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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  • Aperature was the first thing I learned about me camera. I love using the lower f-stop to focus in on something with the blurred background.ReplyCancel

  • April Decheine

    This is great, thank you for the tutorial, bookmarking this page :-)ReplyCancel

  • Donna

    Well if I ever get a A DSLR camera, your tutorials will be my go to site! For now, I’ll continue to take photos with my iPhone.ReplyCancel

  • Awesome tutorial. I’ll have to remember these when I finally upgrade!ReplyCancel

  • Tammy

    Love that first picture of Little Man – SO CUTE :)

    I am not ready for a DSLR but I did just get a book to help me use my point and shoot to its maximum benefit, I’m amazed with just a few hints and tips how much better my pictures look already.ReplyCancel

  • Cute pictures!ReplyCancel

  • These are fantastic tipsReplyCancel

  • Anne - Mommy Has to Work

    Great post! Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • I want one of those cameras. Love the tutorial.ReplyCancel

  • Seeing your photos really makes me want to buy a DSLR camera!ReplyCancel

  • I’ve always wondered how photographers were able to achieve this kind of picture. I need to play around with my camera more and stop shooting everything in auto.ReplyCancel

  • Jenn

    Loving my 50mm/1.8 lens. Thanks for the tips!ReplyCancel

  • nicole @WriteSpell

    Loved this post!ReplyCancel

  • Stefani

    This is awesome! I just ordered 2 books on Amazon this morning because I want to each myself how to use my camera.ReplyCancel

    • Penelope

      Books really help, I’m reading a couple too, and thinking of taking classes to learn more and more!ReplyCancel

  • I’m bookmarking now! These are some great tips! And, I suck at photography. Thank you!ReplyCancel

  • I have had my dslr and am nowhere near to using it to it’s potential LOL. Thanks for the tips. I love the blurred backgroundReplyCancel

  • You’re really learning quickly and doing such a great job. I’m bookmarking all of these for when I get my DSLR!ReplyCancel

  • I really need to get back to the camera shop I bought my camera to learn more.ReplyCancel

  • I was just wondering how to do this the other day. I usually pull out my manual but this is great to find it here. Thank youReplyCancel

  • Wonderful tips! I just bought a new camera, so I can pursue a new hobby. I had to break down and buy one of those For Dummies’ books, though. ~lol~ :)ReplyCancel

  • 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