Photography Lighting is supported by readers. When you buy with our links, we may earn a commission. Learn more

This post was most recently updated on January 8th, 2023

If you’re new to photography, you’re going to want to get to grips with the concept of Aperture. It is an integral part of photography that you will need to understand to produce great images.

But what exactly is aperture? If you find yourself reading it on guides online, or encountering it when talking with your photographer friends, you might need some help in understanding what it means.

It can be overwhelming trying to find this information out and leaves many of us in the dark when it comes to narrow and wide apertures.

Well, that’s where we come in! This article is going to explain everything about apertures and how they work. We’ll also take a look at why you might use both wide and narrow apertures, as well as when each one should be used.

At the end of this article, we have included a short FAQ section, to help answer some other questions about photography

Aperture: What Does It Mean?

So let’s start by taking a look at what an aperture is.

The first thing to know about an aperture is that it is not just a hole in the lens. It is a physical opening through which light passes into the camera body. The size of this opening determines how much light enters the camera.

When you adjust the aperture setting, you are adjusting the size of this opening. As the aperture gets smaller, less light can enter the camera. As the aperture gets larger, more light can pass through.

This is important because it allows us to control the amount of light entering our camera. By changing the aperture, we can change the exposure settings for different parts of the image.

For example, if we set the aperture to f/2.8, then we would expect to see twice as much light coming in compared to if we were shooting with f/4.0

What Is A Narrow Aperture?

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s talk about what a narrow aperture is.

Narrow apertures are usually referred to as “fast” or “wide open”. They allow the most light to enter the camera. This makes them ideal for bright sunny days or when there is lots of light available.

However, when using a narrow aperture, you do sacrifice depth of field. Depth of field refers to the area of focus within the frame. In other words, if you shoot a scene with a narrow aperture, only the objects closest to the camera will be in sharp focus. Everything else will be blurred.

Why Would I Want To Shoot With A Wide Open Aperture?

If you’re wondering whether you should use a wide-open aperture, the answer is yes. There are many situations where you’d want to use a wide-open aperture. Here are three examples:

Shooting In Low Light Conditions

Low light conditions mean that the shutter speed must be very slow. This slows down the movement of the camera, allowing more time for the shutter to close before the next picture is taken.

However, if you don’t have enough light, the shutter may not be able to close fast enough to keep up with the motion of the subject.

To combat this problem, you could increase the ISO sensitivity setting. But increasing the ISO increases noise levels in the image. So it’s better to use a wider aperture to reduce the amount of light needed.

Using Flash

Flash units produce light from their bulbs. These bulbs are relatively small, so they create a lot of heat. If you leave the flash unit on for too long, its bulb can get hot enough to burn the sensor inside the camera.

To avoid this problem, you could switch off the flash while you are shooting. But this will make the photo dark. You can solve this problem by using a wider aperture. This will allow more light to reach the sensor.

Shooting Landscapes

Landscapes require a large depth of field. This means that all of the landscape needs to be in sharp focus. Since a narrow aperture gives little depth of field, you won’t be able to capture the entire landscape in focus.

Instead, you’ll need to use a wide-open lens aperture to give you the necessary depth of field.

When Should I Use A Narrow Aperture? What About A Focal Length?

When Should I Use A Narrow Aperture? What About A Focal Length?

There are times when you might want to use a narrow aperture. The first situation is when you are taking pictures indoors.

Indoors, you often find yourself shooting at night. At night, your options are limited. Most people prefer to use flash to illuminate the room. But this creates shadows and highlights which aren’t flattering.

A narrow aperture works well in these situations because it reduces the amount of light coming into the camera. This helps even out the lighting, making the photos look more natural.

Another situation where you might want to use an aperture of around f/4.0 or smaller is when you are photographing architecture.

Architecture has a certain style to it. It tends to be formal and elegant. When photographing architecture, you want to show off the details of the building.

This requires a shallow depth of field. Shallow depth of field means that everything outside of the focal point is blurry.

So what does this mean? Well, it means that you need to stop down the aperture to ensure that everything in front of the focal point is in focus.

How Do I Know Which Aperture Works Best For Me?

The best way to figure out how much light you need is to take some test shots. Take several test shots with different settings. Then compare them side-by-side.

If you notice any differences between the images, then you know which settings work best for you.

In most cases, you should shoot in RAW format. This allows you to adjust the white balance and exposure after the fact.

You can also use Lightroom or Photoshop to edit the photos. Once you’ve finished editing, you can export the files as JPEGs.

The good thing about shooting in RAW format is that you can always go back and change things later.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it! Hopefully, by this point in the article, you have a good grasp of what aperture is, the differences between wide and narrow aperture, and how you can use them to fit the photographic work you’re currently taking.

It’s important to note here that aperture is something many photographers play around with for a long time before they have total mastery over it, and you will likely need quite some time to get used to the concept yourself.

Below is a short FAQ, to help define some of the most technical terms of this article, as well as to give you some helpful photography tips! We wish you the best on your photographic journey and hope you take some awesome photos!

Frequently Asked Questions

Get your last-minute questions answered here!

What Is A Focal Length?

A focal length is simply the distance from the center of the image sensor to the edge of the frame.

It’s measured in millimeters. So if you were using a 50mm lens, the focal length would be 50mm. If you were using a 200mm lens, the focal length would be 200mm.

What Is Shallow Depth?

Shallow depth refers to the area of the picture that appears sharp.

When you are shooting landscapes, you usually don’t want to blur everything else in the background. You just want to keep the foreground elements sharp.

To achieve this, you need to make sure that the aperture is small enough so that only the objects in the foreground are in focus.

Why Am I Getting A Blurry Background?

There are two reasons why you may be seeing a blurry background:

  1. The camera was set up incorrectly. Make sure that the camera is mounted correctly. Also, make sure that the camera isn’t tilted at all.
  2. Your subject is too far away from the camera. In other words, the camera is not focused on your subject.

What Is A Good Aperture For A Portrait Photo?

This depends on the type of portraits you are taking. If you are photographing people who are standing close together, then you probably want to open up the aperture to let more light into the scene.

However, if you are photographing someone who is sitting down, you probably don’t want to open up the f/stop because you don’t want the person to appear to float off the page. Instead, you might consider using a telephoto lens, such as a 300mm lens.