Week One: Learning about Aperture (aka F/stop)
In my humble opinion, learning about aperture is one of the most important parts of photography. Likewise, the main reason that we ended up investing in a DSLR camera was so that I could have more control of aperture. Essentially, Aperture refers to how open your camera's lens is--but it's confusing, because the lower the f/stop number, the MORE open the lens is. The idea goes like this:
Low F-Stop Number = More open aperture = More Light = Smaller Depth of Focus
High F-Stop Number = Less open aperture = Less Light = Larger Depth of Focus
It took me a long time to really get a grasp of this-- because it isn't intuitive at all to me to have a smaller depth of focus with more light. But then I realized that all I really need to remember is this:
Small f/stop number = smaller amount in focus
Larger f/stop number = larger amount in focus
Example One-- F 1.8
See how only the bottom few lines are in focus? That's because my f/stop number is small, which means that the depth of field (what's in focus) is also going to be very small. Now, take a look at what happens to the same shot when my aperture number is larger:
Example Two- F 22
See how being able to control aperture can drastically alter the mood of the picture, not to mention where the eye is drawn? This is exactly why I think aperture is such an important part of photography!
**BIG NOTE: How small of an f/stop you'll be able to achieve will depend on your camera lens. Stock lenses don't tend to have super low f/stop numbers. I think my stock lens only went down to F 3 or F 4, which is the main reason that I wanted the Nifty Fifty lens, which goes down to F 1.8. If your lens doesn't have a low enough f-stop or you have a point and shoot camera that doesn't allow you to change f/stop, I wrote a blog post some time ago about Faking Bokeh Using Photoshop.