How do you calculate hyperfocal distance?

We have compiled a list of the TOP50 questions that we hear on our workshops. From gear, to settings, to composition, and shooting styles, we have decided to post three questions and answers a week till we get through them all.

We hope they answer some of the questions that you may have. Here is today’s question.

Question: How do you calculate hyperfocal distance?

Today's answer supplied by David Topping.

Hyperfocal distance is the focusing distance at which “infinity” is placed at the farthest plane of focus. Focusing closer would make the background unacceptably soft, while focusing farther would reduce the depth-of-field by pushing a portion of it past infinity. Using this focusing technique delivers the best balance of sharpness from half the hyperfocal distance (foreground) to infinity (background), making it particularly useful for landscape photography.

There are many websites and mobile apps with hyperfocal distance calculators that will help you find the focusing distance for any given focal length and aperture combination. However, it’s important to recognize that this distance is based on the calculator’s definition of “acceptable sharpness.” Some calculators allow you to select the parameters for a very precise definition, while others use a more general definition of acceptable sharpness. Ultimately, the test will be how satisfied you are with the sharpness of your photos using the calculated hyperfocal distance, and you may need to refine this focusing distance accordingly.

If you choose to use hyperfocal distance as a focusing method, keep in mind that the focus at infinity is only “acceptably sharp” and may not offer a level of sharpness appropriate for a scene with a lot of detail in the distance. Alternatively, if the scene includes a foreground that demands critical focus, using a hyperfocal focusing distance may not be the best approach. Always assess the scene and decide whether a balance of focus is appropriate, or if you need to skew the focus to an area where sharpness is particularly important.

If you’re pushing the limits of depth-of-field in your image or if tack-sharp focus is critical in certain areas, be sure to zoom in and check focus on your camera’s display after taking a shot. You can also try bracketing your focusing distance to ensure you have an image with optimal sharpness throughout. Or if you aren’t able to achieve acceptable sharpness in all critical areas of the image, consider focus stacking (taking several exposures of the scene at incremental focusing distances from foreground to just beyond hyperfocal distance, then combining them in Photoshop using Auto Align Layers and Auto Blend Layers under the Edit menu).

David will be leading Canadian workshops for Northof49 in 2016. Our 2016 workshops can be seen here, http://northof49photography.com/photo-workshops/  He is also leading his own workshops, one in particular is a great trip in NWT. It can be seen here,  http://canoenorthadventures.com/adventures/current/upper-horton-river-photography-expedition/

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Kevin A Pepper

Kevin is a photographer and educator based in Waterloo, Ontario. His first love is photographing nature, regardless of the season or weather condition; the Ontario landscape and its wildlife are his inspiration. But you will also see other styles of photography in his portfolio. From street photography to urban exploration of abandoned buildings and architecture, he loves to capture it all with his camera for his corporate clients and his growing personal portfolio. Kevin’s images have been featured in Canadian Nature Photographer, PHOTONews Canada, Photo Technique Magazine, The London Free Press, The Weather Network, and National Geographic Online. His diverse client list includes the City of Cambridge, Olympus, GORE Mutual, TVO, and African Lion Safari. Kevin also operates “Northof49 Photography”, a company launched in 2012 dedicated to teaching amateur photographers through International and Canadian-based workshops. In the coming year, Kevin will be leading workshops in Iceland, Mongolia, Tanzania, Venezuela, Provence, and numerous destinations across Canada. Website: www.northof49photography.com Blog: http://northof49photography.com/blog/