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Alley Cat's tips to great photography

back button
While taking photos its really easy to focus using the back-button technique. Just a simple finger movement (your thumb, actually) right before you take the shot. Junior, Edward Stepanyuk, holds the camera.
Follow this column for photography techniques and advice from Alison Watkins.

Chapter 13: Back-Button Focusing

Thirteen happens to be my favorite number and it just so happens this is one of the most important columns I may write and you may read.

Focus. Focus in a photograph is everything, whether that be purposefully out of focus or crystal clear focus on one single point. Purposeful blur, or bokeh, can be achieved by using a small aperture. It’s up to you to determine what should be in focus.

Macro photography is super close-up to a subject. A specialty lens or an adaptor is required to achieve true macro. The most important thing to remember is key focus. Working close to your subject may be hard but it is crucial to have perfect wonderful macro and perfect focus on your subject. If the focus is off or wrong then it just looks like another blurry picture.

How can a photographer master those focusing techniques? One of two ways, one hard and one easy. The hard way is manual focusing, which isn’t that hard but it takes tons of practice. The easy way is to use auto-focus, but more specifically, back-button focusing.

You have to set your camera for two settings.

The first setting is single point focusing. If you look through a DSLR’s view finder you can see little dots that turn red when you are composing a picture. Those are known as focus points, where the camera will try and focus when you press the shutter release. If you aren’t careful the camera might not focus on your intended subject; it is just a computer, after all. With single point accuracy you can determine the exact spot the camera will focus.

What if your subject doesn’t match up with one of your focus points? That’s where back-button focusing comes in! Look in your camera settings for custom button to set a button on the back of your camera for focusing. Now the camera will not focus unless you press the back-button before the shutter release. With this button you can now tell the camera when and where to focus. This comes in handy for sports, animals, and everything else. Sometimes manual focus is the best fit for a picture and that’s up to you to determine when it comes down to it.

Next week I'll be discussing the challenges of sports photography. Check back at the same Alley Cat time, same Alley Cat channel!


Alley Cat's
Photo Tips


Start shooting
Sunrises and Sunsets
Black and White
Long Exposure
Shoot in RAW
Back Button Focusing
The Challenges of      Sports Photography
Studio Photography
FX and DX
Street Photography
Painting with Light
Bokeh vs. Blurry
Tripods and Mounts

-Motion Photography

-Naming and Organizing
-Printing and Resolution
-Paid Gigs
-Gadgets and Gizmos


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