Hyperfocal Distance and How It Can Help You Get Sharper Photos

If you shoot landscapes or anything involving scenes with a lot of depth, figuring out how to keep everything in focus can be a bit of a tricky problem. There are a few ways to go about this, but one of the most efficient ways to go about this is by using the hyperfocal distance. This great video will introduce you to hyperfocal distance and how to use it.

Coming to you from Michael the Maven, this helpful video will introduce you to the concept of hyperfocal distance. It is often the case in landscape photography that you will want to get as much of the scene in focus as possible. You might consider just further stopping down, but eventually, you will encounter softening due to diffraction. One option is focus stacking, and while this will certainly accomplish the task, it is a relatively tedious process. Using the hyperfocal distance allows you to get as much in focus in one exposure as possible. This is accomplished by using the closest possible focal distance that still keeps objects at infinity in focus, thereby keeping everything from the extreme background to the hyperfocal distance reasonably sharp. It's a very useful technique that every landscape photographer should know. Check out the video above for the full rundown.

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7 Comments

Deleted Account's picture

Thank you for the video link. I finally stumbled on the hyperfocal concept this summer. What a revelation. :)

Simon Patterson's picture

It's not a difficult concept but it can be difficult to explain. Unfortunately this video seems quite confusing, so I won't be recommending it to anyone who wants to understand hyperfocal distance.

Rk K's picture

Hyperfocal distance might have made sense in the film days, but with high res digital sensors and modern lenses it's pretty much useless.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Think of it this way. You have out of focus, acute focus(focus point), and area of acceptable focus. Acute focus should be your subject . Area of acceptable focus is the distance fore and behind that is in focus but may not be as sharp as the subject. This area is called hyperfocal distance or depth of field. and is governed by F and T Stops. Generally as you stop down the area of the image in focus is greater both fore and aft of the subject. When you open up the aperture that area decrease . The focal length of the lens also determines the overall range of distance fore and aft of the subject that remains in focus. Wide angles are optical stronger than teles. That is why wide shots have getter depth and pretty much all the image is in focus at all apertures generally . Teles are weaker and have short hyper focal distances To the point that the subject maybe the only thing in focus. They also have an optical effect that will cause the background to look closer to the subject that it actually is. That is called compression . This is as relevant today in digital as it was back in my times of film only. Has nothing to do with sensors or high resolution . Even low end lenses have this going on.

Simon Patterson's picture

The sensor size is relevant because it affects the angle of view provided by a lens of a given focal length. A 200mm lens has the same hyperfocal distance (for a given coc and f number) no matter which camera it is joined to, however the area of acceptable focus will appear greater in the resulting image captured by an APS-C sensor compared to a full-frame sensor. So sensor size is important to factor in when shooting and using hyperfocal focusing.

Resolution is relevant because it affects the sizes of print that can be reasonably achieved. This can affect the size of the circle of confusion that is best applied. So resolution is also important to factor in when shooting and using hyperfocal focusing.

Robert Montgomery's picture

Sir, never once did I state that the hyperfocal distance range or DoF is exactly the same across all formats. It is not. Even if you compare 35mm film with FF DSLR there are differences in the distance range because the capture sensors provide a flatter surface than film. Lenses for digital cameras have to be made "sharper" because of the demands of the sensor. The hyperfocal distance range is going to be different at same lens focal length of the lens in different formats. IE: a 35mm format 200mm lens is going to not only have a different field of view angle but a different hyperfocal distance range than a 200 mm lens for a 645 MF camera. Same focal length of the lens, different AoV, different HF range. But the F Stops remain the same. Obviously, the hyper focus range you are going to get is going to change in every format size but would be the same in its respective format size (FF-FF, MF-MF), There my be some variances in between manufacturers, and different lens designs, Of course ability of the medium to record a sharp image pays a part. In film that was halite size and shape (grain), In digital, the size, number of pixels, etc. play the same part.. But no matter. What I was doing was trying to give a clearer overview of what hyperfocal distance is and how to understand ti. Which I did. You still have to know what it is and how it is affected the image in the format in which it is used. It is wrong to say in the digital age that it is not worth caring about because of modern lenses and hi rez sensor, which I was addressing. It is just as important to know now, as it was then, when I learned it. No matter what format be it size, digital, or film.

Simon Patterson's picture

Ah, I see the point you were making. I agree with you 100%.