Hyperfocal Distance: 5 Popular Myths Debunked

When we talk about hyperfocal distance with our students, we sometimes get a skeptical look or two… and we can understand why. After all, it is a difficult concept to understand. Over the years, it has moved into a theoretical realm. People often talk about it but they seldom use in practice. Here are a few myths that may be responsible for creating that perception.

Myth #1: It is difficult to use in the field

When you think about hyperfocal distance, what do you envision? The first thing to comes to my mind is complex math with several variables. Most photographers are under the impression that it takes time to run through calculations and set up your camera. They often believe that, if they do try to use it, they may miss that gorgeous sunset or sunrise as the light is quickly changing.

  • Example of landscape photo captured with focusing at Hyperfocal Distance in Oregon

    Metlako Falls, Oregon

  • Example of landscape photo captured with focusing at Hyperfocal Distance in Death Valley National Park, California

    Death Valley National Park, California

Nothing can be further from the truth. We use Hyperfocal Distance to setup our camera’s focus regularly. How? By using a simple four-step workflow that takes less then a minute and allows you to capture gorgeous photos like the one you see in this article.

Myth #2: You need an app to use it

An App (or a hyperfocal distance table) is invaluable when you first start to learn about hyperfocal distance. With our Hyperfocal Distance Course, we provide our students with a simple hyperfocal distance chart. However, it is not always ideal to use the app or chart. Our workflow involves memorizing hyperfocal distance for 3-4 focal lengths and using that knowledge to set up camera’s focus to get sharp photos.

Example of landscape photo captured with focus set at hyperfocal distance in Banff National Park

Focal Length: 21mm  – Moraine Lake, Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada

For example, the above image that was shot at 21 mm, using the hyperfocal distance of 24 mm that I had memorized. Why does this work? Because the acceptably sharp limits for a 24mm is a subset of 21mm focal length.

Myth #3: Hyperfocal distance is different for full-frame and crop body cameras

Most apps recommend that you use different circle of confusion (COC) parameters  for full-frame and crop body cameras to account for the different pixel sizes. This creates a different hyperfocal distances because the COC for crop body is typically smaller then that of a full frame body. However, it is important to remember that the COC simply defines the acceptable sharpness; there is no reason to NOT use a COC for a crop body camera on a full-frame camera. Using the smaller COC of a crop body on a full-frame camera yields sharper photos and simplifies your workflow.

Jokulsarlon, Iceland

Sunrize at Jokulsarlon, Iceland

Myth #4: You need precise distance measurement for hyperfocal distance

Accurate distance measurements do help with your hyperfocal distance workflow, but a distance measuring tool is not necessary. By conservatively estimating distances, you can easily come up with a sharp photos. Our Hyperfocal Distance Course provides you with a 10-page Advance Workflow Insights PDF that shows you why conservative distance estimates work.

Windy Day in the Cloud Forest, Mombacho, Nicaragua

Windy Day in the Cloud Forest, Mombacho, Nicaragua

Myth #5: Correct use of hyperfocal distance guarantees sharp photos

It is true that hyperfocal distance allows you to precisely set your focus so that everything in between half the hyperfocal distance and infinity is acceptably sharp. However, sharpness does not depend on focus alone. Camera motion, subject motion by wind, quality of your lens, weather and other factors can greatly impact the sharpness of your photo. If you are trying to use hyperfocal distance in a forest on a windy day, the trees that are affected by the wind may appear blurry.

Now that we have debunked these popular myths about hyperfocal distance, are you ready to add it into your arsenal? Our Hyperfocal Distance course shows you how we use this powerful concept in practice and come away with sharp photos every time. We share our simple workflow, give you practical tips, and show you how we use this powerful concept in real world situations.

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About Author Jay Patel

I could startoff like this – “Seeds of Jay Patel’s appreciation for beautiful places were planted early in his childhood….” but it would get boring really fast. I will just sum it up and say that I am a Landscape and Wilderness Photographer who loves to capture dramatic light. My photographs have been published in various magazines, calendars and advertising materials throughout the world.
Patience is a virtue...unless you are chasing your dreams