Episode 59: Extending Your Camera’s Battery Life & Back Button Focus

In this Episode 13 tips to extend your camera’s battery life. And Back Button Focus. You can find the show notes for this episode on the Liam Photography Podcast website.

How to Make Your Camera Battery Last Longer

Most cameras these days can take quite a few photos on a single charge, but this week I am going to share some tips for getting more life and more shots out of the camera’s battery.

  1. GPS – This is a unique feature that a lot of new cameras have these days, but unless you need to tag your location during a shoot, keep this item off. In the course of a day, GPS can drain up to 20% of your battery.
  2. WiFi – Again this is another neat feature to have on a newer model camera, but unless you need to actually use it, keep it off. The last thing you need your camera doing during a shoot is constantly hunting for WiFi networks.
  3. Sleep Mode – This is a nice item that is on most camera’s menus. Setting the sleep mode to the lowest time possible will allow your camera to save battery life in between shots and the camera wakes pretty much instantly when you press a button. Turning your camera on and off all the time doesn’t really extend the battery life any more than Sleep Mode but it takes a bit to boot back up and you could miss a shot.
  4. Review Time – If you are skilled at using your camera, you can set the lowest possible review time. I personally don’t use the Review at all on my cameras, and most Pros don’t either.
  5. Continuous Focus – Don’t use this if you don’t need it. It can make shooting harder if you need to recompose, but if you are shooting objects that are not moving, it just drives the focus motor constantly and drains the battery.
  6. Image Stabilization – This feature is very handy at have in your camera system at times, but if shooting on a tripod, it can actually impose movement where there should be none.
  7. Live View – Live view is one of the biggest battery drains on a camera system. The viewfinder is there for a reason, photographers got by for centuries without Live View.
  8. Silent Mode – If you don’t need it for the shooting you are doing, turn it off. My EOS 6D has two silent shooting modes and I love to use them when photographing wildlife as even the newest cameras have some clacking when taking photos. If I am shooting a car show or portraits, I turn it off to save battery life.
  9. Built-in Flash – I am not even sure why any cameras come with this these days because they are a huge battery hog, their performance is crap, so why bother put them on cameras to begin with?
  10. 10.In Camera Post Processing – Again, not sure why cameras even have this as you can do a way better job with Lightroom or Photoshop.
  11. 11.Focus Beep – It does not consume a huge amount of battery life but adds up over time and the beeps are annoying anyways.
  12. 12.Light Optimizer and Noise Reduction – Again, not sure why either of these are in cameras to begin with and you can do a better job in your post production software.
  13. 13.RAW + JPG – I know some people like having this ability but you are writing double images every time you press the shutter so you know this is sucking up battery.

Once you’ve turned these all off, you should see anywhere from a 20% even upwards of 40% increase in battery life and total shots you can take per charge.

Back Button Focus

This week I want to talk about a better way to use your AutoFocus on your camera. By default you already know that pressing your shutter button halfway down is how you get your AF lock. The problem is, if you release your shutter, your camera then needs to reacquire focus when you press the button down again. There is an easier way to get your focus and keep it and that method is called Back Button Focus.

Back Button Focus is when you program your camera in the menu to use a button on the back of the body to achieve focus instead of the shutter button. The advantage of this is you don’t lose your previous focus lock when you release the shutter button and then have to reacquire it again to take your next shot. Canon was the first camera builder to add BBF to their bodies back in 1989 and every camera has had it since that time.

To set up BBF on your Canon camera, go into the menu and look for “Metering Start/Meter+AF Start, which I know sounds confusing but that is the option you want. Most photographers that use BBF like myself will us the AF Lock button on the back of the camera. I switched to BBF about a year ago and I personally would not go back to using the shutter button and most pros will tell you the same.

On a Nikon it’s a bit more straight forward in the menu but varies from model to model, but you want to use the AE-L, AF-L button on the back for your BBF, yeah that button that you never use. Now that you know how to set up and use Back Button Focus, give it a try I think once you get used to it you will like it better than using the shutter button.

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