Bringing the scene into focus: Tips for how to capture sharper landscape photos


posted Tuesday, July 19, 2016 at 4:00 PM EST


Photographer Jim Hamel has six tips for landscape photographers looking to nail focus in their shots. Supposing that you are utilizing foreground in your landscape photos -- which is often a great idea -- it is not always obvious where you are meant to set your focus. As Hamel mentions, portrait photographers know to focus on the eyes and wildlife photographers know to keep their subject sharp, but landscape images don't typically have a defining singular subject but rather have multiple points of interest throughout the scene.

You might think then that setting focus at infinity is a good idea because the interesting parts of a scene are often far away from you, but this is not an ideal solution if you want to keep the foreground relatively sharp. If you're pressed for time -- you often are out there, scenes change constantly and your window for the best shot is frustratingly narrow -- try setting your lens to infinity and then bringing the focal distance back toward you a little bit. Hamel says this quick solution often yields good results.

However, if your landscape image is heavily reliant on the foreground, focusing near infinity won't deliver the best results. Hyperfocal distance is an important concept for landscape photographers to learn because it is the distance at which you can set your lens (given its focal length and aperture) to achieve a sharp foreground while still keeping the background "acceptably sharp." If you're interested in learning more about hyperfocal distance, check out this article.

With a wide focal length and a stopped down lens, your effective depth of field will often be sufficient for capturing a sharp image from the foreground to the background.

Sometimes you will encounter a situation that will not be best solved by capturing a single image. If you want your image to be as sharp as possible from the foreground to the background, then you will need to focus stack. By combining multiple images set at different focal distances, you can create a final image that has an essentially infinite depth of field.

However, sometimes you want something very close to your lens to be tack sharp without losing fine detail in the rest of the image. In these cases, stacking images shot at different focal distances can be a good solution.

To see the rest of Jim Hamel's focusing tips for landscape photographers, see his article here. To see more of his work, be sure to visit his website.

(Seen via Digital Photography School