The Aperture Photography Guide

aperture photography

Aperture photography is the key to expert work. Aside from Shutter Speed and ISO, it is one of the three fundamental aspects of photography as it creates exposure. You will want to learn how to use aperture settings. This is key to being a better photographer.

Aperture is also the key to being more creative with photography effects. Do you ever wonder what it takes to get the right amount of light in your photo? And how aperture works with other settings?

This guide will serve as education on aperture photography. And also the ins and outs of how you can use it to your advantage.

First, let’s cover what aperture settings are. You will learn how aperture settings are measured. And then we will break down how to use aperture. You will begin to understand how to take the right picture for what you need.

Sit back, and get ready for the aperture photography guide. In the end, it is here to help you learn how to be a professional photographer.

What is aperture anyway?

When you see the pupil of an eye, what do you think of first? Well, do you understand the science behind the pupil? You know that more light gets in the wider the pupil is.

Thus, aperture diameter size changes with aperture settings. The move means more, and possibly less light comes into the sensor. This change happens while working with shutter speed and ISO at the same time. Your aperture and other settings will depend on the scene you are trying to photograph, of course.

Let’s simplify this: a wider aperture results in more light being let in. And a narrow aperture setting allows less light to be let in.

Many find aperture confusing. If you stick with the above definition, you should use it. Now, let’s get into the logistics of aperture settings:

If you are looking at wide aperture settings, you are looking at f/1.2-f/2.4. The opening of the lens is wide in this case. So, what does it mean when someone talks about a large aperture? A large aperture means the f/stop number is in use.

For example, we are going to see f/32 or f/22 in this case. It is easy to remember that a low and wide aperture are equally the same. This refers to the size in this case.

Ways to measure and change the aperture

Have you heard of the f-stop scale? Well, let’s go over the range first. When you look at your camera, you see the ‘f/’ and a number. ‘F’ refers to the widening of the aperture, which directly affects exposure along with the depth of field.

Just remember this rule of thumb: the lower the number you see, you are going to have a wider aperture. For instance, if you see f/1.4, you are going to have a wide-open aperture. This number is the maximum aperture. Want a narrow aperture? Higher numbers such as f/16 to f/22 will be the settings you will need.

Here is the aperture scale: f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

Remember that the higher the aperture number, the settings then become half its size, allowing 50% less light from the lens. These numbers mean the size of the aperture from the focal length.

You might even see a newer camera with settings with numbers in between the above-listed numbers. For instance, they are ⅓ stops, between f/2.8 and f/4 or f/3.2 and 3.5.

Let’s say you are working with a 50mm lens. Your aperture setting is f/2. You can get your width by taking 50, dividing that by 2, and getting 25mm. Next, you are going to multiply the radius by itself (radius squared). Area=r²*pi.

For example, a 50mm lens is at f/2 would equal 25mm wide. Cutting that in half is 12.5mm. So then we take (pi * 12.5mm²) and get an area of 490mm².

Aperture and its affect on exposure

By now you may have figured out that the aperture size is directly related to exposure. When you have a larger aperture size, you will have a higher exposed photo. You may want to experiment by taking pictures and keep all your settings. Except for the aperture settings, constant.

Aperture affecting depth of field

The depth of field is related to the distance your subject is in focus. This is both in the front and behind your primary point of focus. If your aperture settings are wide (such as f/1.4), you are going to have a more shallow depth of field. When your aperture size is narrow (f/22), you are going to have a deep depth of field.

Using different apertures

You are not required to choose a specific aperture.  It is entirely up to you. Think about if you are going to go with a more artistic effect. Or you can look to balance the light in your photo. You should know, however, how the apertures can be used.


ApertureCommon Uses
f/1.4Use for low light scenes. You will have a shallow depth of field. If your subject is shallow or you want a bokeh effect, use this.
f/2Same as above. f/2 lenses are generally cheaper (one-third of the) price of an f/1.4
f/2.8Use for low light scenes. You will get more definition for subject features such as faces because of its deeper depth of field. Try a zoom lens as they have this as the widest aperture.
f/4Use as the minimum aperture setting for portraits in good lighting. Any wider aperture and the subject’s face will be out of focus.
f/5.6If you are taking photos of a couple of people, use this setting. Do not use in low light settings. Instead, use a bounce flash if you must.
f/8Use this setting for large groups of people so you can get everyone in the frame in focus.
f/11Your lens will be the sharpest in this setting. Commonly used for taking portraits.
f/16This is the right aperture for taking photographs in the sun.
f/22Use this setting for landscapes that feature details in the foreground.

Remember the essential basics of aperture settings. Remember that the wider the settings, the more light that comes in. The more narrow the aperture setting, then less lighting comes into view.

A shallow depth of field results in a bokeh kind of effect. You can use an f/2 lens for the same result. In good lighting, set to a minimum aperture. For low light settings, try a zoom lens. When taking photos of couples, choose an f/5.6 setting. Choose f/8 for large groups of people.

f/11 will be your sharpest of settings. If you want photos taken in the sun, choose f/16. And use f/22 for landscapes with details. You can play around with these settings as much or as little as you like.

It takes time to become comfortable and learn aperture photography. It does not happen overnight. Experiment with any of these settings and you will be sure to understand just how aperture photography works!