Photo tricks. Part 11. AF-L / AE-L Button

This section of the photo tricks from Radozhiva describes the main features of the AF-L / AE-L button.

AE-L AF-L. Photo Tricks from Radozhiva

AE-L AF-L. Photo Tricks from Radozhiva

Button AF-L / AE-L available on almost all modern digital SLR cameras, on Nikon cameras so for sure. I will give examples specifically for Nikon cameras, but the general principle is the same for almost all cameras.

Button AF-L / AE-L stands for Auto Focus Lock / Auto Exposure Lock - auto focus lock / auto lock exposure... The whole point of the button is hidden in its name - the button is mainly designed to lock focus and exposureroughly speaking, the 'it freezes' or 'stops'froze exposure and focus position in a specific position.

Why is such a lock necessary? Very often, the work of the camera's automation cannot 'understand' the photographer's idea and the photographer must get out as best he can with the help of semi-automatic and manual settings. To facilitate the task in the settings and immediately get a good result, there is a quick transition from the automatic mode of the camera to the manual locked 'Lock' mode. Situations in which automatic metering exposure cannot give a good result, and there are many situations where autofocus can fail.

AF-L / AE-L Button

AF-L / AE-L Button

Button AF-L / AE-L basically configured for several modes of operation:

  1. Block. AE / AF - in this mode, pressing the button locks exposure and auto focus lock. While the button is pressed AF-L / AE-L auto focus and metering exposure unavailable. This mode is rarely used.
  2. Block. only ae - when the button is pressed, only measurement is blocked exposure, This is one of the most convenient methods for working with the button. This is a great way to compose frames with complex lighting.
  3. Block. AF only - Auto focus lock is performed, a convenient mode when you need to take a series of shots while focusing on the same stationary subject. In focus mode AF S the same thing happens - the camera stops focusing when the lens has correctly focused. True, in the mode Block. AF only You can lock the focus in any position. This function is convenient for reflowing the frame.
  4. Fix AE block - this mode is the same as Block. only ae with the difference that when you press the AE-L / AF-L button, the exposure is frozen until the AE-L / AF-L button is pressed again.
  5. AF ON - a number of Nikon cameras do not have an additional AF-ON button on the camera body, therefore, the button AF-L / AE-L can be programmed to work in AF-ON mode. When the AF-ON mode is on and the AE-L / AF-L button is pressed, focusing by the usual method is blocked by half-pressing the shutter button. This mode is convenient to use. to create a focus trap effect.
  6. Block. Fv Is a very useful setting that allows you to lock the flash output. FV stands for Flash value (flash power value). In this way, the flash output can be locked, but the flash will not send test impulses and immediately will give an impulse of the necessary power. Also, there is another very useful flash lock function. When the camera is set to Block. Fv for button AF-L / AE-L, then when you press the first time on AF-L / AE-L one will happen test pulse flash and the camera measures the desired flash output and will no longer give test pulses.
  7. Other features: depending on the camera, button AF-L / AE-L You can assign many other functions for working with the focusing system and the method of metering exposure. For example, you can make it so that when you click on the button AF-L / AE-L the camera will go into one of the metering methods: matrix, weighted average, spot. Also, in the view mode, some cameras use the button AF-L / AE-L for lock delete pictures. Button AF-L / AE-L on Nikon D800 can be programmed to the virtual horizon function in the viewfinder.

If you set the button to Block. Ae, then you can consider such examples:

Example 1: We photograph the object with a strong difference in brightness in the frame. On the one hand, the sun shines through the foliage, and the automatic exposure system tries to adjust to the huge amount of light, on the other hand, there is our object in the frame, which is in a strong shadow. If we took a picture in the automatic metering mode, then most likely we would get a dark silhouette of a squirrel. When using the button AF-L / AE-L you can point the camera at a tree trunk, click AF-L / AE-Lto camera measured exposure by shadows, transfer the camera to a squirrel and take a picture, in this case we do not care what happens to the foliage, our main object will be normally exposed.

Example when using AF-L / AE-L

AF-L / AE-L example

As can be seen from the example above, we got fully exposed foliage, but the squirrel has good brightness. Of course, this is a primitive example, but in the life of a photographer there are a lot of difficult situations.

Example 2: shot in the temple, automatic exposure metering tried to adjust to the bright light of electric candles, but my idea to show the beauty of the frescoes completely failed. To avoid such a dark picture, it is enough to point the camera at the mural so that the light of candles does not get into the lens, the camera will calculate the exposure, press the button AF-L / AE-L, compose a picture with candles and press the shutter button. Of course, there are many other ways to achieve the correct result, for example, using exposure compensation.

