Gosh, What’s Aperture?

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

I am going to try to keep this easy, all right?

There’s no need for you to close this site, pack your things and flee to a secluded island.

Don’t let the aperture scare you!

Actually, the aperture is a good friend, it can serve your needs quite magically.

If you are using a point-and-shoot camera, you don’t even have to worry about anything – the camera does it all for you. But if you’re a ‘big’ DSLR camera user, then you might want to have a look into the magical world of the aperture.

So, what is that aperture?

Basically, it is the hole in you lens, or the eye of your camera – opening and closing as you wish.

See? I told you it’s not difficult.

And what does that hole/aperture do?

Well, primarily, there are two types of situations when the aperture can serve you well.

First, when the light conditions in the place where you’re taking photographs are not so good (low-light situations) you can open the aperture wide thus letting more light into your camera allowing it to work more effectively.

And the other kind of situation, the one that I am actually demonstrating here with the pictures, is using the aperture opening to influence the depth of your photographs.

Come, have a look at what I mean, there are plenty of examples here…

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

This is where I demonstrate the depth of the photograph (people usually call that the ‘depth-of-field’).

The picture on the left-hand side has the front subject in sharp focus while the subjects in the background are out of focus. This is called the ‘shallow depth-of-field’. It is so aptly named – you see shallow, you don’t see deep.

On the other hand, the picture on the right-hand side can be described as one with the ‘great depth-of-field’. See? It really is deep – the subject in the foreground is almost of the same sharpness as the ones in the background.

And you know what?

It’s under your control to decide what kind of picture you want to take – whether it’s the shallow one or the deep one.

Isn’t that awesome?

And yes, it has something to do with the numbers I’ve pasted into the pictures.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

The ‘f/number’ that I’ve pasted into the pictures for you is meant to describe the aperture setting I had used while taking the particular picture. In photography, the ‘f’, or ‘f-stop’ or ‘f-number’ is used when the aperture is being discussed.

To practice the control over your camera’s aperture, all you need to do is to search you camera manual and find the little article on the aperture.

Once you find it and learn where that little button is, just do this: go for the lowest numbers (like 2 in my picture) if you want the shallow depth-of-field and go for the highest numbers (like 22 in my picture) if you want the ‘deep’, all-focused pics.

Your lowest and highest numbers might be different than mine since lenses differ in this aspect.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

So what’s this again?

Petra?

Deep or shallow?

Yes, it’s deep, because I had my camera set at a high number – 22 in this case – making everything from the foreground to the background being in focus.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

This is another example.

Three happy apples posing just for you.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

The front apple is enjoying the focal attention while his friends are standing in the background being out of focus.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

Here, all three apples enjoy being in focus.

I’d call this picture ‘One for all, all for one’.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

Here, some peas also want you to see what the aperture is all about.

That’s so kind of them.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

Low number – shallow depth-of-field.

There are times when you want to isolate your subject…when you want it to be in sharp focus while having the background out of focus. Portraits or food photos are good examples of these situations.

what is aperture, explanation, tutorial with images

High number – great depth-of-field.

There are different situations when you’ll definitely want to have as many details in focus as possible. Just imagine taking a picture of a landscape, for instance, with all its trees, animals, hills, river, clouds…everything crisp and clear.

Note: I really need to let you know of this fact – the smaller the f-number the wider is the aperture opening. A little technical detail that you can remember or forget right now. I give you the permission.

I hope this all made at least a little sense and was of some help.

I wish you a lot of fun while playing with your aperture.

Go and have fun!

See you soon.

Love,

Petra

 

46 Responses to Gosh, What’s Aperture?

  1. 1
    Tes says:

    Thanks for this info… I always wanna take picture like this :)
    Very easy to understand…great post!

  2. 2
    deeba says:

    Yes I enjoyed reading this a lot, as much as I did your pictures and commentary. Aperture and me have to be friends soon! Thank you for writing this so beautifully!

  3. 3

    Great explanation of aperture!

  4. 4

    great tips! I struggle with my photography, so appreciate such lessons! I posted a link on edible crafts, too :)
    (ediblecrafts.craftgossip.com). Thanks for sharing!

  5. 5

    Great visuals with this lesson. I tend to be a more visual learner and no matter how often someone explains aperture to me, it comes down to “show me”. You did just that.

    Thanks so much!

  6. 6

    Thanks for the help- I struggle with this and lighting all the time!

  7. 7

    Thank you SO much for an easy-read explanation! I sell jewelry so I hope this helps!

  8. 8
    Amanda says:

    I have an expensive camera that my husband got me for my birthday and haven’t figured out how to use it yet! I’ve always wondered what “depth of field” was…this was a really helpful and easy to understand tutorial!

    Thank you for the explanation and get photos to help all the visual people! I love your blog!

  9. 9
    Amanda says:

    *great, not get.

    (sorry, typing too fast!)

  10. 10
    Merdrey Chew says:

    Thanks for the simple explanation!

  11. 11
    Prerna says:

    Great explaination! thankx :-)

  12. 12
    Hungry Jenny says:

    Easily the most straightforward and friendly explanation I’ve read about aperture! Fantastic photos.

    Hungry Jenny x

  13. 13
    Ivy says:

    Completely helpful thank you!
    I think I need to make a cheat sheet for myself to remember the tricks so when in the exciting moment of taking photos of my food projects I can quickly take a picture with intent instead of hoping for a “good one” LOL.

  14. 14
    Maria says:

    Thanks for this post! Great information!

  15. 15
    Jane says:

    I agree completely with “Hungry Jenny” above. Ditto, and more! Could you write us a whole book on this stuff? Please?

