Thom Hogan on Hyperfocal Distances

Hype About Hyperfocal:

I wrote earlier that I don’t really use hyperfocal distances. Why did I state that? Hyperfocal focus done right looks wrong. It’s an artificial construct promulgated by us photo writers who ran out of things to write about and started inventing things that seem useful but really aren’t.

Our brains don’t do “hyperfocal.” Indeed, a critical depth cue our brain uses is that detail = near, lack of detail = far. See the individual whiskers on a face? The lion is too near. Can’t tell if that bump on the horizon is a lion? The lion is an acceptable distance away (though he might be able to recognize you).

Yep. The photos I keep coming back to are the ones that just work naturally. Some photography conventions – subject in focus with background out of focus, converging lines going into the distances, even fisheye effects – work because that’s how we perceive the world when we’re not thinking about it.

Natalie and Katie, St. Andrews State Park, Panama City Beach

I love this photo because the depth cues work so well. The converging lines of the boardwalk, the diminishing sharpness the further you go into the photo, the light near the front and the dark areas at the back all make your eyes perceive a third dimension in a flat picture.

2 Responses to Thom Hogan on Hyperfocal Distances

  1. Pingback: “Don’t Be Ugly By Accident” Can Teach You About Photography | Les Jones

  2. Chris Range says:

    One of my favorite artists James Bama said that once you had conquered the basics of perspective, color and so forth that a nice illustration came down to edges and focus. The stuff in the front is sharp and the stuff in the back is fuzzy.