Explaining the “Double the Distance” Method

One of the most difficult aspects of landscape photography, as well as other genres like architecture and architecture, is making sure the subjects closest to you and further away are as clear as is possible. We’ve previously written about some methods to increase the sharpness of your front and back so I figured it was worthwhile to highlight an of them as the one most essential methods that is The “double the distance” method. This is the procedure.

What Is the Double the Distance Method?

Double the distance is a method to increase the depth of field of a photo by focusing on the right distance within a scene. The aim is to balance the image’s background and foreground sharpness.

It’s a fairly simple technique that can be applied on the spot. Start by looking at the nearest object in your image and determine how far it is (specifically from the camera’s plane sensor. I’ll discuss in a minute). Then, focus the distance twice as long.

Therefore, if the closest thing in your photo is grassy patch in the middle of the frame, ask yourself how far it is. If it is just one meters far away, the only thing you have to do is concentrate on something that can be seen from two metres away.

It is possible to estimate distances but they don’t have to be exact. It isn’t necessary to utilize meters, feet or any other form of measurement. If you find it easier, visually increase the distance. It is possible to stroll into this scene, and keep track of your pace for the same results.

Double the Distance Method

If you do it correctly, you’ll be able to capture photos with equal clarity between the grass in the foreground and the horizon that is far away.

I’ll stress the fact that equally sharpness is your objective when you employ this method. It’s not possible to achieve absolute, sharpness in the grass, since you’re not paying attention to it. Similar to this, you’ll also not get flawless sharpness at the Horizon. However, the sharpness of the horizon (infinity) sharpness as well as the sharpness of the rock (foreground) Sharpness are equally sharp, and neither is sharper than the other. This will increase the overall sharpness from front to back of your photograph.

However, it’s not always the case. If you have a single main image subject like someone standing within the scenery, you should pay attention to the person. This is also true for shooting starry night skies, when you’ll probably want the most sharp possible stars, even at the cost of the surrounding landscape. Sometimes, the highest level of clarity is greater than front-to back detail.

However, if you don’t wish to place a high value on sharpness in your photo, and instead, you want the best definition across the image, then focus at two times the distance.

Check out the photo below. This time, I focused on the bottom of the ice in the foreground because it was twice the distance from the closest object in my photograph:

Landscape Photo Focused at Double the Distance
NIKON D800E + TAMRON SP 15-30mm F2.8 Di VC USD A012N @ 30mm, ISO 100, 1/80, f/11.0

Consider the following croppings from the background and foreground of the image (click to see the full size). Be aware that these aren’t 100% crops. I didn’t concentrate on specific regions, therefore the sharpness may not be perfect. However, the most important thing to note is that the sharpness is the same in both the background and foreground:

Foreground Sharpness

Sharpness of the foreground (brightened to allow it to be easier to read). Notice the clarity on the bubbles, in particular. not perfect but usable.

Background Sharpness

And it is clear that, as you observe, the sharpness of the background is similar to the sharpness of the foreground. It is impossible to get both sharp simultaneously in one image however you can get both at the same level to maximize front-to-back detail.

Putting It Into Practice

It’s fairly easy to apply this method of double distance. It is not necessary to take an instrument in the field to do any of this with absolute precision but even simple estimates will give the results you’re looking for. But, there are some things you must consider.

For a start, the initial distance that you double is measured from the camera’s plane sensor to the subject. It is possible to simplify this definition in many instances by simply referring to how far horizontally your camera is from your subject. Also, a little ambiguity here isn’t too significant. If you’re off a bit but you won’t see it on your pictures.

Keep in mind that the camera’s sensor sways as you tilt your camera. Therefore, angling sharply your camera can affect the distance you will double. In most cases, the effect is small enough to not matter however, tilting at extreme angles could make a difference.

Tilting the Camera

If you don’t tilt your camera to an unnatural angle, then the best method to put this technique into practice is to determine what distance the subject is horizontally, from the camera. You could trace an imaginary line between your camera and the ground and measure from there to the closest subject (that’s my method often). There is no need to be concerned about more complicated visualization if the camera is tilted in a significant way.

Which Aperture Should You Use?

Now, your closest object and infinity are both equally sharp. That’s great – but it’s only the beginning. In the end, you could have a blurry foreground as well as a very blurry backgrounds that are technically “equal” in quality. The photo won’t be as sharp overall.

