Photography Challenge #1 - Depth - Sharp Foreground & Background

  • Thread starter JGaulard
  • Start date


Staff member
Pro Member
  • #1
The goal of this challenge is to take a photograph of a landscape where the entire scene is in focus. Meaning, the foreground is in focus as well as the background. It's easy enough to keep your camera in Auto mode so the camera makes all the decisions for you, but that mode will likely lead to a photo with either a soft foreground or a soft background (or both). This is an aperture setting challenge, so you'll need to choose a few settings yourself.

Take a look at this photograph. Notice how the grass in the foreground at the bottom of the image is sharp and how the trees and leaves in the background at the top of the image are sharp as well.


Also, take a look at this next photo. Notice how the entire dock as well as the mountains in the background are in focus.


How did the photographers of these photos manage this? Well, it's all in the aperture setting. To complete this challenge successfully, you'll need to set your camera to Aperture Priority mode and use at least an aperture setting of F/8. Remember, the smaller the aperture (the higher the F number), the deeper your depth of field will be. A deep depth of field will give your photo a lot more sharpness from front to back than a larger aperture will. Also, if you're not familiar with what an aperture is, it's the adjustable hole in your lens that lets light come through. When you change your aperture setting, you change the size of that hole. A larger (lower F number) hole gives you softness in the foreground/background and a smaller hole (higher F number) gives you more sharpness in those areas.

Here's the thing; you don't need to go crazy and crank your aperture all the way up to the highest number available to get these sharp photos. The risk of using an aperture that's too small is that you'll introduce a type of softness into your entire photo. This softness is called diffraction and it's caused by the light that's let into the camera angling itself a certain way. When shooting landscape like this, it's common for photographers to use an aperture setting around F/8. Ask any pro out there. They'll tell you F/8 is their sweet spot.

The trick for taking landscape photos that you want sharp all the way through is where you focus your camera before taking your shot. Turn the focus switch on your lens to Manual and then point your camera so it focuses on something that's 1/3 of the distance of the farthest object in your scene. Because depth of field is slightly shallower in the foreground than it is in the background, you'll only need to focus about a 1/3 of the way in (read more). Then, using a tripod and after angling your camera properly and pushing the shutter button on your camera half way down to meter the scene, take your shot.

The process for taking this type of photography isn't difficult at all. Once you get the hang of it, you'll be snapping away all afternoon.

Here's a photo I took this past summer. To get this type of clarity from front to back, I used an aperture size of F/8 on Aperture Priority mode and I focused on one of the small rocks in the river about 1/3 of the way up the photo, from the bottom. I took the shot and the results were great. See how those stones in the foreground are sharp, as are the mountains in the background?


To learn more about this entire process, please feel free to click through the links below. I've written a lot about this over the past few years. Also, after you take your photos, be sure to upload your images here for review and critique. Include your specs as well, such as your camera make and model, lens used, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO settings . Describe the scene and how you went about getting your results. We'll all critique and review them to see what went right as well as wrong. Thanks and have fun!


What’s the Best Aperture Setting to Use For Landscape Photography?
How Can I Take Super Sharp Landscape Photos?
What is Hyperfocal Distance?
The Basics of Depth of Field For Photography
Tips For Taking the Sharpest Photos
How to Calculate Depth of Field For Photography
Where to Focus When Taking Landscape Photos
Last edited by a moderator:
Photography Challenge #1 - Depth - Sharp Foreground & Background was posted on 01-29-2020 by JGaulard in the Photography Challenges forum.