Where to Focus in Landscape Photography to Get a Sharp Shot

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In photography, there are two types of focus. The first is a plane of focus. This occurs at the point where you actually focus the camera, and it runs in a plane that parallels the sensor in your camera. Then there’s depth of field. Depth of field is how much of the photo appears to be in focus behind and in front of the plane of focus. In landscape photography, we usually want great depth of field where every part of the image appears in focus as opposed to shallow depth of field in which only the subject is in focus and the rest of the picture is out of focus. In this month’s newsletter I’m going to provide a few rules of thumb about where to focus in landscape photography to get a sharp shot. To achieve a sharp shot we’ll figure out where to place the plane of focus and combine that with great depth of field.

How to Achieve Great Depth of Field

Where do you focus in this shot to get the foreground, the waterfall and the canyon in focus?

You control depth of field using your aperture. On your camera’s LCD screen that’s the f/number, also called an f/stop. We denote an f/stop, by writing “f/” followed by the number designation “4.” For example, f/4. While minimum and maximum f/stops vary on camera lenses, most have an f/4 and an f/22. To increase the depth of field, you stop down the aperture by moving from a smaller f/number to a larger f/number. For example, if you change your f/stop (f/number) from f/4 to f/11, you get more depth of field. A rule of thumb for depth of field is this:

  • The larger the f/number, the more depth of field. More depth of field = more appears in focus.

Note: the way I state this works and is easier to think about and conceptualize, but a higher f/number is a bit of a lie. F/stops are actually fractions, so f/4 is 1/4 and f/22 is 1/22. So, in reality f/22 is a smaller number than f/4, but if that confuses you, ignore it and think about it this way: the larger the number, the more depth of field.

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