Photography Basics: Aperture in Photography

I must not be the only one who got surprised by a group photo I took and later realized only one person was in focus, or taking a landscape picture and later realized that only a small center area was in sharp focus.

These are the little lessons we learn through time when we dive into taking photos without understanding the main features of taking a good photo. One of the three pillars of photography we were messing up with in the story above is the camera aperture.

What is Aperture?

Aperture is a window in which light gets in the camera. The camera has the ability to reduce that window depending on situations and the settings you want to use.

Aperture is represented in camera by the letter F, so it is commonly used in F values and called F stops or F number, this is commonly the aperture diameter, the diameter of the hole which lets the light get in the camera. This aperture will affect mainly the light into your camera and the depth of field. 

 The smaller the number the smaller the depth of field, which means the area you focus on will be sharp and the surrounding will be blurry.

Large aperture and small aperture

One of the most confusing terms in photography is small and large aperture. People confuse the F number to the size of the aperture therefore calling a big F number a large aperture and same logic with a small F value.

Remember, aperture is the hole of the opening in a lens, so being large or small refers to that opening. 

Small F number of a lens has a large opening therefore called large aperture.

Large F number has a small opening, therefore called small aperture

On the other hand if we extend these notions to depth of field. The larger the F number the larger the depth of field.  And the smaller the F number, the smaller the depth of field.

Aperture effects on Depth of field

Aperture affects the depth of field, It tells your camera the surface in focus when taking a picture. This concept is called Depth of field.

Aperture effects on Exposure

Aperture along with shutter speed and ISO affect the exposure of your images. So bear in mind that the bigger the aperture the more light comes in your camera, and the smaller the less light into your camera. 

How to set up Aperture

On your camera you can set the aperture in two ways: one is via Aperture priority mode written as Av or via Manual settings mode.

Aperture priority mode

Set your camera in Aperture priority mode by choosing the F value and let the camera decide which ISO and Shutter speed to use. 

Manual mode

You can set your aperture from the manual mode, by pressing on the little av button and on the ring to set the value. 

Examples of Aperture 

The way aperture is used depends on the situation and the type of images you want to produce. 

Large Aperture

Large apertures are mostly used in situations where you want to put focus on one subject and reduce as much as possible the background distractions. This doesn’t apply to one specific type of photography but certainly there are types this scenario isn’t the right one.

Also to note that lenses which open with a large aperture are more helpful in low light environments. Since the larger the aperture the more light it gets in.


Small Aperture

On the other hand, a small aperture can be used when you want to focus on as big a surface as possible. In this scenario the most common use case is landscape photography; you wouldn’t want to have a beautiful landscape ruined by choosing a large aperture and having just a small portion of it in focus.

Summer tulips.