Hyperfocal Distance and Depth of Field Explained for Landscape Photography

Get nearby objects and distant horizons sharp at the same time using this depth of field and hyperfocal distance tips.

Most photographers love landscape photography, as it gives you a chance to get out into the countryside with your camera, but it can often be hard to get scenic shots that are as sharp as you want. It is not just a matter of setting a small aperture and using a tripod, you need to take full control of the depth of field.

• Landscape photography tips and techniques

Depth of field is the range of sharp focus in front of and behind your main subject. With a shallow depth of field, the background quickly goes out of focus. This is great for shooting portraits, for example, where you want to concentrate attention on your subject. However, in landscape photography, the whole scene is your subject, and you want as much depth of field as possible, to make everything in the picture sharp, from the flowers and stones at your feet to a distant treeline on the horizon.

A number of factors affect the depth of field. The focal length or zoom setting of your lens is one. A wide-angle setting will give more depth of field, while a telephoto setting will give less. The lens aperture is a factor, too. Wide lens apertures give a shallow depth of field, while small apertures give more depth of field. 

A lot depends on where you focus. If your subject is right up close to the camera, the depth of field will be quite shallow, but if it’s further away, the depth of field increases. Like a lot of photographic theory, it all starts to make more sense when you actually try it out and you can see the results in your photos. 

And there is a way to make the depth of field much simpler when you’re shooting landscape photographs. It’s called the ‘hyperfocal distance’, and it’s explained in depth at the end of this tutorial. 

1. The effects of zooming

If we shoot this scene with our Nikon D3100’s standard kit lens at its widest focal length, there doesn’t appear to be a depth of field problem at all – everything is sharp. But if we zoom in to the lens’ maximum 55mm focal length, we can now see that only our subject is sharp, and both the background and foreground are blurred.

2. Switch to Aperture Priority

We like this composition, and using this longer focal length is the only way to get it, so if we want more depth of field we’ll need a smaller lens aperture. If you’re shooting in P (Program) mode, the camera chooses the lens aperture and shutter speed automatically, so what you need to do is switch to A (Aperture Priority) mode instead.

3. Change the lens aperture 

Now turn the main command dial to choose the aperture setting. This is displayed either on the status LCD on the top or the main LCD on the back of the camera. We’ve set the aperture to f/16 here. You could set it smaller, but the picture quality starts to fall off due to ‘diffraction effects’.

4. See the difference

At f/5.6, the widest available at this zoom setting, both the background and the plants in the foreground are out of focus, but at f/16 much more of the scene comes out sharp. However, we can extend depth of field even further by adjusting where we focus…

5. Maximise the depth

The trick is not to focus on either the foreground or the background. If you focus on the foreground, the background will go out of focus, and if you focus on a detail in the background, the foreground will be blurred. To make both come out sharp, you need to focus between them.

6. Choose your focus point

There are two ways to do this. One is to leave the camera set to autofocus, but manually position the focus point. You may find it easier switch to Live View mode and use the multi-selector to place the focus point where you want it – it should be roughly one-third of the way up the frame.

7. Check the figures

Or you can switch to manual focus and use an app like Field Tools to work out the hyperfocal distance. This places distant objects at the far limit of depth of field, and so maximises the depth of field. At a focal length of 55mm and aperture of f/16, our app says we need to focus at 9.5m…

8. Set your lens

For this you need a lens with a distance scale. Not all lenses have one (the Nikon 18-55mm kit lens doesn’t, for instance), but many others do. Use your judgement if the markings are far apart – depth of field calculations make it sound like a precise science, but the sharpness falls away slowly, so you don’t have to be ultra-precise.Advertisement

intentional camera movement

Take Creative Landscape Shots Using Intentional Camera Movement

If you are looking to take some creative and unique pictures, then trying out intentional camera movement photography is highly recommended.

Now, many photographers rely on ensuring your camera is not moving during exposure for sharp images. But the question is, is keeping your camera still always a good idea?

Instead, why cannot we throw caution to the wind, camera can be moved while the shutter is open, and explore variety of creative opportunities this brings to you as a photographer?

In this blog, we will tell you how to do that exactly!

What is intentional camera movement and why should you consider it?

Intentional camera movement or ICM is a technique of taking picture from the camera where you move it as the photo is taken.

To be specific, intentional camera movement can be used to capture creative and unique landscape shots. This technique can be liberating exceptionally, and by minimizing the number of errors occur in a landscape, it allows you to concentrate on form, line, and color in your images.

With Intentional camera movement, a scene that you may consider just ordinary too cluttered now will come to life It is done by letting you blend shapes and colors for an interesting abstract shot.

If you are up to make your next photographic project stunning and inspiring then you want to get your creative juices flowing and intentional camera movement is a technique that you should try at least once.

In fact, it is relatively easier to take some stunning shots with ICM technique.

The Best Settings For Intentional Camera Movement Photography

A key factor to get right portraits when using ICM is your shutter speed. Exposure needs to be long enough to capture significant amount of motion blur (With different shutter speeds you will get different effects).

In general, from 1/3s or 1/2s all the way down to multi-second exposures is recommended. But of course, you are always free to experiment yourself with shutter speeds whether faster or slower; the core of a creative technique like ICM is simply playing around.

Because of long shutter speeds, shooting in low-light conditions is ideal for this technique. During the daytime, it can be harder to achieve the required shutter speeds, even at your camera’s lowest ISO setting and your lens’s smallest aperture (i.e., highest f-stop number).

Moving your camera

Once shutter speed is in your control, the next step is to determine the movement of camera after pressing the shutter button.

Go creative; there are no rules for this! You can move the camera horizontally, vertically, or diagonally. You can move it fast or slow. Alternatively, you can move the camera 360 degrees to create a spiral effect, or it can be changed to the focal length on a zoom lens during exposure to create a zoom effect.

You can combine even two or more of these movements to create something creative, this can be done with practice. The look and feel of your final products will be determined by the direction, speed, and smoothness of your chosen movements.

Most importantly tripod option is always there to control the camera movement. This essential  will help you to capture a smoother pictures, which can be useful if you wish to retain a straight horizon line.

What to shoot for the best results

Now till this step you know how to capture beautiful photos with ICM technique, all that is left is to pick ICM subjects now.

A good place to begin this is by finding locations that offer striking colors, patterns, and lines

For example, Forests are a favorite ICM subject – Clean, parallel lines by the trees, as well as the amazing bright colors of nature (gives by flowers in the spring and fallen leaves in autumn), lend themselves to a vertical camera movement shot. The movement can be from the bottom up or from the top down, and it can be fast or slow; it really just depends on the effect you wish to create and how experimental you want to be.

A few intentional camera movement tips

Intentional camera movement is a highly subjective art technique, and what works for you will not work for others.

Also, keep in mind basic principles of photography, such as  composition and exposure – these are still very important!

Also, while the ICM technique will give you a very abstract result, you may find it helpful to have at least one element of the scene sharp or recognizable in the final image

Finally, there is an element of trial and error when starting out with intentional camera movement. You’ll quickly find out what works for you and what doesn’t; this will help you develop your own style.

Get more guidance on this topic or shop with us. For more information email us at [email protected] or call: +923122951169.