Example when using AF-L / AE-L

AF-L / AE-L example

Example 3: if you configure the button AF-L / AE-L focus lock, then this function is convenient to use for shooting a series with the same focus position. For example, I photographed a burning suitcase. The object was always at the same distance from me, therefore, you can press the button AF-L / AE-L and constantly take a suitcase, and then choose the best shot with fire.

Example when using AF-L / AE-L

AF-L / AE-L example

A large number of examples can be invented, the main thing is to understand the principle of the exposure meter and focusing.

Personal experience

I often use the button AF-L / AE-L, In most cases, it serves to lock the flash power and fix the exposure lock. The main thing is not to forget that it was pressed AF-L / AE-L in AE hold mode. For all kinds of focus manipulations, I use a simple manual focus mode.


Button AF-L / AE-L You can customize to various useful functions and simplify the shooting process. I advise you to conduct your own experiments with the button AF-L / AE-L.

Help to the project. Thanks for attention. Arkady Shapoval.

Add a comment:



Comments: 91, on the topic: Photo tricks. Part 11. AF-L / AE-L Button

  • Andrei

    Fine! Everything is clear and intelligibly written.
    THANKS: -D

  • alenfeeling

    good and necessary article. for me it is once again to try to learn the functions of this button.

  • Andr

    I still did not understand the purpose of this button to the end. In the case of the squirrel, I half-press on the tree, then crop and press the shutter button - the effect is the same.

    • ioanych

      Half-pressing locks both exposure and focus. But what if the distance to the squirrel would be different from the distance to the trunk? Then, after cropping, the squirrel would have turned out of focus!
      The point is that by locking the exposure, you can accurately focus on the subject being photographed. It is clearly shown in “example 2”. Pointing at the frescoes in the background, half-pressing the button and re-framing it to the chandelier in the foreground, the chandelier would end up out of focus.

      • Andrei

        And if in the case of a squirrel use spot metering, will the result be identical to using the AF-L / AE-L button?

        • Michael

          In the case of the squirrel, yes, because metering coincides with the focus point. And if you want backlight without overexposure? Then the metering point and focus will be different and spot metering will not help.

  • Taras Simonenko

    just when they took aim at a tree then you have to press this button ae-l. the camera will remember the exposure metering for the dark area and then the protein will not be underexposed (dark) against an overly bright background.

  • Oleg Yudin

    in the case of a squirrel, spot exposure metering (as an option) will help a lot. This button helps me when the dandelion is set to pseudo-autofocus - until you press this button to take a picture sometimes it does not work if there is something between the camera and the subject. And this button also helps when shooting landscapes.

  • Alexey

    Arkady, thanks, I also suffered from the practical application of this button on the D5100. Tell me, what impact in this case can have a choice of exposure mode (center-weighted and others)?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      The exposure method directly affects the metering before pressing the button. AF-L / AE-L simply locks (if set appropriately) the exposure (exposure).


    I hung up the AF-ON function on this button. At first it was terribly unusual, but after several shootings it turned out to be quite convenient. I put the camera in tracking autofocus mode and clamp AF-ON. As soon as the camera focuses, let go. But my Nikkor 50 / 1.8 constantly wants to refocus. If the subject is moving, keep the button pressed. Now it has become more often to focus only on the central point. I think this is a very convenient reassignment of this button.

    • anonym


    • Maksim

      I also hung the AF-ON function on this button!
      Very comfortably!

  • anonym

    Great article. For beginners like me, a good example of using this button can be the silhouette of a person on a sunset background. Button in block mode. only AE, took aim at sunset, pressed a button. Re-arranged the frame, focused on the man, cluck! Black silhouette, beautiful sunset))))

  • Vadim

    Great article. Especially for those who are too lazy to read the instructions for the camera. The examples are also great.
    I can give another example for beginners like me:
    Black silhouette of a man at sunset. AE-L / AF-L button in AE only mode. We aimed at the sunset, pressed the button, re-arranged the frame, focused on the person, clack! Black silhouette, beautiful sunset)))

  • Volodya

    Is there something similar on Canon cameras?

    • Konstantin

      There is, on the example of 500D (the rest, in principle, similar) has a button to lock the exposure. It is located on the same side as the screen and has a * icon. When pressed in the window, the * icon also lights up, which means that the exposure is fixed. Focus lock is achieved by half-pressing the shutter button.

      • Volodya

        Thanks for the advice.

  • e-spirit

    Thank you for your work, the secret of the button is revealed :)

  • Alyonushka

    Thanks oggrromnoe, now I understand that I am a bastard, I’ve screwed up so many pictures if I had known earlier what this button means ((

  • Nastya

    Thank you)) I just wanted to remember where this very convenient metering function is configured!

