Aperture For Bloggers

aperture-what-to-use-to-make-your-photos-look-great

Do you ever wonder how to get great images on your camera where the background is blurry?

Want to take a photo indoors but the light is too low?

Then you need to learn all about aperture for bloggers! Aperture is the opening size that your camera’s lens lets light in with.

What is Aperture?

This post will help you understand the basics of aperture, so you can use your camera in Aperture Priority (A/V mode on a Canon) mode, or Manual Mode.

Aperture is the f-stop number on your camera. Each camera may have a different number on it, but in general, you will see a button on the back of your camera that says A/V or A that allows you to adjust your F-stop lower or higher. To really “get” this, a basic understanding of ISO will really help. Please check out this quick explanation on the Sweet C’s Designs blog for more info. If you don’t really understand shutter speed- don’t worry. Just shoot in Aperture Priority mode until you are comfortable with ISO and Aperture, and go from there (it is the trickier part of the ISO-Aperture-Shutter Speed triangle).

When I was in college, I loved processing photos in the darkroom, because it helped me understand the mechanics of photos more. Aperture, ISO and Shutter Speed can get pretty confusing when you are just starting out with a DSLR, but they are actually pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

In the “old days” of film processing, you had to do some mental work to know what you were doing and trust you got a properly exposed shot that wasn’t all blurry. I liked to think of it like this:

Imagine a box with a tube sticking out of it, and a piece of photo-sensitive paper inside the box (did you have a hypercolor shirt as a kid? I am dating myself here, but if you remember that you’d put your hand on the shirt and it would change color when in sunlight, making an imprint of the shape of your  hand - it’s just like that.) Imagine the tube with an adjustable opening. That is your aperture.

The wider you have the opening, the more light comes into the box, and the faster the image is transferred to the paper. This means less blur, brighter colors, and more light! This is perfect for indoors, in shade, or darker places because it will pick up more light and you won’t have a dark (or light but totally blurry) photo.

The smaller you have the opening, the longer it takes for the image to develop because there is less light coming in. This is great for bright areas, full sun, etc.

Check out the photo below- the smaller the number, the MORE light it lets in. It seems totally backwards to set it up this way, but it will make sense in a second.

understand-aperture-this-is-a-great-guide-to-get-a-blurry-or-clear-background-with-your-DSLRSo WHY the heck are the numbers set up this way?? You would think higher # = more light, right?

Well, they are this way because it is actually determining the Focal Length of your shot. The smaller the number, the smaller the part of your photo that is in focus will be.

The larger the number, the more in focus it will be.

This means LOW f-stops = blurry backgrounds.

It also means HIGH f-stops = clear, sharp backgrounds!

aperture-for-bloggers

In the images above, I used a similar shutter speed, but different apertures and different ISO’s.

The first, the 1.4, is the lowest my lens goes. The first Matryoshka is in focus, but the rest is pretty blurry. The ski in the background is also kind of distorted, which is typical of a 50mm lens. This was shot with 100 ISO, because I needed to have super fast “film” or it would be way too overexposed because the lens was wide open.

The middle shot, 8.0, is much more clear. The details aren’t crisp beyond the second Matryoshka, but you can make out the shapes much more than in 1.4. This was with 400 ISO, so it wouldn’t be too dark or too light.

The last shot is at 22. This is the highest my camera goes to and I only really ever use it on impossibly bright days and I get overexposed shots even with low ISO and super fast speeds. This shot is a little blurry though, but that is because I didn’t have this on a tripod. If I did, I could use a slower speed and it wouldn’t look blurry. I could also have bumped the ISO up really high, but then the image would be grainy. This was at 800 ISO (I dont ever go above 800 because with my camera it is pretty visible above that- some cameras are a bit smoother under 1200, but I just wont shoot over 800 unless it is a moment I can’t bear to miss or don’t have a flash and its my kids first steps or something that I want, grainy or not.)

What’s the Best Aperture Setting for Bloggers?

So which Aperture do I use most often??

It depends on the day or my subject, but with my 50mm lens (which I use most of the time, I love it so!!) I stick to a few basic guidelines.

For food or crafts, I stick to 100-800 ISO and  f/1.8-3. I’ve noticed my craft and food photos get pinned and noticed a lot more with a blurry background and just slightly overexposed. Super low apertures like 1.4-1.8 aren’t perfect for food, but I find basic foods (like casseroles, pastas, anything that is tasty but not super PRETTY- look more interesting with low f-stops. This is not good for portraits.)

