The Monday Lesson

This week I’m going to talk about Apertures, or F-stops, and how they make your photos better.
I covered this a little bit in one of my earlier lessons on depth of field, but I wanted to go over it with a little more detail. 🙂

So, before we start using our cameras, let’s define Aperture and talk about why it is a tool you need to know about. The aperture is a hole or opening that light passes through. The greater the size of the hole, the more light comes into the camera and the smaller the hole the less light. Here is a picture I found on Wikipedia that shows a large and small aperture inside of a camera lens.
Your camera lens works much like your eyes do. When it’s dark inside, your pupils dilate to allow the maximum amount of light in so you can see better. When you step outside into bright sunlight, your pupils get smaller.
Other than controlling how much light comes in through your camera lens, your aperture (also called F-stop) controls something called depth-of-field. The depth-of-field (DOF) is the distance in front of and beyond the subject that appears to be in focus. Think of it as depth of focus. When you focus your camera, you select a spot to be in focus. By adjusting your aperture, you can control how much is in focus behind and in front of your chosen spot of focus.

Here is an example. This is an image I just took in my back yard of some lady slippers. I captured this one with my Nikon D200 at f/22.

The flowers are beautiful, and all 4 are in focus…but it could still be a little better.

Here are the same group of lady slippers taken at f/5.6. Big difference, right? Notice how the background, including the 3 flowers behind the one in focus, is blurry now? This makes it a much more appealing photo and separates your subject from other distracting items in view.

I’ll explain a little bit further. The aperture openings in the lens are identified by a number. The numbers start around 1.4 and go up to about 22 (depending on your equipment). The low numbers mean that the opening in the lens is at its largest and the high numbers mean the opening is the smallest. I know that seems a little opposite but it is just the way it is (they are actually fractions). So, what do the numbers mean and how do they control the DOF? If your camera is set to a wide-open F-stop (a low number) then the areas in front of and behind your point of focus will be blurred or softly focused. If your camera is set to a small F-stop (high number) then your background and foreground will be more in focus.

This is my favorite image, taken a week ago with my Fuji FinePix S5 Pro at f/5…the inspiration for this lesson. 🙂Now go out and have some fun! Let me know how your photos turn out! 🙂

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