    • 15.1
      zoomyummy says:

      Oh, thank you, thank you! I’ll be definitely coming back with more colorful explanations. Your words are so sweet – who knows, maybe there will be a book one day… Have a wonderful day :) Petra

  16. 16

    Thank you so much! I am currently looking into a slr. This info is tremendously helpful in breaking it down. I appreciate you spelling it out in clear words and great photos!

  17. 17
    Debs says:

    Thanks so much for the explanation. I seem to be brain dead when it comes to photography (not good when you have a food blog). However, I’m improving slowly (very slowly) mainly because of the wonderful people out there willing to share their experienced photography knowledge just like you.

    Watch this space, I may just be professional in 100 years LOL.

  18. 18

    This is so great! I am still learning a lot about photography so this helps a lot :) Thank you!

  19. 19

    you explain it very well Petra, i love it!

    best regards from Balikpapan, Indonesia :)

  20. 20

    [...] Aperture is the measurement of the opening of the camera lens.  When the opening is wide, more light comes int, when its small, less light comes in.  It is measured using F-stops.  Here is an article with a simple explination found on another wordpress blog http://zoomyummy.com/2010/07/28/gosh-whats-aperture/.  [...]

  21. 21
    Kaneta says:

    I now understand aperture– thank you!

  22. 22
    Ragna says:

    Thanks Petra, that was really very “visual” – I wonder, however – if the higher aperture allows two things: get more light through your lens and at the same time more depth of field – how come the pictures with higher aperture appear in the same light and are not totally overexposed?

    • 22.1
      zoomyummy says:

      Hi Ragna!

      That is a great question!

      Very briefly, your camera helps you with that – when the aperture opens wider, the exposure time needs to be reduced in order not to let too much light in (for the pictures not to get overexposed). The camera can do that automatically (if you shoot in AV mode) or you can control it manually.

      Does that make sense?

      :) Petra

  23. 23
    Ragna says:

    It does – many thanks!
    I’ll definitely try this out the next time I can pry the camera out of the hands of my sweetheart :-)

  24. 24
    Christine says:

    Great to meet you! We’re putting together 99 links to help foodbloggers take better photos. I love your post and would like to add a URL link back to this specific post. We’d love your permission. Thank you again…

    Cheers

    Christine
    christine@knapkins.com

  25. 25

    [...] The part of the lens which provides for the blurriness of the picture is called the aperture (if you are not that familiar with this term you can find a little more about it here). [...]

  26. 26
    lulu says:

    why can’t the instruction books be as clear as you? I finally get it, thanks so much

  27. 27
    pijai says:

    Thanks Petra!!

    Love you too,

    Pijai

  28. 28
    Katie says:

    Wow…I came across your site last night after googling crochet placemats and fell in love with your site. You have an incredible gift and I look forward to coming again and again for more inspiration.
    Your photography section is my favorite. I know what aperture is and how to use it. But I have never seen it explained so simply as you just did. :-)

  29. 29
    Heidi says:

    thankyou SOOOO much! ok, so you’re probably the 10th, and thankfully last site i googled for help with aperture and shutter priority. and i say ‘last’ because you explained it perfectly!!! after looking at your example photos, and instructions, i thought ‘mmm-hmmm, looks kinda like every other site i’ve been to’ but i grabbed my camera and decided to try ONE MORE TIME, and BAM, 1st picture i set the aperture to (low aperture setting) and the camera snapped a beautiful shot! i’m so thankful you posted this page! thankyou thankyou THANKYOU!!! :D

  30. 30
    Joanna says:

    Thankyou soooooo much. I did a short photography course and could not get my head around those numbers no matter how often it was explained with technical arrogance to me. I realised that you don’t need to understand it to be able to take a photo but it is nice to realise that it is so simple! You obviously use the same part of your brain that I do – the creative part (is that left or right???). thankyou~

  31. 31
    Rachna says:

    Thanx, cleared the topic – aperture…in very simple text…

  32. 32
    Jaclyn says:

    Hi Petra! I always love your photography! It’s just gorgeous. Can I ask what you use for the black setting? I’ve been dying to take a photo like this but don’t know what it is. I know that’s a dumb question but I’m still an amateur =). Thanks!

  33. 33

    Hello Petra! I am using a point and shoot (Nikon CoolPix, nothing fancy) I am currently reading Plate to Pixel and have not read anything about whether the aperture for the field of depth can be adjusted. I would like to take a photo and like above where the background is blurred. Can this be achieved with a point and shoot? My photos also tend to be blurry if I get too close to the food I’m taking a picture of. Thanks!! :)

  34. 34
    Thomas says:

    Hey Petra,

    You have a wonderful way of breaking complicated info into fun ways of explanation.
    Keep the blog going.

  35. 35
    Giay da luoi says:

    I always want take picture like this :D
    Thank you so much :)

  36. 36
    ShellyBaby says:

    Awesome Photos! Where were you when I was taking my online photography class and I couldn’t for the life of me, figure out the whole depth of field thing … I would have saved so much headache if I had found this before.

  37. 37
    Jennie Taupin says:

    WELL……… after all these YEARS…. FINALLY I understand ‘depth of field’… thank you, thank yoooooooo!!!!!! I see from the comments that there are many others who have struggled with this (which makes me feel better!!) Such clear,well defined and very, very helpful instructions!! Where’s my camera… I’m off to play… yipppeeee!!

  38. 38
    kangaroo says:

    Great and informative post. Let me just add one small snippet. The f-numbers are really about time. The better (more expensive) the lens, the faster its mechanism which opens up the pupil. So a lens with an f/1.2 needs less time to let the surrounding light thru, than a lens with an f/2.8. There is a math formula, too, so one can calculate the precise time for each lens, but I will not bore you with that. However, in photography, it is all about light and the timeframe in which your equipment is able to capture it.

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