The shot below was taken at f/1.8 with an ISO of 800 (on my front porch which doesn’t get direct light):

My-family-always-asks-me-to-make-this-again-while-they-are-still-eating-it-So-good-and-easy

For indoors, rooms that are darker but with important details I don’t want to look blurry, I use f/5.0-f/8. The photo below is in my bedroom (that doesn’t get a ton of light in the morning when I took this), but the textures were important to me to pick up- so I shot this at 800 ISO and f/5.6. (this is a good area to be in for portraits- anywhere above the high 3′s to under 11, depending on how far away they are from you and the light conditions):

Make-a-Faux-Tiled-Headboard-only-12-and-20-minutes-Perfect-for-renters-or-people-that-move-a-lot

And I rarely use high f-stops just because I love the blurred background look, but this was taken on a sunny day at the pumpkin patch looking out to Long’s Peak – I wanted most of the photo in focus (even though I didn’t have a telephoto lens, which would have been better, but I didn’t go planning to take a landscape shot). This was taken at 100 ISO and f/22.

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Phew! That was a TON of information, right? Hopefully this will help you understand aperture a bit more, and help when you are taking shots for your blog!

The #1 piece of information I can give you about aperture is to play around! Digital cameras are awesome because if you take a shot and it isn’t what you want, you just have to look and click delete. Try taking shots with different apertures when you set up a photo, that way you will have lots to chose from. Taking tons of shots will help you understand aperture more, and soon it will be second nature.

Have fun and stay tuned next month for more photography tips! 

Courtney O'Dell
Courtney is a mother of two hyper blonde babies and lives in Northern Colorado with her husband and Angus, her black lab where she writes the popular lifestyle blog Sweet C's Designs. Courtney loves crafting, skiing, traveling, cooking, home decor and creating recipes that her family and friends love. You can often find Courtney reading about photography, taking as many pictures as possible, playing around with photoshop, playing with her kids, or basically doing anything she can do to avoid housework.
Courtney O'Dell
Courtney O'Dell

Comments

  1. Love it! I’m always trying to figure out how to take good pictures in my house and trying to balance the aperature with my ISO and the available light. I rarely get it ‘right’ and end up cheating and going back to “auto”. At least it’s closer to being “right”. ha ha. Time to PRACTICE!!!

  2. This was so helpful! Thanks for sharing the example photos with ISO & the F-stop. I don’t think I would have thought to go up to 22 outside, but it makes complete sense now. And I loved hypercolor shirts!

  3. Thanks for sharing such a great tutorial. :) Kicking myself for not buying myself a 50mm lens for Christmas. Boo. lol XOXO

  4. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you for this post!! I know some about ISO, aperture, and shutter speed to get by but always needs a cheat sheet near by which makes it hard when you need to know immediately to get the shot. Your explanation was so helpful in helping me to remember it in laymen terms. And examples are the best. I hate taking a photo class and they explain all the settings but never show ideas on what to do in certain situations. Like what you would do normally for crafts and food : 100-800 and f/1.8-3. Love it! Thank you!!! Now any chance you could show us basic quick photo editing in photoshop?

  5. Thank you for sharing the great tips. Have a corresponding question, maybe one you have answered before – What camera do you suggest for blog photos? what do you use? I am looking into purchasing a camera at tax time, and would love some advice!

    • Courtney, who originally wrote the post, shoots on a Canon. If you’re new to having a DSLR, a Canon T3 is great for blogging. I shoot with a Nikon D80. I know a lot of bloggers have cameras similar to mine :) I think either way you go, you will be happy! xoxo Tauni

  6. Thank you! I’ve had a DSLR camera for two years now, but rarely take it off automatic for fear of messing up. Hope you don’t mind, but I pinned this for future reference. I’ll be back!

  7. This was really helpful… thank you! I have been trying to learn my DSLR camera for a few months now, and I always mix up that the lower the f stop, then smaller the focus. I get it all turned around in my head and think that the entire picture should be in focus at say f/2 because it’s letting so much light in. I like your description and it’s made it much easier to understand!

    • Caitlin, I am so glad you enjoyed Courtney’s aperture post. I was so glad she offered to share it with everyone. Thanks for leaving a note! xoxo Tauni

  8. Awesome tutorial! Thanks!

  9. Great information! You explain it in a way that helps me undersatand so much better! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Thank you for this nice reference. I use a 50mm for my props pics, and having this great reference will be a nice addition. :)

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