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Photography 101: What is Aperture?

In photography, there are three important camera settings that you will need to understand to elevate your photos. Often referred to as the ‘exposure triangle’; these are ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture. In this article, we are going to find out exactly what Aperture is and how you can utilise it to take better photos.

What is Aperture?

Aperture is the opening in a camera lens which light travels through to the camera body.

The best way to understand camera aperture is to compare it to the pupil on the human eye. In low light, the pupil widens to let in as much light as possible and in bright light, the pupil shrinks. The more open a camera lens aperture is, the larger the hole and the more light that gets in. The more closed a camera lens is, the smaller the hole is and less light gets in.

Aperture is vital to the composition and exposure of a photograph by determining the amount of light that comes through a camera lens and how much of a photo is in focus and the depth of field.

How is Aperture measured?

Aperture is measured in F-numbers, aka F-stops. F-stops describe how open or closed the aperture is.

The smaller the F-stop number, the larger the aperture and the greater the F-stop number, the smaller the aperture. For example, F/1.4 is larger than F/2.8 and much larger than F/16. This can be a bit confusing to begin with, as it seems like the wrong way round but once understood, it is quickly grasped!

What is the best aperture to use?

Aperture alters the exposure of an image by making them lighter or darker.

In a dark environment or if you are taking nighttime photography it would be best to use a larger aperture such as F/1.4 as they allow as much light in as possible. In a very bright environment, such as direct sunlight onto a white-wash wall, it would be best for you to use a smaller aperture, to make a photograph darker and more visible.

Aperture also allows you to add dimension to your photographs by controlling the depth of field.

If you have a smaller aperture such as F/22, this will bring all the foreground and background of an image into focus, creating a large depth of field. This makes smaller apertures the best aperture for landscape shots, if you want to keep the whole image sharp.

The larger apertures, such as F/1.4, create a shallow depth of field, as they isolate either the foreground or background objects, making everything else in the image blurry and out of focus. Using a larger aperture, can help bring focus to a particular subject in an image so is the best aperture for portraits or if you want to take a picture of one object in particular.

Aperture affects both ISO (link to ISO article?) and shutter speed (link to shutter speed article?). As the larger apertures allow more light in, this will allow you to use a faster shutter speed or lower ISO value. This is essential for shots which include lots of motion such as sports or wildlife photography.

How do you set your aperture on your camera?

To manually adjust your camera's aperture values, there are two modes, which can usually be found in the top dial of your camera.

Firstly Aperture Priority mode, the highest recommended mode usually written as A or AV on camera dials, allows you to choose your aperture, while automatically selecting your shutter speed and ISO. Alternatively, you can adjust your camera’s aperture values on manual mode, usually written as M. On manual mode you can select your aperture as well as the shutter speed and ISO.

Every lens has a maximum and minimum aperture, so it is worth checking out the specification of your lens. Generally, the maximum aperture of a lens is of more importance, as it can tell you how much light it can gather at its maximum and can sometimes even be found in the name of the camera!

I hope we have answered your questions and you have a clearer understanding of aperture, but if we haven’t please get in touch. Our expert team is photography mad and will happily answer any questions you may have!

I hope we have answered your questions and you have a clearer understanding of aperture, but if we haven’t please get in touch. Our expert team is photography mad and will happily answer any questions you may have!

by Harrison Cameras on 03/03/2021


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