It’s one of the most important elements of being a great landscape photographer. When you know how to get everything in your image as sharp as possible, your photo will definitely stand out. There is a trick to making everything as sharp as possible, and it doesn’t always require you to have the best camera setup. By following some of these techniques, you’ll be well on your way to creating stunningly sharp photography in no time.
At this point in your photography career, you are probably used to seeing sharpness in only one part of your photo --the place where you focus your lens. The purpose of this tutorial is to get that sphere of sharpness to extend to other parts of your photo. You may not want every part of your photo to be ultra crisp, but when you have the choice, your photos look much more professional.
First, Pick A Sharp Aperture
Much of what determines the sharpness in a photo comes from your camera’s aperture. If you want everything in the photo be sharp and “in focus”, you will need to select a very closed aperture like F22. As you increase your aperture number, the subjects closer and further away from the subject in focus become sharper. When you decrease your aperture, a smaller and smaller part of the photo remains in focus.
Whenever you increase the aperture, realize that your camera will also need more light. This means you will need to use a slower shutter speed. Be aware that camera shake can start to blur your photos (and destroy any sharpness) whenever the shutter speed is slower than 1/125s. A tripod is needed - sometimes even in the middle of the day - when you are shooting with very closed apertures like F22. Most professional landscape photographers carry one with them when they can.
Pick A Wideangle Lens
The focal length of your lens also has an effect on the depth of field (the portion of the image that is in focus). Telephoto lenses have a smaller depth of field while wideangle lenses have the largest depth of field. That’s yet another reason why so many photographers use wideangle lenses when photographing landscapes. It isn’t just for the purpose of cramming more stuff into the scene. They do it to maximize sharpness.
How wide is wide enough? That depends on a variety of factors. Generally speaking using a lens with a 24mm focal length or smaller, will give you a huge boost in sharpness. I would advise you to run a little experiment the next time you are out and about with your wideangle lens. Try a few different focal lengths and see which one gives you the best sharpness. I bet it will also be the widest.
Try To Get A Little Further From Your Subject
Depth of Field also depends on how close you are to your subject. As you get closer, your depth of field decreases. When you get further away, it increases. The reasons behind this are complex. To learn more about it, checkout the Depth of Field discussion in the extended edition of my video course.
You will still want to use some kind of foreground element to give your scene a sense of scale, but you should get a little further away from it if you want the entire scene to be “in focus.” I would advise doing whatever you can to follow the rules of composition while remembering to inch back a bit further from your foreground subject.
It isn’t all that difficult to get everything in focus as long as you follow these fairly straightforward tips. Pick a closed aperture (high F number), use a wideangle lens, and get a little further away from your subject. If you bring a tripod along to keep your camera stable, you shouldn’t have a problem creating these kids of images in any lighting situation.
So go on. Get out there and try to increase the depth of field in your photos as much as possible! I want to see the sharpest images you can make. Consider it your weekly challenge.
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