top of page

Crash course in Aperture Mode - the 3 key concepts you need to know to start using Aperture Mode!

Coffee on and brewing:

I thought we would cover some aperture basics today to show you what can be done in this mode. So once your coffee is brewed and poured read on!

Coffee brewed and poured - lets dive in!

Aperture mode will be denoted on your camera with an A, Av or AP for Aperture, Aperture value or Aperture priority respectively. Aperture is one of my favourite modes and you can be so creative on this mode. But first, there are three concepts you need to know - Aperture, Depth of field (DoF) and Bokeh.

1. Aperture

Aperture refers to the opening of the lens. The lens is basically a very complicated tube. Tubes can be narrow or wide! A lens can be both - depending on what we set the aperture to.

So when we set our aperture we are determining the size of opening in the lens. Aperture is measured in f/ (called f stops). The f/ can go from f/1.2 all the way up the f/22, but the exact range will depend on your lens.

With me so far?

Setting your f/ will restrict or maximise the light getting in. The narrower the size, the less light getting in and vice versa.

f/1.2 is the smallest number, but the widest aperture hence the most light can get in. Conversely, f/22 is the largest number, but the least amount of light will get in. It can be confusing in the beginning, but just remember it is a small number = wide aperture, large number = narrow aperture.

small f/ number = wide aperture
large f/ number = narrow aperture

Aside from light, aperture also affects depth.

2. Depth of Field

Depth of field refers to the distance from your camera to the furthest point in the view that you camera can detect. Within this range, it can be all in focus, or just a section!

The depth of field refers to the area from the front of the image at the dog all the way to the back at the tree. Aith aperture we can vary how much of this depth is in focus.

So if I was standing in front of a dog, looking at it, the cat and a tree, I could have the whole scene in focus, with a deep depth of focus, or just the dog, with the cat and tree blurred with a shallow depth of field.

You control how much is in focus with the aperture setting. A narrow aperture (remember large number) will have more of the scene in focus. This is why landscape photographers will often use apertures of f/16 to f/22.

However, smaller f/stops will reduce the amount of the image in focus. The fun part of this is then you can change which of the small parts of the depth of field is in focus. So in the example above, instead of the dog, I may choose to focus on the cat and push the dog and tree out of focus.

small number = wide aperture = shallow Depth of field
large number = narrow aperture = deep Depth of field

From top left to bottom right - f/2.8, f/3.5, f/6.3, f/22.

Note the varying amount of focus. Which image is the best in your opinion?

3. Bokeh

But surely we want sharp images I can hear you cry! Well, yes and no. We always want our subject in focus - well except when we don’t! Remember photography is a science as much as an art and all rules are made to be broken. So generally we do want our subject in sharp focus, but it can be really nice to blur the background.

When we choose to deliberately blur our image, or part of it more commonly, it is called bokeh.

Bokeh is the Japanese term for 'pleasingly blurred'! For macro photographers there is nothing nicer than a good bit of bokeh! I can literally get chills from it! It can set a mood, create a soft colour scheme and help highlight the subject by separating it from the background.

From top left to bottom right f/1.4, f/16, f/2.8 and f/16.

Note the area of focus and how with the smaller aperture the sharp part of the photo seems separate to the background. Do you prefer the fully sharp or the bokeh'd images?

Final sips of coffee …

So that is a crash course in Aperture. I hope this will give you some inspiration to head out and try some autumnal shots on aperture mode. I recommend setting up the same shot at different apertures and see how the image changes.

Next wednesday, I will announce a new theme and it will be with a different mode or setting so use this opportunity now to practice aperture mode.

It is time for me to pour some more coffee, so happy sipping and happy shooting everyone,


bottom of page