Beginner Guide to Aperture in Photography

Let’s unpack it together in this photography tutorial.

Understand what is aperture in photography with this quick guide

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Learn Aperture for Beginners

What Is Aperture in Photography and How to Use It

If you want to know how to take amazing photos, one of the basic technical elements you need to understand is what is Aperture in photography. 

As a beginner photographer, it’s important to know what it is, why it’s important to know about and how a greater understanding can impact your photography!

So it’s very helpful that Art of Visuals Youtube channel has put out this easy to follow video tutorial guide all about Aperture, explaining what it does and how to master it as a beginner photographer!

Crash Course In Understanding What is Aperture in Photography

What is Aperture in Photography?

Firstly, what is it? The aperture is the size of the opening in your lens. This controls how much light is allowed to pass through when the shutter is open. 

The light that your camera sensor receives is the biggest determinant for how good your photos will look.

The light captured by the camera is affected by settings that work together, and these are Aperture, ISO, exposure, and shutter speed.

F-stop numbers and what they mean

Aperture is managed by a f/stop number. An F-stop number is the ratio of the focal length of the diameter of the opening. The smaller the f-number the larger the opening, the larger the f-number the smaller the opening

The “f” in f-stop stands for the focal length of the lens. While focal length itself refers to the field of view of a lens, the f-stop is about how much light you allow to hit the sensor via the aperture opening.

A wide aperture has a larger opening and a smaller f-stop number, like an f/1.4 for example.

A narrow aperture has a smaller opening and a larger f-stop number like an f-22.

What is aperture in photography, explained in this image


Aperture and light

There is a direct relationship between the aperture width and the light entering your camera. Think of it like a door. The more the door is open, the more light can enter. The more the door is closed, the less light can enter. 

The larger the aperture – the wider the opening. This means that more light will be allowed to pass through. And conversely, the smaller the aperture – the less light is allowed through. 

Reducing the aperture by one full stop or one setting notch from an F2 to F2.8 will cut the amount of light entering the camera by half. And a further halve from f/4 to f/5.6 and so on and so forth.

Also to note, a wider aperture is better for dark or low light settings because it will allow the maximum light available into the lens. 

How light is affected by aperture in photography

Aperture and Depth of Field

The aperture is one of the most important aspects of photography, because it directly affects the depth of field you will be able to see and capture.

What is depth of field? Depth of field is the range of what is in focus in your image. It’s the observed distance from the nearest object in focus to the furthest object in focus within your frame.

A large or deep depth of field is achieved by using a narrow aperture, which means using a large f-stop number. This produces an image with the focus reaching farther from the foreground to the background

A narrow or shallow depth of field on the other hand is reached by using a wide aperture, meaning a small f-stop number. 

This produces an image where the subject is in focus with a more blurry out of focus background.

Aperture is denoted in f-stops or f-numbers


Applying Aperture Correctly

Understanding how Aperture affects your photos is really important. Specifically knowing how to apply this to get the effect you want is paramount to your success as a photographer.

It’s one thing to know the technical information, it’s another thing to apply it to specific situations. There is a lot to know and understand here but 2 big takeaways are:

A wide aperture, wider opening of the lens (smaller f-stop) gives you a shallow depth of field.

This is ideal for Portrait photography because it naturally draws focus to the subject.

Shallow depth of field has good separation between subject and foreground at the cost of background focus.

The subject is clear and the background is blurred. The main goal in Portrait photography is to have a clearly focused subject.

A wide aperture, f1.8 gives a very shallow depth of field

A narrow aperture, smaller opening of the lens (larger f-stop), gives you a deep depth of field.

This is ideal for shots that require as much background detail as you can from the scene in front of you while clearly capturing the foreground and the background by putting a longer distance into focus.

Deep depth of field has good clarity and focus of background at the cost of the overall perception of depth as there is little to no separation between the foreground and the background.

This is great for nature photography and big landscape shots because it allows your lens to capture in detail as much of the detail before you as possible.

The goal here is to capture wide nature scapes so having separation of the foreground is less important than capturing as much detail as possible.

A narrow aperture, f/22 gives a deep depth of field

There are so many elements to understand for taking great photography, and knowing how to use Aperture is an important one

Want to know more about photography and how to improve? Read this full comprehensive photography guide!


Which of these Aperture tips will you apply to your next photography shoot?

Comment below!


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