Nikon" - LMGTFY... yes, it does work for Nikons.

This blog post would be much better written if the author had actually put "back button focusing" in the title instead of making it seem like something innovative, and actually doing some work and googling "nikon back button focus" for literally 2 minutes of work.

Nick Fancher's picture

I'm not pretending to have invented the wheel here. The point of the article was not to claim to be a new discovery, but to point it out as an option for those who don't know about it. I have been using this method for years. I had never heard the term "back button focusing" until today.

Jose Miguel's picture

Word thanks for the information now! New hope for me in using the illusive 70-200 which I've having major focusing issues

Marius Viken's picture

This is something that, in my opinion, should be standard on a camera. Pressing the shutter button halfway down is just bullcrap. It takes a few tries to get used to, but when you nail it. A whole 'nother world opens.

Another tip could be to target the multicontroller button to change your AF point to where you want it. Combine these two and you can focus more on what's happening in front of the camera rather than figuring out what button you have to push or wait for the focus to reposition.

Dan's picture

On the 5D Mark III (and I'd imagine other Canon's) you can customize functions so the shutter half-press only does metering with full-press releasing the shutter.

I have my 5D Mark III set so a shutter button half-press meters with NO focus and the full press releases the shutter. The AF-ON and * button were changed to engage auto-focus (I have small hands so my hand naturally rests on the * vs the AF-ON button).

On an older T3i you could do the same thing - set the half-press shutter to meter with the * button as the AF engage.

Anthony N's picture

That button usually allows me to change my aperture when in Manual, does this then prevent me from doing that? Or does it still work the same, just adding another feature to the button?

What I really wish I could do is be able to spot meter from other focus points instead of just the center area. What I really really wish is if they had firmware that exposed for detected faces. :P

Jason Ennis's picture

I can spot meter from my active AF point with my 1D MkIIn. I'm not sure if other cameras can do this though.

David S Kalonick's picture

...Breaking news! Back button focusing just discovered in the wild! Momtogs act as if they invented it...

Don'tMeanToBeRude...'s picture

If you're just now figuring this out, you're likely not a professional photographer...