Back to basics - Aperture & how to use it for product photography.

It is time to refresh our minds on some essential camera basics. 90% of what photographers need to know is these three settings and how to balance them for the effect they want. So it is worth getting used to thinking about them as you take pictures and troubleshoot your way through your photoshoots.


All things photography come down to light, and how we manipulate it. There are many ways we can manipulate light with our cameras and with our set up but there are 3 core techniques that are essential and foundational to everything else we do.


Shutter Speed, Aperture, ISO are the 3 core settings required for all photography.

If you haven't check out Shutter Speed here first, and then check out ISO after reading this one.

Knowing Aperture and how to troubleshoot your way through this camera setting will boost your product photography. Aperture can be tricky but with some practice and time, it is so rewarding to know how to manipulate your aperture to take your product photography to the next level.



Aperture 101:

Aperture is probably the most complicated to wrap your head around but it is also the most fun once you have a grasp on it. The aperture refers to the size of the opening of the lens. It can be narrowed or widened by adjusting the f/stop value.


We can deduce, the narrow opening = less light, and the wider opening = more light.


However, the tricky bit is the number value does not equate intuitively with the size of the opening. For example, f/22 is the narrowest on most lenses and f/1.8 is the widest.


For the mathematically inclined you may have twigged this because they are actually fractions so it is 1/22 & 1/1.8 but for most folk, it is not so easy to think about effortlessly. If you can remember this - big number = equal small opening = less light, small number = large opening = more light that is fantastic but if you can't I wouldn't stress about it too much for now.




Aperture & Depth:

I think while it is nice to know and in time I promise it will become second nature if you focus on the second aspect of aperture for now the rest will fall into place.


Aperture also controls how the depth of the scene is captured. So if you are out in the mountains and want lots of detail across the whole scene in focus you will need to use an appropriate aperture - a narrow aperture aka f/22.


Conversely, if you want to shoot a bee on a flower patch with just the bee in sharp focus you need the other end of the apertures - f/1.8.


So you want less in focus, the focus is shallower - a shallow depth of field begins at f/1.8 (or lower on some lenses). When you want a lot of focus, a deep focus you need to start f/22. Then you can work towards f/8 commonly the middle between the two ends.



Now the exact numbers at each end will vary a little with your camera/lens combination but if you just think - lowest number =least in focus and largest number = most in focus and think of these two points as the start and end of the scale of focus you are well on your way to understanding aperture.


Then the fun really begins. Once you have mastered depth of focus you can start playing around with selective focus, bokeh effects and such like shots like these -




Overview summary:


A good tip: When shooting product shots and you want more control over the depth or what you are focusing on and what you are blurring out, aperture is your friend. Start at f/8 and work down towards the lowest f/x number you can do till you hit the sweet spot of focus for your vision

If you haven't read up on shutter speed do that first, then check out ISO here - you are 2 out 3 steps closer to mastering the essentials of photography! YAY - I think that deserves a coffee!