What Is AF-Lock? (Also FE, AF, AE Lock)

A guide to these DLSR camera settings

The FE-, AF-, and AE-Lock buttons on your DSLR camera give you greater control over how your photos turn out. AE-Lock locks in the current exposure settings, while the AF-Lock locks the focus. FE-Lock is used exclusively for locking flash exposure settings.

Information in this article applies broadly to different types of DSLR cameras. Consult your device's manual or the manufacturer's website for further guidance.

What Is AE-Lock? 

AE stands for automatic exposure. The AE-Lock button allows you to lock the exposure settings, such as the aperture and shutter speed, to ensure consistency when taking photos. That way, you don't have to readjust everything each time you press the shutter button in difficult lighting situations.

Use AE-Lock when taking panoramic pictures to ensure that the lighting for each photo looks the same when you stitch them together.

The AF and AE Lock buttons on the back of a Nikon DSLR.

What Is FE-Lock? 

FE stands for flash exposure. FE-Lock is especially useful when photographing reflective surfaces, which can confuse flash metering, or when the subject lacks a definite focal point. With some cameras, the FE-Lock lasts approximately 15 seconds, or for as long as you keep the shutter button half-pressed.

Many DSLR cameras don't have a dedicated FE-lock button. Instead, the FE-Lock feature is tied together with the AE-Lock. Some expensive DSLRs have a separate FE-Lock button, and others allow you to assign FE-Lock to a custom function button. 

What Is AF-Lock? 

AF stands for autofocus. All DSLRs have an auto-focus feature that activates when you snap a photo, but when you hold down the AF-Lock button, you can maintain the same focus point even if you adjust the scene's composition.

Not all cameras have an AF-Lock button, but you can still lock the autofocus by pressing the shutter button halfway. By keeping your finger on the shutter button as you push it halfway, the focus remains locked. Sometimes, the AE-Lock and AF-Lock share the same button, allowing you to activate both simultaneously.

AF-Lock can be useful if you want to focus on a subject on one side of an image. That way, you can lock the focus on the subject and then recompose the image without taking your finger off the shutter button.

  • What is AE/AF Lock on an iPhone camera?

    The AE/AF Lock on iPhone cameras allows you to lock the exposure and focus on a particular area of your subject. Tap and press the screen on the desired location to set the focus and exposure to activate this feature. AE/AF Lock appears at the top of the screen when it's set.

  • What is Center Lock-on AF?

    On certain Sony DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, you can set the auto-focus feature to lock on a subject in the middle of the screen. To use Center Lock-on AF, select Menu Focus Mode > Continuous AF (AF-C) Focus Area > Lock-on AF: Center. Then, compose your photo so that the subject is in the on-screen frame, press the shutter halfway, and push the shutter button completely to take the picture.

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