Laymen Basics of DSLR Photography – 3 Aperture

So what have we learned?

LIGHT is king! Cameras cannot hold a candle to your human eye. As a matter of fact, you can think of a camera as having sunglasses on. The amount of light that gets sprinkled onto a camera’s electronic sensor is determined by your lens, or ‘Aperture’ of your lens.

ISO – Even though the hole is sooo small, cell phones are getting better and better, mainly because the ability of a sensor to pick up light gets better every year thanks to technology. (and Sony, I cant believe I am saying this because I have never been a huge fan of Sony’s Business tactics. but it is true. Just about every camera you can think of has a Sony created sensor)

Shutter Speed – During the day we have plenty of light to play with, this is why even older DSLR’s with less sensitive sensors can bust out crisp vibrant images at noon. But who likes light saturated photos with no depth? You will need an Instagram filter to give it some depth. A great deal of photographers will wait until the golden hour, dusk or dawn. When there is less overall light traveling to the sensor on your camera, it will take longer for your sensor to create an full high quality image no matter what camera you have. How does your camera regulate how much light gets to your sensor over time? It finishes the shot with a click, or light-blocking ‘shutter’ to cover the sensor when the shot is complete.

Aperture – FINALLY! Congrats if you made it here from the beginning! This is where most people get crossed eyed because there are soo many ways to make a salad, so hang in there and try to remember that Aperture at its core is basically one thing. THE SIZE OF THE HOLE.

So the last step of the whole process is to focus or pinpoint the light onto the sensor properly. This is where a good lens can flaunt its advantages. Aperture is literally how big the opening of your lens is. Some huge lenses let a lot of light in, are heavy and expensive. These are called ‘quick’ lenses. These are great for low light situations because they allow your little turd of a sensor to get slammed with as much light as possible in as little time (quick shutter speed) as possible. ‘Fast lenses’ Otherwise known as Low F-Stop or Large Aperture.

So if a large hole or Aperture is called a fast lens, then you should automatically know that a high f-stop or ‘slow lens’ has a small opening allowing less light in. There are many variables like glass quality, amount of glass, and surface coatings that make a lens ‘fast’ but the size of the opening is the most important to remember therefore at night you want a ‘fast lens’ and during the day you can get away with a ‘slow lens’ I plan on writing an article on why you would not just use a fast lens all the time, there are plenty od reasons why but one of the largest reasons is that because a large point is focused onto a small point, it creates a shallow depth of field. This is good for buttery out of focus backgrounds but horrible for group shots where you need multiple people in focus.

As you master the Triangle (Shutter Speed, ISO, & Aperture) You will find favorite start-up settings depending on your lens, the amount of light available, and environment. (what you want to keep in focus)


1. If there is a lot of light available (Maybe a studio where you have access to multiple lights) Then you will want to start with the best ISO your camera has available. (200 on my camera) Since you have plenty of light, set the shutter speed to as fast as possible so you don’t end-up with a shot-ruining blur when people move at the last second. Now you can set your aperture to be a small hole since you have a lot of light, or you can get creative and slow the shutter speed to accommodate for a larger hole (low fstop) to create beautiful bokeh rich portraits.

2. If you are inside walking around and limited light, then you will want to start with a high ISO sensitivity setting to pick up as much light as quickly as your little sensor can handle. Since your sensor still can’t pickup light as fast as the human eye, you will need a long shutter speed as well as a large hole to let as much light as possible through. (Low f-stop setting) In this setting, since you are walking around, you will want to experiment to find a short enough shutter speed that doesn’t blur images but long enough to take rich photos. Some DSLR’s will require a tripos to keep the camera still as well as a still environment at night. This scenario shows off the true nature of your camera. Once you understand how limited a sensor is, you will then be able to exploit its limitations in a creative way to create engaging unique master pieces with the click of a button.

Aperture or f-stop is a decision you will need to make before the shot but do not be afraid to experiment. In most scenarios you might not even need Manual mode, but you need to know the triangle to be a successful photographer. If I am trying to control depth of field, (what is and isn’t in focus) I put my camera in Aperture Priority mode (Av on my camera)- and allow the camera regulate the shutter speed. If I am trying to stop any action or try to get creative with motion blur then I will use Shutter Priority Mode. (Tv on my camera)

Try to always remember that a camera is like you wearing sunglasses at night, it cant see much of anything the moment the sun shifts over the horizon. You might need to find creative ways to light up the main attraction of your photo.

TIP: Photography captures light from a single micro-moment. A true photographer will use the light available to him/her even if they have to reflect it, this is one of the biggest difference between a beginner and old soul. (Simple example: Someone offered to take a photo of you and your loved one at night in front of your favorite pizza place. You see a towering light post as the main source of light for the area so you immediately ask to move over 4 feet and shift direction slightly so the light is at a 45-55 or so degree angle to light up your faces in an otherwise seemingly dim environment.)