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Aperture Explained

Learn how to use your camera on manual. Let’s talk about Aperture.

What is aperture?

It might be easy to think of aperture like the pupil of your eye. When you are in the dark your pupil gets larger to let more light in. When you are in the bright sun your pupil gets smaller to let less light in.

This is what your aperture does. It gets smaller or larger depending on how much light you want to let in.

Aperture is referred to as the f-stop or f-number. It can range from f/1.8 - f/22 but some lenses can be f/1.2 and some lenses can go to f/32

If you want more light in then you need a large aperture like f/2.8

If you want less light in then you need a small aperture like f/22

This seems confusing because f/2.8 is a small number but it means a large aperture and f/22 is a larger number but means a smaller aperture.

The aperture controls the amount of light but it also controls your depth of field.

Depth of Field

When people say they want a blurry background or bokeh (bow-kay) then you would use aperture to control this. You also need your subject farther away from the background to give you more bokeh.

f/1.8 would give you a very blurred background (portraits)

f/16 would have most everything in focus (landscape)

What is the best aperture to use?

For portraits I generally use f/1.8 - f/5.6 this will depend how far away from the subject I am and what lens I am using. I like to use around f/2 with my 85 mm and f/4 with my 45mm

For landscape I generally use f/8 - f/16 with my sweet spot being around f/11

For indoor sports photography I would use f/2.8 because you want more light.

If you want a sunburst then you would use f/22

ISO 160 f/22 1/200 18mm

Things to consider

Your lens will dictate your largest aperture

The larger the aperture the more expensive the lens. Prime lens will give you the f/1.2, f/1.4 and f/1.8. Zoom lenses typically give you a range like f/3.5 - f/5.6. Some zoom lenses have a constant f/4 but for the most part the f-stop is a range. When you are purchasing a lens you will want to know what type of photography you will be doing and is the aperture large enough?

Blurred background

If you want more of a blurred background you also want your subject away from the background. The further away the more blurred. You also need to use a larger aperture like f/2.8.

Sweet Spot

Just because your lens can go to f/1.4 doesn’t mean it’s sharpest at that aperture. For example you may get the sharpest image at f/2 even though the aperture goes to f/1.4.

Practice with your lens to see what the sweet spot is.

Other settings - exposure triangle

Of course just like with ISO and shutter speed they all go together to help you get the exposure right. This is one of the first things I set because I usually know what depth of field I am looking for and I control the amount of light more with ISO and shutter speed.

I hope this helps you understand Aperture a little more. My last article was on ISO and my next article will be on shutter speed which will help you to understand each element in the exposure triangle.

Thanks for reading and have a great day!


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