Basic DSLR Photography: Understanding Aperture

If you’ve ever wanted to learn the basics of using a DSLR camera but don’t know where to start then my ‘Basic DSLR photography’ posts could be for you. I’ve been getting to grips with some of the basics lately through a photography diploma and thought this would be a great place to start sharing some tips to help you document life more creatively and beautifully.

To help you switch from Auto to Manual, one of the first things you need to understand is the exposure triangle – this is the term used for three different elements that work together to create the perfect exposure – Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO.

So as not to overload you with information, I thought I would focus on Aperture to begin with but I will cover ISO and Shutter Speeds in upcoming posts.

To put things simply, aperture refers to the size of the hole in your camera that lets in light and is measured in F stops.

I saw the below image on Pinterest that represents this perfectly – the smaller the f-stop, the larger the opening!


As well as controlling how much light is let into your camera, aperture also controls depth of field (DOF) – how much an image is in focus. This can create some beautiful photographs and is the trick to mastering those dreamy images where the background is thrown out of focus.


As you can see in the above images, a f/1.6 only one mug is in focus with the rest thrown out of focus. At f/5.6 much more of the image is in focus.

A good way to practise your depth of field and f stops is to switch your camera to AV mode (aperture priority). This way you have some creative control over how much of the image you want in focus and the camera automatically adjusts the shutter speed for you to create the correct exposure. Once you’ve mastered Aperture you will be one step closer to switching to Manual mode for good!

Grab your camera and some props and have a practise creating images with different depths of field so you get a real understanding for how it works – remember different lenses can only open so wide so if you like the blurry out of focus look, you’ll need to invest in lenses with a low aperture number.

Happy shooting!


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