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hyper-focal focusing

Discussion in 'Street and Documentary' started by mesmerized, Oct 6, 2018.

  1. mesmerized

    mesmerized TalkEmount Regular

    Mar 26, 2014
    Hello there,

    I've been watching videos on YouTube about how to keep everything tack sharp in landscape photography and I've been wondering if the concept of "hyperfocal focusing" can be applied to some street photography shots where we have long alleys and want to maximize the depth of field... As in - if we want the very end of the long and winding street to be as in focus as possible.

    Also, what would be the ideal aperture for maximizing the depth of field on FF cameras? Does diffraction kick in above f11? I usually stick to f8, if I can.

    I'm not sure if my question makes sense. I'm just a newbie.

  2. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    In my experience with the 42 MP A7R2 diffraction effects at f/11 are minor and hardly distinguisheable from f/8. Some very high quality lenses will even show optimum center sharpness at apertures like f/4 or even f/2.8 so using f/8 for optimum sharpness is not a hard and fast rule. However, these effects are only visible at 100 % viewing (or 200 % on a Mac retina screen). When I'm doing table-top work my standard aperture is f/16; when pixel-peeping it's slightly less sharp than f/11 or f/8 but still more than good enough. If I want a lot of depth of field outdoors, I often stop down to f/13 which is a happy middle ground with still great results.

    You can very easily find out by yourself: just make an aperture series with various focus settings and evaluate the results at 100 % viewing. And then try to set the magnification such that you're looking at a 30x45 cm image (or part of it, depending on your monitor). You'll be surprised how many of the small defects simply become invisible. And try larger apertures too, just to get a feel for what the lens/camera combo does. Nothing beats own experience and it's so easy to do with digital.
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  3. mesmerized

    mesmerized TalkEmount Regular

    Mar 26, 2014
    Thank you, addieleman.

    Based on what I've learnt from those videos, there seems to be a perfect spot where both the objects close to the photographer and those in the far distance will be perfectly in focus.

    If you have a long alley, do you focus on the point that is furthest away if you want to maximize the depth of field?

    Yes, I will definitely have to go and try myself on of these days.
  4. AlwaysOnAuto

    AlwaysOnAuto TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Feb 17, 2015
    I've often wondered about this too but am too lazy to do a 'controlled study' shoot while taking notes so I can evaluate the results later.
  5. bdbits

    bdbits TalkEmount All-Pro

    Sep 10, 2015
    The hyperfocal point is a straight calculation based on the sensor size, focal length, and shooting aperture. There are lots of hyperfocal calculator web sites and smartphone apps. However, note the hyperfocal distance calculations do not take into account anything about your scene - it is just a calculation to yield maximum depth of field out to infinity for the given camera, lens and aperture. Theoretically, the image will be acceptably sharp from halfway between you and the focal point to infinity. But what if you have important foreground elements that are closer than the hyperfocal depth of field for your chosen aperture and lens? You may need to trade off a little bit of infinite sharpness for foreground sharpness. And in some cases, it may be optically impossible to maintain both far and distant focus, so you'd need to resort to focus stacking for optimal sharpness throughout. I dug up a couple of articles that go into detail on the subject, and suggest some techniques.
    Understanding Your Camera’s Hyperfocal Distance
    Hyperfocal Distance Explained - Photography Life

    Personally, the digital camera and especially EVF "live view" changes the usefulness to some degree, especially for landscapes where you have some time. You cannot rely 100% on the EVF or the LCD, because they are showing you a JPEG rendition of the image and have more limited resolution than say a desktop monitor. But you can see your approximate depth of field in real time and adjust accordingly. I am not a street shooter myself, but from what I have read they will set the camera up and leave it set at one aperture and set to the hyperfocal point. Then they know what the depth of field will be and adjust their shooting position relative to the subject accordingly. At least that is what I have read.

    Hope that helps some.
    • Informative Informative x 2
  6. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    When I don’t want to get too fussy with a shot, I just focus about 1/3rd of the way into the scene and call it good. Works almost all of the time.
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  7. mesmerized

    mesmerized TalkEmount Regular

    Mar 26, 2014
    Thank you, all!

    That's what I'm not sure about. Let's say we have a long street. There are no obvious foreground elements (at least not very close to the lens) I just don't know if I should focus on the furthest point or... not.
  8. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    In such instances, I usually make sure the any element that falls in the middle of the frame, to be in focus and let the receding background be covered by hyperfocal.
  9. mesmerized

    mesmerized TalkEmount Regular

    Mar 26, 2014
    In all honesty... I'm not sure if I know what you mean by that. :sorry:
  10. WNG

    WNG TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 12, 2014
    Arrid Zone-A, USA
    Not your fault, it was a bit vague. I was picturing a typical long city street. I should have been more specific. When composing such a shot, the center is the subject usually. Where you wish to draw the viewer's attention. It should be in focus. The middle portion is usually some secondary subject elements which are between you and the background point.
    They can make a shot to be perceived as bad if these are not also in focus, as the eyes will be also drawn to them. I would scan the composed shot, and pick out such elements and make sure it's in focus. As an example, if you were taking a shot of a long straight highway or road... You want the vanishing point in the distance to be in focus. But if there is a building, or hillside, trees, or a road sign somewhere in between, you'd want it sharp in your shot. I mostly shoot with manual lenses, so I'd compose and focus at infinity or until the background is in focus, and then look for the elements that are closer that needs to also be in focus. I can move the magnified view of the EVF to it and turn the focus ring from infinity until it's sharp. Everything behind it should also be in focus. For better or worse, I don't use hyperfocal calculators. For a given lens, I use f/10 to f/16 to shoot landscapes to assure DOF and hyperfocal range. Some lenses f/8 is the sweet spot. To be frank, hyperfocal is a bit of an old misleading concept. Because everything within the range is not tack sharp. If you pixel peep, the distant background is not. It's a compromise due to the limitation of lenses. And it's a tool to help make a shot that will be acceptable. Modern software has solved this issue with focus stacking. If your composition allows for it, you are better off focus stacking numerous shots from foreground to background.
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