Aperture: A Beginner's Guide to Better Photography
If you’re getting started with photography and experimenting with manual mode, you’re probably wondering: what is aperture?
Understanding how aperture works and how it affects your images is critical for any photographer who wants to take their skills to the next level. If you want to get great results in manual mode, mastering aperture is key.
In this article, we provide an aperture definition and explain how learning how to adjust this important setting can help you improve your photography and achieve your creative goals.
Aperture (along with shutter speed and ISO) is one of the three elements of the so-called exposure triangle. It refers to the opening in a camera lens that allows light to pass through to the camera's sensor or film. Understanding how aperture works and how to control it is crucial to achieving the right exposure and depth of field in your photos.
Aperture is measured in f-stops, represented by a series of numbers such as f/1.8, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, and so on. The lower the number, the wider the aperture and the more light that can enter the camera. Conversely, the higher the number, the narrower the aperture and the less light that can enter.
The size of the aperture affects two important aspects of your photo: depth of field and exposure. Let’s take a look at these aspects in more detail.
Aperture and depth of field
Depth of field refers to the range of distance in the photo that appears sharp and in focus.
A large aperture (low f-stop number) will result in a shallow depth of field. This means that only a small portion of the image will be in sharp focus, while the rest of the image will be blurred. This technique is often used in portrait photography to isolate the subject and ensure the background does not create too much of a distraction.
On the other hand, a small aperture (high f-stop number) will result in a deeper depth of field, with more of the image in focus. This is useful in landscape photography, for example, where you want everything from the foreground to the background to be in sharp focus.
Aperture and exposure
Exposure refers to the amount of light that reaches the camera's sensor or film. In other words, the level of exposure determines the brightness or darkness of your image.
When shooting in low-light situations, you may need a wider aperture to allow more light into the camera, leading to a brighter brighter exposure. However, when shooting in bright light, a narrower aperture can help to reduce the amount of light entering the camera and prevent overexposure.
The Relationship of Shutter Speeds and Apertures to Flash
Aperture and the exposure triangle
Changing the aperture will also affect the shutter speed and ISO, which are the other two ‘sides’ of the exposure triangle. As such, any aperture adjustments you make will likely require you to adjust one to both of the other elements in order to achieve or maintain the correct exposure.
For example, a wider aperture will require a faster shutter speed or lower ISO to avoid overexposure. A narrower aperture will require a slower shutter speed or higher ISO to avoid underexposure.
Understanding how aperture works and how to control it is crucial for achieving the optimal exposure and depth of field in your photos. By experimenting with different f-stops, you can create a wide range of effects in your photography and bring your creative vision to life.
To learn more about aperture, download our free 90-page eBook, An Introduction to Photography.