I get asked which aperture setting is the best for landscape photographs a lot and the answer is simple. It’s probably around f/8, f/11 or f/16, depending on how close the closest object you’d like to keep in focus is. There’s actually a table that can help you calculate the distance of how far you need to be from that closest object so you can know for sure. For instance, if you’ve got your aperture set to f/11 and your lens set to 12mm, you need to keep your camera at least 2.3 feet away from that closest, in-focus, object (with a cropped sensor camera). If you were to go any closer, that object may become soft (blurry) or the objects in the distance may become blurry, depending on how you’ve got things set up. I really don’t think this is an issue though because who stands closer than 2.3 feet to something when they’re taking landscape shots? That’s some serious framing.
You most likely already know that as you go down in f-stops, your depth of field shrinks down. It becomes more shallow. So, because shutter speed isn’t necessarily an issue with landscape photography and because you’ll likely be using a tripod, go ahead and reduce your aperture size as much as you want (but not too small because of diffraction). All that’s going to happen is the shutter speed will slow down (or/and the ISO value will rise). It’ll also ensure that anything in the foreground (within reason) will stay sharp, along with everything in the background. Now, if you’re shooting landscape at night, that’s a whole different ball of wax. I’ll have to write a separate post on that because it’s much more involved. You’ll be dealing with longer shutter speeds and something like that would likely fall under the category of long exposure photography.
Let me know what you use for your landscape photography. Do you use just aperture priority or do you go full manual? What’s your favorite aperture setting for something like this?