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Aperture and depth of field #photography

A camera has focus points which might be small dots or squares which help you focus on your subject. You might be shooting a landscape and want the whole frame in focus but you still need to choose a subject within that frame. Unless you’re going to let the camera decide all the settings you also need to choose your aperture setting.


Depth of field

The subjects in this shot are obvious, we have a house and a car. The focus point, however, was on the house.  I took the shot with a 28 – 300 lens at 48mm so I zoomed in from across the street. I wanted the shot sharp and any camera movement is frozen with the fast shutter speed. If I set the aperture wide that would have given me a shallow depth of field, the house would be in focus but anything closer (or further away) would start to go out of focus. With a shallow depth of field, the car wouldn’t be in such sharp focus. With a narrow aperture and deep depth of field the focus doesn’t fall off so much and it is hardly noticeable. In this case, I set the aperture at f/8 which gave me the whole scene in focus. With a narrower aperture, less light enters the camera and you have to consider that but on this occasion, there was enough light and the camera set the shutter speed at 1/125 of a second.


The ISO in my example was set on 100. If there hadn’t have been enough light for my shot I could have increased the ISO making the camera sensor more sensitive to light. At around 800 increasing the ISO introduces a little noise into the image which usually shows as white or purple dots. I get more noise under fluorescent light and it shows more on black backgrounds.

Focus points

For this image, I used a matrix of focus points. It helps to keep all of the image in focus. If you tilt the camera to the right or left the edges of the image go out of focus.


My camera can meter the light right across the image which I did in this case or I can choose centre-weighted metering which I use for portraits or spot metering which can be useful for portraits too.


The aperture, in this case, was f/8 and if you look closely you can see the trees between the houses aren’t as in-focus as the houses. You can set the aperture even smaller in bright sunlight with the so-called ‘sunny 16’ considered to be ideal. That is setting the aperture at f/16 and having a shutter speed of at least 1/100 of a second. To learn which apertures are best, set your camera on shutter priority and focus on different things at different distances from the camera. When you focus on things close to the camera it will set the aperture wide and when you focus on things far away from the camera it will set the aperture narrower. When you’re shooting a landscape it isn’t always a good idea to have your focus point on the subject furthest from your camera, a subject in the mid-distance will perhaps give you f/8 while a subject further from the camera might need f/16 and less light entering the camera.

I hope that has explained how to set the aperture more clearly.

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