Learning about Aperture | Photography 101

October 8, 2014

Basket full of apples for fall | www.andersonandgrant.com

There is a lot of technical things to learn when it come to photography.  But for these photography lessons, I want to break it down to the absolute basics so that we can all understand how our cameras work and what we can do to get brighter, clearer pictures.  Whether you take pictures to post on a blog, to sell items you make, or to capture moments in your family's life, photography is important.  With just a few techniques and a little practice your skills can improve tremendously.

A couple weeks ago, I shared what I consider to be the three most important things that you need to take good photos.  Today's lesson on photography is all about aperture.

Check out these tips on Photography 101....Learning about Aperture | www.andersonandgrant.com

Aperture refers to size of the opening of your camera lens when pictures are being taken.  It determines that amount of light allowed into your camera as well as the depth of field.  (Depth of field, or DOF, is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a picture that appear sharp.)  Aperture is what gives the nice blurry background in photos.

The aperture number always starts with an f (such as f/3.2).  The most important thing to know with this number is that the lower the number, the blurrier your background will be.  This is called a shallow depth of field.  There is also more light allowed into your camera with a low f/stop.

As the f/stop number gets larger, your entire photograph will become more clear.  The amount of light in the picture will decrease.  And there is a greater likelyhood of your camera shaking and making your picture blurry if you are not using a tripod.

The book "Plate to Pixel" explains how aperture works in the simplest terms...

"Only when I started thinking about it in terms of my eye pupils did it begin to make sense.  
You either squint or open your eyes depending on the amount of light that's in your environment. 
 More light leads to squinting, right?  And that's how it goes with your camera's aperture setting, too."

Aperture can create a very dramatic photo.  It allows the subject to stand out from the background.  The nice blurry background is especially nice when shooting pictures of food.  It is also helpful when taking a photograph of a person because the he or she will be the main focus if the background is blurred.

So let's take a look at some pictures I took of apples to see this concept in action.  All of these shots were taken on Aperture Priority (A)  mode, which means that the aperture can be manually adjusted while your camera will choose the best shutter speed.  The lens I was using was a 60mm  for my Nikon camera None of these photos have been altered or enhanced....they are the pictures straight from the camera.

Learning about using aperture when taking photos | www.andersonandgrant.com

Shooting on the lowest aperture number (in the case of the lens I'm using, it is an f/2.8) is called shooting wide open.  This setting lets in the most light because the opening in the lens is as big as it can be.  It also creates the smallest focal point with a dramatically blurred background.  Depending on what you are shooting, this can cause too much of the picture to be out of focus.  If you'll notice in this photo, there is really only one apple that is totally in focus.

How to use aperture when doing photography | www.andersonandgrant.com

This next picture is shot using an f/3.2 aperture.  There is now a much larger section of the photo in focus.  You'll notice that the apple and leaves up front are in focus, while the rest of the things in the picture are not sharp.  The bottle in the back is still almost a total blur.

Learning about aperture to become a great photographer | www.andersonandgrant.com

The next picture is shot using an f/5 aperture.  More of the items in the foreground are clear, but the bottle in the back is still a blur.  The picture is also not as bright as the previous two.

As the aperture number increases your photo becomes clearer and darker | www.andersonandgrant.com

Using an f/8 aperture makes everything further back in the photo more in focus.  The bottle in back is almost clear.

How to use aperture to take amazing photos | www.andersonandgrant.com

And finally, shooting on f/32 brings everything in the photo into equal focus.  This is also the darkest of the five photos because the opening in the camera is as small as it can be.  This does not allow much light to come into the camera.  It is best to use a high aperture number only when there is a lot of natural light.

And just so you can get a glimpse of how the pictures change as the setting changes....Notice how much darker the last two photos are and watch how the bottle becomes clearer in each picture.

I have to say that it was actually fun to experiment and take the time to really learn what changing the aperture setting can do.  As with anything, learning about photography takes practice and time.  Take a half hour to devote to trying this lesson out and experiment with your own camera.  It is such an easy adjustment but will instantly give your pictures a different look.

Now that we've learned about aperture, what would you like a lesson on next?   


     Photography 101...3 Must Haves for Great Photography | www.andersonandgrant.com

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