Aperture 101: What is aperture and how do I use it?
Updated: Mar 12, 2019
This blog post is more educational for aspiring photographers. "Aperture" is one of the three key factors that affect the exposure of a photo. These three factors are some of the first settings you should learn on your camera.
Aperture, also known as f-stop or the f-number, refers to the width of the diaphragm in the lens that allows light to pass into the camera’s sensor.
Similar to how the pupil in your eye dilates when the light is too bright, your aperture controls how much light enters your camera.
Aperture is measured in “stops,” with a lower f/stop equaling a wider aperture, and a higher f/stop equaling a narrow aperture. This can be confusing at first, because the lower the number, the more light that enters your camera.
Aperture also affects the photo’s depth of field, which determines how focused the foreground and background are. A low f/stop equals a smaller depth of field, and a high f/stop results in a greater depth of field. For a sharp subject with a blurred background, keep your aperture wide (a low number). This is often great for portrait photography, where the foreground/background aren’t important, and you want your subject to stand out.
To keep the entire image (foreground, background, and subject) sharp, use a high f/stop. Landscape photographers usually use high f/stops to capture the details of the scenery.
So aperture, the opening that light passes through, affects the exposure of a photo and the depth of field. A low f/stop results in a brighter picture with a blurred foreground and background, and a high f/stop results in a darker picture with the entire scene in focus.
F/stop is measured in steps: for example, depending on your lens and camera, you can set it to 1.4, 1.8, 2.4, and so on up to around 32.
As you adjust your f/stop, you want to be aware of your shutter speed and ISO to make sure your photo is properly exposed. For example, if it’s extremely bright outside, but you want a low f/stop (which allows a lot of light to enter your camera) for a blurry background, you should keep your ISO as low as possible and your shutter speed very high.
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Laura Pinckard is an intimate wedding and elopement photographer in the Adirondacks. She is based in Schroon Lake, NY but travels just about anywhere. Whether you're getting married in New York, the West Coast, or planning a destination wedding in Europe, feel free to reach out.