How to use the hyperfocal distance table
If you want all the elements at the horizon (mountains, buildings, stars, etc) to be in sharp focus in the image, make focus at the hyperfocal distance!
You know that when the lens is focused at the hyperfocal distance, everything that falls at distances from half of this distance out to infinity will be acceptably sharp in the image. This makes calculating the hyperfocal distances a “must” for landscape and night photographers when the goal is to maximize depth of field shooting with short focal lengths (7mm to 35mm).
The hyperfocal distance chart is the fastest way to calculate the hyperfocal distance for the settings you need. Just introduce your camera, focal length and aperture and read the values on the chart.
Notice that hyperfocal distance increases when increasing focal length or aperture (smaller f-numbers: f/2.8, f/4), reducing depth of field.
On the contrary, hyperfocal distance decreases by decreasing focal length or aperture (larger f-numbers: f/8, f/11), increasing depth of field.
Therefore, if you make focus at the hyperfocal distance for the widest aperture of your lens, let's say f/2.8, when you decide to close the aperture, you will not have to make focus at the new hyperfocal distance, because it is shorter than the previous one. As a result, when closing the aperture, by shooting with the lens focused at the previous hyperfocal distance, all the elements at the horizon will remain in focus.
This is the reason it is said that you don't need to make focus again when closing the aperture, when you have previously made focus at the hyperfocal distance.
How to focus at the hyperfocal distance
Let's imagine for a moment that you're at the shooting spot ready to enjoy a great night escape. You want to capture as many stars as possible so you set a short focal length (for example, 14mm) to capture as much sky as possible.
You've calculated the hyperfocal distance and you're getting ready to make focus at it. You set the automatic focus mode and use a torch to light a rock located at more or less the hyperfocal distance.
You've measure the distance by walking the "equivalent" number of steps. You've also double checked it using PhotoPills DoF Augmented Reality tool.
This is a crucial moment, you must be sure you’re not falling short. If you do fall short when focusing at the hyperfocal distance, even by one inch (2.5cm), you won’t get the elements at the horizon in focus. You’ll get, for example, the stars out of focus.
Since you’re not going to measure the hyperfocal distance with a ruler, make sure you’re focusing your lens at a distance which is a little bit longer (2 feet - 60cm) than the hyperfocal distance. This way, you'll make sure you get all background elements in focus. This is how the hyperfocal distance works, it's all about math.
Next step is to make focus using the automatic mode and set the focus to manual, so focus will not change when shooting. All you have to do now is to enjoy the stars!
Need more? Watch the following video. We show you how to focus at the hyperfocal distance:
Understanding the Hyperfocal Distance
Also, if you’re interested in mastering hyperfocal distance and depth of field, in this article you'll find all you need to know to become a true storyteller!
Depth of Field: The Definitive Guide
In it, you'll find many examples that will inspire you when shooting deep depth of field...
... also, there are numerous tips and examples on how to shoot shallow depth of field.
The hyperfocal distance table in PhotoPills app
The hyperfocal distance chart is also available in PhotoPills app, extended with an augmented reality view to help you visualize where to focus.
Note: given the sensor size, the circle of confusion is calculated assuming a print size of 8''×10'' (20cm×25cm), a viewing distance of 10" (25cm) and the manufacturers standard visual acuity.
Finally, If you're interested in improving your photography, check our detailed photography guides on:
- Milky Way Photography
- Moon Photography
- Astronomical Events Photography
- Star Trails Photography
- Meteor Showers Photography
- Lens Filters and Long Exposure Photography
- Drone Photography
- Solar Eclipses Photography
- Lunar Eclipses Photography
- Full Moon Silhouettes Videos
- How to find sunrises and sunsets.
- How to find moonrises and moonsets.
And also check these fundamental photography guides:
How to embed the Hyperfocal Distance Table on your website
Take the power of PhotoPills’ Hyperfocal Distance Table with you. Just copy the following lines and paste them within the code of your website, right in the place where you want to embed it:
<script src="//photopills.com/widgets/pphyperfocal.min.js" async></script>
The code will run asynchronously, without penalizing the loading time of your website.