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The Aperture in Photography – A Beginner’s Tutorial

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This is the 1st installment of a 4 part series on basic photography and understand the three pillars. We will cover Aperture, White Balance, Shutter Speed and finally ISO.

The Aperture Introduction

For many novice or beginners, one of the very first things to learn is the aperture in photography. You will need to learn all of the three pillars of photography. They include Shutter Speed, ISO, and last, the Aperture. Do you know how to operate a DSLR Camera or do you intend to buy one? I recommend that you go over what I am about to share today. Brush up on your basic photography vocabulary and skills before shooting another photograph.

Today we are focusing on the element that is a very common term in the realm of arts – aperture in photography.

The aperture in photography can control two different things in a photograph:

1. Add dimension to an image by creating a blurry background.
2. Bring all elements of the photograph in focus.

You can and will want to use both of these for different types of photography.

Defining Aperture

In simpler terms, the aperture in photography refers to the tiny hole within a lens. This is where the light enters and travels right into the body of the camera. To define ‘aperture', it is best to use an analogy. Well, as we all know, the cameras 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. The iris acts as the hole that permits the light to go further in the eye.

The pupil of your is like the aperture in photography. The amount of light that gets in the retina controls the size of the pupil. In short, the larger the hole or the retina, the bigger the amount of the light that gets through the retina. To remember aperture and what it does, you have to remember your eye, particularly your pupil.

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 the ‘diaphragm’. The role of the diaphragm is to stop all the light except those that enter through the camera’s aperture. The aperture in photography varies by f/numbers (e.g. f/5.6, f/1.4, etc). These numbers are the “stops’' when discussed in photos. They describe how closed or open the lens of the camera is set to. 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 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 the depth of the field. Images appear sharp due to the depth of the field. This is how the foreground and the background keep the main object in focus. A smaller f-number aperture isolates the foreground and the background. This makes the foreground sharp and the background blurry. A larger f-number number brings both the background add the foreground objects in focus.

Knowing the Difference Between Small and Large Lens Apertures

Each camera lens also has the limit on its size – how small and large it can get. The largest and smallest size to the aperture is usually written in the specs of the lens you use. The larger apertures are more important. You will also find 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
have an aperture of f/4.0 are slow as they can only permit a small
amount of light. This is why the large aperture lens is usually used for
photography in the low-light environment. To be quite honest, the smaller apertures in photography is not that important. Most lenses today come with f/16 as the smallest aperture. These are pretty much all that you will need in day to day photography.

Lenses come in two different types. 1. The ‘fixed’ or 2. The ‘prime' and the ‘expandable lens’. The expandable or zoom types allow flexibility. Having a zoom lens allows better flexibility as you do not need to move closer or farther to take a photo. The prime lenses only have a single focal length.

These are the fundamentals of an aperture in photography. They can give you the upper hand in capturing quality photos.

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