How to Shoot Manual: Aperture

Updated on May 23, 2017
Carly Sanderson profile image

Carly has always had a passion for photography and is currently making her way through a degree in photojournalism.

Learning to use a DSLR on manual mode can be a daunting experience at first, especially when the internet is filled with information that is either too technically confusing or is aimed at professional photographers. However, once you begin to understand the main concepts behind shooting on manual, it`s actually not that complicated. The three main controls that you use when shooting in manual mode are aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Once you learn these three things, you`ll find a whole new way to take photographs; one that allows for more creative expression and makes you the master of your own images.

The first component is aperture. Basically, aperture controls how much light is let into the camera`s sensor through the opening in the lens. The wider the hole is, the more light can come in and the brighter your image will be. Similarly, the narrower the hole is, the less light that is let in and the darker your image will be.

The size of your aperture affects how much light is let onto the camera`s sensor
The size of your aperture affects how much light is let onto the camera`s sensor | Source

Aperture is measured in what is called f stops. For example, f/2, f/8, f/16, etc. Every time you increase your aperture by one f stop, the amount of light that is let into your camera doubles. This is the same in the other direction; decreasing your aperture by one f stop will half the amount of light that is let into the sensor. When reading f stops on your camera, it is important to remember that the higher the number, the smaller the opening in your lens will be. For example, if you have an aperture of f/ 22, there will be less light being let into the sensor than an aperture of f/4.5. Although this is confusing in the beginning, the more you practice the more it will sink in, and it will soon become natural.

The smaller the number of the f stop, the bigger the opening to the camera will be
The smaller the number of the f stop, the bigger the opening to the camera will be | Source
A larger depth of field will result in the entire photograph being in focus
A larger depth of field will result in the entire photograph being in focus | Source

Aperture also controls depth of field. Depth of field can otherwise be described as the range of focus in an image. The higher the f stop, the larger your depth of field will be. In other words, if you have a higher number f stop, for example f/22, your whole image will be in focus. If you have a smaller number f stop, for example f/1.4, only a very small part of your image will be in focus. The affect of aperture on your depth of field is easy to remember, as the higher the number, the more clear your photograph will be. A higher depth of field is good for something like landscape photography, as the whole scene will be in focus. A smaller depth of field can be good for portraits, as having the background a bit blurred can put focus on the person you are taking a picture of. However, photography is personal, and these are just guidelines that you may want to follow whilst you are still starting out.

A shallow depth of field causes the background to be blurred
A shallow depth of field causes the background to be blurred | Source

Just remember to keep practicing, it will all become easier! Catch my next pieces on shutter speed and ISO, and learn how to make the full transition from auto to manual mode.

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