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HYPERFOCAL DISTANCE: HOW TO USE IT TO TAKE SHOTS WITH THE RIGHT DEPTH OF SHARPNESS

“Hyperfocal distance” – sounds like a technical term that is used exclusively in the field of professional photography. However, in fact, this is something that everyone should deal with once and for all in order to improve the quality of their images.

In a nutshell, the hyperfocal distance (HFD or GFR) is a focus point at which everything in the frame from 1/2 of this hyperfocal distance to infinity falls into sharpness (in the focus range). Simply put, this is a focus setting that provides the maximum depth of field throughout the frame.

Let, for example, the GDM for your camera and settings – 20 meters. If you focus on this distance, then everything from 10 meters to infinity will be sharp, or in focus.

The hyperfocal distance of any image depends on four values.

The size of the sensor.
Aperture settings.
Lens focal length.
The distance to the object.
Why is this so important?

Many novice landscape painters make one of two mistakes. They either focus at infinity, that is, at the farthest distance (usually on the horizon), or in the foreground. In such cases, without GFR calculations, you will have either a sharp horizon and a blurred foreground, or a clearly visible object in the foreground, and the rest of the image will be blurred. This is a common mistake that can interfere with many landscape painters.

We illustrate the theory with examples.

Example of hyperfocal distance

Suppose you are photographing an object at a distance of about 6 meters, and you want everything to be in focus, while using the following parameters and settings:

sensor size: full frame (Canon EOS 5D Mark III)
aperture: F8
Lens focal length: 50mm
distance to object: 6.1 m
If you focused on a point of 6 meters, your near focus limit would be 3.87 m, and the farthest focus limit is 14.5 m. That is, everything that is closer than 4 meters and further than 14.5 will turn out blurry.

The total depth of field (i.e., the objects displayed look clear) is approximately 10.7 meters.

Now, once you have determined the hyperfocal distance, which in this example using the above settings and sensor size is 10.4 m, you can focus on that point and get a completely different result.

When focusing behind an object at 10.4 meters instead of 6.1, your near focus limit becomes 5.2 meters, which is slightly further than the previous value of 4 meters, but still directly in front of the object. This means that the object is still in focus. And the far focus limit extends to infinity, and this means that everything that is located in the frame behind the object will turn out with satisfactory sharpness.

So, all we are doing here is changing the focus point, and no other setting changes. As a result, we get the maximum possible sharpness throughout the frame!

It is worth experimenting with hyperfocal distance, spend more time to study it. Its use can significantly improve the quality of photographs of different genres.

Wedding photography – here you need to focus on the best depth of field for high-quality group shots, portraits, etc.
Stock photography – focus and depth of field can enhance or spoil a snapshot of a landscape, city view, portrait, or photo of goods.
Landscape photography – in this genre, hyperfocal distance plays a very important role in getting clear images.
What lenses are best suited for working with hyperfocal distance?

The answer to this question: any lenses! Both standard (50 mm) and wide-angle (10 mm-35 mm), since such lenses have a rather short hyperfocal distance with large apertures, such as F16. That is why such lenses are best used for landscape photography.

For example, a 16mm diaphragm lens in the F16 on a full-frame sensor (Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D800) has a hyperfocal distance of only 0.55 m. This means that if you set the focus to this PGR, then everything from 0, 27 m to infinity will be sharp.

A telephoto lens of 200 mm with an aperture in F16 on a full-frame camera will have a hyperfocal distance of 83.5 m. Setting the focus to this point, you will get everything from 41.8 m to infinity in acceptable sharpness. If the subject is closer than 41.8 meters, setting the focus to 15 or 30 meters will result in a blurred background in the photo.

Photo examples

Look at these two photos taken from Portland in Dorset, overlooking Chesil Beach. Both were shot using a 200mm lens on a full-frame F8 aperture camera.

These settings give a hyperfocal distance of 166.7 m.

The first image shows that when the focus is set on an object that is located much closer than the hyperfocal distance (approximately at a point of 15 meters), the object itself is in focus

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