Aperture, say what?

Tuesday’s Tip…learning how to use Aperture Priority!  So, shooting in manual mode is still overwhelming?  Then you should learn how to use the 2 semi-automatic priority modes…shutter priority and aperture priority.  Today I’m going to focus on Aperture Priority.  Get out your manual if you need to.  Switch the little mode dial to A or Av (depending on if you are a Nikon or Canon user.)  This will give you full control over the aperture, which means the depth of field shown in your picture.

Here’s a little write up about aperture taken from my DSLR Camera Class Handbook that I give to the participants in my camera class:

What is Aperture?

Aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when a picture is taken.  It is the “iris” of the camera.  It is measured in ‘f-stops’.  Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens. f/2.8 is a larger aperture and lets more light in than f/22.  (It is backwards from what you think it should be!)  Aperture allows 2 things…more light and more depth of field.  The smaller the number, the more depth of field.

A large depth of field (DOF) means your image will be in focus whether it’s close to your camera or far away.  f/22 would allow for this. A small depth of field or shallow depth of field means that only part of the image is in focus and the rest will be blurry.  f/4.5 can create this.  f/1.8 or 2.8 creates even more blur and has a more dramatic effect.

How To Use Aperture Priority Mode:
This mode lets you select the aperture and the camera chooses shutter speed to give you a proper exposure.  Aperture priority mode is useful when you want to control the depth of field in a shot (usually a stationary object where you don’t need to control shutter speed). A larger number aperture means the aperture (or the opening in your camera when shooting) is smaller and lets less light in. This means you’ll have a larger depth of field (more of the scene will be in focus) but that your camera will choose a slower shutter speed. Small numbers means the opposite- your aperture is large and lets more light in.  You will have a small depth of field and your camera will probably choose a faster shutter speed for you.  The number for aperture corresponds with “f/#” and is called the f/stop.Go as low as you can go with the number.

So, here’s a little activity for you to do.  Set the aperture number really wide to your smallest number and take a picture.  Then set it really narrow to your larger number and take a picture.  Look at the difference.  Most lenses that come with the camera go to around f/4.  (I have a fixed lens.  Fixed lenses let you take it even lower.  My lens lets me go to f/1.8.  It’s amazing, which you will see in the photos I posted below.)  Take a photo at each interval with being the same distance from the object.  If you don’t see much difference, move your body closer to the object.  Aperture is affected by 2 variables…your physical distance to the object/subject AND also how wide of an aperture your camera lens will let you go!

Here’s a few pictures to show you the difference between two extremes…f/1.8 and f/22.

photo taken at f/1.8

same photo taken at f/22

photo taken at f/1.8

same photo taken at f/22

photo taken at f/1.8...focus point was on Kylie which allows the background to be blurred. If you focused on the background, it would be in focus and Kylie would be blurred instead. 🙂


similar photo taken at f/22

This upcoming Saturday on April 9th I will be teaching another DSLR Class.  If you’re interested in more details, please email me at raindancerstudios@gmail.com.


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