When photographing candid shots of my children at play with a Nikon D90, I have trouble with the autofocus system. I focus and shoot one shot, great. But a second later another shot opportunity opens up, and I waste it because when I press the shutter the camera won't fire, even though I think the focus is fine. The AF system seems to want me to go through the whole press the shutter halfway process.

Am I missing something about using the autofocus system? Usually the lens is set to M/A, and the autofocus mode is AF-A. I've wondered if I should just switch to all-manual focus for situations like this.


You could try using AE-L/AF-L.

  • I'll have to try that. I hope I can train myself to find and press that button quickly, both to lock and then unlock when the focus changes. I had expected that quickly pressing the shutter button all the way would take another picture at the current focus, and if I wanted to re-focus, to leave it halfway.
    – jfklein13
    Jul 23 '10 at 21:12
  • You should be able to set AE-L/AF-L mode to be locked until a second press of the AE-L/AF-L button, regardless of the number of shots taken.
    – alexandrul
    Jul 23 '10 at 21:32
  • 1
    Just to follow up, I now shoot in AF-S mode, and use the AF-L button when I want rapid fire at my command.
    – jfklein13
    Aug 10 '10 at 18:17

Set it to continuous autofocus: AF-C. The camera will then (a) always try to keep whatever is under the active focus point in focus and (b) fire the shutter whenever you ask, regardless of whether the device thinks it's in focus or not. You might also want to set it to the center focus point and shoot wider than you would otherwise, cropping in post.

AF-A is supposed to pick AF-S or AF-C depending on the situation, but it sounds like it's guessing wrong.

(This is not relevant, but I have anxiety dreams where I push the button and the shutter won't trip. I feel your pain.)

  • looks like I'm not the only one with those dreams. Good to know :)
    – mmr
    Jul 24 '10 at 17:36

You could try defining the lock button as 'AF-ON' - menu f4. That separates the autofocus mechanism from the shutter button. To focus, press 'AF-ON' or dial it in manually. To shoot, press the shutter button.

It's a bit fiddly but it can be useful in some situations - especially when you want to take a meter reading without changing the focus, or fire a burst without refocussing in between shots.

Remember to switch it back to something else when you're done, else you'll pick up your camera in a weeks time and think the autofocus is broken!


Check which release mode it is set to - Single Frame, Continuous Low, Continuous High. In Single frame you can take 1 picture at the press of the shutter button, in Continuous Low you can take up to 1-4 fps and in Continuous High you can take 4.5fps until you release the shutter button.

Also set the Autofocus to AF-C so that it will keep on hunting for the focus on the active focus point.

To change the release mode button look on the top right side of the camera a button with stack of rectangles on it, press it and turn the main command dial for the desired setting.

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