Photography Course: Aperture

I wish I could give all of my sweet friends a tight squeeze for spreading the word about this class!!!  I’m the most blessed girl, EVER because of you!  I’m SO excited each of you are here!!!  I added a button to my right sidebar if you’d like to pass the word on to other friends or have a reminder for yourself…no worries at all about posting it…I’m not looking to grow the numbers, just want us to be able to love on each other as we learn photography!!!

For those of you with new DSLR cameras, congratulations!!!  I’m SUPER happy for you!  I really love mine and hope that you totally love yours, too!  Definitely when you spend this much, it’s important to figure it out!  As you may know from Photography Course 1 {Overview}, my hubby, aka Stud, is a great photographer and understands all the ins and outs.  I’ve stuck to the position of assistant up until this point because I’m naturally gifted in composition {positioning the subject and camera to get super cute shots}.  I’ve decided that it’s time I sit down and actually listen to what Stud’s been trying to teach me all along.

I guess before I go any further, I should introduce myself,  I’m a homeschool mommy, in the process of learning to be a great photographer along with you.  For those obsessed with high tech verbiage, you may be totally disappointed.  My plan is to share the “how to” of photography and leave out the why, basically simplify things for those of us that just want to take pretty pictures!  Last week I showed you this picture of our camera so you could begin to familiarize yourself with your cameras features making this week’s lesson a little less overwhelming as we work on understanding our first element of photography.

As many mentioned in the comments, of the Overview course, a common issue with photography is getting the lighting set for a great picture.  This is what we’re going to learn to perfect!  The exposure triangle I introduced to you last week makes up the main ingredients to capturing an AWESOME picture in a manual setting.  There are other factors too, but this will be a great starting point for us!
Photography Course: Aperture
Exposure is essentially the heartbeat of photography!  Let me give you a super brief overview of exposure’s elements and then we’ll jump into explaining the “how to” and you can start annoying everyone and your dog by practicing and applying what you’ve learned!!!  Okay, pretty please stay with me for a second as I tell you a bit about each of these elements.  It’d be so easy to give up here, because sometime words jumble up on a page and jump over your head.  I get that!  Just read it though, try to let it soak and it will make total sense during the application, promise.
Photography Course: Aperture.  I had to walk away for a “breather” as I was trying to understand Stud’s explanation.  {He would describes my “breather” as more of a “two year old fit of frustration and found it utterly hilarious!}  But I kept with it and I’m here to tell you after week one’s lesson, I think Aperture is really not too big of a deal!  I can do it!!  And I totally think you can, too!  The confusing thing about Exposure is that each part essentially does the same thing— controls light!  And yet, each is doing the job in a different way.  Calmly read the three points below and then we’ll make some sense of it all!
  1. Aperture.  It is what regulates how much light is let into your camera!  Basically, think of it as curtains on a window that control how much light comes into your room.
  2. Shutter Speed.  This controls the amount of time that the shutter is open when you’re taking a picture.  Basically, think of it as holding onto your blind’s wand and allowing the blinds to be open for only a certain amount of time.  Like when you’re struggling to awake your child in the morning and she won’t get up so you briefly open the blind and then close it again to let her see the light of day.  The shutter speed is how long you leave the blind open.
  3. ISO.  It is your camera’s sensitivity to the light.  In other words, if you had a west facing window, you could add a window sheer to the window so the light coming into your room wouldn’t be too harsh, but if it’s overcast you could easily pull that sheer back and allow more light to come inside.
I totally didn’t know Stud was taking this picture of me until a few minutes ago.  He said he thought it was cute how focused I was…let me tell you, I was DEFINITELY focusing!  I want to impress my sweet bloggy friends LOTS!

Today we’re going to only talk about Aperture {f-stop}.  There were lots of you wanting to start taking cool pictures that focus on one subject and blur the background.  I’m totally with you on that!  I love those pics.  Sadly, if you don’t have a 35 or 50 mm lens, you probably won’t be able to get this feature as detailed as you’d like, even with the best of skills.  {Be sure to check with me or someone you trust before selecting one of these lenses because certain lenses are only compatible with certain cameras}.  With that said, Aperture is still SUPER important regardless of which lens you’re using and the more you practice working with it, the more you’ll understand why.  Remember what I told you Aperture was earlier…

  1. Aperture.  It is what regulates how much light is let into your camera!  Basically, think of it as curtains on a window that control how much light comes into your room.
In order to apply this you’re going to have to think through this next sentence until it makes sense.
Lower Aperture equals More Light AND Higher Aperture equals Less Light!

So let’s jump right in with the application.  Look at your camera and find the mode dial.  Turn the mode dial to A or AV depending on whether you have a Canon or a Nikon.  You have now set your camera off of Auto and onto Aperture setting.  You go girl!!!  {Double check in your menu that your White Balance and ISO are both set to auto}.  Now we’re ready to have some fun!!!

Aperture is measured in f-stops — {in the picture above you’ll see it is set up as {f1.8}.  F stops occur at f/1.8, f/2, f/2.2, f/2.5, f/2.8, f/3.2, f/3.5, f/4, f/4.5, f/5, f/5.6, f/6.3, f/7.1, f/8, f/9, f/10, f/11, f/13, f/14, and so on, but rarely will you go beyond this point.

