Where do I focus my photo?

November 13, 2013  •  1 Comment

Where Do I Focus My Landscape photo?

A new photographer will often wonder what the best focus point is for his or her image. If you search the web you will find that focus is determined by what’s referred to as hyperfocal distance. This is a giant equation and often intimidates new photographers. It goes like this:

 H =(L2)/ (F x D)

Where: 

 H = Hyperfocal distance (in millimeters)

 L = Lens focal length (i.e., 35mm, 100mm)

 F = Lens aperture f-stop

 D = Diameter of circle of least confusion (in millimeters)

Wow! Why do I care about this? How do I figure that out when I’m trying to take a photo as the sun is going down?  What this equation says is that you should remember the rule of thirds: 1/3rd of the focal plane is in front of your focus point and 2/3rds of the focal plane falls behind your focal point.

So let’s look at a few photos. Green is a good focal point, red is not!

 

The photo above is of Brainard Lake. The focus is on the mountains in this photo. You can see the grass is a bit blurry. It’s not a bad shot but it’s not as sharp as it could have been had I used the landscape rule of thirds. Here is a photo showing this rule in portrait oriented photos as well:

 

My focus point was the closest headstone. Since this marker is 1/3 of the depth of the photo, the leaves in front of the stone are sharp and the trees in the background sharp as well. One last photo to consider:

This image, shot in Rocky Mountain National Park, has its focal point on the boulder in front, not the mountains in the background.

If you made it this far I encourage you to learn more about hyper focal distance and how it changes the look to your shot. A good f-stop to start practicing with is F /16. This should get most of your photo in focus if you remember that big fat equation up there: Focus goes 1/3 forward and 2/3 back.

If you are a cell phone ‘tog, there are some great applications on android and iphone that help teach you hyper focal distance as well.

Use this rule of thirds in focusing as a great place to start improving your photos!


Comments

1.Kathy Lowe(non-registered)
Thanks for the tips. As a noob, they're very helpful!. Appreciate your knowledge and captures!!
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