photo friday--"aperture basics" & link party!

welcome to photo friday!  (link party...at the bottom of this post)

I'm so excited to introduce you to our guest blogger, sarah from cozy.cute.cottage.  she's a talented photographer and i feel very honored to have her share her insight on the topic of aperture!

sarah, teach us something new!

Aperture set to f 2.8

When I first got my SLR camera a few months ago, I tried to figure out the whole aperture, shutter speed, ISO thing. I skimmed the manual. I read articles online. I listened to people as they tried to explain it to me. I kind of not really got it.

I sorta knew how each one worked by itself. But all together? Nuh uh. Whenever I turned the dial over to manual mode it was just too overwhelming. I'd snap a few pictures, they would all turn out dark, and then I would give up and switch back over to the automatic mode.

A few weeks ago I got up the nerve to sign up for a photography class at my local college. On the first day, the teacher promised that for each of us, there would be a point in time where everything would just "click". (Get it? Click? Hee hee.) She was right.  

Aperture set to f 2.8

The first thing our instructor did was explain aperture and suggest that we start shooting in Aperture Priority Mode (AV mode) rather than full automatic or full manual mode. It's the best thing ever. Really, it is. So I thought I'd share a bit about what I learned in case you want to venture over to this setting, too.

By choosing Aperture Priority Mode, you are essentially on a semi-manual mode. You control a few things (mainly the aperture, hello) and your camera adjusts the shutter speed accordingly so that you get a decent exposure on your picture.

So what is aperture, anyway? The aperture is the opening of your camera's lens. It can be open realllllly wide, shut reallllllly small, or open somewhere in between. Here's a picture so you get the gist (but just ignore the numbers for now).

Image: White on Rice Couple
It only makes sense then that the size of the opening will affect how much light is getting into your camera. Big opening: lots of light. Tiny opening: a wee bit of light. Medium opening: medium amount of light.

What I found particularly confusing was that the aperture not only controls the amount of light getting into your camera, it also controls the depth of field. Huh? What?!?!

Take a look my two photos. The photo on the left has a very shallow depth of field. The first thing the camera sees is in focus and that's pretty much it. The photo on the right has a very deep depth of field. Everything single thing, even waaaaay back, is in focus.

Left: Aperture set to f 1.8                                                            Right: Aperture set to f 20
You can use your own eyesight to help you understand depth of field. When you are focusing on a single thing right in front of you, your eyes are open really wide (wide open lens). However when you want to see far away, you squint to make your eyes really small (lens almost closed) to get everything in the distance into focus.

Let's look at another picture. I wanted the flower petals to be sharp and in focus, however I wanted all the other leaves in the photo to be blurry. Basically, I wanted a shallow depth of field. On AV mode, I chose the largest aperture I could. Because I chose such a large aperture, my lens let a lot of light in. The camera adjusted the shutter speed so that the picture wasn't overexposed. Brilliant!

Aperture set to f 1.8
Okay, now here's the confusing part. Aperture is measured in f-stops. It has to do with some ratio of something-something that I don't really understand. But here's a trick that I learned in my photography class. It's not really accurate but it helps you understand what the numbers will do to your photo:

f 1.8 - 1 thing will be in focus
f 2.8   - 2 things will be in focus
f 4.0 - 4 things will be in focus
f 5.6 - 5 things will be in focus
f 8.0  - 8 things will be in focus
f 11.0 -  11 things will be in focus
f 22.0  - 22 things will be in focus

If you look at this picture again, the one on the left has "one" thing in focus and the one on the right has "twenty" things in focus.

Left: Aperture set to f 1.8                                                          Right: Aperture set to f 20

The great thing about playing around with your aperture is that you can include as much or as little of the background into your photo as you want. For example in my next photo, I again chose a large aperture so that the background would be completely blurry. It wasn't just because I wanted the flower buds to stand out, it was also because I had a crooked trellis in the background that I didn't want you to see!

The great thing about Aperture Priority Mode is that you can choose your aperture to get the amount of focus that you want, and your camera will be your best-friend help you out by choosing the shutter speed for you. Both will work together to create a properly exposed photo. You pick one thing (aperture) and your camera picks the other (shutter speed).

If you're new to this setting, I would highly recommend taking your camera outside and experimenting. Choose an inanimate object and take a few pictures with a large aperture (f 2.8 or f 4.0). Then take the same photo with a smaller aperture (f 5.6). See what happens to your picture. Keep experimenting until you get to the smallest aperture your camera will go to (f 22). You'll start to get the hang of it, I promise.

Note: There are several other settings you can change while on Aperture Priority Mode (ISO, exposure compensation, white balance, etc.) but I'll have to save those for another day. (If you want.)

Here is my favorite photo I've taken so far with my new camera:

Aperture set to f 1.8

To think that a few weeks ago I had no idea what I was doing. I'm getting it. I'm really, truly getting it!!!!! (Yes, that was in a squealing voice.)

thanks, sarah, for working hard to make aperture seem simple to even the newest of photographers. i think i'm getting it, too~ i learned a lot!

go visit sarah at cozy.cottage.cute and you will find all sorts of decorating, crafting, photography goodness!

now, i want to see your pictures, too!  
luckily for you (and me) you can link up with any photo-related post and show off your pretty pics~  

please include my "photo friday" button in your post so that others can join the fun!

milestones and memories

and are you wondering where my "something awesome to share" for new photographers is?  come back tomorrow and you'll find it! 


Kim Stevens said...

Wonderful post, this would have been so helpful for me about a year ago!

Also, I tried to add your button (in this post) to my blog, but it doesn't seem to link back to you?

andi said...

sorry about that, i'll try to figure it out soon. thanks for letting me know!

Natalie @ NS Pottery said...

Hi Andi!!!! :) I'll admit, I don't know much technical stuff about photography, mostly learning through trial and error. I'd heard about aperature, but didn't really know what it meant. This was very helpful!

andi said...

k, my buttons are fixed (i think ;)). let me know if it still isn't working

Dreaming Hollow Photography said...

Love this post. There is no better way to take your photography to the next level than to learn aperture! =)

Whimsy by Victoria said...

I too have been playing around with my aperature and reading up on it, but this is the first time it really clicked!! It finally makes sense to me! Thank you Sarah for not only giving such a great detailed post, but you taught me something too!! Loved this and I agree...love that pink blossom photo! Thank you for introducing me to Andi's blog too! :)


Alison said...

this is so clear and well written! I always take pictures in the AV mode...but I had no idea what it meant or why the pictures looked better! Thank you so much!