Digital camera aperture explained

lens aperture

Recently I’ve been doing a series of articles on basic photography elements which users need to learn so that they can get out of auto mode and experiment with their setting to get properly exposed images.

These basic concepts are fundamental and should be grasped tightly before moving on to more advanced settings. If you understand them then you are halfway done and can become a proficient photograph. These are the settings that make an extraordinary photo standout.

That is why most of my articles largely focus upon three of the most vital components that make up the exposure triangle.

These are ISO, Shutter Speed and Aperture, and if you learn how to balance them then you can do wonders with your photography. So today I would like to draw your attention to digital camera aperture which can be quite confusing to grasp.

Most of the photographers struggle here because they fail to see the full potential it holds and prefer automated modes. They want the camera to do everything and unfortunately fail to realize the importance of aperture and other gears in the camera.

iris aperture

So that is why before starting with the descriptions I would like you to understand how vital aperture is. It is indeed aperture that can help you master multi-dimensional shots and add depth of field to your results.

It gives you control over the real creativity of your camera. It is where all the magic occurs in photography and it makes a huge difference so don’t take it lightly! Now let us dive into the world of the aperture so that you can understand it in detail.

We will begin by a brief definition and then jump onto its working. So fasten your seat belts and here we go!

What is aperture?

In simple words, the aperture is the opening in the lens. It is one of the three pillars of photography that help to create exposure and, without any doubt, it is the most important one.

It impacts so many variables in an image that you cannot ignore it. It not only adds dimension to your results by creating a blur in the background, but it can also help enhance the exposure of the images by altering their brightness.

How does aperture works?

Basically, when you press the shutter release button of the camera, it leads to opening up of a hole which allows the sensor in the camera to catch a glimpse of the view you want to be captured.

So aperture controls the size of that hole thereby impacting the light that reaches the sensor. If the hole which is referred to as ‘opening’ is large, more light can get in so there will be more exposure but if it is small then less light will get in and the exposure too will be less.

Measuring Aperture

Every lens has its own aperture range which is measured in ‘f-stops’. You often see f-stops being referred as f/numbers in photography blogs and site such as f/2.8, f/4, f/8, f/22, etc…

Lens aperture view

If you move from one f-stop to the next one it halves or doubles the size of the opening in your lens thus altering the amount of light that passes through. It works similar to shutter speed as a change in it from one stop to another also halves or doubles the amount of light that enters.

A thing about aperture measurement that causes new photographers a lot of confusion is that smaller numbers are given to large apertures which allow a lot of light to pass through while larger numbers are given to smaller apertures which allow less light to pass through.

This opposite f-stop numbering makes f/2.8 a much larger aperture than f/22 and might seems a bit wrong at first but you will get a hang of it once you practice.

How Aperture impacts Shutter Speed?

Aperture and shutter speed both are components of exposure triangle thus they are interlinked.

They are co-related because a low f/stop number would allow more light to enter the lens thus you don’t need to keep the shutter open for a longer time period to make a proper exposure and can fasten the shutter speed.

This also works in reverse that if you use high f/stop and allow less light to enter the lens then you will have to keep the shutter open for a little bit longer by slowing down the shutter speed.

How Aperture impacts Depth of Field?

Depth of Field is the amount of focus in your shot. It is the zone of sharpness in both front and behind the subject which is acceptable. In simple words, it shows whether the area surrounding the subject is sharp or blurry.

So aperture also impacts depth of field because if you choose a lower f/stop number which means you are increasing the opening, it will result in less depth of field and the background will be blurrier.

Vice versa, if you choose a higher f/stop number which means you are decreasing the opening, it will result in greater depth of field and the background will be sharper. So basically aperture has a tremendous impact on the depth of field.

The relationship can be a little confusing at first but the way to remember and simplify it is to understand that small numbers lead to smaller depths of field and large numbers lead to larger depths of field.

If you want to check more about digital camera settings, on the YouTube channel Chris Bray Photography you can find a full set of 10 free videos for the entire photography course. I will only share the aperture video, as being the today’s topic:



If you want to find out more about Chris you are welcome to visit his photography site.

Ok, now let’s continue with the topic…

Small Apertures and large depths of field vs Larger Apertures and small depths of field

• Most landscape photography requires small aperture settings and represented by large numbers to ensure that the foreground to the horizon is relatively more in focus and the depth of field is large.

• On the other hand, portrait photography requires only the subject to be perfectly in focus with a nice blurry background so that it is ensured that only the subject is the main focal point. So for that, a large aperture represented by a smaller number is chosen to ensure that there is a shallow depth of field and the other elements in the shot are not focused and distracting.

Macro photography also requires the use of large apertures in order to ensure that the other elements of the photograph like the background don’t steal attention away from the subject. That is why these images only focus on the subject and the rest of the background is completely thrown out of focus to grabs the viewer’s attention.


Remember that the best way to understand to grasp camera setting is not only to read but also to experiment out in the field. I could only provide you with the knowledge, but you will have to apply it yourself to become a pro.

Without practicing you won’t be able to fully understand the concept of the aperture so go out now and begin shooting with different aperture settings to see what difference it makes. You’ll quickly notice the impact it makes and why it is so useful to control it!

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Author: condruzmf

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