Understanding Diffraction and Its Effects in Photography

When starting out in photography, we’re taught to narrow down our aperture for greater depth of field. Then again, we’re also told not to narrow it down too much. This is because the images will come out softer due to a phenomenon called diffraction. So what actually is diffraction and why does it negatively impact our images? In today’s video we have photographer Don Komarechka who explains everything you need to know about diffraction:

Light undergoes diffraction due to its wave nature. When waves pass through narrow openings, they tend to bend and deviate from their original path. Komarechka demonstrates this beautifully in the video with the help of water waves. And interestingly, the narrower the opening is, the effect of diffraction gets more prominent. This is exactly why it’s not recommended that you narrow down your aperture too much.

Due to diffraction, the light bends away from its actual path and does not reach the photosite on the sensor where it’s supposed to go. The image thus seems to be out of focus and appears soft.

“Light that should be hitting one particular pixel will be hitting multiple pixels at the same time and that just blurs the results.”

Although a more narrow aperture might give you a greater depth of field, you will have to compromise a lot when it comes to image quality. And another important thing to keep in mind is that cameras with higher megapixel count are more susceptible to issues from diffraction.

Be sure to keep this information in mind before stopping down on your aperture settings. Hopefully, this understanding of diffraction will help you take better photos.

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