Once you’ve got the background and foreground equally sharp, it’s slightly more challenging to ensure that they’re perfectly sharp. In order to achieve this it is necessary to choose an aperture that is perfect, and balances out any aberrations (i.e. blurry lenses) depth of field as well as the diffraction. This isn’t an easy task even though we’ve discussed mathematically the way to accomplish this in the past, for those who want a more detailed appearance.

But, if you don’t wish to do this using charting depth of field (most photographers do not) here’s a simple guideline:

  • For landscapes that are distant and infinity, choose aperture of f/8 or the lens’s largest measured aperture.
  • To capture landscapes using an expansive lens and greater emphasis on a background choose f/11.
  • For scenes with a close foreground or if your lens has a zoom make sure to use f/16.
  • For those landscapes that require f/16, or even f/5.6 doesn’t suffice, focus stack multiple images instead.

The guideline doesn’t provide a mathematically exact answer however it can make your photos clear enough for the majority of uses.

In reality, even when you’re an f-stop below the optimal setting resolution, you’ll lose only 10 percent from the resolution theoretically for the objects closest to you and further away ( according to calculations by George Duovos). It’s not the ideal situation however it shouldn’t degrade the quality of a photograph. If it’s a problem then you can look over the more complicated method of mathematical accuracy we’ve discussed before.

In conjunction together with double distance technique selecting the best aperture will maximize the sharpness of your front and back and therefore it’s worth investing into practice this technique, even the simpler version mentioned above. Learn it if you need to. You’ll be grateful that you did!

Hyperfocal Distance Landscape Photo
NIKON D800E + 14-24mm f/2.8 @ 14mm, ISO 200, 1/50, f/16.0,Focused on a flower twice as far as the nearest one


As of now, I’ve assumed that the furthest point in your photograph is infinity. This is a reasonable assumption for numerous landscapes, but it’s not always the case. For instance when it’s a particularly dark day, the smallest object in a photograph could not be distant at all. Particularly when using an telephoto lens The difference could be significant enough to cause it is possible that the “infinity assumption” could be a hindrance to getting the sharpest image possible.

It’s also true for architectural settings, which could include a foreground that is close, however, the most distant object is a wall that is 5-10 meters away. In this case, too you’ll be missing out on the foreground’s definition while making infinity sharpness a part of your priorities.

What’s the answer? It is possible to determine the mathematically most precise distance to focus – and you don’t have to alter the equations that are at the heart of it however it is not feasible to do this when in field. Instead, I would suggest focussing “a little” further than the distance. It’s not an accurate way to describe it. There’s a lot of experimentation, as well as the experience of knowing the right distance to concentrate. We’re already discussing “last one percent” gains, so a little of a mistake here will not hurt you.

Another reason to consider this is if the lens you are using has a high degree in the curvature of your field. In that instance the sharpest plane of focus might be more of the sombrero with sharpest focus or even a the hemisphere. Many people aren’t aware that their lens has a very large field curvature. If this is the case don’t be concerned about it because the results won’t be significantly worse in the majority of situations; the chances are you’ll get a little more sharper foreground but at the expense of background sharpness. However, it’s not often enough to be able to tell that all else being all else being equal.

If, however, you are certain that your lens is having lots of curvature in the field and you’ve got an adequate mental picture of the shape of the lens’s curvature, consider it in addition. Simply imagine your sensor’s area of focalization as an hemisphere in the focus area, and then increase the distance the center of that instead. This requires some good visual skills, but. The simplest method is to focus more into the surrounding landscape than you normally would.

Double the Distance Example Photo
At a distance that is double that from the dust that is in the foreground NIKON Z 7 + 20mm f/1.8 @ 20mm, ISO 400, 30/1, f/5.6


When I first began using the double the distance technique it became apparent that was focused too far away in the majority of my landscape shots prior to. This technique helped me become conscious of the tiny details that creep through the edges of photos and quite close to my lens which I might have missed previously.

What did it mean? My photos became sharper overall. I also gained an exact understanding of my camera’s capabilities. Certain lenses I considered to be poor on the edges turned out be very good. The corners were simply off-focus more frequently than I expected. You might see the same thing results, but you’ll end up with pictures that have more details from the front to the back.

Although it isn’t the most crucial aspect of photography for landscapes an image that is sharp and clear can be a huge difference in some photographs and prints that are large. The double distance technique is only one piece of the puzzle, but it’s an essential one, especially when working with the extremes (landscapes with objects that are very close or telephoto lenses that have an inherently smaller the depth of field). I hope this article has given you an idea of when and how you can apply it correctly.