74 — Hyperfocal distance — How to use the hyperfocal distance

Pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast #74 is all about the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance and how to use it in land­scape pho­tog­ra­phy. In a nut­shell, hyper­fo­cal dis­tance is the dis­tance you focus at to get greater depth of field when focus­ing on an object in the dis­tance. In this pod­cast we define what hyper­fo­cal dis­tance is and how to use it for both tra­di­tional (film) pho­tog­ra­phy and in dig­i­tal pho­tog­ra­phy with new DSLRs and lenses.‚ We also talk about when not to use the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance in land­scape photography.

Hyperfocal distance chart

Hyper­fo­cal dis­tance chart from dofmaster.com — used by per­mis­sion; thanks Don Flem­ing!‚ This beau­ti­ful appli­ca­tion from the dofmaster.com site clearly shows that by focus­ing at the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance you gain over 4 feet of sharp­ness toward the fore­ground when you use a 5omm lens at F-16 and focus at 27.1 feet instead of‚ where the object actu­ally is at 50 feet.. Try this test for your­self; shoot 1 shot the reg­u­lar way and 1 shot using the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance. This appli­ca­tion already lists the most com­mon dig­i­tal cam­eras and takes their crop fac­tors into account.

Landscape photography
Left image shot nor­mally while right image was shot at the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance. Even at this small size you can see that the right shot shows a bit more sharp­ness in the midground while the back­ground looks sim­i­lar in both shots. The effects are more notice­able when you print at larger sizes.

Links /resources men­tioned in this podcast:

Dofmaster’s awe­some depth of field cal­cu­la­tor that also cal­cu­lates hyper­fo­cal dis­tance
Dofmaster’s depth of field cal­cu­la­tor for free use with an iphone (need to con­nect to the Net — use this URL from an IPhone ONLYNOT from your com­puter)
Dofmaster’s sim­u­lated depth of field cal­cu­la­tor for free use with an Non-iphones (need to con­nect to the Net)
Dofmaster’s Itunes depth of field cal­cu­la­tor App for $1.99 (No Inter­net con­nec­tion required)
November’s ‘land­scapes in por­trait orientation’‚assignment on the Photography.ca forum
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Thanks to Kat, Glenn Euloth (Igua­nasan), Bambi and Alex Maxim who posted a blog com­ment about our last pod­cast. Thanks as always to every­one that sent com­ments by email about our last pod­cast. Although ALL com­ments are appre­ci­ated, com­ment­ing directly in this blog is pre­ferred. Thanks as well to all the new mem­bers of the bul­letin board.

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You can down­load this pho­tog­ra­phy pod­cast directly by click­ing the pre­ced­ing link or lis­ten to it almost imme­di­ately with the embed­ded player below.


  1. Chittalr says:

    Thanks for the pod­cast marko…
    I have a ques­tion.….. it may sound stu­pid but i was try­ing to use this and I could not fig­ure this thing out.
    Now that we dont have dis­tance on the bar­rel of the lens, how do i know the dis­tance where I am focus­ing at?
    Exam­ple : The moun­tain in the pic­ture .… say it is 200 feet from me.. is there a way to know how far the moun­tain is? Or i guess it? N then when it comes to putting my focus point on the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance; again how do i know i am focus­ing on that dis­tance. Is there a way to know it in the view finder or on screen????

    • admin says:

      Thanks for the com­pli­ment, and no prob­lem on the ques­tion. Most lenses still DO have dis­tance scales in meters and feet. Every lens I own (from old to new) has a dis­tance scale, what’s miss­ing is the hyper­fo­cal dis­tance scale on the newer lenses.
      IF by chance you don’t have that dis­tance scale, you’ll need an alter­na­tive device that mea­sures dis­tance. You can pick these up in hard­ware stores. Hope that helps — Marko

  2. Kent Wilson says:

    Hi Marko –

    Very nice pod­cst; infor­ma­tive, as usual.

    I attended a talk by Adam Jones (a Canon Explorer of Light), and in dis­cussing this he said to focus on the far­thest object you want in focus, then focus on the near­est object you want in focus, then man­u­ally focus halfway between them. It’s sim­ple but does it work? I haven’t had a chance to try it.

    A 2nd idea that sim­pli­fies mat­ters is to use the live view option (if your cam­era has it) and look and see if every­thing you want to be in focus is. Since the scene can be mag­ni­fied 10x, that’s a pretty reli­able and sim­ple approach. Don’t remem­ber where I heard about this.

    Hope these tips are good, because I expect to use them. I’m nt keen on con­sult­ing a chart when shoot­ing, but will do if that’s the best alternative.

    Keep these ter­rific pod­casts coming!

    kent wil­son

  3. admin says:

    Hi Yise­haq,

    Usu­ally there are num­bers on the lens bar­rel to help you gauge the dis­tance. Some­times though you do have to esti­mate it as you might have a 10 foot mark­ing and the next mark­ing is 25 feet. It depends on the lens. That esti­ma­tion will still likely increase your DOF.
    For more pre­ci­sion you will need an addi­tional instru­ment like a tape mea­sure or some elec­tronic device that mea­sures pre­cise dis­tance. Hope that helps — marko

  4. yisehaq says:

    Indeed it’s infor­ma­tive but allow me to ask the dumb ques­tion, ?how do you know how to focus on 23.7 ft rather than 40ft ? Am I miss­ing something??

