Choosing the Sharpest F-Stop Setting for Landscape Photography

When it comes to landscape photography, deep depth of field and high levels of sharpness are often the name of the game. This excellent video tutorial discusses how to choose the right f-stop settings for maximizing the sharpness in your photographs. 

Coming to you from Dave Morrow, this great video tutorial discusses choosing the sharpest f-stop setting for landscape images. Most lenses tend to reach their maximum sharpness somewhere around three or four stops beyond their widest aperture, normally somewhere around f/8 or so; thus, it is generally good to stop down a bit, especially since you will normally want more depth of field anyway. It is important not to stop down too far, though (generally past f/11 or f/16), as you will start to run into issues with diffraction and will start losing sharpness. Rather, if you need more depth of field, consider using the hyperfocal distance of your lens or creating a focus stack if you really need need maximum sharpness across the entire image. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Morrow and his site for an in-depth article on the topic from him. 

And if you would like to learn more about landscape photography, be sure to check out "Photographing The World 1: Landscape Photography and Post-Processing with Elia Locardi." 

Alex Cooke's picture

Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Nice video. I’m not a landscape photographer so here is a question or two. If you were after maximum sharpness in all images why not photostack 3 images at the sweet spot of the lens you are using?
Question 2 What’s the argument for shooting bracketed exposures to increase the dynamic range of the final image, especially in high contrast situations, again 3 images.
Would the more convoluted workflow be justified, ie...shooting 9 images to yield one final image.
What do other landscape photographers think?
I do Macro photography and think nothing of shooting 30 images to yield one final image, and that is a fairly modest number when it comes to macro.

Though I'd imagine it can (and has) been done; a lot of it might come down to Wind, specially if there are trees or leaves in the scene. The Slightest breeze will change things between shots and when combined could cause ghosting... This can be overcome with manual blending... Then it just comes down to time spend editing and blending the stack.

Kind of how Pixel-Shift isn't used very often in outdoor landscape photography. While the camera is taking several shots needed, things are changing in the scene; end result could be a less-sharp (or ghosted) landscape.

Just my thoughts... Nothing more. I could be completely wrong. :)

Well, I totally disagree in one area of his early statement about how you view an image and especially his image.
My eye Never ever goes to the darkest part of an image, and again, his image. When first viewed, my eyes went right to the brightest part, and to the color contrast in the image. The human eye/brain just about always seeks the brightest part of any image.

Also, where does the point of diffraction come in to the equation of apertures above f11? In his first composition that he was showing I would never give up sharpness for added DOF, especially since the foreground he used was so dark. I rarely shoot apertures above f11. I also think one would know the absolute aperture sweet-spot of the lens in use.

I personally find that focus stacking 3 images at f8 for my 16-35mm lens gives me the best results. F11 won't give you full sharpness in a single image to my eyes. I love Dave's videos, straight to the point.

Thanks for this! I'm always looking for ways to improve my landscape photography!

Photostacking is something I need to learn more about/practice as well.