Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Sunny Smith's Guide to Understanding Your Camera: Aperture

For a long time I've wanted to help other bloggers understand their cameras better. I see so many people struggling to get the photos they want for their blog, so this series is my attempt to help. Over the series I am going to be breaking down each part of the camera that you can manipulate to get the photos you want! Some of the different sections that we will look at are aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and white balance. Today we're going to look at aperture.

Aperture: The Basics
When you adjust your aperture, you are adjusting how much of the photo is in focus -how large the plane of focus is. Aperture is measured in "f" stops; the lower "f" stop, the more blur you will get and the more light that you will let into the camera's sensor.

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The first picture has an aperture of f 2.8, so there is a lot of blur and a very small field of focus. The field is so small that only the spines of the books are in focus; the tea cup, shoe and especially the background are in very soft focus. As the "f" stop gets higher in these pictures, notice how the edges of the cup and shoe get sharper and the background gets clearer because the field of focus is getting bigger. 

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Although a low aperture creates that lovely blur we're all looking for, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. In the series of photos above I focused the camera on the end of the King Lear book and adjusted the aperture until the entire title was in focus. It's tempting to keep using that low aperture, but if the subject, in this case the book title, is out of focus, than your picture is missing the point. It's better to sacrifice some of that blur to get a sharp subject. Of course you can purposely blur out the subject for stylistic reasons, but if you're not careful with it, it will just look like a mistake. There's nothing worse than a book haul photo where your readers can't make out all of the titles! 


How to increase the blur without lowering your aperture:
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If you have a DSLR camera with removable lenses, zoom your lens out as far as it will go. I shot the two pictures above with a 17-55mm lens. The first picture is zoomed out all the way (and cropped in editing to have a similar composition) and the second picture is zoomed in all the way. All of the settings are the same, except for the zoom and you can see how much more out of focus the background is of the second photo. Shooting with your lens zoomed all the way in will also cut down on any distortion that you might see in a picture.

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This is perhaps the easiest way to achieve a nicer blur: move the subject farther from the background and closer to the camera. In the shot above I had three different areas. The first is the subject itself, the second is the tree that was about a meter and a half from the subject, then the third area is the field which is quite a bit further away. If you look at the first pictures in this post you'll see that the tree isn't quite as blurred as the field because it is a closer background. Even if you don't have a lot of room, try to place your subject as far from the background as you can, in order to get a stronger blur.

And there you have it! Those are my tips when it comes to utilizing the aperture setting on your camera. I recognize that not everybody has a DSLR, but if you take the time and look at whatever camera you do have, you might be surprised with how much you can do with it. Let me know if you have any questions about aperture or any comments in general about this post.

Reading: Blameless by Gail Carriger
Listening: The Barr Brothers
Watching: Suits

12 comments:

  1. I love my camera BUT I DON'T UNDERSTAND IT. So this tutorial is like golden. I'm going to experiment tomorrow with these ideas. :D I really love the blurred-background-thing but I struggle to get it on automatic so GONNA EXPLORE MY SETTINGS.

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    1. Haha, I know that feeling! I'm glad that you found the tutorial helpful!

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  2. MAN THANK YOU SO MUCH <3
    this is so amazing and I've needed something like this for a long time :) thanks so much and i look forward to the next ones.

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    1. YOUR WELCOME SO MUCH!!

      I'm so glad that I was able to fill a need for you. I was worried that people wouldn't be as interested in a post this technical:)

      Thanks for stopping by SOI!

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  3. This is really handy! I'm trying to take better pictures for my blog and this will be really helpful. ^ ^

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

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    1. Good luck! I hope that you can improve your photos:)

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  4. Ok so I knew that the lower the aperture the more light will enter, but I didn't know that it also corresponded to focus! I will use that to my advantage now :D Thanks Sunny!

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    1. Your welcome!

      It's interesting that you knew that it allowed more light to enter, but didn't know about the focus! Most people understand the opposite first (i.e. me, haha). Glad to add to your knowledge!

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  5. I've been watching videos to try and understand the basics of photography, so this post is SO HELPFUL. Totally saving it so that I can experiment. We have a nice camera, but for my Instagram I've just been using my iPhone- which is great and all, but I want to up the quality of my pictures! I also loooove seeing blur in pictures so I want to incorporate that into my pictures as well.

    Thank you SO much for this helpful post, Sunny!! :D

    -Aneeqah @ My Not So Real Life

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    1. Your so welcome! I'm glad that I can help!

      I use my phone camera for my instagram, but for my blog, I like to step it up a bit. That being said, the best camera is the camera that you have.

      Thanks for visiting SOI!

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  6. Love it! So helpful. I have a newfound love for photography but my efforts are patchy at best. I am so so excited (seriously!) for the white balance post because mine are always badly exposed.

    Your photos are beautiful; lovely light, lovely set-up. I have that edition of P&P; it's so perfect :')

    Also, Sunny, I'm not sure if you do tags but I nominated you for the One Lovely Blog Award!
    http://sparrowsflysouth.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/the-one-lovely-blog-award-sort-of.html

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    1. So glad you found this helpful! Thank you so much for your kind words.

      I bought that edition of Pride and Prejudice the first time I ever went to Barnes and Noble (I'm Canadian). I thought it was too pretty to pass up!

      Thank you for the tag!

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