When you move towards the more professional end of photography, you want to have more complete control over what is happening with the camera.
And that means understanding all of the elements that can influence your shot.
So today I wanted to go over the perhaps least understood of these: the aperture.
What is an Aperture?
At it’s most basic, an aperture is just a hole. And a camera has one pointing towards the subject of the photo.
It is where all the light comes in and actually forms the photo itself.
So this hole has a large influence on what happens to the camera. And this hole, let’s call it the aperture now, is opened and closed when you take a picture.
That is then the shutter speed that affects exactly how much light comes through, when used in combination with the aperture.
Of course, the interplay of all settings on a camera is quite complex, and that is why I found this video which shows you how:
can all be changed to work in harmony together to create an awesome shot. Take a look at this video and you will come out the other end a lot wiser!
F Stops in an Aperture
Still thinking of the aperture as just s hole through which the light passes, you now might ask yourself what all this f-stop stuff is about.
That is the way in which aperture sizes are measured, and give us an accurate way of understanding how far open or closed the aperture is.
It is actually more confusing because the numbers are kind of backwards. A small aperture has a large f-stop number. And vice versa.
So with a standard 50mm lens, you might find a larger aperture which numbers ranging in the 1s or 2s.
Here is a great diagram displaying some common aperture settings as found in Wikipedia
Apertures and Depth of Field
Where this really starts to get interesting is in terms of depth of field.
You might have heard about this concept before, and even if you have not, I am sure you know about the effect.
Basically depth of field is the amount of the image that appears in focus.
As you know, depending on the type of effect you are going for and the type of photo you are shooting, this can come in very handy.
Let’s take a quick look at the two most common examples:
When shooting a landscape it is ideal to have the whole shot in focus. Although almost impossible, using depth of field we can achieve a great results.
Generally what you want to do is the following:
- Focus 1/3 into the shot
- Decrease the aperture (high f-stop number)
This combination usually gives you a very long depth of field and should ensure your landscape is in focus.
The opposite it more or less true for a portrait. Here you want very little in focus.
You have to be careful how close you are to the subject when making the determination, but generally you focus on the eyes and have a smaller depth of field (smaller f-stop number).
This gives that blurred background effect.
Of course the lens you are using, and the zoom have an effect on how much f-stop range you have. So this is something you have to play with.
So there you have it more or less in a nutshell. An aperture is just the hole that the light goes through, which you can control with a manual camera like a DSLR.
Then using this setting you can have a huge affect on the result of your photo.