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: B. R. P.



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

  • Evstraty Tugodumov

    Found the focus lock trainer -http: //
    Everything is clear here, well, the same procedure can be performed using the AF-L key. Please write in what order to press the keys, where to hold, and where to press and release. And what type of focusing should be set (Nikon 3100).

  • Sergey Mukhin

    it is focus lock with the release button, not the AF-L / AE-L button.

    in order to block the exposure with the AF-L / AE-L button, you first need to go into the camera menu (Nikon) and change the default settings (there is simultaneous blocking of focus and exposure)

    - MENU button
    - Custom settings menu
    - f Control
    - f5 Function of the book. "AF-L / AE-L"
    - AE blocking only AE (well ... or what you need to be happy)

    Then ... in IRIS PRIORITY mode, MANUAL or P
    - aim the target at the area that suits you according to the exposure.
    - Press the magic button "AF-L / AE-L" (exposure is locked)
    - and WITHOUT RELEASING the button, move the camera to the desired position.
    - press the shutter down halfway (without releasing the “AF-L / AE-L” button) to focus on the subject
    - you shoot.

    you are welcome :-)

  • Sergey Mukhin

    Metering should not be matrix (dot or center-weighted)
    If there is a matrix - these dances with tambourines are superfluous. and so everything will work out without blocking ...
    although ... worth experimenting.

  • Garik

    Good afternoon. Please tell me, otherwise I'm completely confused. Initially, I set exposure lock to Nikon D610 by half-pressing the shooting button, but I set the AF / AL button to focus lock and most of the shots come out according to my creative ideas, but ... for shooting in conventional light, this alignment is not suitable, I had to assign the AF / AL button on exposure lock, FN button on focus lock, in general, shooting in this mode is compatible with feat. Please tell me if there are other options with a simpler solution, thanks in advance, Oleg.

  • Garik

    Good afternoon again. All the same, my inquisitive mind found a way out, or rather I realized myself where I was wrong - I set the focus to “frame-tracking” and when half-pressed, the focus stopped getting lost, so the AF / AL button can be safely used when locking the exposure. But in any case, thank you, the site is interesting and diverse, I will gladly honor it in search of answers to questions and the articles are very interesting.

  • Daria

    What needs to be done to unlock this button? I thought the lens broke, so I couldn’t adjust the focus, after all the clicks, as well as the information in the internet, it turned out to be a lock. Thank you in advance

  • Ksenia

    Flash blocked. Tell me what to do?

  • zenz

    Everything is as always intelligible and detailed !! Thank you for your work !!)

  • Sergei

    Nicely described !!! And the examples are all clear - “in pictures” !!! :-)
    Immediately climbed to change the settings of this button !!! Thanks!!!

  • Pastor

    And how to turn off this miracle - the button, otherwise I have it on fudge from 5, it kind of sunk and you always have to press it to change focus.

  • Yura

    At the moment, I’m used to taking photos with the af-on function in tracking mode. It’s very convenient, it turns out 2 in one (single-frame and follow-up. But I decided to switch from matrix metering to center-weighted. If I understood correctly, then in comparing the portrait from the edge I won’t get the correct metering, since metering will occur during shooting and not focusing Do I understand correctly that in order to get the right center-weighted measurement, do I need to use the af / aero function or refuse this button and take pictures in frame-by-frame mode?

  • anonym

    The best shot in the version with a squirrel would be obtained if you make HDR either using the built-in function in the camera, or shoot three or more frames and then combine it on a computer. Sense of making a shot with a well-shot squirrel, but overexposure in the background? It turns ugly. The rest of the lesson is excellent, everything is clear.

    • Van

      the squirrel will wait until 3 frames are removed, it does not even move))

  • bushenboy

    why is that? how to set auto focus ?? please help the focus point brought on itself

    • Valery

      for sure in your case the button and the exposure and focus are blocked

      • Nadezhda

        And I have a bolk AF / AE how to disable it?

  • bushenboy


  • anonym

    Hello everyone, I have had d90 since 2010, I mainly photograph in A aperture priority, and M manual settings, I also tried to press these buttons earlier but did not notice the result, thanks to the two buttons on the top panel of the camera are marked with green dots, we press them simultaneously, like Everything on the display will disappear and will reappear, release the buttons, all the factory settings have been restored, I use only aperture and shutter speed, excellent photos are obtained. 16 - 85 dx 3.5-5.6 nikon lens.

    • Lynx

      Come on??? Really?

    • anonym

      Just a huge experience in five years. Many have everything ahead ;-)

  • Novel

    I apologize in M ​​mode; exposure lock is unnecessary huh? Enlighten who is not hard. Thanks for the answer.

    • BB

      It only makes sense if you use Auto-ISO

      • Novel

        It turns out that this function can be used effectively only in A and S, but not the fact that the camera will choose the right exposure the first time. So you can just take a few test shots in M ​​and the same thing will happen. Did I understand correctly?

