A Simple Guide to Understanding Aperture

If you want to understand aperture, there are countless videos online to help you out. We understand why. It’s a tricky concept for beginners because there are three different ways to gauge it—aperture (wide or narrow), f-stops (big or small) and depth of field (shallow or deep)—and they don’t make immediately logical sense. Thankfully, wedding photographer Khara Plicanic has created an extremely simple, plain-English video that explains it all:

Plicanic’s lecture is nice because of its simplicity. For example, she plainly compares aperture to the pupils in your eyes: when in a dark room, your pupils dilate, just as your lens need to open up wider to get more light in dark scenarios.

aperture explanation

As for remembering which one creates a shallow depth of field (i.e. a blurry background), there’s another real-life correlation; when you’re trying to spy something in the distance, you squint your eyes. Likewise, a deep depth of field—that is, when more is in focus—requires a narrow aperture.

how to use aperture

The last aspect is the f-stop. Many beginning photographers, she notes, confuse which f-stops refer to wider apertures. Because they’re measured in fractions, the larger numeral—f/16, say—is actually a smaller number, whereas f/4 (one fourth) is larger because it is a fraction.

So remember: The smaller the f-stop (think fractions!), the narrower the aperture, the deeper the depth of field.

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One response to “A Simple Guide to Understanding Aperture”

  1. Wolf says:

    Good info, but I find that when it comes to manuals or how-to info, there is no place for fancy fonts that you can hardly read. See “Aperture” with the f-stops. Just use Arial…

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