the back to frontedness of aperture…getting to know your F-stop #photography101 #mamarazzi

When i first started getting interested in photography one of the things that really really confused me was the way that photographers talked about aperture. Small number means wider, faster aperture.  Larger number means slower and narrower aperture. It just seemed back to front to me. I could never really make sense of it and basically the only way i did make sense was to accept it and learn it. Like a language.

So briefly.

In photography, the aperture refers to the opening in the lens where light is admitted. The aperture value is also commonly referred to as the f/stop. This is why you will see “f/5.6”. “F” simply refers to the focal length of the lens. Think of the lens as you would the human eye.

The larger the aperture, the more light will pass through, allowing the nice background blur in your images, or bokeh. This will allow the main subject to “pop” as it stands out against the background.

The blurred background is aesthetically appealing when doing portrait photography or close-up nature photography (i.e., flowers).

Remember, when using the Aperture Priority on your camera, the lower the Aperture value (i.e., f/1.8, f/4.5; f/5.6), the larger the opening at the fron of your lens. Much like an eye. Well..a lot like an eye!

When shooting a landscape where you want everything to be in focus, you would want to use a smaller aperture, or higher f-stop. Or when you are shooting somewhere with a LOT of light. Like when you are trying to take pictures of the sun (sunrise, sunset). There is a well known rule in photography called the “sunny 16”. When you are taking a shot and want to include the sun in it, without blowing it out, then your aperture should be around about f16.0 or slower.

Now if you suddenly think ‘great i can take a great shot of my kids playing in the sun on the beach’ and you crank in you f stop to 16 you will end up with lovely shot of the sun and dark kids…Remember the amount of light coming into the camera is governed by the size of the hole and the hole at f16.0 is small so unless your kids are as bright as the sun…

and yes i know that some parents think their kids are 😉

anyway unless they are then they will be dark. BUT that is another issue i can talk about some other time.

Lost yet?
OKay well here is some examples i shot of the same image on different apertures…
so this first one is on a FAST aperture of 2.8
the amount of things in focus in this image is small right? the doll at the front is and then it blurs off pretty quickly. A fast aperture means a shallow depth of field.
then the same image at f6.3
 so depth of field increasing and so more in focus and yes the toys have all changed positions! thats what happens when you try and work out shots with small people about!!
then at f22.0 which is super slow and only really going to work if your light is reasonable. (again something we can talk about another time) But check it out even this time even Daddy Pig is in focus!! 😉
So has that helped at all?
If you shoot on AV or aperture setting on your camera and play. You can obviously do all this in your manual settings.
Which some folk think that if you aren’t using manual then you aren’t a proper photographer. Well my opinion is that cameras these days are clever little things and why fumble around trying to work of your shutter and ISO if your camera can take the strain for you. Yes in manual you are a LOT more in control but you have to know what to control and how.
In the priority settings on your camera you can focus on and understand one part of the process, one bit at a time. 🙂
Try to think light first though if you are in a really dimly lit room then you are unlikely to be able to achieve and aperture of f22.0 but then why would you want to anyway?  Probably the nicest look for inside is the buttery bokeh of a fast aperture.
Happy shooting and pop back and let me know how you get on!!


  1. April 21, 2013 / 9:24 pm

    Bit late commenting on this one, but enjoying reading your how to guides. I tend to spend a lot of time shooting in aperture priority mode, is there a reason why using shutter priority would be a better option sometimes?
    The Fool recently posted…Flying soloMy Profile

  2. June 6, 2013 / 7:31 am

    I love this although I think I need to read it another few times! I think all I am going to do with my camera is play with it on holiday!! 🙂
    Notmyyearoff recently posted…Approaching Two And A HalfMy Profile

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