The 10 Commandments of Landscape Photography (and how to break them)

The 10 Commandments of Landscape Photography (and how to break them)

Commandment 6: Focus one third in

Landscape Photography Tips (and how to break them)

Image copyright Guy Edwardes

Getting a landscape sharp from front to back requires careful focusing. If you focus on the foreground, the depth of field won’t extend as far as the background, and the horizon will be soft. If you focus on the horizon, the foreground will be soft.

The trick is to focus at what is called the hyperfocal distance. This is the point that will make the maximum use of the depth of field. Finding the precise hyperfocal distance requires look-up tables (which can be found online) or aperture and distance markings on the lens, which some modern zoom lenses don’t have.

Roughly speaking, depth of field extends about twice as far behind the focus point as it does in front. So, focusing on a point that’s approximately one third of the way into the scene should ensure the maximum depth of field is used.

For greater precision, activate your camera’s live view mode. Select the area on-screen where you want to focus, then use the magnify option to zoom into the target area.

With the camera set to manual focus mode, you can now adjust the focus until the correct part of the scene is sharp (for more on focusing manually, see our guide to Manual Focus: what you need to know to get sharp images).

In bright sunlight you may find that you need to shade the LCD so you get a clear view. Now, using the lens focus ring, simply adjust the focus back and forth until you find the point at which the details are sharpest.

Landscape Photography Tips (and how to break them)

Image copyright Angela Nicholson

Break The Rules: Focus on the main subject
If there’s an important, stand-out feature in the landscape, you don’t want it to be just ‘acceptably sharp’, you want it to be the sharpest part of the image – after all, that’s what viewers will be drawn to look at. In these cases, forget about focusing a third into the scene and focus bang-on the main subject.

It’s especially important to focus on the main subject if you do decide to go ahead and break commandments four (Find foreground interest) or nine (Use a narrow aperture).

Commandment 1: Shoot during the golden hour
Commandment 2: Use a wideangle lens
Commandment 3: Use the Rule of Thirds
Commandment 4: Find foreground interest
Commandment 5: Use a steady tripod
Commandment 6: Focus one third in
Commandment 7: Balance the exposure
Commandment 8: Boost greens and blues
Commandment 9: Use a narrow aperture
Commandment 10: Use a low ISO setting


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  • jmeyer

    Thanks for the kind words, durand! Glad to have you here!