When beginning photography, hearing all of the technical terms can be a bit overwhelming. Terms like ISO, RAW, focal length, depth of field, exposure compensation, f-stop, f-number, and aspect ratio can either leave you scratching your head or digging for your camera’s instruction manual! It’s important to understand the common photography terms and definitions as a beginner photographer. The first term and definition you need to know is aperture. Similar to the way the pupil of your eye adjusts to different light, the lens widens and narrows as you adjust the aperture setting on your camera. A small f-number like f/1.8 equals a wide aperture. A large f-number like f/22 indicates a narrow aperture. If you’re a beginner photographer, just remember that small f-numbers mean wide apertures, and big f-numbers mean narrow apertures.
How to Change the Aperture
If you’re using an older DSLR or film camera, you would probably set aperture by rotating a ring on the lens itself. But many modern lenses that are used on Canon and Nikon cameras don’t have an aperture ring. This can be done quite easily while shooting in aperture priority mode. On Nikon cameras, aperture priority mode is indicated by the “A” on the mode dial. If you’re shooting with a Canon camera, aperture priority mode will be indicated with an “Av.” Simply rotate the dial clockwise to lower the aperture number. Rotating counter-clockwise will increase the aperture number.
Is it Better to Have Higher or Lower Aperture?
Aperture helps you control exposure. Using a wide aperture will brighten up your images. If your photo looks too dark, simply widen the aperture, or decrease the f-number, to correct that. A wide open aperture setting, small f-number, creates a blurry background that will help keep the focus on your main subject. Aperture doesn’t determine what is in focus. Aperture controls what’s in focus, and what’s not. Having the option to change aperture settings gives you creative control over your images.
Best Aperture For…
Now you have a better understanding of the definition of aperture and how to it relates to your photography. It’s only fair to give you a sort of “cheat sheet” of aperture uses.
Best Aperture for Portraits
When photographing portraits, you will usually want to separate the subject from the background. To do this effectively, you’ll want to go with a range of f/2-f/2.8. Shooting portraits at a low f-stop means more clarity even in low light.
Best Aperture for Landscapes
When choosing which f-stop to use when photographing landscapes, it really is all about personal preference. But most landscape photography situations call for focused images from the foreground to the background. To achieve this type of landscape image, you’ll want to use a higher f-stop. Shooting in the f/8 to f/11 range will allow you to get more of your landscape scene in focus.
Best Aperture for Group Photos
When photographing a large group of people, the size of the group won’t make a difference if they are lined up side by side. You will focus at a wide aperture. The aperture changes will occur when your group of 2 to infinity grows in depth. You’ll need to increase your depth of field to make sure everyone is in focus whether in the front or the back of the group. This is accomplished by increasing the f-stop number. The deeper your group of people, the more depth of field you’ll need. A group 3-deep, or on 3 separate focal planes, will require an aperture of f/5.6 for example.
Best Aperture for Night Photography
Night photography will require using the opposite techniques you may be use to if you shoot a lot of landscape photography. This includes the aperture settings. Night photography requires a faster aperture than the narrow aperture used for landscape photography. The preferred choice for night photography is a wide-angled lens with a fast aperture of f/2.8. If you only have a f/4 lens at your disposal, you can still capture amazing night sky images using a higher ISO and slower shutter speed.
Best Aperture for Cloudy Days
If you’re shooting outdoors on a cloudy day, you’ll want to open the lens aperture wider to allow more light through the lens. A large aperture of f/2.8 or f/4 is a good place to start unless you are shooting moving subjects or action shots. If this is the case, you’ll want to freeze the action by giving priority to a fast shutter speed.
Best Aperture for Low Light
Using a flash to make up for the lack of lighting isn’t always the best solution. The built-in flash can create flat images or create unwanted shadows. A fast lens like the Canon 85mm f/1.4L Fixed Prime Digital SLR Camera Lens from Buydig.com that has a wide aperture of f/1.4 is great for low light photography.