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Learning Beginning Camera Aperture Settings

Aug 27, 2008
Have you ever went to buy a camera and noticed a little letter/number combo that looked like this: f/2.8 - 5.6? Have you been confused as to what this means and how this affects the pictures you take?

This set of letter and numbers refers to the F-Stop of the lens of your camera, and many people are very confused when they see this for the first time. However, with a little reading and practice, you can come to understand with F-Stop means and how to use it to create and produce wonderful photos for yourself, family, or friends. And maybe you could even learn enough so you could take pictures for people at weddings, graduation, or other events and make some money on the side.

The first thing to know about that funky F/# is that it is referring to what is called Aperture. Aperture basically is referring to how wide the camera lens opening is. I like to explain it using an analogy to your eye.

You eye is what you use to see things, and the lens is what a camera uses to see things, so it can be a good analogy that will help you understand. You can open your eyes very wide, or you can squint and keep your eyes to where there is just a little bit of light getting to your eyes.

This is what you can do with aperture settings on a camera. You can either open the aperture up, which lets a lot of light in to your camera sensor, or you can close the aperture, which will let only a little bit of light into the sensor. Of course, understanding this photography basic of how you can change the aperture won't help you much if you don't know what the changes will do to your pictures.

When you open up the aperture, you are doing two basic things: you are letting more light in, and you are creating a narrow field of focus (think everything blurry except right where you are focusing). By letting more light in, you are able to use much faster shutter speeds and freeze action. However, you will have a more narrow plane of focus so you will have to be more precise in your focusing.

One common type of photography that is in vogue right now which uses a wide aperture is some portrait photography. Creating a shallow depth of field will help you emphasize the person you are photographing and let you ignore obtrusive objects behind or in front of your subject.

Now, here is the tricky part of this photography basic. Remember that funky F-Stop number we talked about? It is used to tell you what aperture you are using. But I like to call it a backwards number because the number does the opposite of what common sense would seem to think.

When I refer to a large, wide open aperture, I am actually referring to a small F-stop. When I am talking about a small, closed aperture, I am referring to a large F-Stop. An F-stop of f/2.8 is actually more wide open than an F-stop of f/5.6. While this may be one of the more confusing photography basics, the more you practice adjusting your aperture while taking pictures, the more you will understand it.
About the Author
Find out more about Beginning Photography Tips. You can also read more about Camera Aperture Settings.
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