Aperture can be difficult to understand, so here is my 3 easy steps to understanding it.

Aperture explained in 3 easy steps

What is Aperture?

Aperture is one of the 3 main pillars of taking a photo (the other 2 being shutter speed and ISO). Aperture allows you to control the amount of light hitting your camera’s sensor. The easiest way to think of this is to think of aperture being like the human eye. The pupil in the eye shrinks or expands depending on how much light is needed to land on the retina of the eye. Modern cameras have been designed the same, just replace the pupil with aperture and the retina with the sensor of the camera.

How does Aperture impact my photos?

One of the main aspects that Aperture controls is the depth of field in your photos and this can be a complicated subject which probably deserves its own blog post. But the simple and quick explanation is the smaller the f/ number the burlier the background or out of focus parts of your photos become. While the higher the f/ number the clearer and sharper the background becomes. Check out the images below so you can see what I mean. Now depending on the type of effect you’re trying to achieve in your photos, you will need to choose different apertures. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out my guidelines in step 3.

Image taken at f/1.8
Image taken at f/11

Outside of the depth of field, the Aperture also has an impact on the shutter speed and ISO of your photos. For example, if you have an Aperture of f/1.8 then you can decrease your shutter speed and/or ISO to get the right exposure. This is also true in reverse, if you have a high f/ number such as f/22 then you might need to raise your shutter speed or ISO to get the right exposure. Just keep in mind the effects of depth of field if you’re changing your Aperture to balance your exposure.

Where should I use different Apertures?

These are only guidelines, so judge your photos based on the scenario you find yourself in. These may or may not work with your photos.

f/1.4 — f/2.8: Great for low light situations but be careful when focusing because of the narrow depth of field.

f/4: Minimum for taking a portrait, any wider and the face could go out of focus from the depth of field

f/5.6 — f/8: Good for taking photos of multiple people and/or groups. The more people the higher f/ number you should use

f/11: Where the lens is sharpest, great for portraits and/or product photography

f/16 — f/22: Good for shooting in the sun or bright lighting. Also, great for landscapes where everything needs to be in focus


Want more information about exposure and how it works with your camera and the photos you take? Then check out my blog post all about it here.

Want to check out this article on my blog? You can do so here.

If you have any questions then be sure to contact me either on twitter, in the comments or by email. If you would like to see more of photos then check out my portfolio or my Instagram. If videos are more your thing then check out my YouTube channel here. Until next time,

Thanks for reading

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.