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Calculating Hyperfocal Distance in Photography

Calculating Hyperfocal Distance in Photography

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A lens’s hyperfocal distance—a mathematical combination of lens focal length, aperture or f-stop, and focus distance—is a tool that photographers can use to maximize their depth of field for capturing nearby foregrounds and distant backgrounds in acceptable sharpness.

While you can always dial up your lens’s sharpest aperture (sweet spot), many landscape photographers want as much foreground and background in focus as possible so that they can, for example, take a photo of flowers in front of a mountain range and have the flowers and mountain be sharp. Stopping down your aperture too much to increase your depth of field can cause image softness due to diffraction. Meanwhile, shooting at infinity focus at the sweet spot aperture might not give you enough depth of field to keep the foreground and/or background sharp.

Images © Todd Vorenkamp

I talk about hyperfocal distance and the other variables in its formula in this arithmetic-heavy article on depth of field (DOF). But, if you don’t want a deep dive into the hyperfocal subject, you can stay here—I will go over the basics of the principle so that you can use hyperfocal distance in your focusing. (And, fair warning, if you did read that article, some of the information in the next section will look pretty familiar!)

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