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Understanding Photography Basics – Aperture and Depth of Field
Photography Cheat Sheet – Aperture
We’re going back to basics with Photography 101. Digital photography can be overwhelming with a digital SLR camera. There are more buttons, dials and menu options than ever before. This series is going to cover the fundamental elements of photography. One of the basic elements of photography is aperture.
In an SLR lens there is a small set of blades that form a hole in the middle to allow light to pass through. This hole is the aperture. The lens moves the blades to make the hole smaller or larger. The larger the hole, the more light gets through. Think of the aperture as the pupils in our eyes. Our pupils enlarge to let in more light in low light circumstances. Oppositely, our pupils contract, reducing in size and the amount of light let in when in bright places. For example, say you take a picture that is too bright or over exposed, you can fix it by choosing a smaller aperture. The aperture is measured in f-stops. The higher the f-stop, (f/32), the smaller the hole and in turn the lower the f-stop, (f/2), the larger the hole. Please note that your camera may have a different range of f-stops than stated here.
Depth of Field
The size of the aperture controls more than just the brightness or darkness of the picture, it can change the look of your photo. It allows you be creative by playing around with the depth of field (DOF). DOF is the range that appears sharp. Simply put, it’s the area of the image that is in focus. When adjusting the aperture, you change the DOF. For instance, if you take a picture with the smallest aperture, (f/32), the background will also be relatively sharp in focus. However, if you take a photo using the largest aperture, (f/2), the background will be blurry, possibly unrecognizable. Simply adjusting the depth of field creates an interesting stylistic quality to your photograph.
DOF is described in two ways, shallow or deep. Shallow DOF means that the depth of the field that is in focus is minimal or shallow, therefore everything either in front of and behind that range is out of focus. In contrast, deep DOF means that the depth of the field that is in focus is greater or deep. For example, if you want to take a picture of a person and you want the background to be blurry, you would use shallow depth of field. You now have a basic understanding of aperture and depth of field. Happy shooting!