Landscape Photography Secrets: How to Get Everything in Sharp Focus

Bijgewerkt: 21 feb 2019

Being landscape photographers we want our photos to be in sharp focus from front to back. This is also referred to as a great depth of field. As you might have experienced yourself, this can be quite a challenge. In this article you will learn the secrets to achieve photos that are sharp from front to back.

What are the steps to achieve sharp photos from front to back?

Most of the times, all you need to do is just follow a few simple steps to get photos that are sharp form front to back:

  1. Set a small aperture (f/stop ranging from f/11 to f/16)

  2. The closer the foreground is to the front of your lens, the higher the f/number should be.

  3. Focus near the bottom 1/3 grid line in your camera.

  4. Press the shutter

  5. Check the sharpness (this is perhaps the most important step!)

For example, if the closest thing in the picture is about 2 meters away from the front of your lens, an aperture of f/11 will probably deliver you a sharp photo. If the closest object in the picture is about 1 meter away from the front of your lens, you probably need to set a higher f/stop number. Be aware that f/stop numbers above 16 need to be avoided because they will yield less sharp photos (due to diffraction effects).

What is hyperfocal distance?

Most of the times, focussing near the 1/3 grid line in your camera will deliver you a sharp photo from front to back. However, when a foreground object is extremely close to your lens the above rules won’t work anymore. This is the point where the concept of hyperfocal distance comes into play.

The hyperfocal distance is the closest distance at which a lens can be focused while keeping objects at infinity acceptably sharp. When the lens is focused at this distance, all objects at distances from half of the hyperfocal distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp.

So basically, hyperfocal distance is the distance that tells us how far away we need to focus to get everything in our shot in focus. Keep in mind that using the hyperfocal distance works best when shooting wide angle (35mm or less).

How to calculate and use the hyperfocal distance?

Hyperfocal distance is related to focal distance on the one hand, and aperture on the other. Sure, it is possible to calculate the hyperfocal distance using a formula but I use a more simple and convenient way: my smartphone. There are plenty of apps that will do the trick for you. Personally, I use the Photopills app but there are lots of others. Alternatively you can look for hyperfocal distance charts on the internet.

So, once you know the hyperfocal distance and focus on it, everything from half the focal distance to infinity will be in focus. But, be aware: focussing even a little closer then hyperfocal distance and objects in the distance will not be sharp. To avoid this, I always focus a little further then hyperfocal distance to make sure everthing will be in sharp focus.

Checking sharpness is paramount!

Nothing worse than coming home after phenomenal landscape shoot and discovering your photos are only partly sharp (e.g. foreground sharp but mountains on background are unsharp). So, as mentioned before, perhaps the most important step is to check sharpness thoroughly after taking the photo. This enables you to adjust the focus point or aperture setting when you see that not everything is in focus.

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Frans van der Boom is a landscape photographer based in the Netherlands and works mainly all over Europe. To share his knowedge he provides workshop and tutorials