Calculating hyperfocal distance: get sharp photos from front to back

Calculate and set the hyperfocal distance for landscapes: step 1

Do you want to take the sharpest landscape photos possible? Who doesn’t! Our tutorial below demystifies the hyperfocal distance technique and shows you how calculating hyperfocal distance can maximise depth of field in your landscapes to ensure images that are sharp all the way through the frame.

Calculating hyperfocal distance: get sharp photos from front to back

When you look through the viewfinder of your camera, you’re actually viewing how a scene will appear when taken at the largest aperture of the lens you’re using, irrespective of the aperture you have selected to take the shot. The actual depth of field will only be apparent when you view the resulting image on screen.

So how do you ensure that all the elements of the picture from foreground to background will be in focus? You could just select a narrow aperture, such as f/16, take the shot and hope for the best. But there is a better way to optimise depth of field – to focus the lens at what’s known as the ‘hyperfocal distance’.

Put simply, the hyperfocal distance is the optimal distance at which to focus any given lens to produce the greatest depth of field. When a lens is set to the hyperfocal distance, the depth of field extends from half this distance to infinity.

For example, the hyperfocal distance for a 28mm lens on a camera with a 1.6x cropped sensor set to f/16 is about 2.6mm. So when this lens is focused at the hyperfocal distance of 2.6m, everything from 1.3m to infinity will be in focus.

Hyperfocal distance focusing is therefore very handy when shooting landscapes as a way of bringing near and far parts of the picture into focus. The same principal applies to all lenses, but it is most useful when shooting with focal lengths of less than 100mm.

Calculate and set the hyperfocal distance for landscapes that are sharp throughout

 

Calculate and set the hyperfocal distance for landscapes: step 1

Shoot wide
Wide-angle lenses have short hyperfocal distances when set to large apertures and so are good for maximising depth of field. Something in the range of 
17 to 35mm on a full-frame camera (or equivalent on a cropped sensor) is ideal.

 

Calculate and set the hyperfocal distance for landscapes: step 2

Calculating hyperfocal distance
Use the Depth of Field Calculator to find out the hyperfocal distance for your camera and lens (focal length). For example, for a Canon EOS 60D (1.6x crop) with a 28mm lens set to f/16, the hyperfocal distance is 2.61m.

 

Calculate and set the hyperfocal distance for landscapes: step 3

Focus and shoot
Focus the lens at the hyperfocal distance (2.6m, for example). Using Live View and magnifying the picture on the LCD screen is a good way to focus on a precise spot. Take the shot at f/16 and check the sharpness by zooming in on the review image.

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