Wide angle landscapes are often most effective when there is a foreground, middle ground and background, such as the accompanying image of lupines and mountains. With this type of photograph, it is very important that everything is sharp and in focus, from front to back, since nothing is more distracting than to have the foreground soft or out of focus. Here are a few digital photography composition tips to assist you in making sure your landscape images are sharp.
Lupines and Mountains
© Doug Steakley
All Rights Reserved
1. Shoot in aperture priority at f16. When using a wide-angle lens, f stops greater than f16 (higher f number) will suffer from diffraction, which means that there is a falloff in focus and the background will not remain sharp. Avoid using the maximum aperture the lens has available when photographing landscapes.
2. Use a tripod. When the aperture is closed down to f16, the shutter speed will decrease, so it is very important that the camera be stable.
3. Use a cable release. A cable release allows you to remove your hands from the camera body and reduces the chance of camera shake. If you don't have a cable release, then try setting the self timer to 2 seconds, press the shutter and take your hands away from the camera.
4. If your camera has it, use mirror lock-up. The mirror lock up feature reduces the slight camera movement that might be caused by the mirror flipping up just before the shutter opens.
5. Use hyperfocal focusing. Hyperfocal focusing refers to a complicated formula which basically says that you focus partway into the scene - usually about 1/3 to 1/2. I wish all lenses had the hyperfocal lengths marked on them as they use to have, but with the advent of digital photography and digital lenses, these markings have been removed. You can guess at the hyperfocal distance by focusing about 1/3 of the distance into the photograph and realizing that the foreground will appear to be out of focus when you look through the viewfinder. A better solution is to use a "cheater card" available from fotosharp. These cards cost only $5.00 and will tell you the correct hyperfocal distance for your camera and lens at the aperture setting you are using.
6. Use the lowest ISO setting for the highest resolution; this is usually ISO 100 or 200.
7. Turn off Image Stabilization or Vibration Reduction. With some of the newer lenses, this is not an issue, but I still make it a practice to turn off IS or VR when the camera is on a tripod.
8. Switch to manual focus and follow the guidelines of where to focus that are on the "cheater card", or as mentioned, partway into the scene. Another possibility is to focus directly on the foreground, if it is an essential element of the image and sacrifice some softness in the distance.
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