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Tips & Tutorials >> All Tips & Tutorials Part 8

f/11: The Ideal Aperture for Sharp Depictions of Natural Landscapes with Depth

When photographing grand natural landscapes, you will usually want to ensure that at the very least, fine details are well captured and light/shadow contrasts are adequately depicted. Professional photographers will often recommend an aperture setting of f/11 for such scenes, as it brings out the subject in a sharp and very powerful manner—especially effective for natural landscapes that extend far into the distance. (Reported by: Teppei Kohno)

Mountains

f/11/ 1/160 sec/ ISO 400

 

Scenes that extend far into the background require a larger depth-of-field

If a scene is relatively flat, even if it is far away from you, you can take a sharp image of it even if you use a wide aperture.

However, if the scene is more layered and the background is further away, such as scenery at the foot of a mountain, or flowing streams with mountains in the background, a wide aperture results in a depth-of-field that is too shallow. As a result, some parts of the scene will be out-of-focus, which can cause your image to look less sharp.

To get everything in focus, you will need to narrow your aperture and use a technique called "deep focus". Most professional photographers will recommend using f/11 as a rule-of-thumb. This should effectively ensure that the elements from the middle ground to the background of your image remain in focus. 


f/11
Mountain behind stream

f/11/ 1/400 sec/ ISO 400

The image is clear and in focus, from the rocks in the foreground to the peak in the background.

f/4
Stream in front of mountains

f/4/ 1/4000 sec/ ISO 400

The rocks appear blurred when magnified (see below). The shot seems to lack something.


Closeup of rocks

f/4
Close-up of rocks in stream (soft)

f/11
Close-up of rocks in stream (sharp)


Tips

- In Aperture-priority AE mode, using such a narrow aperture setting in low light conditions may cause shutter speed to slow down
In order to prevent camera shake, increase the ISO speed so that the shutter speed does not slow down. Use a tripod if possible.

- Use composition technique that helps to bring out depth
For some ideas, check out Compositions Exuding a Sense of Dimensionality and Depth and Tips for Capturing Impressive Landscapes.

 

Bonus technique: Use WB "Daylight" for evening scenes

Capture the colours of the evening sky with the white balance set to "Daylight". This emphasises the yellowness of the sun while creating a dramatic finish to the picture.

For more about using white balance, check out this article:
White Balance Basics to Achieve Your Desired Colour Tone

WB "Auto"
Blue-toned sunset
Photo-finishing with the yellow tones suppressed. The blue tone is slightly strong.

WB "Daylight"
Warm-toned sunset
The reddish sky appears warmer.

 

You can also adjust your Picture Style parameters to bring out even more details. Find out more at:
Picture Style Techniques to Level Up Your Landscape Photography

Not sure how to change your aperture settings? Click here for step-by-step instructions.


To deep focus in scenes where you not only have a faraway background, but also something close to you in the foreground, see:
f/16: Achieving Sharp Depictions of Landscapes from Foreground to Background

 

 


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Teppei Kohno

Teppei Kohno

Born in Tokyo in 1976, Kohno graduated with a Social Work degree from the Department of Sociology of Meiji Gakuin University, and apprenticed with photographer Masato Terauchi. He contributed to the first issue of photography magazine PHaT PHOTO and became an independent photographer after that, in 2003. The author of many books, Kohno not only shoots all sorts of commercial photographs, but also writes prolifically for camera and other magazines.

http://fantastic-teppy.chips.jp