Now with your mode dial set to A or AV and the other elements set to auto {using your menu button}, you are in control of your photo’s aperture.  Find the dial that your camera uses to operate the Aperture.  Depending on your camera, it will either be the main command dial or the sub command dial {which looks the same as the main command dial, but is located in front of your camera}.  Use this dial to lower and raise the aperture and find each of these settings.  Take a picture in each of these settings…yes, each of them…I know there are a lot, but if you don’t you won’t know the result of each setting…they’ll just be random numbers on the screen.  Starting from f/1.8 and continuing through f/14 you’re going to photograph one object 19 times.  My advice, find something you really like!

I chose to photograph tangerines because they reminded me of Pantone’s Colour of 2012, Tangerine Tango!  Find a spot near a window where you’ll have a lot of light {once you are controlling all three aspects of Exposure you’ll have more flexibility with lighting because you can set your camera to work with you, but for now, the more light the better, and you’ll find that most photographers prefer natural light}.

With the camera set to {f/1.8}, look through your lens viewer and halfway press your shutter release.  Find the square that focuses your camera inside your lens viewer {mine is red} and place it on the object you would like to focus on.  Leaving the shutter release halfway pressed scoot the camera so you have framed what you are wanting in your picture.  Press the shutter release the rest of the way down and you have taken your first picture in the {f/1.8} setting.  Next, press play, look at your picture, then press the shutter release halfway down again to get out of your play menu.

Turn the main command dial one time until you reach the next setting and repeat.  Depending on the lens you have, you may or may not be able to go all the way down to {f/1.8}.  Just go as far as your camera will allow and use that as your beginning place.    As you continue into higher aperture settings, you will notice the shutter speed will change.  Because the camera is in auto mode for the other two elements it is trying to compensate to keep enough light needed to sustain a decent picture.  Be sure to hold very still in high aperture settings and eventually we’ll work with the other elements and have more control of the amount of exposure each of our photographs are offered.

Once you have reached the aperture setting f/14, go back through and look at each of your pictures remembering the order you took them in…starting from f/1.8 and continuing through f/14.   Do you see that the higher your Aperture, the more light is necessary!?!?  And did you notice that the higher the Aperture, the more in focus everything in your photograph will be!?!?   Did you realize that the lower your Aperture, the more your background will blur and focus on only one area!?!?  You got it!  You captured the “depth of field!” That’s what Aperture is all about.

  1. Usually, when we’re photographing food, crafts or any close up pictures, Stud uses a low aperture by setting his camera to f/1.8 – f/3.2.  {Of course this will also depend on the lens you’re using, some lenses won’t allow you to go quite so low}.
  2. When we’re photographing our sweet B’s playing outside, Stud sets his aperture between f/5.6 – f/8.
  3. And when we are photographing family portraits and landscape, Stud sets his aperture between f/8 – f/11.

Below is my take on this coming week’s assignment.  I was so proud of how my pics turned out!  I’m telling you before this week, I was only using my camera with the settings already set by Stud!  It was ALL ME this time and it was actually pretty fun!!!  I totally hope you give this a try!  It’s really boosted my confidence!  I even wrote a sappy note on my personal fb page because I felt all overwhelmed with giddiness!  Let’s use this next week to practice taking pictures in Aperture setting!!  I set up a linky party HERE for anyone who wants to come back through the week and share with Stud and I your photography progress!!!  Remember, exposure has three elements and this is only the first.  You may see some improvement now, but by taking the time to really learn all three elements separately, when it is all put together you’re going to be totally ROCKING it!!!

And like I said last time…Stud’s dream camera is the Nikon D3S priced at just over $5000.  Maybe someday sweetie!!!  Crossing my fingers, he and each of you have a SUPER successful 2012!  Here’s a link to Tons More Cameras to Explore!  I’m an affiliate so if that makes you uncomfortable, pretty please feel free to shop around for better deals.  Sadly, it would take tons of camera purchases for us to have even a bit to contribute towards Studs “dream camera,” but every penny helps, right!  LOL!  I’ll be expecting you next Friday for the next little lesson!!!  Until then, have a good weekend {I think I’ll be stopping back by tomorrow…so many great things to share, I can’t keep away}!  I LOVE LOVE LOVE my bloggy friends!!!

And now really the last thing…before you purchase a lens like this, be sure to check with us or someone else you trust lots, because cameras have different mechanics and you’ll need to make sure you’re purchasing one that is SUPER compatible with your camera or you’ll end up totally frustrated!!!

Link to: Photography Course 3 {Shutter Speed}


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  1. Samantha T. says:

    Hey! I realize it’s 3 years after you wrote this blog originally, but I found it on pinterest as I just got my first dslr (nikon d3300 with 18-55mm kit lens) and I love it! Your tuturials have made me love it even more as I am now just understanding it. I took mine from f3.5-f22 (wasn’t sure if going up that high would make a difference) and I really see a difference! Unfortunately unless I’m SUPER close to an object I can’t get the blurred background say for a portrait, but once I’m ready for the 50mm lens that should hopefully be resolved?

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