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Tips & Tricks

Nail Sharp Focus On Your Landscapes | Video

By Anthony Thurston on October 27th 2014

Depth of field can be a tricky nut to crack when you are first starting out. While portrait photographers are usually trying to work with the thinnest depth of field possible, landscape photographers – usually- need to have the foreground just as sharp as the background.

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One common mistake when trying to get this “all over focus” is thinking that just stopping down to F10-F/22 and snapping a shot will work. That is simply not the case, at least not usually. Where you actually focus in the scene has an effect on how the depth of field covers your image. Focus too close to you and some of the background will not be sharp, and focus too far from the camera and the foreground will not be sharp.

[REWIND: Tips for Better Moon Photography]

This great video from the Professional Photography Tips YouTube channel explains the technique needed to get the best focus in your landscape images from front to back. It is really not all that difficult, but follow the steps in this video and you can really improve the focus in your landscape images.

[Via Professional Photography Tips on YouTube]

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Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Basit Zargar

    Thanks for teaching me

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  2. Jason Boa

    We’ll explained

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  3. Matthew Saville

    Unfortunately, all of this goes out the window once you start concerning yourself with edge DOF. Field curvature and stopping down are a huge PITA and many lenses, especially ultra-wide zooms, are just garbage WRT anything even remotely resembling “hyperfocal” methodology.

    Anybody have any experience with this?

    =Matt=

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    • Ian Moss

      In 40 years in photography this has never been an issue. For the vast, vast majority of photographers this is never going to be an issue for them either.

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    • Ian Moss

      Matt, I’ve just found a comment you made on my blog months ago. Sorry, I never made the connection, but many thanks for the feedback.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Hey Ian! I did indeed enjoy reading your site! Thanks…

      Regarding hyperfocal methodology, and the last 40 years, well, yeah… Most photographers will never need to worry about this stuff. However, I’m OCD, and I know there are some out there who notice the same problems in their images. As lenses get more exotic, and as megapixels continue to grow, hyperfocal calculations are going to be less and less usable, and edge softness will become more and more of an issue. I’m just here to help other OCD photographers get sharp corners, near-to-far….

      =Matt=

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    • Ian Moss

      Hahaha – and my student think I’M OCD! :)

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  4. Eric Sharpe

    Not a landscape guy, but the few I’ve taken, I had my lens stopped down to f/22. I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why my image was still blurry. I also focused on the furthest subject from me, which was also blurry in the final image. I’ll have to try this, the next time I get my landscape on…

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    • Ian Moss

      If you focussed on a distant point, and that was still blurry, then at F22, I’d suggest the exposure time was too long.

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    • Eric Sharpe

      That sounds about right, because I left the shutter open as long as the camera allowed.

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    • Ian Moss

      Eric, although it seems counter intuitive, the safest way to take landscapes (other than using a tripod) is to use shutter priority. Set the speed to either 1/60 or 1/focal length.

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    • Eric Sharpe

      Does this also work at night?

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    • Ian Moss

      At night you use a tripod.

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    • Matthew Saville

      Eric, f/22 is simply NOT your sharpest aperture, unfortunately. It would be, mechanically speaking, however there is much more involved. Simply put, an evil thing called diffraction causes images to get soft if you stop down too far. For most lenses, stopping down just 2-3 stops is where your most sharp images will be. Sensor size also plays into it a bit, as well as megapixels. On crop sensors, this is often somewhere between f/5.6 and f/8. On full-frame sensors, this is often between f/8 and f/11.

      Don’t bother with shutter priority or aperture priority for landscapes, just shoot in manual and carefully pick your exposure.

      And yes, a tripod is a must, even during the day, if you’re going to shot at f/11 or f/16… Even at 1/60 or so, most high-megapixel cameras these days can still introduce camera shake blur…

      =Matt=

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  5. Ian Moss

    So, he tells us how to do it properly, then – he doesn’t do it properly. Ho hum.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I guess that depends on your definition of “properly” in regards to this. His tip was that using live view is quicker and easy to fine tune to get the desired depth of field coverage, so in that regard, he covered exactly what he wanted to. But, I assume you were hoping more for a greater demonstration of the “old film method” that he talks about?

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    • Ian Moss

      Or why it works 1/3, 2/3’s up the frame. If you understand why it works, then all the rest is just window dressing.

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    • Ian Moss

      And as for ‘old film method’, it’s not old, it’s physics.

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  6. Will Conway-Isaacs

    Great advice, much needed! Thank you

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