Understanding Aperture

“How do you get photos that have blurry backgrounds?” It’s a common question with a simple answer: aperture! In photography there are three functions that work hand in hand together; aperture, shutter speed, and ISO (which you can read more about here).

Aperture is the size of the hole in your lens that allow light to travel into your camera’s sensor. The bigger the hole the more light, the smaller the hole the less light. It not only is the way that light gets into your camera, but aperture also determines how shallow your depth of field is.

Depth of field relates to the amount of area that is in focus. Stick with us, I know it seems confusing, but it will all make sense soon. On the chart below you can see the size of the hole represents the size of the lens aperture. The larger the f-number (known also as an f/stop), the smaller the aperture. So for example f/1.4 is a small f/stop, but has a large aperture. When your f/stop is a small number you’ll get the blurry background most photographers strive for. However when you f/stop is a large number you’ll get gorgeous landscape photos with everything in focus.

Aperture-f-Number

When first starting out in photography it’s handy to create a “cheat sheet” to remember all the terms and settings. So here’s a few important apertures to remember:

 

-f/1.8 is perfect for low light situations and also for individual portraits

-f/4 is great for photographing two or three people that are all in a line and also for photographing on a bright sunny day

-f/8 is wonderful for photographing a group of people that are two or three rows deep

-f/20 is fantastic for scenic photos when you would like everything in focus (especially for night photos)

 

Please note that on the side and top of your camera lens you’ll see the f/stop that is available. Most inexpensive lenses can only get down to around f/3.5, while professional lenses are around f/1.2. We highly recommend two lenses when you are first starting out and want to achieve that “blurry” background; Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 and Canon EF 85mm f/1.8. With both of the lenses under $500 dollars it’s an expensive investment into great images!

Next week we will discuss how the shutter speed ties the ISO and aperture all together! Until then, get practicing playing with your aperture and ISO!

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