Terry Donnelly's Three Top Tips Back Button Focus Shutter Speed Anticipation - part 1 of 1 2 3 4

by Terry Donnelly Published 26/03/2020


Sports photography is one of the most demanding genres due to the largely uncontrolled environment we find ourselves in and limits to which we have to push our gear. Shooting indoors and outdoors have different challenges, difficult lighting, inclement weather (I’m being polite here!) and allocated shooting positions which are rarely the best. There is nothing more satisfying, though, than nailing a shot regardless of the challenges we come across.

Here are my top three tips for shooting sport which can really make a difference to your photography – I hope that you will find them useful.


1 Back Button Focus (BBF)

The vast majority of professional sports photographers use BBF, in actual fact I cannot think of a single one I know who doesn’t. So, let me explain what BBF is and the advantages of using it.

When you press the shutter release button halfway down on a camera it locks focus and if shooting in a program mode also locks exposure value.When you press the button all the way down, the camera takes a picture.

The idea behind BBF is that we detach the focus operation from the half press of the shutter button, leaving the shutter button only with the task of firing the camera when fully pressed. We then reprogramme the focus activation to a separate button on the rear of the camera, hence the name ‘back button focus’. The rear AE-L or AE-ON buttons are usually a good choice for this as they tend to be positioned near where your thumb rests. Now this may seem a strange thing to do, but it has several benefits and offers much more control.

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1st Published 26/03/2020
last update 18/07/2022 16:35:44

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Updated 18/07/2022 16:35:44 Last Modified: Tuesday, 08 November 2022