One useful feature available on my Nikon D5600 is back button focus.
Oftentimes when shooting birds, the bird is not in the center of the frame and the camera focuses on the background instead of the bird. This technique allows me to focus on the bird and quickly recompose and shoot.
This mode of shooting does take some time getting used to, but when you do… you may never go back to the traditional way of using autofocus.
After some time using this method of autofocus, I find my thumb searching for the autofocus button that does not exist on my Nikon Coolpix camera.
Setup is fairly simple on most modern DSLR cameras. For my Nikon D5600, following are the steps to set up.
1. Set autofocus mode to AF-C (continuous).
2. Program the AE-L/AF-L button on the back of the camera to function as my auto focus button. From the Custom Setting Menu choose “Controls” and Assign AE-L/AF-L button to AF-ON.
3. From the Custom Setting Menu choose “Autofocus” and set AF-C priority selection to “Release”.
You’re now set to use your camera in back button focus mode. Anytime you want to focus, push the AF button on the back of the camera. Release the button to lock the focus on the spot you’ve chosen.
Another time when back button focus is useful is when I’m using a remote shutter release. I may set up my camera to focus on a point and then want to step away from the camera. I pre-focus on the spot I’m targeting and lock that in place, re-compose the shot, and step away from the camera… and wait.
I’ve been using this technique to get shots of birds grabbing peanuts from a platform I’ve set up.
Here is another video on the subject of back button focus.
If you’re using a camera other than the Nikon D5600, you should still be able to do this. The videos on this page give you the fundamentals to setting up your camera for back button focus… you only need to find similar settings on your particular camera model. One setting these videos all point to is the “AF Activation” setting in the custom menu. The D5600 does not have that setting and apparently using the method I describe above accomplishes the same thing.