Photography is ALL about light. To create a proper exposure (the lightness or darkness of an image) there are a few different camera settings that allow you to adjust how much light enters your lens. Your aperture setting (also called f-stops) is one of them. This is also the setting that controls your “depth of field” which means how much of your image is in focus. It’s a fun setting to experiment with to create some fun photos!
The ISO, shutter speed and aperture settings all work together to create a proper exposure. So if you set your aperture the way you want it but the image is too dark you can adjust your ISO or shutter speed to result in a proper exposure.
If you put your camera on Aperture Mode you can experiment with what happens when you change only the aperture (f-stops). Your camera will then adjust the other settings for you to give you a proper exposure.
The LOWER f-stop numbers allow MORE light into your camera. (This can be confusing – small number = large opening) So, if you are in a low-light setting and need to let more light in you can lower the f-stop number.
As you lower the f-stop number to allow more light in your DEPTH OF FIELD decreases. This means that a smaller area of your photo will be in focus. Creatively, this can be a really good thing! But you also have to be aware that what you want in focus IS actually in focus!
There are other factors that affect how depth of field works like the distance you are from your subject, the distance your subject is from the background and your focal length. That’s another lesson for another day! But something to be aware of.
In this image of Aiden you’ll see there is a shallow depth of field. His eyes are in focus but his ear and hands are not. This photos has a “shallow depth of field.” (f/3.2)
So if you want more in focus you’ll need to keep your aperture number higher and may need to let more light in by changing your ISO or Shutter Speed. If you’re in Aperture Priority mode your camera will do this for you. In this image I wanted a deep depth of field so I put my aperture at f/10. Since I was shooting outdoors on a sunny day I had plenty of light to work with.
Look at the difference in the depth of field of these two images below. There is a larger DOF in the first image (f/6.3) as opposed to the second where the DOF is shallow (f/1.8).
[I did have to change the shutter speed and ISO to allow more light in for the first image because at the higher f/6.3 setting it doesn’t let as much light in.]
You may have heard about the new iPhones offering a portrait mode that allows you to blur the background. It’s giving the look of a fancy camera on a low aperture setting. I personally love setting the aperture low to make my subject really pop! Here are a few more examples of that:
I hope this information was helpful! When you start researching this topic it can seem overwhelming and the numbers will get mixed up in your head! But the best thing you can do is PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Get outside, pick a subject and just start shooting on different settings and things will start to click 🙂
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I offer one-on-one photo lessons to those who live in the Charleston, SC area. I have a background in art education and love teaching people how to take better photos! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or to set something up.
Thank you to Emily at Texture Design Co for designing all of my graphics for me!