What is a Camera Aperture?

While it may sound like a fancy, complicated term, a camera aperture is simply the "eye" of the camera. The topics discussed below will enable you to get more comfortable with the use of the aperture and the frequently asked questions regarding this important part of the camera.

How is the Aperture Measured?

The diameter of the aperture is measured in what are called "f-stops". A lower f-stop number opens the aperture wider and allows more light into the camera. A higher f-stop makes the camera's aperture smaller, preventing light from entering the sensor. F-stops are expressed in 3 different ways: f/8, f-8, and 1:8. They will be located on the lens barrel as little numbers engraved onto the front. Remember, the smaller the f-stop, the larger the aperture opening. This can be confusing with many novice photographers as it seems it would make sense to make the larger f-stops correspond with larger openings.

How is the Aperture Used?

Using a wide aperture is a great technique for many close-up shots. A wide aperture tends to result in a photo that is sharp around what the lens is focusing on and blurred in other areas. Smaller stops, or larger f-stop numbers, result in a longer depth of field, allowing all objects to be in focus at the same time. A fast shutter speed will require a larger aperture to be sure that there is enough light exposure, and a slow shutter speed will normally require a smaller aperture in order to avoid excessive exposure. Lenses of low f-number are popular with photographers who work with little light and typically have no opportunity to introduce extra lighting with a flash or lamp.

What is the "Aperture Priority Mode"?

Digital cameras have modes that can automatically control the aperture and speed of the shutter. There are also many that allow you to manually control these functions. When you use aperture priority mode, you change the size of the aperture and the shutter speed is automatically manipulated in order to maintain proper exposure.

What is Right for You?

There is no perfect aperture. It all depends on the type of picture that you are attempting to take. Do you want to focus on a flower in the front and blur out the flowers in the background or would you like to focus on all of the flowers at the same time? There are many things to take into consideration while choosing an aperture. Aside from the aperture, shutter speed and the amount of lighting dictates the quality of shot. If you have a person that you are focusing on in a group of people, a small aperture value would be your best bet.

While it may seem to be confusing in the beginning, the only way that you will become more comfortable with the use of apertures will be with practice and hands on use. Practice on shooting different objects to see which is the right aperture for your needs. 

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