Okay people! We’re finally on the third pillar of photography—aperture. This one, aperture, is also known as F-stop and is my favorite one to talk about, because it’s the one because it can really change the style of your photography. Like the other pillars, aperture also plays a part in how much light makes it to your sensor, and it’s also the setting that can give you that beautiful depth of field or blurred out background. And I think we can agree that every blogger wants to know how to do that!
We’ll start with the basics though. What is aperture? Aperture refers to the hole which through light passes into the camera. When you change the size of this hole, you are changing the amount of light that’s let into the camera. A wider opening, more light, a smaller opening, less light—easy enough right? Well sorta, that part is easy, but the way f-stops are numbered always confuses me. A smaller aperture or hole, is actually a higher f-stop number while a wide aperture (bigger opening) actually has a smaller f-stop number. Here’s an example because I’m visual…
f/1.4 — wide aperture, more light
f/8.0 — small aperture, less light
Typically the reason you’ll change your aperture is to adjust your depth of field, not the lighting. I rely on the other two pillars to control my light the most. But, every once in a while, you’ll find yourself in a strange lighting situation and you’ll have to change your aperture so that it lets in more or less light. On a really bright day, it’s hard to shoot at a wide aperture because it’s just too bright, even if your shutter speed is fast, so you’ll need to bump up your f-stop so that the aperture is smaller.
Okay, onto the cool part about aperture! I keep saying depth of field, but what does that mean?! It refers to how much of your exposure is in focus. A shallow depth of field (smaller f-stop number, wider aperture) will only focus on the objects in the foreground and leave the background blurry, while a wider depth of field (larger f-stop number, smaller aperture) will produce an image with more of the background in focus. Can you see why it’s easy to get confused! Again, just practice and practice, soon enough it’ll stick in your brain.
Here’s another way to remember: the lower the number, the less in focus the background will be. This also means more light is let in because the opening is much bigger. As the f-stop number goes up, things get more in focus and let in less light. Go ahead and take a few practice shots if you’re still confused.
Why I Love Aperture
The reason this is my favorite pillar of photography is because it allows you to really change the style and feeling of your images by adjusting the depth of field. It also makes them look more professional and interesting because your eyes are drawn to whatever subject is in focus instead of being distracted by the stop sign in the background.
Photos come out with more of an artistic flair that I really love! When you’re shooting an outfit, it can help draw attention to you or even a specific detail in the post, like a watch or the detailing on a jacket. For outfits, I typically shoot at 2.8-3.2 for full body shots and 2.0-2.8 for details. If you want more to be in focus, shoot on the higher f-stop and if you want softer images, shoot on the lower f-stop. There’s really no right or wrong, it’s just a matter of opinion and style!
Be aware that if your f-stop is too low, you might come out blurry! I used to shoot on f/1.8 and my face and feet were always blurry. I blamed it on my camera and lens and then realized everything was working exactly right, my aperture was just too low! Bumping it up just a bit made my face and feet crisp too! I really love that blurred background, so I always shoot as low as I can without sacrificing on quality or sharpness. Here’s a few examples and you can see the aperture below it.
f/2.0, 1/1000, ISO 160[/one-half-first][one-half]
f/4.0, 1/320, ISO 160 [/one-half]
When it comes to lifestyle images, like food, I play around more with aperture. If I’m shooting overhead, I’ll use a bigger f-stop so everything is in focus. When I’m shooting details, I’ll go low to pinpoint a single detail! Play around to see what you like best!
You might have your camera turned on and realize your lowest aperture is 4.0, which is common with a lot of kit lens. If you really want to get that depth of field, I recommend investing in a prime lens (no zoom) with a low base aperture. The 50mm f/1.8 is a great starter lens. It’s very affordable too! But if you want to get something nicer, the 50mm f/1.4 and the 35mm f/2.0 are amazing! I’ve actually gotten to the point where I almost always only shoot with my 35mm. It has a wider angle and is more versatile for everyday shooting. The images come out super crisp and I highly recommend it if you’re wanting something nicer and more versatile.
Well, that’s it for the three pillars of photography! If you need a refresher, make sure to go back and read up on ISO and shutter speed. Got questions about aperture or photography? Leave them below!