Many of us new to photography struggle with the basic and rudimentary concepts of the art, we become flustered at the sight of our average clicks.

So some resign to the realm of automatic modes, they give the control over to the camera to make all decisions for them. To protect you from falling into that trap we will explore the basics for you on our website. Here, we will dive deep into an important pillar in photography known as aperture.

Aperture is without a doubt one of the most important concepts to understand when it comes to the art of clicking pictures. It can add wonder to a photo by blurring the objects in the background so that you keep the focus on the subject.

It can also tweak exposure to make your images bright or darken them up. Here we would try and make sense of the word, in plain simple English.

What do you mean by aperture?

In simple terms, an aperture is a small hole inside the lens, which lets the light into the camera. It can be understood by drawing a parallel with the workings of our eye.

A large (f/2.8) and a small (f/16) aperture (Source: Wikipedia)

As we move around the intensity of light surrounding us changes, sometimes its dark sometimes its quite bright. Our eyes adjust to different intensities of light by expanding or shrinking the iris, this, in turn, controls the size of the pupil. The pupil of the eye is analogous to what we call aperture in photography.

You can control the flow of light through the lens by shrinking or expanding the size of the aperture of your lens so that only the desired amount of light reaches the image sensor.

Is the aperture affecting your exposure

Aperture has a profound effect on your image. One that is obviously the most visible is the brightness also described as exposure of your photos. When the size of aperture changes, so does the amount of light reaching the sensor, ergo the brightness of the photo.

If the aperture is large, it will allow more light to pass through to the sensor which will result in a bright image. On the other hand, if the aperture is small less light will reach the sensor which will darken the image.

Now if you are in somewhere with minimal light, such as indoors or shooting at night, a larger aperture would mean that you would capture as much light as possible, to go back to the eye analogy, the pupils in our eyes dilate in the dark to soak in more light.

source: photographylife

Does aperture have any effect on the depth of field?

The depth of field effect can be understood as the amount to which your image appear to be sharp between the nearest and the farthest point. Let us break it down to make the concept clear.

If a photo has a shallow depth of field it means that the subject is in focus but the background is out of focus completely. In case of a deep depth of focus the subject, as well as the background, are in focus. Now how does aperture affect this?

If you use large aperture it results in shallow focus while a small aperture gives a sharp picture where nothing is out of focus.

large aperture blurs the background

Large aperture blurs the background which is required when you want an out of focus background to draw all the attention to the subject. This effect can be noticed in the growing rage for bokeh feature.

Small aperture reduces the blur in the background, which is desirable when you are capturing landscape as you want to capture the beauty in all its glory leaving nothing out. Same goes for images of architecture where the whole structure is vying for focus.

If you want your subject and background both as sharp as possible, go for the smaller aperture setting. This will give you a crisp and clear image back to front.

small aperture

what on earth are F-number and F-stop

Now the journey gets a bit technical, till now we were explaining things in terms or large and small, deep and shallow. It is now time to quantify things for you and to do this we use scientific terms like the f-stop also known as the f-number.

If you have a camera you would always see aperture in form of one f-number or the other for example f/2.

I am sure you have come across it all the time with your camera. On the preview screen, you may have noticed numbers like f/2 or f/8 these are the f-numbers.

Some manufacturers write the same numbers in the form of f-stop, this is nothing but another notation to describe the same thing, here the slash is removed so you see f2 instead of f/2, both of course meaning the exact same thing.

Is your aperture large or small?

If you do a survey amongst photographer they will most definitely say that aperture confused them the most. It is therefore important for people beginning their journey to look closely and get it right.

Small f-number(f-stop) will mean large aperture while large f-number(f-stop) will mean small aperture. So, f2 would be larger than f8 and massive compared to f11. It is counter-intuitive to most people who find it hard to grasp that small mean large and vice versa.

However confusing it may sound, it is the way it is, so get used to it. You may ask why this confusion.

The simple explanation is that aperture is a fraction, and as anyone who has some understanding of basic mathematics will tell you the smaller the denominator the greater the number.

so f/2 is naturally larger than f/8. So if you are counselled to use a large aperture for a particular scenario it means your aperture should be somewhere on the lower end of the f-number scale, f/1.4 or f/2 for example.

similarly, if you are recommended to use small aperture you go for high f-stops like f/16.

What aperture is a good aperture?

Now that the mystery surrounding the f-numbers is behind us, let us understand how to use aperture to our advantage.
we can play with the aperture to manipulate exposure and depth of field as previously discussed.

If you are in a bright spot where light is oozing out of everywhere you will be best advised to use higher f-numbers so that the excessive light does not spoil the photo.

In darker spaces, use large apertures i.e apertures with small f-numbers like f2.8. so that the sensor has more light to work with.

Now you know how to manage the depth of field, here if you use large apertures (low f-numbers) you can create blur in the background which is ideal for portraits where you want to all the focus on the subject.

Large Aperture for Portraits

If on the other hand, you want to capture vivid details in a photo both for the front and the background go for small apertures(high f-numbers).

You may observe that a photo is quite dark or bright at a given aperture setting. As you get used to your camera and understand other features such as shutter speed and ISO you will learn to use all three in unison to get the best out of your device.

A little tweak in the shutter speed a little increase in ISO can go quite a distance.

How small or large an aperture can get depends on the lens. If you buy a lens and read the fine prints you would find its minimum and maximum apertures.

Almost always you should prefer a lens with large maximum apertures as it means that it can allow the lens to capture more light.

Lenses with large maximum apertures that can allow more light to flow through are called fast lens while those with small maximum apertures are the slow lens.

You will have to spend more for large aperture lenses. You do not need to care much for the minimum aperture because most lenses nowadays have quite small minimum apertures which are sufficient for almost all scenarios.

Aperture is a setting that any keen enthusiast of photography should strive to master. The more you shoot using the manual settings the more you can control the end product. So go out there and click whatever you wish to capture. And have fun with different apertures. Remember, every one of us has a Picasso in the making.

Source: Wikipedia, photographylife, DigitalPhotographySchool,

Adios for now, and happy clikin’

VS Chaithanya Is Vsbytes's Editor-In-Chief. He Is A Microsoft Certified Solutions Expert And Has Been Interested In Computer Hardware, Software, And Gaming Right Since The Time He Was A Child.
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