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When I am shooting landscapes. Where(at what point) should I focus when using Auto Focus. AF-S. Or if I am shooting lit up Skyline of the city. What should be my focus point. The reason I ask is that in AF-S I have one small focust point but if I am shooting the entire Skyline wouldnt it throw the rest out of focus. Or should I change to Manual Focus?.

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Michael made brief mention of it in his very solid answer, but in many cases, if the landscape is sufficiently distant, then it will be beyond the hyperfocal distance (thus focused at infinity) and everything past that distance will be in focus. –  AJ Henderson Nov 11 '13 at 14:34
Thanks AJ.. Much appreciated –  Sankalp Nov 11 '13 at 22:29
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1 Answer

Normally when shooting landscapes it is best to mount the camera on a tripod for a variety of reasons. One of the benefits of doing so is that if your camera s capable of magnifying a Live View image you can focus manually on a central point and then spot check around the frame to check how well other elements in the composition are focused. Of course to get a true idea how focused other areas are you need to stop the lens down to the same aperture that will be used to take the photo.

Exactly were to focus, whether manually or using auto focus, depends on several variables.

  • What aperture is selected? The aperture of the lens will affect the depth of field (DoF).
  • How much light is available? Will that allow the aperture you desire? The advantage of a tripod here is quite clear. Assuming the subject is static, a narrower aperture can be used even if the resulting shutter speed needed is slower than practical for a handheld photo.
  • What is the intended viewing size of the final image? This will also affect the perceived DoF.
  • What is the nearest point that you desire to be perceived as in focus by the viewer of the final image? What is the most distant point?

Once you've answered these questions you can use a Depth of Field Calculator such as DoF Master, to compute the focus distance and aperture needed to include all of the elements you need to be in focus within the DoF. In general the best point to focus on for landscape photos is the hyperfocal distance.

Please note that the calculations are based on the assumption of an 8"x10" print viewed from a distance of 10" by a person with 20/20 vision. If you intend to create a 20"x16" print and it is viewed at the same 10" distance, the perceived DoF of the same digital file or negative will be narrower. The dropdown menu of various camera models also include a list of commonly used Circles of Confusion at the end. To determine what CoC you need to use for a given print size, see this answer. If you are using a cropped sensor camera, multiply the result of diagonal of the print in by the cameras conversion factor (1.5x for Nikon APs-C cameras, 1.6x for Canon APS-C cameras). For more about the relation of infinity focus, hyperfocal distance, and the CoC, see this answer.

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Thanks Michael for such detailed explanation. It will take me sometime to understand this now. :) –  Sankalp Nov 11 '13 at 22:32
You mentioned in the initial para about focusing at the centre and spot check around the frame. How do you do that? –  Sankalp Nov 11 '13 at 22:33
It would depend on your camera model. You haven't revealed that information to us. –  Michael Clark Nov 11 '13 at 22:37
It is Nikon d7000 –  Sankalp Nov 11 '13 at 22:41
Set the focus mode selector switch to Manual and then please see page 55 of your D7000 User's Manual. nikonusa.com/pdf/manuals/noprint/D7000_ENnoprint.pdf –  Michael Clark Nov 11 '13 at 23:01
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