Sharp focus is important in most photographic genres, but particularly so in landscapes. Even slightly soft landscape images will get marked down in photo competitions, so be warned. Generally, the aim with most landscapes is to capture all parts of the scene in sharp focus – from the foreground to mid-ground and background; you are looking for maximum depth of field, in other words. Remember, however, that depth of field is also affected by your lens’s focal length and distance at which it is focused. So the longer the focal length, the shallower the depth of field, and vice versa.
Read on for some essential tips for sharply focused landscapes.
- Set a narrow aperture to maximise depth of field, but avoid going smaller than f/16 to prevent diffraction. Typically, a narrow aperture will slow the shutter speed, so a tripod or good image stabilisation is nearly always needed.
- Use a cable release to avoid jarring the camera as you press the shutter button. Then, lock up the mirror or switch to the rear live-view screen. Use 100% live-view magnification to check areas that must be critically sharp.
- Change to manual focus and focus a third of the way into the frame (a third up from the bottom of the viewfinder), or refer to a hyperfocal distance calculation chart. Again, check all areas for sharpness.
- At longer focal lengths it’s important to choose a narrow aperture to ensure everything is sharp from front to back. A wideangle lens set to a narrow aperture is generally the most reliable lens to maximise depth of field.