Understanding Aperture

Aug 22, 2018


Whether you are engaged and planning your dream wedding, or looking for some business help, I am happy you are here!!





View All Posts

SO just a few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about why your gear doesn’t matter. Sound harsh? Sorry! But it is true!

If you don’t know how to work your camera and gear to create the images that you want, you can’t rely on them. You are the chef, they are the stove. So you have to learn the ins and outs of photography and your gear if you want to produce quality images.

No lens can do that for you!

That is why I want to start breaking down some helpful tips for you all when it comes to shooting in Manual Mode. Some ‘Photography 101’, if you will! This is all information that is in my Fundamentals of Photography workshop, so if you want to be the first to know when that becomes available online then make sure you check it out here.

Let’s get started, shall we.

Today I am going to give you a glimpse into what is Aperture. How it works, why it is important and some tips on how to make sure your images are tack sharp.

So, what is aperture?

Well, by definition it is an opening, hole, gap or space through which light passes in your camera. But, come on, who uses definitions to explain things?!

You may be familiar with images that look something like this :

understanding aperture in your camera

What that is representing is your camera shutter. When you are working with a DSLR camera you have a few important mechanical things on the inside and the shutter may arguably be the most important one. When you are setting your aperture, you are determining the size of that opening.

Also, aperture is often referred to as the ‘F-stop’. This stands for focal stop, since it determines your focus!

Now, the size you can set that opening too depends on your lens. For example, my 50mm lens is one where the lowest aperture number you can set it to is 1.2. But if I am using my 24-70mm lens then the lowest I can set it is 2.8. It varies with each lens, so do your research when buying gear and keeping in mind what you will want to set your aperture at in most situations.

So that is aperture and how it works. But let’s talk about what the numbers mean, why it’s important and those tips I want to give you!

The numbers!

  • The lower the number = the more open the shutter. The larger the space in the middle is.
  • The higher the number = the more closed the shutter. The smaller the space in the middle is.

Let’s break those down to see how it changes the rest of your image!

When you are shooting with a low aperture, or more open, it lets in more light. Lowering your aperture brightens your photo naturally. It also narrows your focus point. When it is more open, less and less is in focus from a depth perspective. So if you are focusing on a persons eyes as the primary focus, the building behind them or flowers in front of them won’t be in focus. IF you are going super low, like down to 1.2, you can even get their eyelashes in focus but not their nose or hair!

The higher aperture numbers, with a more closed shutter, means that less light gets let in so it can make your image darker. But it also allows more to be in focus. So if you have a few rows of people who all need to be sharply focused, you need a higher aperture.

Here is what it looks like in your camera :

example chart of understanding aperture in your camera

Aperture is important because it determines what is in focus! There are so many things you can fix in post production when editing later but focus isn’t one of them! If an image is blurry or soft, that’s it. So on days like weddings days, my main focus is getting tack sharp images. Aperture is probably the biggest determining factor in this!

Now, here are some of my tips.

  • When it doubt, get more in focus. Use a higher aperture than you think you’ll need until you’re comfortable.
  • If you want bokeh and soft blur in the background or foreground, use a more open aperture and get this look in camera without editing!
  • Back button focus, especially if using an open aperture! I could get more in depth on what back button focus is, but essentially is is programming your camera so that your shutter and focus are set by using two different buttons. I recommend using this because if you are using that wide open aperture and focusing on something as small as an eyelash, then when you focus it is set there and when you release your shutter it won’t accidentally jump that focus point onto something else. This is just another way to make your camera work for you and make sure you’re the boss!

Dive into this an so much more when taking my online Fundamentals of Photography course!! Just join the wait list!

Want to see some aperture in action? Here is my dog #OsoTheBearPup shot at an F stop of 1.2, 2.8 and 4.0. In all three images, the focus was the tip of his nose. Notice at F1.2, only his nose is in focus. At 2.8 there is more of his snout in focus and by 4.0 more of his face is sharp!

examples of aperture changes with photo of black dog

Now, there is more to it but that is the 101 version of how to understand aperture! If you have more questions, let me know.

Keep learning!