I recently booked on to a community photography course. It is only 5 weeks long and there are different stages that you can attend. I missed the introductory course, but managed to get on the ‘Next Steps’ level. I was worried that I may have missed vital information from the intro lessons, but as it turned out I hadn’t missed too much and the tutor recapped, so I managed to catch up fairly quickly.
The first class was based around Apertures. I love macrophotography so I tend to use a F2.8 aperture or lower if I can as I love a nice blurry background, so today was right up my street. I have decided to do a tutorial online to help anyone who is at the same stage as I am and this should also help me to better absorb the information myself.
Unfortunately, I had left my macro 1:1 lens at home (school boy/girl error) so I had to make do with my contemporary 18 – 300m lens. I had a lot of comments about how big it was haha
I learned how to manipulate an image using the exposure adjustment option on my camera, which is quite a cool thing to learn when you like taking arty shots.
The automatic mode will always assume you want to see everything in the shot and can sometimes overexpose everything, but if you control it yourself, you can make certain parts of the image as light or as dark as you want them to be.
The tutor had brought along a lot of random items as well as bright lights and torches to get us using our imagination on lighting up our subjects. Some were more creepy than others, I think he was still in Halloween mode…
This final image is my favourite, it reminds me of Christmas which is of course only around the corner! The sparkle adds a certain magic to the image.
What is the Aperture on a DSLR Camera?
The aperture is the size of the hole that allows light in to the lens.
The aperture rating is called the ‘F stop’ or an F number. For example, a smaller hole would let smaller amounts of light in and would be a higher F stop, for example F22. A larger hole would let more in light and would be classed as a lower F stop, for example F2.8.
The hole is is created by blades that move to the correct position when the F stop is selected on the camera settings either in aperture mode, manual mode or the camera will chose it for you in automatic mode.
What do F Stops do?
F stops control the amount of light that is allowed into the lens. The more light that is let in, the blurrier the image will be in certain areas; this is called depth of field.
In the image below you will see that the bottom and the top of the image is blurred, but the middle section is in focus.
Image taken by myself, using Nikon D5300, F6.3
When would I use a Low F Stop?
If you are doing close up work or macrophotography, you may need to go to a low F stop to allow more light to capture the details of the subject; however there is a trade-off. Adding more light can mean that you lose the focus across the whole image, making certain parts of it blurry.
Image taken by myself, using Nikon D5300, F4.8
There are things you can do to counteract this (if you want to that is); one is increase the F stop or adding more light in the form of flashes, or you can use a technique called focus stacking. I will go into focus stacking on another post as it is quite interesting and I will put up some examples of how to do it and the end result. You can also alter the exposure compensation using the small +/- button on your camera to add or decrease the brightness of the final image.
The other option of course is to keep the blur in your image! I actually love to see blur in my pictures, I think it adds depth and also makes the picture more ‘arty’. I especially love to see blur in a portrait shot, where the person is in full focus, but the background is blurred. The image above is an example of this.
When would I use a Medium F Stop?
A mid-range F number (eg. F4 – F8) is sometimes referred to as the ‘sweet spot’ in everyday photography, but it really depends on your preferred style and the effects that you wish to achieve and can also be dependent on your camera and lens in use.
Image taken by myself, using Nikon D5300, F8
When would I use a High F Stop?
You are most likely to use higher F stops (eg. F8 – F16) when doing landscape photography as you will want to see focus in the near, middle and farthest parts of your image across the whole area. However, if you take the F stop even higher, you can lose the sharpness of the details due to light diffraction (bending of light around an object). F11 is often noted to be the optimal setting for landscape shots.
Image taken by myself, using Nikon D5300, F11
The reality is, you need to decide on the type picture you want to take, before you take it. I have decided to work in aperture mode until I can fully understand the implications of my F stop choices. It is fun to play around with the different styles that can be created just by adding or subtracting a couple of F Stops.
If you are like myself and just starting out with your DSLR, be brave and move away from Auto mode. Start getting creative with your depth of field!
I would love to see your images too, so please feel free to add them in the comments below.
Lets learn together! 😀
Much love, BB xx