Hyper Focal Distances: Stay Focused with Doug McKinlay

Hyper Focal Distances: Stay Focused with Doug McKinlay

Hi I’m Doug McKinlay and you’re watching AdoramaTV. Now, for today’s episode we’re going to look at Hyper Focal Distance, what it is and
why do we need it. Now it’s one of those terms of photography that tends to confuse a lot of people, but once you get your head around it, it’s not all that difficult. AdoramaTV presents ‘Stay Focused’ with
Doug McKinlay. In a nutshell, hyper focal distance or HFD is a point of focus in a given frame that will render everything from half the distance of
that point to infinity as acceptably sharp, or simply put we’re trying to get
the maximum depth of field from a given image. For example, with your current
camera and settings, if you’re hyper focal distance is 20 feet, and that’s where you’re focused, then half that distance for ten feet to infinity should be acceptably
sharp. The factors that influence and change
hyper focal distance, because there’s no one magic setting, are the focal length
of your lens, the aperture you choose, the size of the sensor and the distance you
are from your subject. Because today I’ll be using a Canon 5D III, all my settings will be for full frame sensors. Hyper focal distance shooting is primarily used for landscapes, where we want to create big vistas. However, it can
be used in other areas too. I’m thinking wedding photography where you’ve large crowd scenes, product shots and even portraiture. In addition, HFD shooting is
usually done with shorter lenses, 50mm below. Now, with a small aperture
these lenses produce short hyper focal distances. For example a 24 mm lens
mounted on a Canon 5D III and the aperture set at f11, will give you a hyper focal
distance of 5.7 feet. Now, from half that distance or 2.8 to infinity will
render an image as acceptably sharp. The next issue, especially for beginners is
how do I know where 5.7 feet lands in front of my camera. Now, admittedly during film days it was a little easier, because most of the lenses back then had all the relevant information printed on the lens barrel it was just a matter of
lining the correct numbers up and off you went. It seems today that only the more
expensive lenses have all the relevant information on the barrel. But don’t worry. Simply mount your camera on a tripod and then use a tape measure. After you’ve done this a number of times you’ll soon become a pretty good judge of distances. Now, a common mistake for those beginning landscape photography is to set a small aperture and focus either on the background or
the foreground with the hope that’s going to create a large depth of field, a great big vista. Now, the reality, probably, is more like you’re going to get a sharp background
with a blurry foreground or a sharp foreground with a blurry background. It’s really frustrating. Now the way around this HFD settings this will help solve the
problem. I can already hear the next question: How do I know what the hyper focal distances will be from my lenses and my camera. There’s a couple of simple solutions. First go to the internet. There are tons of downloadable
charts you can get. Or even better, you can get apps for your phone. You just punch in the relevant
numbers and it will give you the numbers. But keep in mind, once you’ve done this a
number of times, you’ll get to know your own lenses and your own camera and distances will be. And you can just dispel with this and go from memory. As an example of using HFD, let’s say we have a 50 mm lens, set at f8, mounted on a Canon 5D III. We have a subject that’s 20 feet away, it could be rocks, an old tree, it doesn’t really matter, but that’s what
we’re focused on. Now, if we ignore the HFD settings, the focal range of that image
would be from 12.7 feet to 47.7 feet. Everything closer than 12.7 will be
blurry, everything after 47.7 will be blurry, but if we employ the hyper focal
distance, in this case 34.3 feet. We know that half the distance from that
point 17.15 feet, just before a subject, from there to infinity should be sharp
focused, acceptably sharp focused. Now if we use f11 we get a greater range so you can see why using hyper focal distances is a great tool for landscape
photography. Well I hope that was helpful. If you have any questions or queries please get in contact. I’m Doug McKinlay for AdoramaTV. Don’t forget
you can subscribe to AdoramaTV for more great videos and let us know what you think. You can like or comment on this video and please stop by the Adorama Learning Center for more
great tips and tricks.

34 thoughts on “Hyper Focal Distances: Stay Focused with Doug McKinlay”

  • Viswanathan Suresh says:

    Thanks for an excellent video. A question though: Doesn't decreasing aperture size to smaller values not obviate the need to wrap your head around the hyperfocal distance concept? After all, depth of field increases with smaller apertures doesn't it?


    Strasbourg, France

  • William Vaux says:

    What would be really helpful is if the photos had markings on where the focus point is and the area of the HFD.
    Focusing is often misinterpreted, having photos showing the focus point would make things so much easier for people to understand.

  • Great little video, also nice to see ND filters used by a professional showing what the results should look like.

  • Susan Bennet says:

    My brain hurts and my eyes are crossed, but I THINK I get it, and I have saved that DOF master site to my phone and I am going to try it next time I am out. Thanks!

  • Is there a technical definition of "acceptably sharp"? Given that sharpness will gradually decrease farther away from the actual focus point, what do DOF calculators use to determine the "acceptably sharp" range?

  • John OShaughnessy says:

    Very good as usual in fairness to you Doug, trying to figure out where you are ??? West cork or kerry maybe

  • Thanks, but the other factor you didn't address is how you go about determining that you have properly focused on the hyper focal distance when in your example it is not practical to use a tape measure, etc.

  • I dont really get this. I have searched all youtube and have not found any complete information. You say landscape photography but you want to focus on the rocks. If I dont have rocks, I just have mountains or a city view, how would I know in which distance I should focus? also NO tutorial specifies where should we focus, infinity, after infinity.

  • i searched internet numerous time to get a ans about is it possible to get advantage of hfd focus ar a setting of 120mm, f/8 ( lens nikkor 24-120 mm f/4).. A calculator provide the hfd as 63.00 meter whereas my lense's maxm focus dist shows 12.59 m in all cases despite how far i focus (at horizon or at a cloud)..

  • haha – no that what not helpful at all – all I heard was a lot of numbers and measurements that are not even metric. Also, it does not link me to any chart's? If I want to use the f1.8 setting on my sigma art 18-35mm lens, then how would that make the focal point?

  • Shailendra Chari says:

    Thanks, Doug McKinlay and Adorama TV for making this educational video on Hyper Focal Distances. It was very helpful to understand the topic.

  • I am using a full frame sensor today. Get real the vast majority don't use full frame so if having institutional video why use one. Not real world……

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