Tutorial: Hyperfocal Distance

If you understand depth of field and the use of aperture settings – in other words you do not have your camera, camcorder or smartphone always set on A for “Automatic Everything” – then you’ll know that generally speaking, if you have the foreground in focus then the background will be blurred.

Conversely of course, if the background is as sharp as a tack, then the foreground is out of focus.


But what if you want the foreground AND background in focus?

Then it’s time to learn a new term; Hyperfocal Distance.

In the simplest form Hyperfocal Distance is the focusing distance that gives your photos the greatest depth of field. In other words, it is the point on which you focus that allows the foreground and the background to both be sharp.

This position will vary according to your lens at the time as hyperfocal distance moves closer to your lens as you use smaller apertures.

Without going into the mathematics of it, be aware that when you focus to a hyperfocal distance, the image will be sharp from half that distance to infinity.

So going by the chart above, with your hyperfocal distance for say f/11 with a 28mm lens, then everything from 1174mm to infinity will be sharp.

Also understand this chart is a guide only, as without knowing the makeup and distance to your foreground, they are a best guess scenario.

One neat way of working out the hyperfocal lens I found online uses the following method;

  1. Find the closest object in your framing that should appear sharp and calculate its approximate distance to the camera
  2. Double this number to get your hyperfocal distance
  3. Focus on this point
  4. Change the aperture to increase depth of field (usually to around f/8 or f/11)


Of course you won’t to use this technique all of the time. Say you were shooting from a hot air balloon and attempting to get the vista before you. As there is nothing in the foreground, it would be pointless – just shoot to infinity in these cases.

There are a number of smartphone apps to calculate your hyperfocal distance such as Hyperfocal for both Android and iOS.



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