Tuesday Tip: Aperture for Beginners
A couple weeks ago I did a post on ISO for Beginners and received some positive response. So, I decided to create another “for beginners” post around aperture. For most shoots I set my camera to aperture priority, because I enjoy adjusting the depth of field in my shots. Below is a brief technical summary of aperture and the best way (in my opinion) to grasp the concept: photos.
What Is Aperture?
According to Digital Photography School, aperture is ‘the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken.’ The larger the opening in your lens, the more light it lets in. The pupil in our eyes is a great real life example of aperture. When we’re in bright sunlight, our pupils are small because we don’t need a lot of light let into our eyes to see. The flip side is true when we’re in the dark; our pupils are larger because they are seeking light to allow us to see objects in the dark.
Digital cameras measure aperture in “f-stops.” For example, my 50MM lens has an f-stop of 1.8. Where many amateur photographers get confused is what these f-stop numbers mean. The larger the opening in the lens, the smaller the f-stop. So, a lens at an f1.8 has a much larger opening than a lens set to f22.
When Should I Adjust My Aperture?
Depth of field, as I mentioned above, is one of my favorite techniques to play with in my photos. Depth of field determines how much of your photo is in focus. Photos with a shallow depth of field (or a wide open aperture, such as f1.8) only have part of the image in focus while the rest of the image is blurred. Many photographers use this technique for flowers. A large depth of field (a closed aperture, such as f22) means most of the photo is in focus. Landscape photos are usually taken with a large depth of field to capture all of the detail both near and far away.
Below are some suggestions for when you might use shallow depth of field versus large depth of field.
- Portraits, especially when your subject is in a ‘busy’ setting
- Baby feet, hands, or eyes
- Food photography
How Do Aperture Settings Affect My Photos?
To illustrate aperture, I took a picture of a strawberry on my kitchen table. I put my DSLR on Aperture Priority mode, so all I had to do is adjust the f-stop settings accordingly. Remember, wide open apertures (such as f1.8) have a shallow depth of field where the subject is in focus and the background is not. Narrow apertures (such as f22) have a large depth of field with everything in focus.
Aperture setting: f1.8