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Taking Better Photos Day 6 - Aperture

05 July 2011

How was every body's 4th of July?  I hope y'all got some great fireworks pictures.  We celebrated in Avon Lake and watched a good fireworks show.  Sunset was beautiful.

Oh how I miss the water.  Anyway...I hope you took out your cameras and caught lots of memories over the weekend.  Alexander got to go on a slip and slide, which he completely loved. 

How did it work out to slow your shutter speed for fireworks shots?  It takes some getting used to.  I didn't get a single shot last year that I liked and we were so close to the action this year that I only had a few keepers this year.

Today I'm going to talk about the second part of the triangle, which is aperture.  We know that shutter is how slow or fast your camera is taking a picture, and that it also means a brighter photo with a slow speed and a dimmer photo with a fast speed.  Well, aperture does a couple of things too.

  • Like shutter speed, aperture controls how much light is getting into your camera as well.  Think of aperture like the pupil in your eye.  When you're out in the bright sun, your pupil constricts, or gets small, because your eye doesn't need as much light to see.  When you're inside a dim room, your pupil dilates, or gets larger, in order to let more light in so you can see better.  Your camera aperture is how open your lens is or how closed it is.  Oh how I tried to find a good graphic to explain this.  Oh well.  Don't mind the bad photos from my iPhone.  They get the point across.

When your aperture is wide open, you're letting more light in.

When your aperture is "closed", you're letting less light in.
  • The other aspect of aperture has to do with how blurry your background is.  This is otherwise known as Depth of Field (DoF) in photography language, but really it's all about blur.

To get a blurry background, you need your lens wide open.

This picture has a small aperture and you can see everything in the background.  Blurry backgrounds really change your photos because it allows the focus to be on your subject.  In this photo, I'm much more distracted by the people swimming in the background, but in the previous photo you can't even see them.

So how do you change your aperture?

Point and Shoot users:  Portrait mode is your aperture friend.  Portrait mode tells your camera to use an aperture that will create slightly more blur than auto mode.

SLR users:  Aperture is referred to as f-stops on your camera.  Look at the numbers on your lens.  Do you see numbers maybe ranging from f/4.5-5.6, going all the way up to 22?  These are your aperture numbers.  the lower numbers are the widest your aperture will open.  The 22 is the pin like aperture letting in less light and blur.  Switch your camera to Aperture Priority mode.  This mode allows you to choose your aperture and your camera chooses everything else for you.  Do you want blurry backgrounds?  Stick with lower f-stop number (1.8, 4.5, 5.6)...turn the dial as low as your camera will allow.  Do you want everything in focus?  Choose f/22...turn the dial as high as your camera will allow.

Tomorrow is all about ISO.  Whew...this post was long. 

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