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A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Aperture

Posted in Uncategorized by Martin Smazenko. | Leave a Comment

Understanding your camera’s aperture function is a key element in taking the perfect photo. Even though adjusting your aperture may be confusing at first, you can quickly master this function with a little study and practice. 

What is the aperture?

Think of the aperture as the “iris” of your camera. Just as your iris adjusts to allow light into your eye, your aperture also adjusts to let the right amount of light into your camera’s lens. It works directly with your ISO and shutter speed to keep your photos from being washed out or dark. Additionally, it plays an artistic role by allowing you to choose a blurred or focused background for your photo.

How does the aperture work?

The size of your aperture is measured in “f-stops,” which generally range from f/1.4 to f/22. But here is where many new photographers get confused: a low f-stop means that your aperture is large, but a high f-stop means your setting is small. It may be helpful for you to print off a chart, such as this aperture chart for beginners provided by Spencer Cox at photographylife.com, until you become familiar with the settings. 


Your set f-stop determines how much light enters the camera and how much of your photo is in focus. Each stop doubles or halves the amount of light, depending on which direction you go. If you choose a low f-stop, meaning your setting is large, you will allow a lot of light to enter the lens, and your photo will have a lot of background blur. Conversely, a high f-stop will only allow a small amount of light to enter because the opening is small, but your photo will have minimal blurring. Craig Hull in his post “How to Understand Aperture in 5 Simple Steps” provides a wonderful visual example of how this works in Step 3. 

How do I pick an aperture?

Your size will be determined by two things: the amount of artistic blur you want and how much light you need.

Start by considering the artistic aspect of your photo. If you want all but the closest objects to be blurred, choose a low f-stop. If you want the picture to be primarily in focus, then select a high f-stop. 

Once you’ve decided on the photo’s composition, determine how much light you need. You can adjust your ISO and shutter speed settings to complement the aperture you’ve chosen, but make sure to balance them accordingly to avoid washed out or dark photos

Feel free to contact us for more pointers on how to get the perfect photo!

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