This tutorial was written by my co-host, Beth from Manic Mother.
What is aperture?
Aperture is the hole inside of your lens that lets light in. Different lenses have different apertures. A lens of f/1.4 will have a large hole where as a lens of f/4.5 will have a smaller hole.
Aperture is measured in something called “f stops”. Lets say you have a lens that has a maximum aperture of f/1.8. When you set the aperture to f/1.8, the hole in your lens will be at its largest, and will allow the most light in (this is called “shooting wide open”). Now lets say you switch the aperture to f/22 – that same hole will become much smaller and allow in less light.
So the smaller the f stop number, the larger the hole in your lens becomes, and vice versa.
Which aperture to use?
There are a few things to consider when choosing an aperture. First of all, you want to look your available lighting. If you are shooting pictures indoors where lighting is limited (and you aren’t using a flash) you will want to choose a large aperture (small number). I often shoot at f/2.8 (the largest aperture I have available on my favorite lens) when inside, or the largest aperture the lens I’m using has. Remember, the larger the aperture the more light you are letting in.
If you are outdoors or in a well lit area, you can vary your aperture for different effects. When you make adjustments to your aperture you are also going to effecting the depth of field in your picture. The best way to illustrate this is with examples. We will be explaining depth of field in greater detail in a future Bloggography tutorial.
A large aperture will give your picture a shallow depth of field. Meaning that only what you focused your lens on will be in focus and the area around it will be blurry. Like this:
Shot at f/2.8
The smaller you make your aperture, the more of your picture comes into focus. Like this:
Shot at f/7.1
Even smaller, and even more is in focus. Like this:
Shot at f/11
A little tip from Lolli:
I like to picture aperture in terms of eyes.
Open your eyes as wide as they will go. Lots of light comes in, but not much is in focus.
Squint your eyes, and less light comes in, but more of your field of vision is in focus.
Where is my aperture?
On a Canon dSLR, you’d set your mode dial to Aperture priority mode (Av). The aperture value can be adjusted with the dial (usually located right behind the shutter button). In this photo, my aperture is set to f/2.8.
If you cannot adjust your camera’s aperture, using the Portrait mode (which automatically sets a high aperture) will give you the blurred background effect that is so often sought after.
To see how the mode dial will look on a Nikon, visit Manic Mother.
Things to remember/know about aperture:
- the smaller the f stop number the larger your aperture is.
- when shooting in low light choose the largest aperture available.
- shooting with a large aperture may only put part of what you are trying to focus on, in focus. For instance, a nose will be in focus, but the eyes won’t. Check your shots, and adjust your aperture accordingly. This is especially important when taking larger group shots. It really stinks when Aunt Maggie is in focus but cousin Fred is blurry because the aperture was too large.
- Av mode is a great mode to shoot pictures of children in. I almost always take pictures of kids in this mode. It is easy to switch apertures quickly, versus manually adjusting everything in manual mode.
Use your camera’s aperture priority mode to experiment with different apertures. Take a picture with a large aperture, and try taking the same picture with a small aperture.
Need inspiration? Since February is the month of love, try finding something pink or red to take a picture of.
Come back next Tuesday to link up and share your example of aperture.
If you have more questions about aperture, or even your camera, please feel free to ask any questions in the comments. They will all be answered!
© 2010, Lolli. All rights reserved.