Aperture 101 #Photography

If you are ready to break out of auto on your DSLR camera, join me as I learn the DSLR Camera photography basics! What are we learning this week’s DSLR Camera tutorial? Aperture!

setting aperture tutorial

What is Aperture?

The camera aperture is an opening in the camera lens that lets light through, and on a DSLR camera the aperture size can be changed by the photographer. A larger camera aperture has a smaller f-stop number (such as 1.4, 1.8, 2.8), and the bigger opening lets in a great deal more light. Large f-stop numbers (such as 8, 16, etc) have a smaller aperture and let in much less light, as seen in the chart below. The aperture is important, because it effects the “depth of field” in your photos.

aperture f stop chart

Aperture Setting Tutorial

When you are shooting in manual with a DSLR camera, you choose the central point of focus in your shots by turning your lens until the main subject is in focus. The size of the area around this central focal point that is also in focus depends on the aperture you choose to shoot in, and this distance is called the depth of field. If you choose a low f-stop number, this opens up the camera aperture opening quite a bit, letting in a lot of light, and the result of shooting with a lower f-stop is a shorter depth of field- a photo with a smaller, very specific point of focus (less is in focus around your central focus point). Everything around the main subject tends to look blurred (this blurring, also known as bokeh, is a great photography technique which allows you to choose where the eyes of someone viewing your photography will be drawn).

However, if you choose to shoot with the aperture set at a larger f-stop, it enlarges the depth of field, so objects further away from your main subject are also in focus. If it’s important that everything in a photo be crisp, a higher f-stop number should be used. This is usually preferred when you are shooting scenery or large group shots, because you likely want everything and everyone in focus.

Here is a photo taken at f-stop 1.8. The wider opening lets in more light, which allows me to focus on a specific subject (the cup), and I can switch what I want to have in focus by adjusting my lens…the shallow depth of field means that I can alter the focus point dramatically:

dslr photography basics aperture

This is a shot at f-stop 16…notice that almost everything is in focus because the depth of field is longer:

dslr photography aperture example

Another benefit to setting your camera aperture to a low f-stop number: because the larger opening lets in much more light, to achieve the proper exposure, you often have to increase the shutter speed (sharper pictures!) and lower the ISO (and sharper yet!). This makes lenses capable of a smaller f-stop number very popular, such as the 50mm 1.8 lens I took the photos in this post with (aka the “nifty fifty”). The option of great bokeh (notice that gorgeous, blurry background effect that surrounds and emphasizes your focal point!) as well as very sharp photography overall. It also allows you to focus on something of interest without much worry about what is in the background, so a photographer can have a really messy countertop in the background, and no one will ever be the wiser *wink*.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s Beginner’s DSLR Camera Tutorial! Stay tuned for more photography basics and tips for beginners as well as other fun photography tutorials in coming weeks!

Chart source: http://www.cvhsphoto.com/lectures-info-inclass/inclass-digital/aperture.htm

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  • Thanks for posting this! Every time I read one of your posts it gets me excited to learn more about my camera’s features!ReplyCancel

  • This was incredibly helpful. Seriously!ReplyCancel

  • Aperture is one of the thing that can affect your image quality in photography. It is just like pupil of our eyes and completely depends on light. So, to get a perfect image it is very necessary to properly set the aperture. The tips you have provided about aperture setting seems very useful.ReplyCancel

  • I took photography & I’m still lost… #dontjudemeReplyCancel

  • Great post! I really need to delve into learning more about using my camera.ReplyCancel

  • Stefanie

    I have a DSLR and I have don’t have a clue as to how manual works…I need these tips.ReplyCancel

  • Great explanation! I’m really new to DSLR photography, but I’m trying to learn more. This was really helpful.ReplyCancel

  • April Decheine

    Popping in this morning to read about Aperture, I remember you explained it so simply! Taking some photos today :-)ReplyCancel