Where should I focus when taking a Landscape Shot?
When shooting a typical landscape image it is normal to attempt to keep as much of the image in focus as possible.
This means selecting a small Aperture (remember the larger the number the smaller the actual Aperture) to ensure that you end up with a large depth of field. This will ensure that parts of the image that are both close and far away from you have a good chance of being somewhat in focus.
But at what point in the shot should you actually focus the image?
I suspect that many digital camera owners would set the focal point as the middle of the shot – or even at the horizon – however it might not actually be the ideal place to focus your camera.
I chatted this week with a landscape photographer who shared this tip:
‘Focus in the lower half of the image – at around the ‘thirdway’ point.’
Ok – I’m not sure if ‘thirdway‘ is an actual word – but what he was suggesting is that the point that will help you get the maximum amount of your shot in focus is at a point around a third of the way up an image (as highlighted above).
This is a fairly general rule and you’d want to ignore if if your landscape shot had a particular point of interest in it that wasn’t on the third line. However if your landscape shot doesn’t have one specific point of interest it is probably a rule worth using.
My photographer friend went on to give a rather complicated reasoning for focusing upon this point a third of the way into an image that I don’t wish to repeat here for fear of losing many – however, in general if you focus too far into your image you’ll end up with objects in the distance nice and sharp but anything close to you noticeably out of focus. If you focus at the lower third you increase the depth of field in the foreground and as depth of field extends further behind a focal point than in front of it the distant objects will be reasonably sharp too.
Disclaimer – I should say that in researching this technique I found a lot of debate on the topic and a lot of technical language – in actual fact this ‘rule’ depends on many factors including the focal length of your lens, the format you’re shooting in (vertical or horizontal), the aperture you’re using and how far the scene extends away from you.
However I’ve found it to be a useful ‘rule’ to know and to start with when shooting landscapes. Whether you focus exactly on the third way point probably doesn’t matter that much – however the key is not to focus on the horizon but closer to you as the photographer.
Perhaps it’s one of those ‘one percent’ rules that won’t make a lot of difference for most of us – but when you’re taking high level landscape shots it’s often the little things that count!
Further Reading: Landscape Photography Tips