An Easy Guide To Aperture

One of the most asked questions is: “How to make a photo with a blurred background?” In this article, I will try to explain everything I know about aperture in very simple language. Together with the shutter speed and ISOaperture is one of the three tools to you need to know of when shooting in Manual. Aperture will add a dimension to your photograph by blurring the background and it magically brings everything in focus! So let’s have a look at the examples I’ve made for you!


 The larger the f-number, the smaller the aperture

The size of the circle in the image above represents the size of the lens aperture. In photography, aperture is expressed in f-numbers and it’s written like f/2.8. These f-numbers are called ‘f-stops’. A smaller f-stop means a larger aperture, while a larger f-stop means a smaller aperture. Have a look at the example above, where you will see a bigger lens opening when the aperture is set at f/1.4, and a small opening at f/8.0 or higher.

Depth of field

The aperture has an impact on the depth of field. Depth of field is how much of the picture is sharp, and how much is blurry. For example, a small f-stop like f/1.4 will isolate the subject from the background by making the subject sharp and the background blurred. When shooting on f/16, the subject and background will appear sharp in the photograph.

The larger the aperture, the more light enters the camera sensor

The amount of light that enters the camera sensor, is limited to the size of the aperture – the larger the aperture, the more light enters the camera sensor. If you prefer shooting with f/1.4 on a bright sunny day, you have to set your shutter speed to a high number like s 1/2000 or higher for example and increase your ISO to 100.

The aperture limit for your lens

Every lens has its own limit how small or how large the aperture can get. The maximum aperture of the lens shows the speed of the lens. When you buy a lens, it says in the title for example ’35mm f/1.4′ then it is a considered to be a fast lens, because it allows more light than a lens with the maximum aperture of f/4.0. In this case, you are allowed shooting with an aperture of f/1.4 or more. Not at f/1.2 for example. The lower the maximum aperture, the better, but the more expensive the lens will be. The minimum aperture is not that important, because almost all modern lenses can provide at least f/16 as the minimum aperture, which is more than enough most types of photography.

The pros of having a lens with large maximum aperture

– The lens can pass through more light
– The camera can capture images faster in low-light situations
– Isolate subjects from the background
– Beautiful bokeh

The cons of having a lens with large maximum aperture

– Expensive lenses

The test from f/1.4 to f/16

Examples of portraits different apertures

Together with Juliette @ Ulla Models, I tested different apertures with my Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens, from maximum to minimum. See how the blurry background will ‘disappear’ by scrolling thru the examples below! (note: captured on a cloudy morning).

The Fashion CameraThe Fashion CameraThe Fashion Camera

Examples of  head-to-toe shots different apertures

Together with Rosa @ Micha Models we tested 4 apertures to show you the differences with f/1.4, f/2, f/3.2 and f/7.1 for head-to-toe shots with my Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens. (note: captured on a cloudy morning).

The Fashion Camera

I hope you learned more about aperture because now it’s your turn to play around with your camera settings!

Tip: Easy Guide to Shutter Speed! and A Quick Guide to Manual Photography