Hyperfocal distance in Photography is the distance between your camera and the closest object that appears in-focus whilst your lens is set to infinity.
Understanding Hyperfocal Distance is particularly useful for landscape photography as it will help you keep both foreground and background sharp and detailed.
Understanding Hyperfocal distance
Say you are taking a photo and everything needs to be in focus – foreground to background. You know your background is miles away and your foreground begins only 2 meters away.
You set your focus to infinity by auto-focusing on a distant object and take the photo. Reviewing the photo, you realise the background is sharp yet nothing up close is in focus.
In fact, your entire foreground is blurred beyond recognition. You try again, this time focusing on the foreground but now the background appears blurred. Humiliated and ashamed, you pack up your gear and head home.
But there is another way. Next time, ensure your Hyperfocal Distance is less than 2 meters then everything from 2 meters in will be nice and sharp.
How to control your Hyperfocal Distance
How Aperture affects Hyperfocal Distance
The larger your lens’ aperture, the more distant your Hyperfocal distance becomes. For example, if you are using a 50mm lens at an F8 aperture, your Hyperfocal Distance is around 11 meters.
By selecting a smaller aperture such as F16, depth-of-field is increased and your hyperfocal distance decreases to 5.5 meters. Learn more about Aperture.
How Focal Length affects Hyperfocal Distance
Hyperfocal distance decreases at shorter Focal Lengths. For example, a 50mm lens set to F8 has a hyperfocal distance of 11 meters.
3 ways to find your Hyperfocal Distance
So you are shooting with a 28mm lens and have determined your photo’s foreground begins 4 meters from your camera. Now you need to determine which Aperture will bring your Hyperfocal distance inside that 4 meter mark (spoiler – F8).
#1. Trial and Error
The easiest way is to set a small aperture such as F11, take the photo, and review it on the back screen. If it looks sharp from front-to-back, you’ve done it!
If the image is not sharp enough, try another photo at a smaller aperture, review, and repeat until you get a good result.
#2. Use a chart or app
Hyperfocal Pro is a nice app. It costs nothing, is easy to use and features zero adverts. Specify your camera, focal length, and aperture and it will calculate your exact Hyperfocal distance.
#3. Use the formula
The formula for calculating hyperfocal distance is, Hyper focal length (meters) = (Focal Length²) / (Aperture * Desired CoC) / 1000. For example, 2.5 meters = ( (24mm²) / (F8 * 0.0288) ) / 1000
The Circle of Confusion (CoC) determines how sharp is sharp enough. For instance, 0.0288 is based on the medium sharpness, ‘modern standard’ for cameras with full-frame sensors.
For the correct CoC for other sensor sizes – see Sensor Comparison