Using Hyperfocus at Walt Disney World

Photographic Innoventions by Scott Thomas

This is the first of three blogs about subjects being taught at the Focus on Epcot Photowalk held on Monday, February 9, 2015. Click the link for more information.

If you look at any travel magazines or websites, you will notice many of the photos showing such exotic places as tropical beaches, snowy mountain peaks or colorful cities are in focus over the entire image. I refer to it as getting everything in focus from the front (bottom) to the back (top). To get such photos, photographers employ the technique of Hyperfocal Distance or Hyperfocus. I tend to use the latter name as I think it is cooler.

If you read up on Hyperfocus, you will come across charts full of numbers and diagrams. If you are into Landscape Photography, I encourage you to learn how to use those tools. For the purpose of photographing while visiting a Disney themepark, I much prefer a simpler way.

A Friendship boat leaves the Swan/Dolphin Resorts dock, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
A Friendship boat leaves the Swan/Dolphin Resorts dock.
Nikon D700/28-300VR, 1/125s, f/16, ISO 200, EV 0, 28mm focal length.

By setting the aperture to f/16 or smaller, focusing on an object about one-third (1/3) into the lower part of the frame when looking through the camera’s viewfinder, you will get everything in front of the object AND behind it in focus. It many not look like it through the viewfinder but will once you review the photo on the camera’s LCD screen. That is what I did in the photo above of the Friendship boat leaving the dock in front of the Dolphin Resort at Walt Disney World. I focused on the front windshield of the boat which is approximately one third into the frame.

Besides landscapes, another good use of hyperfocus at a Disney themepark or any tourist location, is photographing people in front of an interesting background. I know until I learned how to use hyperfocus, I had many photos of people in focus posing in front of Cinderella Castle or Spaceship Earth while the park icons behind them were not.

People in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World, Orlando, Florida
Guests in front of Cinderella Castle at the Magic Kingdom.
Nikon D700/24-120VR, 1/80s, f/18, ISO 200, EV 0, 24mm focal length.

By placing the people’s faces about one third into the frame and setting the aperture to f/18, I have them and Cinderella Castle in sharp focus. When I am looking to use Hyperfocus, I switch my camera to Aperture Priority Mode and select a small aperture. The camera will then select the shutter speed and ISO to use. Be careful of the shutter speed, if it gets to slow, you may need to use a tripod or Da Grip to hold your camera steady.

Here are more blog posts about Hyperfocus:

How to Create Travel Magazine Photos at Walt Disney World


You can practice using hyperfocus at home by placing objects in the foreground with an interesting background. Review the photos on a computer screen to check the results.

Scott's "Photographic Innoventions" blog focuses on intermediate to advanced photography concepts and techniques relevant for Point and Shoot and Digital SLR cameras.

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3 Replies to “Using Hyperfocus at Walt Disney World”

  1. Scott: Is there much of a difference in using the aperture setting to control the depth of field vs using the landscape setting? I always thought the landscape setting would provide the smallest aperture with the fastest shutter speed and ISO.

    Scott replies: You are correct and it is something I will be covering at the photowalk BUT makers of cameras tend to be conservative in their settings. Plus, you still need to know where or what to focus on.

  2. This is great info, very interesting….Thank you very much. Seems I needed a reminder, I have not been shooting much lately, and this seems to have been in the cob webs of my memory!!!

    I love the 1/3 into picture rule, don’t think I ever realized that part!!! 😉

    Thanks again for your help in making great photos!!!

    Scott replies: Your welcome! Glad I could sweep away some of the cobwebs. 😉

  3. Great tips – I love this technique, but I would suggest you also consider using a flash – even in the sunlight – to avoid camera shake due to shutter speed slowdown while in aperture priority mode. Using the flash allows me to reduce the ISO speed for a less grainy image, while avoiding shadows of subjects in the foreground. Also, be very aware of the position of the sun in relation to the background, as the hyperfocus of the background will also make any reflected sunlight seem far more overpowering than it sometimes appears while the background is slightly out of focus.

    Scott replies: Fill flash is always a good thing, especially in bright Florida Sun. Great tips, John!