What is Aperture

The aperture is the opening in your lens that controls the amount of light passing through to reach your camera; it’s a powerful tool you can use to control certain aspects of photography like exposure and depth of field.

There are two camera modes where you have full control over the aperture:
AV/A- Aperture value mode or M – Manual mode. It is displayed as an f-number/f-stop and can be adjusted on your camera’s top dial or in your camera settings.

The ins and outs of Aperture
The ins and outs of Aperture

What are f-stops and f-numbers in Aperture?

It’s a way of describing the size of the aperture. The smaller the number, the larger the opening, the more light will enter the lens, resulting in a shallow depth of field. The larger number, the smaller the opening, the less light will enter the lens, resulting in a high depth of field.

For example:

f/1.8 = Wide open aperture, shallow depth of field, lots of light.
f/22 = Closed down aperture, high depth of field, very little light.

The ins and outs of Aperture

How aperture affects your exposure

Exposure is controlled by three main factors Aperture, ISO and Shutter speed.

The aperture controls the amount of light that reaches the camera. You can change its size for different effects. With a larger opening more light will pass through giving you a brighter exposure whereas a small opening lets less light pass through, giving you a darker exposure.

The shutter speed controls the amount of light that reaches the sensor within a certain amount of time and the ISO controls your sensor sensitivity which can create digital noise when adjusted over a specific range.

When you work in a low light environment you will have to set your aperture first then adjust your shutter speed and ISO accordingly to ensure that you do not end up with images of motion blur.

The ins and outs of Aperture
The ins and outs of Aperture
The ins and outs of Aperture

How aperture affects depth of field

Depth of field is the amount of focus that appears through your images, from front to back. 

You get two types of depth of field

Shallow depth of field: The background behind your subject is out of focus (blurred). You will achieve this when your aperture is set on a lower f-stop (a larger opening) for example f/2.8 – f/5.6. A lower number is mostly used for portraits and close-ups, or creating breathtaking bokeh effects – it’s an aesthetically pleasing effect caused by out-of-focus lights

High depth of field: The background behind your subject is focused and sharp. You will achieve this when your aperture is set on a higher f-stop (a smaller opening) for example f/8 – f/16. A higher number is mostly used for landscape and wildlife photography to capture detail.

When you’re photographing portraits you don’t want to distract your viewers with busy backgrounds, by using a shallow depth of field you can isolate your subject. Keep in mind that when you use a shallow depth of field you need to be close to your subject, otherwise, you will lose the effect you are trying to create. Whereas when you’re photographing landscapes or architecture, you need to use a high depth of field to ensure that your entire scene or subject is in focus.

The ins and outs of Aperture
The ins and outs of Aperture

Now that you know and understand the meaning and the use behind this strange symbol on your camera, you can experiment and create intriguing portraits or remarkably focused landscapes that will leave your viewers in awe.

If you would like to know more about suitable lenses feel free to read these blogs: