Getting images pin sharp from the front of the image all the way to the back can be a very difficult thing to do before trying out a few different techniques, and something that most photographers will strive to achieve, especially landscape photographers. When printing that stunning photograph you took on your last trip, and suddenly realizing that the rocks in the foreground or the mountains in the background are not sharp will be a heart-sinking moment. It is for this reason that I wanted to start writing these photographic techniques and tips blogs to help others achieve the most out of their photography.
First and foremost you will need to be using a small aperture such as f8 or f11. This won’t ensure that your entire image is sharp, but will at least allow for most of your framed image to be in focus. However, as a smaller aperture results in a slower shutter speed (smaller hole for light to pass through), you will need to make use of a tripod to ensure that no small movement will negatively effect the quality of your image, and to not need to unnecessarily increase your ISO. Using a trigger or a 2 second timer will also greatly help to remove any possibilities of camera shake from you pressing the shutter.
Once you are setup, there are a number of techniques that can be used to ensure that your entire image is sharp, some of which require a lot more preparation and technicality compared to others. Hyperfocal distance is one of those techniques that require some more foot work, and is essentially the distance at which you need to focus your lens to ensure that everything from half of the hyperfocal distance, to infinity beyond that distance, will be considered reasonably sharp. There are formulas and apps that can be used to calculate your hyperfocal distance, and will vary between lenses as well as aperture values.
Another, simpler way of achieving a sharp image is to use the focus to infinity technique. This technique is as the name suggests, to focus your lens to the furthest point in your image and in this way you will be able to achieve a sharp image all the way from the front to the back. Now, you can just simply look through your viewfinder and leave your lens on auto focus, point towards the furthest mountain/tree/building etc and allow the camera to focus, but I don’t believe that this will always achieve the best focus. The safest way to achieve this would be to switch your camera to live view mode and to use the magnifier as shown below. Switching your lens to manual focus will then allow you to more accurately fine tune your focusing to the furthest point until sharp. Using the magnifier will ensure that you can get as close as possible to that infinity point, without actually changing your zoom distance. Zooming into the furthest point to achieve this goal more easily and focusing to infinity, and then zooming back out for your composition will change your focal point and therefore should NOT be done in this manner.

As shown above, on the back of your camera, press the ‘START/STOP’ button while the camera is in photo mode (switch upright). This will activate the live view mode whereby you can see on the LCD screen what you would see through the view finder. Once you have this view you can press the magnification button on the left hand side of the back of your camera. This preview is of the Canon 7D mkii and may vary depending on the make and model of camera you use.

Doing so will allow you to zoom in on your frame without having to zoom your lens and alter your focal point. Pressing this button more than once will allow you to zoom even further. Once you are zoomed in on your furthest subject, you can use manual focusing on your lens to ensure that that furthest point is in focus. you can then press the magnification button again to zoom back out, or exit live view mode and take your image to review. Below are a couple of landscape photographs that I had taken in this manner.

Thanks for reading!

Regards,

Carel