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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

FUNCTION BASICS: APERTURE

One of the aims of starting my blog was to teach anyone who reads it more about photography, as well as sharing my own stuff. While there is plenty on the Internet about this and many other camera functions, I sometimes find there is to much. Sometimes you just want the ability to go to one place and learn what you need, so you can get out there and give it a go yourself. This is what I am hoping to do with this series of posts. So to start off, I thought I'd take us back to basics. When it comes to taking photos that make people's eyes pop, it is all about knowing how to use these basic functions to your advantage. One important function, and the one we'll start off with today, is aperture.

Aperture basically means the opening in the lens. The aperture size that you set on your camera will determine the size of the hole that opens up when you hit the shutter button. The larger the hole, the more light that will come in, and obviously the smaller the hole the less light that comes in.

Aperture is the feature on your camera that will help give your photos real dimension. It determines whether the background of your picture is blurred to help draw attention to the subject of your photo, or whether everything stays in focus so viewers can get a sense of the entire context of the shot.

Aperture is expressed in 'f-stops' or 'f-numbers'. This is where things can get a bit confusing because everything works a bit backwards. If you have a smaller f-stop number than you have a large aperture. If you have a larger f-stop number than you have a smaller aperture. The photography Gods couldn't have made things easy for us, so just try to remember when you're shooting that whatever your f-number is than the size of your aperture is essentially the opposite. I've put a chart below to help express all this in pictorial form which hopefully makes it a bit easier to understand.

So what does changing the aperture actually do? Basically it changes the depth of field (DOF) in your shot, which is what determines whether a background is blurry or not, like I mentioned earlier.

A large depth of field will mean all of your picture, including the background, is in focus. This is perfect if you're out taking landscape shots and what to capture the beautiful mountain scenes in the background.

A small depth of field means the background of the picture will be blurred out and the subject closer to the camera will be in focus. This is great for those times when you really want the subject of your shot to stand out and be the main thing that draws a viewer's eye. The blurred background can then help to add a little bit of context. It's a great way to get creative with your photos.

So what aperture settings will give us these different depths of field?

A large f-number will give us a large depth of field and bring everything, including the background of the picture, into focus.

A small f-number will gives us a small depth of field and create a blurry background for the subject to stand out on.  This is a bit easier to remember as the size of the aperture directly correlates with the size of the depth of field it creates.

I've taken a few shots below with different aperture settings to help show you, visually, what this creates.





It is also important to note that every lens has different aperture capabilities. When you pick up a lens, or check out the specs online, it will usually tell you what the maximum and minimum apertures are for that lens. Most people tend to look at the maximum aperture when choosing which lens to buy. This is because the maximum aperture capability of a lens determines whether it is a 'fast lens'. A fast lens, for example, would have a maximum aperture of f/1.2 or f/1.4. This means more light can pass though the lens and makes it great for low-light photography. Minimum aperture is not so important these days because even basic lenses usually have around f/16 as the minimum aperture, which is more than enough to take everyday photos.

Like most things photography related, the best way to really wrap your head around all the different functions and concepts is to pick up your camera and go out and take some shots. Go out and experiment with different aperture settings, see the results and this will all start to sink it. In fact I challenge you to do so and then share them with me in the comments below, I love getting to see other people's work.



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