Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Aperture Study

I've been trying to sneak in a post for awhile, and Donna's comment encouraged me to up and write it already! (Go check her out; not only does she have her own wonderful site, but she's contributing to the new PW Photography. Sweet!) A while ago, Jessica asked about the blurry background in some of the flower pics I took on campus. She was absolutely correct that it was caused by the aperture settings on my camera. (Does anyone else always want to spell it aperature? I guess I just pronounce it incorrectly with a bit of a Southern flair and put that extra syllable in there.)

The aperture is basically the hole in the lens that lets light in. Normally it's closed, but it opens to a predetermined size when you take a picture. When you're using a dSLR you can control the aperture size in the Manual and Aperture-priority settings. The wider the aperture (which corresponds to a smaller f/ number), the shallower the depth of field. A shallower/smaller depth of field corresponds to a smaller in-focus area in the image. Here is a series of images I took at Avery Island to illustrate the effect a change in aperture can have:

Pink Flower Aperture Study
f/25.0, the smallest aperture setting here, the largest depth of field

Pink Flower Aperture Study

Pink Flower Aperture Study
f/7.1, see how the background is getting blurry?

Pink Flower Aperture Study

Pink Flower Aperture Study
f/5.6, the largest aperture here, and thus the most shallow depth of field

In PW form, here are the first and last next to each other for comparison:
Pink Flower Aperture Study Pink Flower Aperture Study

See the difference in the background, and even the leaves in the foreground?

A couple random things about aperture. As you might expect (or already know), the wider the aperture, the more light is let in. You can then use a faster shutter speed, letting you take crisper, clearer photos (although, blur can be good). Also, if you are using a zoom lens, your maximum aperture will change in relation to the focal length you're using. On my kit lens, the range of maximums is from f/5.6 when it's at 55mm to f/3.5 when it's at 18mm. The f/3.5 setting lets in more light, so it's useful in low-light situations. If you can't get the exact composition you want, you can always creatively crop. (Photo editing is your friend!)

Someday, I hope to get a macro lens and then really rock out the fun with depth of field, in photos like this:

Image by Flickr user ecstaticist, used under terms of CC License.

And with that, fun time is up. Time to get back to work! Hope y'all have a great week! =)


  1. I love smaller depths of field, especially on flower pics. Actually any pics, I love the blur.

  2. At the photography workshop I attended this weekend, the pro shot most of her pictures on 1.6!

    She has a 85mm 1.2 and she shoots a few notches up from wide open.

    I am coveting that lens!!

    The wider the better for me, baybee!

  3. 1.6!?! Holy cow! I covet, as well. I agree with both of y'all - I love wide apertures and shallow dof!

  4. So interesting, I'm going to have a go this weekend, fiddling a bit! :)

    As to pronounciation, we tend to say "a-per-tcha" ... which is actually terrible!!

  5. thanks for this little post. i'm a very visual person and love how you have the photos side by side.

    i'll probably have to re-read it a hundred times and star at the photos forever...lol


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