Master Aperture and Understand f/Stop
When I was just starting out in photography 10+ years ago I didn’t know much about camera settings. I just knew that I loved taking beautiful photographs of people. As the years passed and I upgraded my camera I learned how to do all things in manual mode. I knew how to adjust my ISO, shutter speed, and f-stop/aperture to get the image that I was looking for. I knew what my shutter speed did and my ISO, those things were so easy to understand but aperture, not so much. I always tend to use the lowest f-stop my lens allows because I just love the ability to shoot in low light with a higher shutter speed to get the tack sharp images that have come to be one of my trademarks.
A few years back I wanted to delve deeper into what exactly f-stop was. I love getting the perfect bokeh in my images so I needed to know exactly where those settings were going to take me. I had always thought that the lower f-stop meant that I would get less blur in my background. Oops. I was very wrong. I also wondered, once I had switched to my beautiful prime lenses why suddenly those family pictures that I took were only focused on one person in the family and the rest were a big blur! It is because I was keeping my f-stop numbers too low!! The best thing you can do is get out there and practice with your camera at the different f-stops. When you are shooting with just one person those low f-stops at 1.4 and 1.8 are my favorite and create the beautiful bokeh I look for. Below is a little chart I created to help distinguish the difference between a few different f-stops so that you can really see the way the blur moves with the f-stop level.
Now to get those great family photos you need a little more adjusting. The larger the family, the higher the f-stop, choose an f-stop above f4 when working with more than 2 people. In my opinion it is rare that you need to go higher than f13, which just depends on the number of people you are working with. Don’t be scared to test it out and see what works best for you. However, if you are shooting landscapes that is entirely different and you likely want more of the image in focus instead of choosing a single focal point and blurring the rest of the image. In those instances you would choose a higher f-stop to create the landscape you are looking for.
The next step to getting that background blur is being close to your subject. The closer you are to your subject the more it separates them from the background thus creating a nice blurred background. This works for larger groups also, just be careful not to cut anyone out of the picture and watch for limb crops. Remember that you do not have to stick with one f-stop while you are shooting, you can adjust throughout your session and determine what you like best.
Hi! I’m Pamela, I am a mother of 3 and wife to a Navy man. I enjoy running much more than I ever thought possible..lol.. I have enjoyed photography for as long as I can remember, I was carrying around my dad’s camera from the time I started 7th grade. 10 years ago I began my journey into professional photography. Photographs have always meant a lot to me because they can capture a moment in time and no matter how long it has been when you look at that photo it takes you right back to that moment. I never want to forget all of those special moments in life so what better profession to have than giving others those cherished moments as well.