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The Simple Way to Understand Aperture: Just What is an F Stop?

Understanding ApertureLearn about what your cameras apeture is and how to set your f stop

Aperture is one of the three important aspects you will need to learn and understand when switching over the shoot in manual mode. You may have heard this word tossed around in photography groups or in articles, along with the word f-stop. But what does it really mean and how can it help you improve your photography?


The aperture of your camera lens is essentially just a hole. The bigger you set that hole to get, the more light is allowed in. The smaller the hole, the less light comes through. Makes sense right. And if that hole was completely closed off-, no light would come in at all.

(here the f stop was set at 4.5, allowing less light in, but a more clear background)


Setting your f-stop on the camera controls the aperture or hole. This is where it gets a little confusing because the lower your f stop number the wider your aperture and vice versa. It seems like a bigger number would mean a bigger aperture, but no. So remember this, it will help you out along the way. Look at the chart below. See the sizes of the aperture compared with the f stop number.4 Step guide to shooting in manual the easy way!

Understanding How It Works

Now, you might be wondering, just what does this all mean? Well, when you set your f stop, you are basically setting the aperture or hole size. This will have a direct impact on the depth of field in your photo. If your aperture is very wide (low f/stop), the background of your photo will be blurrier than the subject of your photo. (see the photo below) Or the reverse, if you would like the background, foreground and subject to all be in clear focus, set that aperture narrow (large f/stop). (see the photo above)

Mother and Daughter Photography in Ahwatukee near the end of Chandler Blvd. 85048

(In this photo the f stop was set at 2, which means the aperture was very wide and open creating a blurry background and allowing the subjects to remain clear)

However you choose to set your aperture is completely up to you. It is all dependent on the look you are hoping to achieve. There is no right or wrong way to do this as long as you are taking into consideration the other two component of shooting in manual mode.

Once you’re clear on this, you can check out how your shutter speed comes into play when shooting in manual mode and why shutter speed is important to understand when shooting in manual mode.

Now you try it! Play around with changing the f stop and see what results you’ll get! Have fun shooting!



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