Aperture: The Basics

What is Aperture??

There is a mechanism inside your lense that can be controlled to let in a certain amount of light, this is called the Aperture. Not only does this control the amount of light, but it also controls the Depth of Field, or DoF for short.

 

So how does it work?

Aperture is measured by numbers called f-stops. These numbers are a little weird because it’s backward. Here’s what I mean by that:

The LOWER the number, the MORE light that’s coming in.

The HIGHER the number, the LESS light that’s coming in.

Take a look at the illustration to help you visualize what actually happens to the aperture when you change the number. See, the smaller number means a bigger opening and vice versa, I told you it was weird.

 

Aperture

 

Tell me more!

In this case, f/1.8 would be wide open (that depends on your lense) which would allow in the maximum amount of light for that lense. This will also give you a smaller depth of field, which blurs the background of your photo and only keeps in focus whatever you tell it to focus on. More on that here -> (Depth of Field).

At f/16, the lense is closed down, which means it is only allowing in the minimum amount of light. As opposed to the DoF on the f/1.8, this will give you a larger depth of field, which will basically keep everything in focus, background and foreground.

Don’t worry too much about the numbers, just remember what changing the numbers does; higher number = less light, lower number = more light

 

That’s all folks!

That’s pretty much all you need to know about aperture for right now. The other 2 key elements of an Exposure Triangle are Shutter Speed, and ISO. Once you learn how to use all 3 then you will become a master of the exposure triangle which = better pictures!
 

 

Featured image credit: Nate Stevens
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  • Vincent Chiaro

    One thing that I’ve learned with aperture and shooting cars is that if you’re going for a big aperture like F1.8, you’ll want to make sure the car is dead on straight with the camera usually. Because with such a shallow depth of field (depending on the lens) if the car is at an angle or something you’re likely to have parts of the car out of focus, not just the background (which you probably want to be out of focus). I find F4 – F5.6 generally will ensure the whole car is in focus even if you’re taking a front or rear 3/4 shot of it.

    • Elvis Pasic

      That’s a very good point. My lense goes down to f1.8 and I rarely use that unless it’s a shot straight on with the camera, like you said. Thanks for pointing that out!