tracey medcalfe photography | You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Aperture Introduction

You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Aperture Introduction

February 06, 2015  •  Leave a Comment
You're Smarter Than Your Camera - Aperture Introduction
Hi Everyone

Thanks for signing up and welcome to my blog - 'You're Smarter Than Your Camera'.  This month we are looking at aperture.  Today's post will cover the basics of how to get started and as we go through more posts in February, we will get more involved and familiar with our friend 'aperture'.  I hope you enjoy the blog and please please please, do comment and share if you have some thoughts or questions, or are just totally confused, you won't be the only one and you certainly won't be the first!
What is the main ingredient for taking photographs, apart from great subjects!!.…it is light?  
No light, no photo!
Aperture is one of two main settings in a camera that control how much light gets into the camera.  Here is a picture of my 50mm lens.  The numbers to the right show the widest aperture; in this case, it’s 1.4.  So, what does that mean? 
Lets have a quick think about what's inside the lens.  It is made up of metal blades (often 8), which sit together to form an opening. These blades can move in or out to create a wider or narrower opening.
The size of the opening is measured by f-stop or aperture.  As the numbers get smaller, the size of the opening gets bigger….just to make it confusing.  The numbers are often shown with an f in front and go like this –
and so on.  The size of the opening doubles with every f-stop decrease.  So f2 lets in twice as much light as f2.8 and only half as much as f1.4.  The picture below outlines the relationship between f-stop and the size of the opening.
You may find that your camera only allows you to get as wide as f5.6, that is fine.  In general, the smaller the f-stop (so the wider the opening is designed to get), the ‘faster’ the lens and the more expensive it is....but we'll leave wishing for new camera gadgets for another time.
Lets explore how this works with our camera.  I know there are a lot of different camera’s and I don’t want to be camera specific, so you may find you have to google or get your manual out if you don’t know how to find certain things on the camera.  Most DSLR’s have a setting called ‘Aperture Priority’.  This allows you to set the size of the opening and lets the camera take care of everything else.  This is great, because it allows you to understand how this specific setting changes your photographs.
My kids love role playing with these little characters and they make perfect models to demonstrate changes in aperture.  In this little set of images, the characters are lined up diagonally with the princess nearest the camera and the pirate furthest away.  Notice how the focus of the characters is different in each image.
I have kept the camera on auto focus so the subject nearest the camera is in focus, but have changed the aperture for each image and you can see the setting used for each image next to it.  So you can see that the widest aperture (f2.8) results in an image with the narrowest amount of the subject in focus - just the character that is nearest the camera, because that is where the camera is focused.
Your Challenge –

Ok, that is our bitesize theory for now.  Pick a subject that you would like to photograph, it could be food, flowers, people or anything really.
See if you can create the same kind of effect with your subjects with your camera and understand what is happening to the image as you are changing this.  If you have a Nikon, here is an image of the setting on ‘Aperture Priority’….everyone else, sorry you’ll have to Google it!

Once you have your camera in aperture priority you will need to find the dial that allows you to change the aperture, you should start to see similar numbers to those above if you are correctly changing your aperture.
Just a quick note about the focus - I will cover this in more depth another time, but changing your camera from manual to what is called 'Aperture Priority' is likely to have an effect on how the camera focuses.  It should take care of this automatically, but at wide apertures, you will find that the camera will want to focus on something much more individual than everything in the image.  Try to make sure that you are focusing on the subject that you want to be in focus and not something in the background.

You may also find that as the aperture gets smaller i.e. f11 and above, you may notice that your images get darker.  This is fine and confirms that you have made the opening for the light to enter the camera smaller.  There are other settings we can use to compensate for this small aperture and I will go into these in the future.
Next Time – Intermediate
I will go through more about aperture and introduce depth of field and will also explore why we should care about these details?
Until next time, enjoy taking your pictures and I do hope this gets your started with controlling your camera.  As always, do get in touch if you don’t understand anything or if you would just like to comment.  I am very open to covering specific topics in more detail, so do let me know if you have something in mind.
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