  5. raiven says:

    Just thought i would men­tion that the chart men­tioned –http://dofmaster.com/dofjs.html– works on my Black­berry bold. I have to enlarge the screen but it does work.

  6. admin says:

    many thanks bambi, 42 and crystalb!

  7. Crystalb says:

    Very easy to under­stand, Great pod­cast! Thanks

  8. Fortytwo says:

    Thanks for this pod­cast Marko. :) It’s a very dif­fi­cult topic, but you explaned it very clearly. I’m gonna prac­tice this as soon a I get a chance…

  9. Bambi says:

    thank you Marko, as a new­bie to all this, I found this pod­cast very helpful.

  10. admin says:

    Hi Dominic and thanks for the com­ment. Here’s some help that should work for Mac http://dofmaster.com/dofjs.html works from any com­puter. http://dofmaster.com/doftable.html you should be able to print this for dif­fer­ent focal lengths. Hope that helps — Marko

  11. Dominic says:

    This pod­cast was sort of a “DUH”, for me, because I had for­got­ten about this tech­nique.
    I went and checked out the web­site you rec­om­mended, but it is PC based. This is all fine and dandy, but what about those of us with a MAC?
    I guess we sim­ply have to build our own. Given the cal­cu­la­tions, it should be rel­a­tively sim­ple.
    Thank you for the prover­bial smack in the head, I needed it.
    If I find a MAC based site I will post it.

  12. AntZ says:

    Some how sub­mit my prev com­ment before I was fin­ished.
    I wanted to add that thanks to the pod­cast now I know about these cal­cu­la­tors and that the tech­nique has a name.

  13. AntZ says:

    Great pod­cast Marko. I’d never hear of the term before, or used any sort of cal­cu­la­tor before, but I it is a tech­nique I have applied through com­mon sense. Espe­cially for shal­low DOF Macro shots. N

  14. Marko says:

    Thanks for the com­ments Michael Van der Tol raiven and Aaron Hock­ley. Might be inter­est­ing to do a test. Focus 1/3 of the way in, in shot 1 ver­sus using a depth of field cal­cu­la­tor in shot 2. Don’t get me wrong…even I have used the focus 1/3 of the way in tech­nique in a pinch, but I can­not rec­om­mend it as a ‘method’ as per the answer to JJJ. It’s just so easy to have some­thing portable and 100% pre­cise in your cam­era bag or on a smart­phone. Why gam­ble when pre­ci­sion is just as easy the major­ity of the time.

  15. raiven says:

    Thanks Marco! With the old lenses it was easy. I was actu­ally going to ask the same ques­tion as Jimmy. Dar­win Wigget rec­om­mended focus­ing about one third of the way into scene as well at the recent lec­ture we attended.

    Good stuff!

  16. Great pod­cast as usual. I espe­cially want to com­mend you for doing a great job in the audio descrip­tion… this is a very visual topic, and the fact that you could make it clear in an audio for­mat is a credit to your abil­ity to teach. Thanks!

  17. Great pod­cast Marko — as usual. I learned some­thing new — See, you can teach “mature” pho­tog­ra­phers new tricks :-)

  18. admin says:

    It’s a plea­sure JJJ! :)

    One thing though, your com­ment about Rick Sammon’s tech­nique may be mis­lead­ing to new­bies read­ing this.

    Focus­ing on “a point” approx. 1/3 into the scene is only good to think about in the­ory. There’s very lit­tle pre­ci­sion with a tech­nique like that.

    ALSO the exact place you will focus will VARY based on the focal length of the lens, the aper­ture you choose for that lens and how far you are away from the object. Focus­ing 1/3 of the way in there­fore is at best an esti­ma­tion, a decent one in many cases, but not pre­cise. For pre­ci­sion, use a depth of field cal­cu­la­tor. Hope that helps — Marko

  19. Hey Marko.I found your pod­cast on hyper­fo­cal dis­tance very infor­ma­tive. I seem to recall a famous or infa­mous pho­tog­ra­pher named Rick Sam­mon advis­ing pho­tog­ra­phers to focus at a point approx. 1/3 rd into the scene for the great­est depth of field. Now I know why. Thanks again for all the great pod­casts. I can hardly wait for the next issue — jimmy

  20. admin says:

    My Plea­sure Jack & Benny! Thanks for the link Greg!

  21. jacklabel says:

    Very inter­est­ing topic Marko, I knew it existed but never got o look into it. I may try shoot­ing using the rule some­day. thanks for explain­ing it.

  22. Benny says:

    Oh that is so inter­est­ing and I have to try this at some point. Thank-you for putting these pod­casts out.

  23. Greg Nuspel says:

    You can get a cal­cu­la­tor for a pocket PC here http://www.dl-c.com/PPC/index.html

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