10 Top Tips for Sharper Landscape Photos

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2. Turn Off Image Stabilisers

It is worthwhile switching off optical image stabilisation when your camera is securely fixed to a tripod. With some designs, if image stabilising is left on, it can actually do the opposite thing – softening image quality as a result of searching for motion that isn’t there. Besides, leaving stabilisation on will only waste battery life, so, unless you are shooting handheld, switch it off.

3. Opt for a Small Aperture

To capture landscapes with front-to-back sharpness, you will require a large depth of field. Although focal length, camera-to-subject distance, and point of focus all influence perceived depth of field, the aperture is the primary method of control. Therefore, your choice of f-stop is a very important consideration when shooting landscapes. Depth of field refers to the zone of acceptable sharpness in front and behind the point of focus. Small apertures generate a wider depth of field than large ones. However, due to the effect of diffraction (see below), do not simply opt for your lens’ smallest aperture of f/22 or f/32.

Instead, it is good practice to select the largest aperture that is still able to provide the depth of field you require. A good starting point is a mid-range aperture in the region of f/11, but many optics actually perform best at around f/8. The depth of field you require is very scene dependent – so adjust your aperture accordingly, on a shot by shot basis.

4. Calculate the Hyperfocal Distance

Calculating and applying the hyperfocal point sounds more complicated than it actually is. What is it? Well, a lens can only focus precisely on one plane – sharpness gradually decreases either side of this distance. Roughly speaking, depth of field extends one-third in front of this point and two-thirds beyond it. Therefore, if you focus too close or far away, you will waste some of the depth of field available to you.

However, for every focal length and aperture combination, there is one distance that will maximise depth of field – the hyperfocal distance. By carefully focusing on this point, you will take advantage of the full extent of the depth of field. There are hyperfocal charts and apps available (for different sensor sizes) to help you calculate this optimum point. An App like PhotoPills is a good choice. Just enter the selected focal length and aperture, and the app will calculate the distance you need to focus on and also show the near and far limits.

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