As a beginner in landscape photography, many of you must have (or are still) been told that clicking landscape photos at f/22 will get you the best results in terms of sharpness. If you still believe so, at the end of this blog post you might think twice before using f/22 for landscape photography.
It is a myth that f/22 gives the maximum sharpness while clicking landscape photos. It is true that the higher the f-stop, the deeper will be the depth of field (more area in focus), but it is you who has to decide how you need to capture your frame. Are you willing to compromise on the depth of field in order to get sharp photo? Or your priority is to get deeper depth of field, without thinking much about the sharpness?
F/22 does not produce sharpest results
I have personally tested many lenses on different f-stops and have experienced that the lenses are capable of producing the sharpest images between f/8 – f/11, depending on the sweet spot of a particular lens. The time when I started clicking photos, I too believed that using the highers f-stop will let me capture sharpest results. It is now after years of experience that I have experienced that it is best to click landscape photos setting the f-stop at the sweet spot.
By shooting at f/22 you might achieve a deeper depth of field, but you will have to compromise on the sharpness of the image.
How to maintain a balance between depth of field and sharpness?
There are three factors affecting the depth of field: Focal length, Aperture f-stop and camera to subject distance. Talking about the focal length, in order to get deeper depth of field, you must use a wide angle lens.
To further maintain the deeper depth of field, the distance between the camera and the subject on which you will be focusing should be more. The closer the subject is to your camera, the shallower will be the depth of field. Similarly, the farther away the subject will be from the camera, the deeper will be the depth of field.
This way you would be able to get the desired depth of field and by using the f-stop between f/8 – f/11 you would be able to maximize the sharpness.
Other benefits of shooting at sweet spot f-stop
Clicking photos at sweet spot results in maximum centre-to-edge sharpness, which means that your image will be sharp throughout, from the center point to the edges. Whereas, if you click landscape photos at f/22 you will witness that the edges would be softer compared to the photos clicked at f-stop between f/8 – f/11.
By opening up the aperture (moving from f/22 to f/8 or f/11), you will be able to increase your shutter speed as well. So if you were clicking at f/22 using the shutter speed of 1/50 second, if you open up the aperture by two stops and use f/11 you will now be able to shoot at a shutter speed of 1/200 second (an increase of two stops) in order to correctly expose the photo. As you will be able to shoot at faster shutter speed, it means that there would be less camera shake.
It means one should never use f/22?
Ther can be two situations when we need to close the aperture opening and use high f-stop:
1. To decrease the shutter speed
There are situations when you have to keep the camera shutter open for a longer duration, then you might have to close the aperture opening which means you will have to use the highest f-stop available. For example, refer to the image placed below. I wanted to click a slow shutter photo in the
For example, refer to the image placed below. I wanted to click a slow shutter speed photo during the day-time and that can only be possible either by mounting the ND filter on the lens or by closing the opening of the aperture (increasing f-stop). I was not carrying the ND filter so I had to increase f-stop to f/22 to achieve slow shutter speed effect in this photo. (This is not a landscape photo, but used it just to explain the situation).
2. When the camera-to-subject distance is less and you need deeper depth of field
If you are clicking landscapes and want to keep a house, path or an animal as the main subject you will have to use the highest f-stop in order to get deeper depth of field and keep the maximum area in focus. In this situation, if you go with f/8 or f/11 you will get shallow depth of field and the results might not be as appealing as you would want. So it is better to compromise on sharpness rather than depth of field in such situations.
If you have any kind of questions after reading this blog post, feel free to ask in the comment below.