Manual Focus vs Autofocus vs Back Button Focus for Nature Photography: What’s Best? (VIDEO)

Regardless of the type of images you shoot, without sharp and precise focus your efforts will likely be for naught. There are a variety of methods to use, and the one you choose depends upon a number of key variables.

We regularly turn to Danish pro Mads Peter Iversen for tutorials on artistic landscape photography. In this episode he discusses the relative merits of manual focus, autofocus, and back button focus. As you’ll see, the best option often depends upon weather conditions, the gear you’re using, composition, and a few other considerations.

In the 15-minute behind-the-scenes video below, you’ll watch Iversen trudging through the snow in Denmark while demonstrating the pros and cons of various focusing techniques. As always, Iversen takes a minimalist approach to capturing nature, and he says the choice of focusing modes isn’t an “either/or” proposition, but rather a thoughtful decision determined by the specific situation.

Iversen begins with a discussion of manual focus, which he says is often a good choice for photographers with excellent eyesight and an understanding of how to get the job done. You’ll see how he captures a moody shot using the Rule of Thirds compositional aid, while providing a number of tips for focusing manually.

In most situations Iversen prefers to use autofocus, and he explains his method for employing a camera’s AF mode for optimum results. He describes which of the many AF options works best for different types of photographs. As you’ll see, the Flexible Spot setting is one of his favorites.

Iversen wraps up the tutorial with a discussion of back button focus—a technique he says he always avoided in the past. Throughout the video you’ll you pick up a variety of tips on composition, properly positioning your focus point(s), and much more.

There are a number of great landscape tutorials on Iversen’s YouTube channel, and in another of his videos we posted recently explaining how to use telephoto lenses for nature photography.