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Hyperfocal Focusing

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  • blairhwrd
    I goofed. Last week I sent out just the first couple of paragraphs of an article I wrote for our newsletter. That caused me quite a lot of grief, to say the
    Message 1 of 3 , Jun 2, 2006
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      I goofed. Last week I sent out just the first couple of paragraphs
      of an article I wrote for our newsletter. That caused me quite a lot
      of grief, to say the least. So, this week I'm sending out the
      complete article – it's below. Hope you enjoy it.
      Blair

      Article: Hyperfocal Focusing – it's complete

      © Blair Howard, June 2006

      I'm sure the term, hyperfocal focusing, is a familiar one to many of
      our readers, but I also know that it's a bit of mystery to a great
      many more. Anyway, I've had several requests for an explanation, so
      here it is..

      What exactly does hyperfocal focusing mean and why is it important
      in certain types of photography, especially those images shot for
      publication purposes?

      Hyperfocal focusing is a technique for utilizing the maximum depth-
      of-field capabilities of any given lens. It's a method by which you
      can, given the right choice of lens, achieve acceptable focus in
      your images from just a few feet in front of the camera all the way
      to infinity. This entire area would be your "zone of acceptable
      focus."

      When should you use hyperfocal focusing?

      Well, for starters, it's used most commonly in landscape photography
      when you want the largest depth of field possible for the given lens
      you're using. But more than that, it's the one technique that will
      ensure most of your photographs are technically acceptable for
      publication or by stock photo agencies. For editors and photo buyers
      to consider your photograph for publication it's key that your image
      is in focus – not parts of it, but the entire thing, from front to
      back; it must have a great depth of field.

      So, when I say "a great depth of field" I'm talking miles, not feet
      which is why this technique is most commonly linked to landscapes.

      That means then, that it won't do you any good to think about
      hyperfocal techniques if you're shooting close-ups or even city
      streets. The key word I want you to keep in mind when you think
      about hyperfocal focusing is "infinity".

      When you want your zone of acceptable focus to extend from just a
      few feet in front of the camera all the way to infinity, you'll
      consider this technique. Hyperfocal means all the way to infinity,
      or the farthest point in the image.

      Note: the greatest depth of field is achieved with a wide-angle lens
      set at a small aperture, say f-16 or smaller.

      Here's how it works…

      How to Get the Best Picture with the Maximum Depth of Field
      Imaginable…

      In any given picture the zone of acceptable focus extends from
      approximately 1/3 in front of your point of focus to 2/3 behind it.
      The idea is to bring the point of focus forward so that the 1/3 of
      the picture in front of it begins as close to the camera as possible
      while making sure the 2/3 of the zone of focus behind it extends all
      the way to infinity, but not beyond it as it normally does. This
      means if you focus on a point 2/3 into the picture, the closest 1/3
      will be out of the zone and so will the farthest 1/3; it will extend
      beyond infinity.

      The easiest way I can think of to explain this is to first imagine
      that you want to focus on infinity. Let's say the farthest thing
      the eye can see is a line of trees on the horizon. Let's pretend
      that I wanted to focus on them. In fact, I'll use just such an image
      to illustrate the point. (Sorry, but because this email software
      won't let me include an image, I'll have to send you to my website
      to view the photograph: www.blairhoward.com/hyperfocal.html and, no,
      I do not have a hidden agenda.
      Now, remember that I said that your zone of acceptable focus extends
      from approximately 1/3 in front of your point of focus (the trees)
      to 2/3 behind it?

      Well, for me and other photographers in this situation, that really
      only means that the trees (my point of focus) will be sharp as will
      everything that falls approximately 1/3 of the distance in front of
      it. The foreground extending outward 1/3 of the distance from the
      camera, depending upon the f-stop I use, might well be out of focus.
      Certainly the first 50 feet, or so, will be out of focus.

      The other 2/3 that would typically fall behind the subject are
      useless because you're already at infinity. You can't see any
      further and so there's nothing back there to stay sharp. The front
      edge of ruined building is about 1/3 into the picture.

      What's worse is that not only will I loose 2/3 of my possible zone
      of acceptable focus (the area behind the trees), but clearly those
      flowers in the foreground aren't going to make it into the zone at
      all. They're much closer than 1/3 the distance between the trees
      and the camera lens. In fact, they look like they're right at my
      feet.

      So what do I do? I want the trees in sharp focus and I also want as
      much of the foreground as possible to be in sharp focus.

      This is where hyperfocal distance comes in.

      Imagine again that I focus on the trees and that my zone of
      acceptable focus falls 1/3 of the distance in front of it.

      Now (and this is the key) imagine that I don't focus on the trees at
      all. Instead, I focus on the leading edge of the ruined building.
      Yes, it probably would have been in focus when I focused on the
      trees in the last shot (the farthest edge from the point of focus of
      the first 1/3 zone – a point roughly 1/3 of the distance from the
      camera to trees).

      This edge… this point where I would have still been in focus had I
      focused on infinity is actually the hyperfocal point for that
      particular lens. And it's that distance between that point and me
      (or my camera's lens) that is the hyperfocal distance. As you can
      see from the photograph, the entire image, from what looks like a
      few inches in front of the camera all the way to the trees, is
      acceptably sharp.

      OK, I understand that this is a really difficult concept to get your
      head around, but it is so important that you do. How many times have
      you seen images with the foreground completely out of focus? No
      editor or stock photo agency will accept an image like that.

      You will get the greatest depth of field when you focus your lens at
      its hyperfocal distance. By definition, your depth of field will
      extend out to infinity, but not beyond. So, if you focus on that
      point – THE HYPERFOCAL POINT - instead of infinity (roughly 1/3 of
      the distance from the camera to the farthest point you can see),
      you'll have the largest depth of field that your lens in capable of
      at any given aperture.

      So, I always… always focus about a third of the way into my scene
      from the foreground out to infinity. This produces good, sharp
      images with a lot of depth of field.

      Now, I know that sharp focus from a few feet in front of the camera
      is not what everyone wants all the time, but it is what publishers
      and photo buyers want most of the time.

      © Blair Howard, June 2006

      *************

      If you'd like to sign up for CreativePhoto newsletter and get free
      tips, articles and helpful techniques every week, you can do so at
      www.blairhoward.com/signup.html

      For an in-depth explanation of hyperfocal focusing and other
      techniques you might like to check out our online course, "Amazing
      Photographs – How to Take Them, How to Sell Them."
      www.blairhoward.com/amazing.html
    • vicissitude_freakwerks@comcast.net
      That is a terrific and extremely detailed and informative article. I only hope that I can execute your technique as accurately as you describe it. Adam Warner
      Message 2 of 3 , Jun 2, 2006
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        That is a terrific and extremely detailed and informative article. I only hope that I can execute your technique as accurately as you describe it.

        Adam Warner
        -------------- Original message ----------------------
        From: "blairhwrd" <blairhwrd@...>





        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Blair Howard
        Thanks Adam: I appreciate the feedback Blair vicissitude_freakwerks@comcast.net wrote: That is a terrific and extremely detailed and informative article. I
        Message 3 of 3 , Jun 2, 2006
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          Thanks Adam:

          I appreciate the feedback

          Blair

          vicissitude_freakwerks@... wrote:
          That is a terrific and extremely detailed and informative article. I only hope that I can execute your technique as accurately as you describe it.

          Adam Warner
          -------------- Original message ----------------------
          From: "blairhwrd" <blairhwrd@...>





          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]



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