Cap­ture pin-sharp land­scapes by max­imis­ing depth of field to bring ev­ery­thing into fo­cus

NPhoto - - Special Feature -

The aim when shoot­ing most land­scape im­ages is to record all parts of the scene in sharp fo­cus, from the fur­thest hills to the clos­est fore­ground ob­jects. This is usu­ally achieved by stop­ping down (in other words, re­duc­ing the size of) the aper­ture, to f/16 for ex­am­ple. This in turn in­creases depth of field to bring ev­ery­thing into fo­cus from front to back. (Avoid us­ing your lens’s small­est aper­tures, though, as this can re­sult in a soft­en­ing of im­age de­tail– see Step by Step.)

How­ever, the depth of field in an im­age is also af­fected by two other fac­tors: the fo­cal length of the lens, and the dis­tance at which the lens is fo­cused. The longer the fo­cal length, the shal­lower the depth of field will be, and vice versa. This means that depth of field is greater when us­ing a widean­gle lens com­pared to a stan­dard or tele­photo lens – as­sum­ing they’re all fo­cused on the same point.

In other words, it’s gen­er­ally much eas­ier to get both near and far parts of a scene in fo­cus when us­ing a widean­gle lens set to a small aper­ture. In fact, if your lens is wide enough it might even be pos­si­ble to achieve sharp fo­cus through­out the scene us­ing a mid-range aper­ture of f/8 or f/11, which for most lenses is the sweet spot in terms of op­ti­mal im­age qual­ity.

When­ever I’m shoot­ing I take a hy­per­fo­cal dis­tance cal­cu­la­tion chart, which tells me where to fo­cus to achieve front-to-back sharp­ness for any given fo­cal length and aper­ture com­bi­na­tion.

It’s use­ful to carry one, but it’s not some­thing I re­fer to for ev­ery photo. In most sit­u­a­tions, a quicker and eas­ier method is to fo­cus a third of the way into the frame (that’s one third up from the bot­tom of the viewfinder, rather than a third of the way into the scene). Broadly speak­ing this is where the hy­per­fo­cal fo­cus point would be. Nine times out of ten this tech­nique works just fine, and I only re­ally re­fer to my hy­per­fo­cal dis­tance chart when my im­ages fea­ture close fore­ground sub­jects.

Which­ever method you use, re­view your pic­ture af­ter­wards on your LCD by zoom­ing into an area of both fore­ground and back­ground to check for sharp­ness.

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