Understanding Aperture

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For many novice or beginners, one of the very first things to learn would be the three pillars of photography namely, the Aperture, the Shutter Speed, and ISO. If you know how to operate a DSLR Camera or if you intend to purchase one soon, I highly recommend that you go over what I am about to share.

Today, we will focus on aperture as it is used in photography. For starters, it is important to know that aperture will allow you to do two different things in a photograph – first, adding dimension to an image by creating a blurry background or second it can bring all elements of the photograph into focus.

Aperture and Depth of Field Chart
Aperture and Depth of Field Chart

Defining Aperture

In simpler terms, the aperture refers to the tiny hole within a lens. This is where the light enters and travels into the body of the camera. To define “aperture”, it is best to use an analogy. Well, as we all know, the cameras are designed to function like the human eyes. The front section of the lens functions like the cornea of the human eye. It gathers the external light, refracts it, and penetrates the light to the iris. The iris can either shrink or expand the light and control the size of the pupil which acts as the hole that permits the light to go further in the eye.

The pupil is similar to the aperture in photography. The amount of light that gets in the retina is controlled by the size of the pupil. In short, the larger the hole in the retina, the larger the amount of the light that gets through to the retina. To better remember aperture and what it does, you simply have to remember your eye, particularly your pupil. As a general rule, remember this phrase: the large pupil is tantamount to the large aperture, and small pupil is equivalent to the small aperture.

Understanding the Sizes of Aperture in Photography

Aperture does vary in sizes, too. The iris of the lens which generally controls the size of the aperture is referred to as the ‘diaphragm’. The role of the diaphragm is to stop all the light except that which enters through the camera’s aperture. The aperture in photography is represented by f/numbers (e.g. f/5.6, f/1.4, etc). These numbers are referred to as the ‘f-stops’ that basically describe how closed or open the aperture of the particular camera is. The smaller the f-stop is, the larger the aperture. For example, f/2.0 is definitely bigger than f/8.0. Here’s a quick question – which is bigger, f/1. 4 or f/2.0? If you have chosen the former, then you are absolutely correct!

Learning How Aperture Size Impacts the Depth of Field

In learning about the aperture in photography, you may be wondering how to produce sharp images. This has something to do with the size of an aperture as it has an impact on depth of the field. Basically, images appear sharp due to the depth of the field and how the foreground and the background keep the main object in focus. A smaller f-number aperture basically isolates the foreground and the background making the former sharp and the latter blurry. On the other hand, a larger f-number number essentially brings the background and the foreground objects equally in focus.

Knowing the Difference Between Minimum and Maximum Lens Apertures

Each camera lens also has a limit on its size – how small and large it can get. The maximum and minimum size of the aperture are usually written in the specs of the lens you use. Usually – the maximum apertures are considered more important as it also gives essential information about the speed of the lens. For example, a fast lens has an aperture of f/1.4 or f/1.2, while those that possess an aperture of f/4.0 is considered slow as it can only permit a very small amount of light. This is why a large aperture lens is typically used for photography in the low-light environment. Most modern lenses today come with f/16 minimum aperture which is sufficient for everyday photography.

Lenses come in two different types namely the ‘fixed’ or prime and the ‘zoom’. These types allow flexibility. Having a zoom lens allows better flexibility as you need not move closer or farther to take a photo. On the other hand, the prime lenses only has a single focal length

These are the fundamentals of an aperture in photography which can give you the upper hand in capturing a quality photo when applied correctly.

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