Photography - Knowledge

Photography Basics: What is Aperture in Photography

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Clicking the perfect picture is a work of art and can be mastered with a fair amount of practice. Only a passionate photographer with a keen eye for detail can tell you how subtle adjustments in the camera can make an enormous difference in the results. If you have the passion and perseverance to master the basics, then nothing can stop you from freezing frames just the way you imagined – and yes, it needs no rocket science, only an undying spirit to explore.

To learn the nuances of photography, the first thing you need to do is zap out of Auto mode and learn the Manual method of setting Exposure. Exposure comprises of three elements — Shutter Speed, ISO and Aperture — of which we are going to learn what is aperture in photography. If you manage to control the aperture, you can enjoy a great deal of creative satisfaction on the results.

What is Aperture in Photography?

Aperture is a hole or opening in the front of the lens by which the camera controls the amount of light that enters it. The logic is simple – larger the hole, more is the light that can get in. As the hole becomes smaller, lesser is the light that is able to pass through.

what is aperture basic

Knowing the camera aperture function is crucial in photography because it can either add dimension to a photograph with a blur in the background or capture the finest details across a large frame. The way you, as a photographer, are able to modulate the aperture function is the real essence and also the sheer magic of photography!

How is Aperture Measured?

The ratio of opening of a lens aperture and the lens size is known as f/number, f/stop, f/ratio, relative aperture or focal ratio in photography terminology. Commonly, photographers use the term f/stop for aperture measurement. Each stop denotes a factor of two in the amount of light that comes in.

aperture range
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The higher the numerical value of the f-stop, the smaller the camera aperture opening. Usually, f/2 is the maximum aperture opening while f/22 is the smallest. The in-between f/number values can be f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6 and f/8.

How is Aperture Size Related to the Depth of Field (DoF)?

When a photographer has control on the aperture size, he is able to manage the Depth of Field (DoF) in the photographs he clicks. The DoF can be best explained as the amount of your capture that will be in focus. What you are looking to capture may be close to the camera or far away, but a large Depth DoF will keep a greater part of the image in focus. When the DoF is small, only a particular part of the image will be in focus and the rest of the scene will appear fuzzy.

Here’s how the equation goes:

The lesser the f/stop number—the larger the aperture —more light — the smaller the DOF —the blurrier the background

The higher the f/stop number—the smaller the aperture —less light — the greater the DOF —the sharper the background

Understand : F-stops in DSLR photography!

How Aperture Affects Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed is how quickly a camera’s shutter opens and shuts to expose the light sensor. It allows light to hit a photosensitive surface, usually after it has traversed the lens and aperture diaphragm. Here’s an interesting explanation of the correlation between aperture and shutter speed.

shutter speed apreture and iso effects

The function of the aperture is like the eye’s iris that opens wide or constricts depending on the amount of light the eye is exposed to. Similarly, shutter speed is like the blinking function of the eyelid. The only difference being that the eyelid is open when we are awake.

A huge aperture makes it necessary for the shutter speed to be really fast to avoid overexposing the lens. When the aperture is very small, the shutter will have to be open for a little more time to prevent underexposing. This results in a slower shutter speed. If you change the aperture size, the shutter speed will automatically change.

Portrait Photography v/s. Landscape Photography

The thumb rule goes like this — a higher aperture (smaller f-number) will yield a smaller DoF and smaller aperture (larger f-number) will yield a larger DoF. When you want to shift the attention of the viewer to the subject, you can reduce the depth of field, which means f/4 or f/5.8 should be good enough.

This makes your subject the focal point and blurs out the background elements. On the contrary, a landscape is best shot with a greater depth of field. Hence, f/22 should be the ideal aperture value for capturing the scenic details of a landscape, ensuring both the foreground and the horizon are well in focus.

Have you noticed that events like a pre-wedding shoot, pregnancy announcement shoot, and maternity photo shoot are best covered by macro photography? Macro photographers use high apertures to focus on the subject and get the viewer attention on them, drowning out all that they think is unimportant.

aperture in portrait
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The portrait above was captured at an aperture of f/1.8. A small DoF has kept only the lady’s face in focus, blurring out the background. If you notice, the photographer has focused the lens on the subject’s eyes.While her face is in full focus, even the hair has a blurred look.

Learn : How to do Portrait Photography!

aperture in Landscape
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The landscape in the picture above is captured best using f/22 or f/32 aperture, which means a larger depth of Field. Hence, the objects in the foreground and background are all in focus in this click. Landscape photography has the best impact when each detail is clearly visible in its full beauty with a fine sense of depth.

Read: Landscape Photography Tips!

How to Set the Aperture on Your Camera

Of course, the way you set the camera aperture will vary from one device to another, but there’s one general rule. Configure your camera to Aperture Priority (Av or A) mode or Manual mode. Look for the wheel, button or dial in your device to regulate the size of the aperture. After this, rotate the camera wheel to change the f/number to the desired aperture size.

Usually, it’s the cameras with bigger apertures that are pricey due to the wider range they offer in terms of Depth of Field . Moreover, larger apertures also allow working in low light conditions. So, if you have an artistic instinct and wish to explore the limits of creativity with your camera, go for a big aperture size.

The best way to learn is through practice. If you have just read this post and have a camera handy, head out somewhere and experiment with its aperture function right away! Pick some objects close to your lens and some that are far away. Capture them in a sequence using different aperture settings, maybe from small to high apertures. With some serious practice, you will be able to figure out the perfect setting each time you lay your eyes on a subject you wish to freeze in a frame.

There’s just so much you can explore and do with your camera in the Manual mode. Let us know through your comments whether you found this post on what is aperture in photography helpful and on how best you have been using the aperture function and getting truly amazing results.

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