Photo tricks. Part 12. Focus Trap

The focus trap is an interesting feature to catch the desired subject in focus without focusing itself.

Photo tricks. Part 11. Focus Trap

Photo tricks. Part 11. Focus Trap

The focus trap is also called focus trap... The essence of the reception is very simple, the camera focuses at a certain distance, and then waits for something at this distance to come into focus, that is, to fall into the so-called 'trap'.

First, how to configure:

If you have a professional-grade camera, such as Nikon D300, D700, D3s etc., which has a special AF-ON button

1. Set the 'AF activation' function from the 'Autofocus' menu item to 'AF-ON only'. In this position, auto focus is only available when the AF-ON button is pressed, and the shutter button when pressed halfway will activate metering exposurebut will not auto focus. This is the standard focus mode for professional photographers.

2. If using the AF-S focusing mode, set the focus priority in the camera menu using the 'Priority selection' menu item. for dir. AF-S 'to' Focus'. When using focus mode AF-C, then in the camera menu set the focus priority using the 'Select priority. for dir. AF-C 'is also set to' Focus'.

3. Set the focus mode on the lens to the auto focus position. Focus in any way at the desired focusing distance, press the shutter button all the way, and wait until an object appears in the focusing area, as soon as the subject gets into the 'trap', the camera releases the shutter.

If you have an amateur level camera such as Nikon D5100, D60, D80 etc., which does not have a separate AF-ON button

1. Using the camera menu, configure the button AF-L / AE-L to 'AF: AF-ON'. It's good that all Nikon cameras have this button and can always be reprogrammed. After this setup AF-L / AE-L button will simulate the operation of the AF-ON button on older cameras. When you press the AF-L / AE-L button, the camera will automatically focus. Auto focusing by half-pressing the shutter button will not occur.

2. Put the camera in focus mode AF-S or AF-A. Unlike professional cameras, almost all amateur cameras do not have the ability to prioritize focus, in AF-C trigger priority always works, and in AF-S mode, focus priority always works. Features of amateur cameras described here.

3. If the camera has the ability to set the focus priority for AF-S, AF-C modes, for example, such a function is in the amateur camera Nikon D5100, then you need to set the priority 'Focus' for such modes. If you don't want to set priorities, on amateur cameras just turn on the mode AF-A.

4. Set the lens focus mode to auto focus mode. Focus in any way on the desired focusing distance, press the shutter button all the way, and wait until an object appears in the focus area, as soon as the object falls into the trap, the camera releases the shutter.

Attention: Some new Nikon cameras cannot be set to focus trap mode. A reliable list is not known.

The focus trap works in any focus mode: one point at a time, with dynamic focus area selection and normal auto mode. Best to use a trap in single-point focus mode or with dynamic focus area selection.

Where to apply?

The focus trap can be used to easily catch moving objects.

Example: at motorcycle competitions everyone knows where motorcyclists will pass. On a tripod, we focus the camera on the place where we want to catch a motorcyclist. Press the shutter button all the way and wait for the rider to fall into our focus trap. With the usual focusing method, the focusing speed of the lens will not always help to quickly respond to a changing situation. In general, there are many examples.


The focus trap is an interesting way of working with a camera. With the help of the trap effect, you can simplify the shooting of dynamic events, or make manual focusing easier. I advise you to do your own research.

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Material prepared Arkady Shapoval. Training/Consultations | Youtube | Facebook | Instagram | Twitter | Telegram

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Comments: 261, on the topic: Photo Tricks. Part 12. Focus Trap

  • Igor

    Thank you for the article! As always, understandable. And once again I am convinced that it was not in vain that I “changed” the D3000 to the D200 (albeit with mileage and unstuck rubber bands!

  • Stas

    Hello Arkady! Tell me, is there Nikon attachment on the viewfinder so that when using manual lenses you could definitely fall into sharpness !? I saw that they put on the camera’s display with a cover with the same markings as on old viewfinders!

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes, there is, with a 1.4x magnification. The display is a separate nozzle.

  • Stas

    Does she have an exact name !?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes, there is, but I did not use such things.

    • tri-v

      In Eyecups, but if there is a live view, I would recommend Viewfinder.

  • Stas

    OK, thanks!

  • Nina

    Thank you!

    • vitas

      home improvement and teach me

  • evg

    Can you do this on Canon?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      I have not tried, I can’t tell.

    • Taras

      on kenon є neof. upgraded to the firmware, call up the magic latern, there є function in live when there is a fot, to rob the shutter release, so that a ruhomiy object is in the frame

  • Svirida Sergiy

    For Stas. I’m so much in sight about the focusing screen with the micro-screen and the Doden wedges.
    You can take the place of a special and will focus on the old cameras.
    Koshtuє such a joy is about 200-800 UAH.

    • Stas

      Thank you!

  • Konstantin

    Very interesting article, did not even think about it. Now I will start using this method. I love macro photography and this method will help me get more sharp shots)

  • Maksim

    Dyakuyu Arkadiy for the Chergov Tsikavu article. Duzhn corisna information, and smut is available. Soon I’ll catch on, scrolling the correct vib_p on the corridor of Nikon cameras. Until tsoyavshivsya Canon.

