Sunday, 8 September 2013

DSLR Photo Tip: What The Heck Is Back Button Focus?

DSLR Photo Tip: What The Heck Is Back Button Focus?

Link to PictureCorrect Photography Tips

DSLR Photo Tip: What The Heck Is Back Button Focus?

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 04:23 PM PDT

Today’s DSLR photo tip continues with our series of tips covering functions on your camera that you are most likely not using. Let’s talk about back button focusing.

Normally, to focus on a subject, we pick the focal point we want, then depress the shutter button halfway. This sets the auto focus (and the exposure, if you aren’t using manual mode). Then we recompose the shot so that the focal point is where we want it in the frame and depress the button the rest of the way to fire the shutter. Most of the time, this is OK. But in certain instances, it can be a real pain in the patootie!

focusing camera

“Focus” captured by Joseph Asbery (Click image to see more from Asbery)

Have you ever tried to photograph a scene in low light conditions? Often the lens can’t find the focal point and will keep moving back and forth trying to find something to focus on. By the time it actually does focus on something, the shot has long since passed. Not to mention that the final focus isn’t always where you want it to be.

Speaking of the final focus point not being where you want it to be…

I’m specifically thinking of a shoot where I was trying to get a portrait of a young girl with a bunch of tree branches and leaves framing her face and body. My lens kept focusing on the branches, and I had a heck of a time getting the girl in focus for each shot.

outdoor portraiture with shallow depth of field focus

“Untitled” captured by Alexei Jurchenko (Click image to see more from Jurchenko)

Or, what if for some reason you want your photo to be out of focus? This is common in stock photos. The photo subject is out of focus and they later add in a sharp focus product image and sales copy.

Or what if you’ve got a moving target like a kid on a swing? You will want to focus on one spot and shoot every time the kid hits that location. If your lens refocuses every time, you are most likely going to miss the shot.

In the same vein, what if you are at a race of some sort. You’ve picked an ideal spot. The background is perfect and as the bicyclers or cars or runners round a corner, the action is at its peak! To get the shot, you will want to focus on one spot and shoot as your subject gets there–and not have to refocus every time.

One way to handle the problem is to use manual focus. This requires that you turn the focus ring on the lens to manually set the focus. There is a danger here in that you may inadvertently change the exposure. (Don’t discount this, I’ve done it!)

But the biggest reason to avoid manual focus is that many of us don’t have the best eyes, and autofocus is just plain better. This is one of the few times I recommend an auto setting over manual.

A better way (than manual focus) is to use back button focusing.

What this does is remove the focusing function from the shutter button and move it to another button. Most DSLR cameras have added a button on the back of the camera for this function. (That’s why it is called back button focusing.)

In other words, once you set up your camera for back button focusing, when you depress the shutter half way, it doesn’t affect the focus. You can focus with the back button and the focus point will stay the same no matter how many shots you take and even if you change the exposure settings.

Now, in that low light situation, you set the focus once and you don’t have to keep re-finding it. You can set your focus to have blurry shots if you want them, and pre-focusing on a certain spot is no problem.

Here are three negative aspects of back button focusing:

  • First, if you’ve never used it before, it takes a bit of getting used to. But one or two sessions and it will be as second nature as the shutter button focus is now.
  • Second, if you let someone else use your camera, count on the fact that your shots will all be out of focus. They won’t know what to do.
  • Third, you will have to actually get out your camera’s manual to figure out how to set it to back button focus.

It seems that the menu settings are slightly different for all the various models of camera, so it would be a waste to try and describe the settings here. Sorry, but you are going to have to bite the bullet and actually read your manual.

Once you are comfortable with back button focusing, you will most likely leave your camera on those settings, but it can easily be changed back and forth to fit the situation.

Today’s DSLR photo tip is to discover how to set your camera on back button focus and experiment. Practice changing the settings back and forth so you are comfortable with them and can select the way you want to focus on any particular session.

About the Author:
Dan Eitreim writes for ontargetphototraining dot com. He has been a professional photographer in Southern California for over 20 years. His philosophy is that learning photography is easy if you know a few tried and true strategies.

