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A Guide to Focusing in Landscape Photography

There surely is nothing worse than coming home from a shoot and seeing you have missed focus or you have parts of your photo out of focus when you intended for it to be in focus.

Getting a photo, which is in focus, is one of the most basic parts of photography. Unless you specifically use “out of focus” in an artistic way, it is absolutely essential to have the parts of the photo you want to show in focus. Having a bad photo in focus does not make the photo great, but having a great subject or scene out of focus breaks the photo.

The rule of thumb for landscape photography is to have everything in focus from front to back. It is not in all cases this is desirable, but it surely is more challenging to have everything in focus than not to have everything in focus.

The depth of the scene in front of you is completely intertwined with how you should approach focus, and there are three factors that you need to know off in order to get everything in focus from back to front. Your aperture, the distance between the camera and your foreground, and the focal length you use. The closer the camera is to the foreground and the longer a focal length you use, the more you have to compensate for the depth of field by closing down the aperture.

This means you easily can get everything in focus if you use a wide focal length and you do not have a foreground close to the camera. However, if you have a foreground close to the camera (like 50 centimeters,) you will have to close down the aperture quite a lot to have everything in focus from front to back. Likewise, the longer a focal length you use, while still working with a foreground the smaller an aperture you need to have to have everything in focus.

In the video above, I share both how I focus with my camera, different examples of scenes where I determine what aperture to use, and different approaches on where to focus in the given scene.

Mads Peter Iversen's picture

Danish Fine Art Landscape Photographer and YouTuber. He is taking photos all over the world but the main focus is the cold, rough, northern part of Europe. His style is somewhere in between dramatic and colorful fantasy and Scandinavian minimalism. Be sure to check out his YouTube channel for epic landscape photography videos from around the world.

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Correction: At 1:55 you talk about the Focus Area you choose. You describe the Flexible Spot as Manual and pointed at the M when you said it. The M stands for Medium and you can change it to Small and Large if you press left and right. Unsure if this was just a mistake or you were unaware you can change the Flexible Spot size. The video was Informative nonetheless.

You should watch today's video ;)

Well played

Once again Mads, very informative. Keep these excellent 'mini' tutorials coming.

I use the AF-ON button for back-button focus on my A7iii. How do I enlarge the image during compostion in order to focus? So my sequence would be: compose; then somehow zoom in; then back-button focus with AF-ON button. Thanks.

I use the enlarge bottom to enlarge the photo. Have you tried that?