  • Alexey

    very interesting focus method, thanks, Arkady for sharing! I really wanted to take a camera and try all this as soon as possible in business, tomorrow I’ll do it :)

  • Anatoly

    Arkady, thanks, I didn’t know.

    • Lelia

      Tell me, at what stage is the error?) D90, I program the AE-L button on AF-ON. AF-A focus mode, aperture priority. I press the shutter button-focuses and removes. What did you miss?

      • Arkady Shapoval

        If the AE-L is correctly programmed on Af-on, the shutter button should not focus, check everything again.

        • Igor Yaroshenko

          Continuing the question about the implementation on the D90. The button is programmed correctly - when you press it, focusing occurs. When you half-press the shutter button, only the internal exposure meter works. But when you fully press the shutter button, the shutter is immediately triggered ... there is no waiting for the appearance of the object in focus. Where did I mess up or is this technique unrealizable on the D90? ... ..

          • Arkady Shapoval

            Enable AF-S or AF-A

  • anonym

    Thanks! It was very useful, I checked it on my D3000. Working)))

  • Jury

    Well, thank you!
    I didn’t even suspect about such chitness, although I have been filming my entire conscious life. True, only as an amateur. Until now, if it was necessary to shoot sharply the same, say, a nimble motorcyclist on a bend, he acted like everyone else - he focused in advance on the nearest stationary object and waited. Wooden, of course, but it worked. Your cunning is a cunning for all cunning, today I will try. My daughter has pre-Christian demonstration performances in gymnastics ...

  • Irina Zhuravleva

    Thank you so much, Arkady! I really didn’t know that my amateur 5100 is capable of such feats :-)
    I think it will come in handy for macro photography too, otherwise it is very difficult to shoot snowflakes, the depth of field is unrealistically narrow (I shoot with Volna-9 + 3 extension rings. And there is a dandelion on the adapter, hurray!).

    • Arkady Shapoval

      With a dandelion, if you configure it correctly, the trap works automatically, in more detail in the Focus Dandelion section (this is called pseudo-auto focus there)

      • Kostya

        Good day! Your article has been honored as much as it is not even more visible as it can help with manual operations. In me є Nikon D90 and Helios 81H. Settings button
        Dyakuyu for vіdpovіd.

        • Arkady Shapoval

          If the lens is without dandelion - nothing.

  • Arkady Shapoval

    Good luck, you need to get used to the trap a bit.

  • Vasil

    Tsіkavo, having uploaded such a thing on his Pentax Km. Treba will try the mood (:

  • Maksim

    Good evening Arcadiy! I mabut, it’s not the correct zoom, but my Nikon D90 is the 50mm 1,8D lens, it’s still wonderful to shoot this pastry for an hour.

    • Arkady Shapoval

      It should be so :)

  • Alexander

    Cool! Now I know why I need so many AF settings in the camera menu :)

  • Alexander

    thus Helios-81N with Lushnikov dandelion is more preferable FOR (than) the native motorless Nikon 50mm F1.8D

  • Ivan

    A very interesting thing. Something doesn’t work, Nikon D800, Sigma 85 1,4 did everything as mentioned above, but the camera forcibly takes a shot despite the fact that autofocus is priority and it did not focus. I don’t understand why it works against its settings.

  • J-fx

    tell me, with the D200 and 50mm 1.2 AiS trap will work?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Will not work, in the article I indicated that "It's a pity that the manual does not want to work in this mode"

  • Vladimir

    I have a D5100, I did not understand how to pre-focus (and what?) And wait for the motorcyclist?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      It is necessary to focus on the place where the rider will pass in the example, for example, this can be done in the manual focus mode.

  • IRN

    Arkady, thank you for the interesting experience, but ... Nikon 5100, sigma 17-50 / 2.8 did everything as in the description, several times, read the comments and questions, the problem is the same and cannot be eliminated: the shutter button does not work until not As soon as the camera focuses (in any way) the shutter button immediately works without any expectations of a moving object, i.e. the shutter button pressed does not release the subject, but at the moment of focusing in any way. What is wrong? How to be?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      'the shutter button in the pressed state does not work only until there is no focusing' - this is how it should be

      • IRN

        maybe it should be, but there is no result, in such a situation it is impossible to catch a focused moving object with the camera, the trap does not catch (((something is wrong here ....

  • Denis

    Is it possible to set a trap in the Nikon D3100?

    • Arkady Shapoval

      Yes, it is possible.

  • R'RёS,R ° F "RёR№

    Tell me, please, will the trap work on the Nikon D3200?
    The AE-L button on the Af-on is programmed correctly - when it is pressed, focusing occurs. When you press the shutter button halfway, only the internal exposure meter works. But when you fully press the shutter button, the shutter immediately fires, ... there is no expectation of an object in focus. Tried different AF-S or AF-A modes.

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