        • BB

          I guess, yes. In static lighting conditions (studio, for example), when the background and the subject do not change much - it is even 'safer' to shoot in manual mode - once we picked up the exposure couple and that's it.
          But in conditions with variable illumination, it is often easier (faster) to use the priority of aperture or shutter speed - the same street: they went out or went into the shadows, or the sun went behind a cloud, but simply changed the angle - the composition and illumination in the frame changed.
          If you are not satisfied with the metering, you can change the type - center / matrix / spot (I often use the first one), you can set exposure compensation (even on a 'permanent basis'). You can also 'spy' the exposure coupler in A or S mode, switch to M, and correct the 'spied' parameters.

          • Novel

            Thanks for the reply.

  • Sergei

    Arkady, thanks for the article. I use AE-L very actively, on sunny days in strong contrast conditions it is irreplaceable. In this case, I do not change the exposure, it usually stands at 0, and I choose the place for metering the exposure, fix it and then focus on the subject, as in your examples with the squirrel and in the temple. But I heard that someone is not using AE-L, but using exposure compensation. Please, explain, is it more convenient - every time, looking through the viewfinder or at the screen, turn the exposure compensation dial to select the desired one? And in general, is it possible, in principle, to completely cancel the need to use the exposure compensation button by locking the exposure?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Exposure compensation and exposure lock are for different tasks. For dynamic scenes, it is difficult to use the method you specified, constantly fixing the exposure. Photographers who already know how exposure meter works with a particular camera under certain conditions can very quickly adjust the exposure and take pictures for their own pleasure. In this case, the exposure of the scene can change, the exposure correction will constantly introduce correction.

      In advanced cameras, you can make "covert" exposure compensation. For example, if a camera with a certain lens constantly makes mistakes with exposure, you can set the hidden correction + - with an accuracy of 1/6. However, the exposure change + - icon will not appear in the menu or display. During shooting, the usual + - will simply be superimposed on the set value. With such a “hidden” correction, you can adjust the exposure meter for shooting “to zero” as it is convenient for the photographer.

      Personally, I'm a big fan of using the + - correction. Instead of using the AE-L button for accurate exposure, I personally tend to use the manual exposure method (“Manual” mode for setting shutter speed, aperture, ISO, flash output empirically). I use the AE-L button on rare occasions when there is a precise spot to set the desired exposure.

      Partially, I compensate for the work with AE-L by focusing on a single point with a set point metering of exposure. All Nikon CTCs replace the exposure in a single-point focus mode precisely in the area where the focus point is pointed. It is very, very convenient. Especially when you need to expose one specific object (most often a face), while the rest of the objects in the frame do not care.

  • Ufa

    Eyes opened ... Two days after I bought the D90, I read a lot of literature (before buying, of course) and thanks to your intelligible article, my eyes opened an order of magnitude wider. Thank you.

    • NE

      Order of magnitude (mathematics) - the number of digits in a number. Two quantities are said to be of the same order if the ratio of the larger to the smaller of them is less than 10. Thus, the expression “an order of magnitude more / less” means “10 times more / less”.

  • Michael

    Thanks! Everything is very intelligibly written. I used this button to lock AF-ON and the AE lock in the settings can be assigned to the shutter button.

  • Konstantin

    I read the article thank you very much for the work done, finally figured out the AE-L AF-L button / such a question is set in the settings c1- when the shutter release is pressed, AE AF is blocked halfway, in the f7 settings the AE-L lock button is assigned AE lock lock, that is, when you press the shutter-release button halfway or the AE-L AF-L button, the same action occurs when the autoexposure is blocked?

  • Andrei

    how now to get rid of its functioning and return to the normal shooting mode ... and another question ... is there a possibility to return to the factory settings? thanks for your attention to my question

  • anonym

    How does it work in live view mode?

    • NE


  • Sergei

    Tried it, good setup. Only now I can't turn it off. When the trigger is pressed, AE-L flashes. in the user menu settings - f control - f 6 function of buttons AE-L / AF-L tried everything.

    did a reset, exposure lock did not turn off. help turn it off. Nikon 800e

    • Michael

      This is not the right setting. There is something like “function of the shutter button” and there you can choose AE-L, AF, nothing. And function f6 assigns the function to the AE-L button, not the release.

      • Sergei

        The AE-L flashing in the viewfinder half-time has disappeared - turned off. - User menu settings - s Timers / AE lock - s1 AE lock for triggers. button - off. and when incl. flashes again.
        And exposure lock AE-L / AF-L is worth nothing.

        • Michael

          I'm glad I figured it out. Yes, I talked about this setting

  • Mike

    Thank you so much for such a detailed explanation!

  • anonym

    In the same case, when photographing a squirrel, you can use spot metering of exposure, and do not fool yourself with this AF-L / AE-L button. Many people tried to use it, but now they don’t know how to disable this function that they do not need.

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