Aperture 101: Shooting in Manual Mode (Part 1/3)

SHOOTING IN MANUAL MORE, LIKE A PRO!

 

Wether you’re a food blogger and want to take better photos of your recipes, a fashion blogger who wants better selfies, an aspiring professional photographer or even just a parent and you want better photos of your kids, anyone can benefit from knowing how to properly use their camera! Shooting in manual mode allows you to be in full control of all the settings, and thus, in full control of how the final image turns out.

When I first got started, it took me some time to understand all the manual mode settings and how to choose the right ones to create the photo I pictured in my mind. Trust me, shooting in manual mode sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Like anything, all it takes is a little patience and lots of practice!

If you’re already feeling a little nervous about having to learn all this new stuff at once, don’t fret my friend! I’ve split up this blog post up into three bite sized parts to make it easier for you to learn one setting at a time.

 

The Manual Mode Triangle

In this blog series I explain and describe the three main settings that complete the manual mode triangle. I also outline the relationship they have with each other and how they all affect the final image differently.

What IS the manual mode triangle? Well, when shooting in manual mode, you will first of all need to adjust the aperture, the ISO and the shutter speed. These three main settings complete the manual mode triangle, because they work together in order to create the perfect image.

Part 1 – Understanding aperture

Part 2 – Understanding ISO

Part 3 – Understanding shutter speed

 

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Understanding Aperture

First things first, the aperture. Also known as the ƒ/stop or ƒ/number.

If we’re choosing favourites, the aperture is definitely my number one. It’s what defines and helps me create my consistent style over many lighting situations. The aperture is also the first setting I will adjust when turning on my camera or arriving into a new location.

Before getting into the details of how the aperture will affect your image, let’s first understand what the aperture physically is. Aside from the lens barrel (the outer casing), a lens is made up of two main components: the glass elements and the iris (or diaphragm). The iris is what controls your aperture and is composed of a circular set of blades (typically 5 to 9 depending on the lens) that open and close to allow a certain amount of light into the camera.

The aperture size is measured in ƒ/stops and refers to the size of the hole or opening created by the iris.

 

Shooting in Manual Mode Free E-Book

 

How does the aperture affect my image?

A. amount of light entering the lens

B. depth of field

I mentioned above that the aperture is what allows me to keep a consistent style. My style is made up of bright photos, subjects that pop off the background and creamy bokeh (the visual quality of the out-of-focus part of an image – more on bokeh in the e-book).

In order to keep my consistently bright style, I usually shoot at very wide apertures. I tend to keep my aperture around ƒ/1.6 to ƒ/2.5 depending on the situation, when shooting portraits.

Erin + Steve engagement session

 

A. Amount of light entering the lens

Simply put, a wider opening allows for more light, and a smaller opening allows for less light. Think of your eyes or your cats’s eyes. When it’s super super bright outside, the pupil (which can be compared to the aperture) will be very small, but if you’re in a dark room, your pupils will grow and open up, allowing for the maximum amount of light to enter and hit the retina (or your camera’s sensor in this comparison).

The aperture opening or size is measured in ƒ/stops. The smaller the f/stop number, the larger the opening and the larger the ƒ/stop number, the smaller the opening.

ƒ/1.2 = wide aperture, more light
ƒ/22 = small aperture, less light

 

The ƒ in ƒ/stop stands for focal length. The ƒ/number is the ratio of the lens’s focal length to the diameter of the aperture opening.

For example, a 50 mm lens set at ƒ/2.8 will have an aperture opening of 17.86 mm (50 / 2.8 = 17.86).

The same lens, set at ƒ/16, now has an aperture opening of 3.13 mm (50 / 16 = 3.13).

Notice how the larger the ƒ/number (or fraction) the smaller the hole becomes. Math magic!

Left to right: ƒ/2.0, ƒ/8.0, ƒ/16

Shooting In Manual Mode - Aperture 101

 

B. Depth of field

The aperture also has a direct impact on the depth of field. Depth of field is the size of the area of your image that will be in focus or appear sharp. The smaller your aperture is, the shallower your depth of field becomes, meaning less of your image will be in focus.

Depth of field is also a big factor why I chose to shoot with wide apertures. I personally prefer images when my couple or subject appears to be popping off the background, and I can achieve this with a wide aperture!

Notice the differences between these three images.

Shooting In Manual Mode - Aperture 101

Left image:

ISO 100

ƒ/1.4

1/100 sec

Middle image:

ISO 320

ƒ/8.0

1/100 sec

Right image:

ISO 1600

ƒ/16

1/100 sec

 

Shooting in Manual Mode Free E-Book

 

Phew! Aperture sure is a doozy, eh?! Don’t worry, it’s definitely (in my opinion) the most complex and least understood part of the manual mode triangle. ISO on the other hand is quite simple.

Hop to the next blog post to read about understanding ISO!
If you have any questions regarding the aperture, feel free to leave them down below or shoot me an email! I’m always happy to help.

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