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This article was written by the New York Institute of Photography, America’s oldest and largest photography school. NYI provides professional-level training via home study for photographers who want to give their images a professional look, and perhaps earn extra income with their camera.
How to use Hyperfocal Distance
to get the greatest possible Depth of Field
If you haven't seen it yet, check out our Picture of The Month article. We think learning to use the hyperfocal technique is so important that we've analyzed this month's Picture-of-the-Month in terms of the use of this concept.
probably know that to get maximum depth of field with any lens, you
should shoot using the smallest aperture the lens permits - that is,
the highest f-number. For example, if the smallest aperture of your
lens is f/16, use it to obtain maximum depth of field. If your lens
shuts down to f/22, better still - use it. Or f/32 or whatever is
the smallest aperture of the particular lens.
this is just the start. The next question is: Where should you focus
the lens? Should you focus on the horizon? In other words, should
you focus on infinity? This is what most photographers do when they
want to get maximum depth of field - they "shut down" to
their smallest aperture, and they focus on infinity. But it's wrong!
problem with doing this is that, while this method gets distant objects
in focus, it doesn't maximize the sharpness of foreground objects.
(To best follow the discussion from here, we suggest you get out your
camera and your favorite lens, and follow along with them as you read
As an example, suppose you want to capture a distant mountain vista, and you also want to add a sense of depth from near to far by framing the scene with the branches of the tree overhead. Nice idea, but how can you get the nearby branches in focus at the same time you keep the distant mountains in focus?You can accomplish this by using what is called the hyperfocal distance setting if your lens has a depth-of-field scale imprinted on it. This is an important "if" since many of today's lenses don't have a depth-of-field scale. This is a scale with a series of numbers coinciding with the apertures available on the lens. Each number is printed twice - once on the left of the center position, once on the right. So if your lens has apertures running from f/2 through f/16, you will find a "2" imprinted in the center and the number "16" printed at the left extreme and again at the right extreme. Here's how to use this scale to get the overhead branch in focus at the same time the mountain is in focus:
One final word. If your lens does not have a depth-of-field scale - and most of today's lenses don't - you might experiment. When you want to maximize depth of field, use the smallest aperture, set your distance for infinity...then back off the distance from infinity a little bit. How much? This depends upon the lens. So the operative word here is experiment!
© 2003 |New York Institute of Photography