Hyperfocal Focusing – What Is It & How To Use It?

bridge, river, treesSometimes when you shoot a landscape, you desire that everything from the front to the back of the site is sharp. One way to achieve this is using a smaller aperture but it limits the maximum depth of field which can be attained using Hyperfocal Focusing. It is essentially one of the most effective techniques to get the sharpest photo with the optimum depth of field.

Hyperfocal Focusing is, in other words, using every bit of the photo’s focal range to your edge for an ultra-sharp image with the widest depth of field. However, to use Hyperfocal Focusing, you need to learn calculating the hyperfocal distance, the point between the foreground and the background of a scene. In this article, you will learn what is Hyperfocal Focusing, when and how to use the technique and what you should consider while working with it.

What is Hyperfocal Focusing?
Hyperfocal Focusing is based on the technique of using every bit of a photo’s focal range to your benefit. You might know that every photo has a distance range where it appears sharp. If you shoot at an aperture of f/1.8 for instance, there is a range consisting of few millimeters on the two sides of the focal point which appear sharp.

When you shoot at f/11, you will have a distance of few feet before and after this point that appears sharp. Using aperture, it is possible to shoot a photo where objects at different distances look sharp. This technique implies that the focal point you use for manual or automatic focus has a range before and after the point which looks acceptably sharp.

To take maximum advantage of this range, it is essential that you use the distance on both the sides of the focal point. Consider you are capturing a group of three lines of people. It suggests that you place your focal point on a person in the middle line. Instead, if you focus on the first line, half of your focal range will be unused in the front.

When you focus in the centre, the closest distance of the range will cover the front line and still the farthest portion of the focal range will capture the back line to result in all the three lines appearing sharp.

What is HyperFocal Distance?
In the simplest terms, Hyperfocal Distance is the exact focusing distance which can deliver the greatest depth of field to your photos. The technical definition of this term suggests the closest focusing distance allowing objects located at infinity to appear to be acceptably sharp. Infinity means any distant object like the stars.

Hyperfocal Distance is based on the concept explained in the above example, with a difference that the focus is set in such a way that the maximum distance ends at infinity instead of the middle line. Focusing at the infinite distance captures the sharpest possible background. Thus, when you set your other end of the focal range at infinity, you not only get a sharp background but can also use the remaining portion of the range to have other sharp details.

Hyperfocal Distance aims to use every bit of the focal range and hence makes an effective technique to achieve maximum sharpness when capturing landscape scenes. It can also be used in any photo where you want the background and other elements to be sharp.

Hyperfocal distance enables you to get the most out of the focal range created by your aperture. This means that you can achieve incredibly sharp landscape photos at any aperture or capture a poorly-lit landscape in absence of a tripod.

How to Use Hyperfocal Focusing?
There are three ways to use this technique in your photos. The first is a method that works in a similar way but isn’t the exact definition of hyperfocal focusing, the second is a simple, less precise method and the third is a math-related, more complex way.

The simplest option to using Hyperfocal Focusing is used by many photographers. It is a generalized concept based on the hyperfocal distance but doesn’t involve the exact hyperfocal distance. For such a method, the rule of thumb is that you should focus on a point 1/3th of the distance to the image to capture a sharp image on any scene. This method isn’t the perfect use of hyperfocal distance but leaves most parts of the image sharp. This is a good way to implement the hyperfocal focusing technique at the beginner level.

The second method is also still not precise but is a good implementation of hyperfocal focusing as it gives a really sharp background. You begin with switching to manual focus and move it to infinity. Then, you pull the focus gradually back keeping an eye on the background. When you see that the background starts fuzzing, you stop and move it back again until you see it sharp and then shoot. This is an excellent method to use hyperfocal focusing to get sharp landscape photos without getting into numbers.

Lastly, when the tiniest distance counts, you can use the third option to calculate the exact hyperfocal distance precisely. However, calculating this distance involves consideration of many factors. There are online calculators which provide a simple way to calculate the hyperfocal distance. Once calculated, you can set the focus manually to this number and achieve the maximum sharpness from the chosen aperture.

Now that you know what Hyperfocal Focusing is and how to use it, you can use it to capture a photo where you want a sharp background. However, before using this technique, it is necessary to make sure that the background of the image is really sharp. In cases where the foreground has more prominent details than the background, this technique isn’t the best option. Hyperfocal Focusing can be a highly useful method and proves to be beneficial outside the landscape category.

We hope this tutorial helps you learn using the Hyperfocal Focusing method to achieve optimum sharpness and depth of field wherever you desire.

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