Ian Plant

Focusing for Landscape Photography: Hyperfocal Distance

Ian Plant
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Duration:   9  mins

You are a budding landscape photographer, but you’re struggling with image sharpness, keeping all the elements in focus from near to far. In this mini-course, world-renowned professional photographer Ian Plant shows you how to focus your lens to hold sharpness for everything in your frame. This technique is called hyperfocal distance, and it’s the key to creating quality landscape images.

In landscape photography, the entire scene is your subject. Hyperfocal distance allows you to find a hypothetical point to focus on so that everything in your composition remains sharp. Depth of field is also important. It’s the zone of focus around your chosen focus point. If you shoot at a wide aperture such as f2.8, almost everything around the main subject will be blurred. If you shoot at a small aperture such as f16, the zone of focus will be much sharper. Ian simplifies these two concepts with a fascinating analogy. He thinks of his landscape image as ripples in a pond, and he demonstrates how his own creative technique can work for you.

Using hyperfocal distance, you will learn to set your optimum focal point somewhere between the foreground and background. With his own landscape images of rock formations in the Badlands, Ian shows you how he sets his hyperfocal distance in a scene. He estimates the distance to the nearest rock as five feet, then he doubles the distance to find the focal point, ten feet. He then sets his aperture at f-11 to avoid diffraction. At the higher apertures, diffraction can reduce overall image quality.

You will learn that most lenses are at the sharpest at f-8 or f-11. Ian suggests that when you are learning to shoot landscapes, you might want to try bracketing, f-11, f-16 and f-22. Join pro shooter Ian Plant and learn how to use hyperfocal distance to create sharp landscape photographs.


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4 Responses to “Focusing for Landscape Photography: Hyperfocal Distance”

  1. Chris Taylor

    This is soooo wrong. The hyperfocal distance is the point to focus on such that everything from infinity to as near as possible to the camera is in acceptable focus. This uses the generally accepted circle of confusion to define how out-of-focus something can be and remain acceptably sharp. Far from being useless, apps that calculate the hyperfocal distance are quite precise. Once you dial in the parameters (sensor size, focal length you are shooting at, and the aperture, it will tell you the hyperfocal distance - that point to focus at and get everything from infinity to as close to the lens as possible in acceptable focus. The only thing people should test is the assumption about what is acceptably sharp. Also, most lenses are actually their sharpest at much wider than reported here - often f/5.6 or even f/4 - see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vuIRz9e2v3Y

  2. John Prothero

    When I used to shoot large format, the rule of thumb was 1/3 of the way into the image from both near to infinity. But I was also able to shoot at f32 or even f64.

  3. Jennifer

    I had never learned any of this before and I'm so excited. I think this will be one of those things that takes my photography to the next level.

  4. Jeanette

    👍👍 very good instruction Ian, thanks!

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