If you’re interested in taking landscape photos, you probably already know that these photos should be sharp from front to back. Shallow depths of field and creative blur is best left to artistic, more close up photography. When it comes to landscape, the viewer wants to, and expects to see the blade of grass that’s close to the camera just as sharply as the tip of the mountain that’s far away.
In this post, I’ll share a few tried and true tips that will help you immensely with your landscape photography. None of these tips are particularly difficult to grasp, but they will certainly add quality to your images.
The first tip is to use a tripod when shooting landscape. This may seem simplistic, but most of the time when it comes to photography, the best tips are. Tripods are all about stability and most professional photographers and serious amateurs use them for these types of shots. Remember that it’s important to level your camera when shooting landscape and tripods are essential for doing this type of thing. Don’t get all caught up on what the tripod is made of (aluminum, carbon fiber, etc…). Just be sure it’s of high quality and that it doesn’t shake when in use or anything like that.
A lot of landscape photography incorporates long exposure times, so this is another reason for using a tripod. There is no way in the world you’ll be able to avoid blur and camera shake if you attempt to hand-hold your camera during a long exposure shot. Don’t even attempt something like that.
Another tip for great landscape photos is to turn off your lens’s image stabilization. When you hold a camera in your hands and take a photo, that feature is the perfect counter to the shaking and vibration that stems from your hands and body. No matter how hard you try, you can never be completely still. When using a tripod though, the image stabilizer can actually add blur and softness to your final photos, so it’s best to keep this turned off.
Next tip. As I said above, we want the greatest depth of field for our landscape photography. We want sharpness from front to back. If you’ve been practicing photography for any length of time, you most likely know that the smaller the aperture (higher the number), the deeper the depth of field. So the question is, why not crank our aperture settings up to something like f/22 or f/32? I mean, that would create a huge depth of field. The reason we don’t do this is because of something called diffraction. At very small aperture sizes, light is only able to travel through the lens and touch the camera’s sensor in a certain fashion. This fashion creates softness in the final image. So, instead of shrinking the aperture size down so small, keep it around f/11 or something more moderate. The depth of field will still be extremely deep because of the great distances in your scene and you’ll keep the clarity and sharpness you’re after.
Okay, to the big question. Let’s discuss where we should focus when we’re taking landscape photos. If you’re familiar with how depth of field works, you know that in most cases, sharpness falls one third in front of the point of focus and two thirds beyond it.
So, when focusing inside of your scene, if you make your focus point too far into it, such as half way, you’ll end up seeing blur in the foreground (wasting it in the background). If you focus too close to the camera, you may see blur all the way in the background (wasting it in the foreground). So, as you may have guessed, you need to focus right at the perfect spot, which is approximately one third into the scene.
While this one third distance rule is a decent one to follow, it’s not infallible. There are some cases when you may need to modify the focal distance and to assist with that train of thought is a concept called hyperfocal distance. Please click through and read the post below to learn all about this.
Keep in mind though, wherever you focus is up to you. Take some practice shots and determine what you like best and then focus on the best area to achieve your goals. You shouldn’t blindly adhere to some hyperfocal distance calculation if it’s not giving you the results you want.
Now, I’ll tell you from personal experience, calculating a hyperfocal distance is a real pain in the butt. Sure, there are apps to handle these things, but it’s just not practical to be checking an app when you’re trying to shoot great photography. With this in mind, some brilliant photographers came up with a novel idea that they call double distance focusing. To double distance focus, all you need to do is find the closest thing, object or area in your scene that you would like to be sharp and then double the distance of that object and focus your camera on whatever is there. So if you have a rock that’s five feet away that you would like to remain sharp in your image, simply focus on whatever is sitting ten feet away and you should be good to go.
If you’re finding that it’s impossible to obtain a deep enough depth of field in your landscape photos, there is one thing that can help. Actually, there are a few things, but this is the easiest. It’s called focus stacking and it will require that you capture multiple images at different focuses and then merge them during post-processing. You can read a great post on focus stacking by clicking through below.
I hope these tips not only explained where to focus when taking landscape photos, but also how to take those photos so they’re as sharp as possible. If you have any questions or any more tips to add, please ask or add down below. Thanks so much.