Not sure how relevant my question is, but I am a bit confused as where to focus in landscape photography.

I have a D90 with Matrix mode, so when I try to take a photograph (say a house in the valley), many suggest that I should put focus on the house and then check if everything is sharp, but I have following questions:

  1. Since I am on f/16, everything seems to be sharp to me.
  2. When someone suggested to focus on some specific section (e.g., 6 feet away) what does that mean? Should I make sure that the center red square visible in my viewfinder should point to that object?
  3. Is it ok to switch to live view and zoom to check if things are in focus (not blurred, as many of my photos seems to be a bit blurred)?

I have some additional questions but I will hold them as I am not sure if above questions make any sense or I am missing some fundamentals all together.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ "Since I am on f/16": do you really need such narrow aperture? At f/16, you start really losing sharpness... probably why you see a lot of your pictures a bit blurred. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 15:04
  • \$\begingroup\$ Part of the answer is going to depend on your focal length. If you're really wide, you'll have a large depth of field, and you can choose the point of focus to get as much of the scene as possible into focus. But if it's a long lens, you may need to focus specifically on the subject. BTW, in my opinion the question of focus and depth of field should be what determines your aperture, not the other way around. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ Zooming while in LiveView on the D90 is like a digital zoom, making it quite difficult to judge subtle variations in focus. \$\endgroup\$
    – D. Jurcau
    Commented Aug 17, 2016 at 10:48

1 Answer 1


"Focus"... can mean several things...

  • "Focus the lens" so your image, or at least, your point of interest, is sharp or not.

  • "Expose for the highlights, or the shadows", focus on one. This is a more perceptual meaning. Do you have incredible clouds? You do not want to miss them, expose for the highlights. Do you have a beautiful forest with sunlight passing by? Probably you should focus on the shadows.

  • What is your point of interest? "Focus on that" and I do not mean center it or focus the lens... I mean compose around it. Take a look at this question: My attention gets repeatedly distracted by the elements needed for the context in this picture. Where am I going wrong?

So In my opinion Focus is a multidimensional concept, and think about it as such. Distance (Z axis) Composition (X and Y axis) Time...

Now some concepts you have a little wrong.

Matrix mode

This is simply a mode of the camera to evaluate the relationship between bright and dark areas. This is for exposure.

if everything is sharp

This does not have a direct relation with the previous. Sharp means either in focus or not blurred with for example a vibration of the camera... motion blur.

f/16, everything seems to be sharp to me.

This relates to Depth of Field. Study that concept. There is an additional thing here. Try to use a little wider f stop, like 8 or 11. In some lenses you can experiment some diffraction on smaller apertures.

focus on some specific section (e.g., 6 feet away) what does that mean?

This is confusing... If you HAVE something at 6 feet away, like a branch probably has sense.

Is it ok to switch to live view and zoom to check if things are in focus (not blurred, as many of my photos seems to be a bit blurred)?

Yes and no. It is ok if you are using a tripod, and your situation is not changing. But it is slow.

There is a chance your photos are blurred because the lens quality, smudges, or vibration (motion blur) or simply you missed the focus, because you choose the wrong focus point. Sometimes the lens should be calibrated.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Whoa !!!! You totally confused me ..... Just kidding \$\endgroup\$
    – Janardan S
    Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 14:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks!! this explains a lot to me, might come up with some follow up question, but first need to understand it correctly :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 16, 2016 at 20:04

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