Back to Basics – Aperture

July 9, 2010 · 15 comments

in Featured,Tutorials

Aperture is the adjustable iris in your lens, made from thin metal blades that move together to form a circular opening, which varies in size. This opening controls how much light enters the camera.

Aperture is measured in f/stops, for example f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22 and so on. Moving from one f/stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the opening, as well as the amount of light entering your lens.

Photographers refer to the adjustment of this opening as “opening up” and “stopping down”, this simply means, making the size of the hole bigger or smaller.

The most important thing to remember about aperture is that a large aperture (represented by a small f/number) produces shallow depth of field, while a small aperture (represented by a big f/number) creates a large depth of field with much more of the image in sharp focus.

Let me explain this a little more in detail…

A large aperture (small f/number) allows more light to reach the sensor, allowing you to chose a faster shutter speed. Using a large aperture is especially useful when shooting in low light conditions, or when photographing fast moment. Opening your aperture means you have a better chance of freezing action.

A small aperture (big f/number) allows less light to reach the sensor, meaning you can choose a slower shutter speed. A small aperture also increases the Depth of Field, resulting in much crisper, sharper images, especially with long distance shots such as landscapes.

Depth of Field

By adjusting the aperture, we control the amount of Depth of Field (DoF) in the photo.

Depth of Field is the amount of the photo that is in focus. A large Depth of Field means that most of your image is in focus, while shallow Depth of Field means that only part of your image is in focus, and the rest is blurry or fuzzy.

Shallow Depth of Field

To create a blurry background, chose the smallest f/number possible, zoom in, get close to your subject, and create as much distance between yourself and the background as possible.

Large Depth of Field

On the other extreme, to create a large Depth of Field that is as sharp as possible, chose the biggest f/number practical, stand back from your subject, and zoom out.

Stay tuned for the next lesson on ISO and the Exposure Triangle…

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

L'Zeri Swart July 16, 2010 at 2:21 pm

Me and hubby have this camera… still struggling to use it to its full potential… thanks for all the small tips…they make a huge difference!!!

rikki hibbert July 16, 2010 at 2:36 pm

Thanks L’zeri! Aperture is one of the settings you can be most creative with. Play around with it, let me know if you need any tips. x

malcolm July 18, 2010 at 9:35 am

HI,your web site is so simple to understand and the explantions are great for the semi educated.
Ihave been hobby shootist for 5 years with a Nikon D80 before that a Fuji which was much better at reading picture representation and colour. Will be at one of your courses.
cheers malcolm

rikki hibbert July 21, 2010 at 5:52 pm

Hi Malcolm, thanks for your feedback, much appreciated! I have only presented course so far, but I also offer individual sessions if you’re interested. Take care and happy shooting ;-)

Tanya Retief August 4, 2010 at 12:17 pm

Oooh, so glad I found this! After numerous web tutorials I finally get this… One owuld think I’m a complete eejit, but this bamboozled me. Great blog and AWESOME photo-art.

rikki hibbert August 4, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Thanks Tanya! Aperture is in my opinion, THE most important control on a camera to master.

Christine Dykes December 17, 2010 at 2:40 am

I read this one and the shutterspeed blog, and they were both exceptionally helpful. I am in the middle of a project using both these mechanics right now, and as much as I love my teacher, this explained it sooooo much better, so thank you

rikki hibbert December 17, 2010 at 8:35 am

Hi Christine, I’m so glad the info helped! Let me know if there are any other topics you’d like to read about and I will add that to my blog.

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