What Is Aperture?

ISO 100  f/1.8 1/250 50mm   

F stop, Depth of field, Aperture??? You've heard all of these terms I'm sure, but what do they mean? Well, if your shooting in automatic then they don't really mean much except that the camera has already decided for you what "it" thinks is the best preset for the current light and subject your are photographing.  However, if you've ventured into that great deep world of manual then it means your settings are up to you baby!

There are three settings to keep in mind when shooting in manual, they are; Aperture, then Shutter Speed and finally ISO.  Going over all three at once is a little too much of an overload so today I''ll just talk a little about Aperture.

What is the aperture? How do I find it on my camera? How does it effect my photos? OK, so what is aperture? Aperture is what I like to call "the window" of your camera.  It is a hole which light passes through in the lens.  It is often referred to as F stop on your camera screen.  The key thing to remember is that the smaller the number the MORE light you will have in your photograph and the bigger the number the LESS light will be in your picture.  Just remember less is more and more is less.  Have I confused you yet? Don't be, just say it in your head slowly like I had to and you'll get it! One thing you need to know is that Aperture or F stop come in increments of numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5, 6, 8, 11, and 16. What do these numbers mean?  The smaller the number the more light is let into your lense but less of the picture will be in focus.  The bigger the number the less light in your lens but a broader range will be focused.  So how do you recognize on your camera what F-stop your at? You will usually find it on your display screen.  Lets say for instance you are using an 1.8 F stop.  It will usually display like this F1.8 somewhere on the display screen or in your view finder. If you don't know where these parts on your camera are I strongly suggest to look at the manual, when I began photography I new NOTHING! I had to look every thing up and thats ok, thats how you learn.  Next how do you adjust your F stop? This depends on your camera.  I use a a NikonD600 and on my camera there is a main control dial on the front upper right of the camera that I roll either forward or back to give me the setting I need for the correct aperture (F stop).  Every camera is different tho so check your manual.  Another great resource if your not sure is the all knowing Google search engine, YouTube is also great for tutorials.

Alright, I feel like we're making some progress! We've  gone over what the aperture is and how we can find it on the camera.  The next big question is how does aperture (F stop) affect my photos? You've heard of depth of field right? If not lets review what depth of field is.  Depth of field is the distance between the closest subject and the farthest subject that are in focus in your photograph.  Again many things play a role in depth of field such as focal length of the lens and so on but we will only focus on aperture right now.  So, when your using a big aperture (small number) you will have only a small area of the photo that will be in focus and this will give you a shallower (smaller) depth of field.  This type of photograph can give that Bokeh effect where maybe your subject is sharp and in focus and the remainder of the photograph is blurred.  This is great for portraits, macro photography and blocking out disruptive backgrounds from your pictures.  Needless to say you can get quite creative with this technique!  However, lets say you have a group of people and need them all in focus and sharp as a tack. That's when you would want to turn your F stop up (I prefer F 16 for group shots).  Now here we come to a bit of a sticky situation. You've turned your F stop up to a big number for your group picture, take the photo and realize its so dark you can't make out your subjects! Don't worry we've all been there.... and ya it sucks!  Never fear there is a solution, that's when ISO plays a big part and will need to be bumped up.    But for now I'm going to stop here so you can digest what aperture is and hopefully get a better understanding of why and how its used.  The great thing about digital photography is you can take as many pictures as you want and not worry about the expense of of film! So give it a try and check back soon to read my next article All About ISO and how it relates to the Photography Setting Triangle.  Oh and Ill help you learn how to take that big group picture with correct light and everyone in focus!

                     In this photo I wanted my daughters face in focus and only a flower or two.
                                                      ISO 100  f/1.8  1/250  50mm


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