Large apertures do several things for your photographs. The two main factors a large aperture effects is your depth of field and the amount of light that hits your camera sensor. Think of depth of field as a grid that extends from the front of your camera past the point of visibly. Somewhere in that grid is your subject. When you have a large aperture, elements in front of your subject as well as elements behind the subject will appear less sharp; blurry. By reducing the depth of field (aperture), you can make your subject the most noticeable element in your scene (photograph) and keep your viewers eyes focused on it. Take these flower photographs as an example, it is the same flower photographed using two different aperture and shutter speed settings. The first is shot at an aperture setting of F/3 and the second is photographed at a F/8.
Tiger Lily 1:
Aperture Setting F/3 Shutter Speed 1/200
Tiger Lily 2:
Aperture Setting F/8 Shutter Speed 1/8
Do you notice that your eyes follow the lines created by the leaves of the background more in photograph #2. This is because our brains naturally seek out details. The F/8 photograph has a lot more background details than the F/3 photograph which creates more distractions and reduces the focus of the subject dramatically.
The second factor of a large aperture is the amount of light. With a large aperture your lens is open more, which allows more light into your cameras sensor. It is the equivalent to the pupils of your own eyes opening to allow more light to hit your retina, which allows you to see in low quality light. When you decrease your aperture to a smaller F/stop setting (number) it allows you to increase your shutter speed. This is extremely helpful when you are creating your nature photographs on a day the wind is blowing. Even a slight breeze could move elements of your subject; which would cause a blur with a slow shutter speed setting.
The best way to see and learn the effects of your aperture is to go out and shoot. Use the same subject and take shots of it at different settings. Start at the smallest F/stop and work your way up the highest F/stop setting your lens allows; adjust your shutter speed as you go to keep a balanced exposure. This will help you learn how aperture effects your depth of field. Then do the same exercise to see how it effects light but this time only adjust your aperture setting.
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About the Author and Photographer:
Melissa Fague is an emerging nature and landscape photographer from Bear, Delaware USA. In just a few short years her work has been published over two dozen times and she has won multiple national and international awards for her beautiful photographs. Her most recent accomplishment is her first published photograph in an international publication with a worldwide distribution, “Landscape Photography Magazine”. Melissa is passionate about the art of photography and nature. Exploring areas and creating photographs is her form of stress relief and art therapy, but she also loves to share her visions so that others can enjoy. All of Melissa’s nature and landscape photographs are available for purchase, visit Pi Photography and Fine Art.