  • Lego

    Tell me, if I photograph a person against the sun, how can I make it so that there is no blackout?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      1. Set the metering for the area on the person.
      2. Highlight a person’s flash, breaking the sun
      3. Block the sun reflector
      4. Compensate for the sun using a reflector

  • Sergei

    Thank you very much for the informative articles! I read with pleasure, and take a lot for myself!

  • Dmitriy

    Just last night I read the instructions for this button. I read it 2 times, but, unfortunately, I did not understand why it is needed. I just re-read this article 2 times. It seems that I understood the purpose ... vaguely so far, but I understood, but I did not understand HOW EXACTLY AND WHAT TO PRESS?

    Arkady, you write:
    “… Aim the camera at a tree trunk, press AF-L / AE-L for the camera to measure the exposure in the shadows, switch the camera to the squirrel and take a picture,…”

    Let's take the steps ..
    1. I point the camera at the barrel without pressing anything. Right? I look at the JVI and….
    2. I press the AF-L / AE-L button. Those. clicked and then released? Or pressed and hold? Or pressed the plus button and the shutter button halfway hold? Or how?
    3. Moved the lens to a squirrel, and then what? If for example I held AF-L / AE-L held, then do I need to let it go? or on the pressed button to press the shutter button?

    Thank you in advance for your reply.

    In general, I have been in euphoria from the blog for a week now ... My wife gave me a D90 with a whale 18-105.

    Arkady, you are just fine. SO tell, SO present the material is not given to everyone.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      1. Yes
      2. Depending on the programmed mode. Either hold, or press and release once.
      3. depending on the programmed mode. If you need to hold the button, then press the shutter button at the same time. If the button is in Lock mode, just press the shutter button.

    • я


  • Paul

    Finally, I clearly read about this button! thanks a lot)))

  • Bubu

    Hello! First of all, thanks for the article, everything is very clear, although difficult for me) I got a little confused and did not understand what is the difference between “Blok. AF only ”and“ AF-S mode ”?? Thank you in advance for your response)))

  • Maksim

    Hello! I have a question. My previous panasonic fz-50 camera locks AF-L / AE-L when pressed once, and unlocks it again. This is very convenient when shooting panoramas. Is it possible (simultaneous AF-L / AE-L blocking) on ​​the nikon d5100, or only manual hold? And is it even possible to lock on a nikon d5100 in a certain AF / AE value? Thank you for the article.

    • ioanych

      In the button settings, look for the “Fix. block AE “.
      Fix. block AE - this mode is the same as “Block. AE Only ”, with the difference that pressing the AE-L / AF-L button freezes the exposure until the AE-L / AF-L button is pressed again.

      The second question is to turn off the autofocus on the lens and adjust the focus manually (or aim by half-pressing and then turn off the autofocus) + manual mode “M” on the camera to set the exposure parameters (shutter speed and aperture).

      • Alexander

        “… Is frozen until the AE-L / AF-L button is pressed again.” Or until I take a picture? It seems to me that after the shutter is released, the block is removed, is this so and is this normal?

  • Roma

    Isn’t it easier to set center-weighted exposure metering when shooting squirrels? It seems to me that it will give the same result as auto exposure lock.

  • Roma

    You can also lock the AE with half-pressed shutter release.

  • Hildic

    Roma in this case is also fixed autofocus. Focusing the subject then will not work.

  • for

    Of course, I am a bore, but is spot metering easier in the case of a squirrel?
    Although, of course, as an example of using this function

    • Arkady Shapoval

      This is just an example of use.

  • Andrei

    Thank you very much for the article!) Everything is clearly written) Previously, this button was not used at all, but now it will not be bored)))

  • Evstraty Tugodumov

    Thank you to the author, of course, it’s bad of course that there is no video, the topic is in demand in principle. It seems that I’m doing everything right, step by step as the author describes, nothing happens.
    1. I press the shutter button halfway
    2. I press and hold the AF-L button (when setting the AF-L button, autofocus lock is set)
    3.And there is already a problem - I hold both keys, press and release or press and hold the AF-L key, if you press and hold it is very inconvenient to hold both the shutter and AF-L), (from my point of view, it is convenient to press the shutter halfway , pressed AF-L, the focus was locked, released the AF-L key, recomposed the frame, released the shutter, and you do the next frames simply by pressing the shutter.However, it should no longer focus again when you press the shutter)
    3. I press the shutter button until the end
    4. I take the next shot, press the shutter button, and it starts focusing again, although I shouldn't have blocked autofocus, use the AF-L key. Guys help ...

Add a comment

Copyright © Blog author - Photographer in Kiev Arkady Shapoval. 2009-2022

English-version of this article

Version en español de este artículo