Dear Aperture: What the F/STOP?
Aperture was one of the very last things that my brain was able to wrap its tiny little self around. To be honest, I STILL struggle sometimes with forgetting to make it a part of my Exposure Trinity. Sometimes it's an after-thought, or I simply don't get it right. Here's the honest truth: aperture is where the magic happens. Your ability to fully control the aperture setting in manual mode is what gives you TONS of creative freedom. When you start controlling that aperture the way YOU want to control it, you'll see that the auto setting has been holding you back. True story.
Put simply: aperture is the size of the opening in the lens when its capturing a picture.
Now. I know this is going to seem like a cop-out. But what I'm going to do is link you to an EXCELLENT article posted on Digital Photography School about aperture. They offer an excellent technical explanation... why re-create the wheel? So, go. Read this. Then come back. I'll wait.
Cool stuff, huh? Now you see why I remain confused about the technical aspects of the lens aperture. One would think that the bigger the f/number, the bigger the hole. NOT SO. The smaller the f/number, the bigger the hole. Oi. My brain. Here's what I know. When I'm shooting at f/1.4, it results in some kick ass bokeh. I rented a 50 mm 1.4 lens from BorrowLenses.com (an excellent AMAZING business, by the way - and no, I'm not sponsored by them or anything, they just rock my world), and it's the first time I've ever shot with a prime lens that was SO WIDE OPEN. I have found that f/1.4 is vastly different than f/1.8. Here's a shot I took earlier today outside of my mother-in-law's barber shop...
Shooting wide open like this is awesome for these type shots, and portraits, but for big groups or pictures where you need pretty much everything in focus, you're going to need a smaller aperture. Just keep in mind that with a smaller aperture, you're letting less light in. So you will need to compensate with a longer shutter (or bump the ISO). As the article mentioned:
"Moving from one f-stop to the next doubles or halves the size of the amount of opening in your lens (and the amount of light getting through). Keep in mind that a change in shutter speed from one stop to the next doubles or halves the amount of light that gets in also – this means if you increase one and decrease the other you let the same amount of light in – very handy to keep in mind."
Coming up next: I'll bring it all together and show you how the Exposure Trinity (ISO, shutter, and aperture) should and can work together in harmony.
P.S. I loves the comments! If you have any questions, comments, or general feedback, leave them in the comment section below, or shoot me an email. Thanks for following along!