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Interesting Photo of the Day: Yangshuo, China from a Hot Air Balloon

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 02:11 PM PDT

Photos taken from a hot air balloon are not as common as aerial photos taken from the window seat of an airplane or helicopter, but they're just as majestic, if not more so. An airplane usually cruises above the clouds, and while that scene is beautiful in itself, you can't fully appreciate nature's many spectacles from so high up with a thick blanket of clouds in between. A hot air balloon is the perfect in-between for expansive views such as this one of Yangshuo, China:

view of province of yangshuo from hot air balloon

Yangshuo, China from a Hot Air Balloon (Via Imgur, Click to See Full Size)

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

Former Gang Member Finds Beauty and Peace as a Community Photographer

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 01:23 PM PDT

Jovan “Bonna” Lamb grew up in Overtown, an historical black community in northwest Miami. As a poor inner city kid, his story was beginning to follow the tragic tale of many young men before him – including his brother. When he came into possession of a video camera, though, his life took on a new meaning. In this video, Bonna talks about how photography transformed his life into something positive, despite the odds:

Photojournalism has existed since the United States Government sent photographers along with the soldiers to document the American Civil War. It was not until the 1930s that photography was used to educate the world about the struggles of the poor and marginalized members of society.

It was still longer, during the turbulent civil rights era, that the people claimed this right from the big newspapers – the right to tell their own story their own way, by creating their own images of the world as they saw it. This cultural shift has inspired generations of people to feel empathy, and occasionally even envy, where their parents and grandparents felt only pity and contempt.

miami street photography

The healing power of self-expression can’t be understated; the creation of art, no matter what kind, fosters a sense of identity – and therefore strength – in both photographer and the subject, and in the case of Overtown, in the entire community of which they are a part. It can even save lives, as it may well have saved Bonna Lamb’s.

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

How to Create a Porcelain Skin Effect with Boudoir Photography (Video)

Posted: 07 Sep 2013 12:58 PM PDT

The human body has been a common subject of photography since the 19th century, when nude “artist studies” first served as substitutes for live models. Over time, nude photography progressed into its own art form. Today, fine art photographers continue to look for novel, eye-catching ways to create art from the human body. Access to sophisticated lighting equipment and post-production tools like Photoshop and Lightroom has expanded photographers’ creative options for representing the human form. Warning - If you are offended by boudoir photographs, then please disregard this post.

Michael Zelbel, an artistic nude photographer who operates a studio in Duesseldorf, Germany, takes us through his photo shoot and post-production process to demonstrate how to elicit a surreal porcelain sculpture effect:

Zelbel’s shooting method utilizes a white background and a table with a white reflector cover placed over it to fill in shadows. This white studio in combination with models with light hair and light complexions is ideal for the look this photographer is after. He asks his models to sit on a step stool behind the table. Having the subject start from a seated position accentuates the upper body and gives the model more freedom of movement.

The main light, a strobe shot through a white umbrella, is at a steep angle about two meters above the model. This lighting setup makes for deep, typically unflattering, shadows on the model, but this is Zelbel’s desired effect. Sculptures on display are generally lit in a similar fashion, and Zelbel does not want his models to look real once he’s finished with post-production.


During the shoot, Zelbel is careful to have his models look away from the camera to avoid a more creepy image with the “sculpture” looking into the viewer’s eyes. Eyes that look away from the lens more readily simulate a sculpture or wax figure.

Once Zelbel is content with his poses, he uses Lightroom to make the models in the images look like porcelain sculptures.




Zelbel’s step-by-step processing involves the following adjustments:

  1. Bump up the exposure by one f-stop. It’s okay to burn out some of the highlights.
  2. Reduce contrast. For these images, he reduces it down to -80.
  3. Drive down the clarity to -90.
  4. Reduce the vibrance to -80 to get rid of any natural skin color.



Though Lightroom presets are available to reproduce Michael Zelbel’s porcelain style, achieving the look by hand is fairly simple as long as you follow his guidelines for lighting and shooting. Trying out drastic post-production techniques like the one outlined here can give your fine art nude photography a an attention-grabbing appearance.

For further training on boudoir photography:

There is a full guide on the difficult art of Boudoir Photography aided by Speedlights. Michael Zelbel has developed a method to shoot wonderful beauty photos with a set of lighting gear, that is so small, it fits into his carry-on luggage when traveling. It’s easy to use and enabled him to walk into any bedroom and turn it into a stage for breathtaking boudoir photos within minutes. The guide also carries a 60 day guarantee so there is no risk in trying it. Simply remember to use the voucher code PICTURECORRECT, our readers can get a discount.

Found here: The Art of Boudoir Photography with Speedlights

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Article from: PictureCorrect Photography Tips

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