This week I’m going to talk about aperture. I’m explaining it at a basic level so it is understood how to control it while dialing in your settings. Aperture is my favorite part of photography. I love playing around with different settings and seeing how it affects each photo. Like I mentioned in our first post, I always think of my aperture setting before I think of anything else. This may be different for other photographers but it is what works for me.
Aperture is in reference to the diaphragm inside your lens, meaning how much light it lets in. The smaller the aperture number, also known as f-stop, the more light is let into your camera. Similarly, the higher the f-stop, the less light comes in. This confused me at first because I logically thought a higher number should mean more light but it is the opposite. A change in f-stop will result in a change in your shutter speed or ISO, more on those later. Pat calls this the love triangle!
Aperture also controls your depth of field in a photograph. Meaning, it controls what’s in focus and what is out of focus within your scene. For example, if you had your aperture opened up to a wide f/1.2 and focused on the subject’s eyes, their chin, ears, neck, etc would appear to be out of focus, this is a shallow depth of field. Naturally this isn’t exact because it varies based on the distance you are from your subject. The closer you are to your subject, the shallower the depth of field. Your lens may also vary the situation as well.
If you stop down your f-stop to f/8, then the subjects across your scene will be in focus with narrow depth of field (opposite of shallow). This is great for shooting large group shots where you need everyone to be in focus. Since depth of field is also something to consider when shooting objects that are staggered, to keep them in focus you need a smaller f-stop – perhaps f/11 or smaller depending on what the situation is.
I usually like to use small f-stop (like f/2.8) because I only like my subjects to be in focus and for the background to fall away. A small f-stop is also awesome in low light situations such as a dark reception or church ceremony because it lets more light in. The less I have to use my flash, the better for me. In this case, the distance is greater at a ceremony, so the depth of field is narrower (more in focus). The only way to truly understand all of this is to get out and practice the different settings.
These are just some tips that work for me in somewhat plain English. If you’re looking for more technical explanation on aperture and how it relates to depth of field, there are plenty of resources on the web that can go into greater detail.
The following photo was shot at f/2.0. I used her eye closest to me as the focus point and at a f/2.0, almost everything around them has a softer look with shallow depth of field.