These beginners photography lessons will have you picking up your DSLR and having fun in no time! There’s a lot of jargon surrounding photography which makes controlling your camera look difficult. It Isn’t! We aim to cut through the jargon and show you how easy it really is.
In this lesson you’ll discover all about exposure and how it will take your beginners photography soaring to new levels.
What is exposure?
Exposure is the amount of light you let into your camera when you press the shutter release button. Once the right amount of light has entered then the exposure is correct. It is controlled by aperture, shutter speed and ISO.
Understanding the exposure triangle below is one of the keys to creativity in your beginners photography. It allows you to:
- Control how much of your image is in focus.
- Decide what to do with any movement.
- Control How much noise will appear in your image.
You will always be adjusting these three settings in order to get the effect that you want. Adjusting any one of them will impact the other two.
With that in mind lets take a look at how understanding depth of field can make a dramatic difference to your photography.
Beginners Photography – Depth of Field
Depth of field is how much of your image is in focus in front of and behind the subject that you have focused your camera on.
The photos below show a Barn Owl shot with a large depth of field on the left and a small depth of field on the right.
Notice how the foreground and background is more blurred on the right and the Barn Owl seems to “pop” out of the image more?
The main thing that determines depth of field is the value that you set your cameras aperture to. It is measured in f-numbers. Typical numbers are:
f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22, f/32
As the f-number increases, the depth of field increases. this means that more of the foreground and background will be in focus. An aperture setting of f/22 will result in a large depth of field.
As the f-number decreases, the depth of field decreases. This means that less of the foreground and background will be in focus. An aperture of f/2.8 will result in a small depth of field.
Incrementing or decrementing the f-number once is known as a stop. If you go from f/4 to f/5.6 you have incremented by one stop. If you increment from f/5.6 to f/11 you have incremented by two stops.
OK, you now know what aperture is and how it controls how much of your image is in focus, but what does it mean for your photography?
It is a powerful creativity tool because It allows you to choose which parts of your image are in focus or blurred. If the background doesn’t add to your image you can blur it. This prevents it from being distracting and keeps your viewers attention on the subject.
The best way to show this to you is by an example:
The photos below show an increasing depth of field (increasing f-stop numbers).
In the first image at f/4 the background is rendered blurred and is not part of the image.
In the last image at f/22 the background is sharper and becomes a part of the image.
Landscape photographers usually use high aperture numbers (e.g. f/22) as they want maximum depth of field so that as much of the landscape is in focus as possible.
Wildlife photographers often use low aperture numbers (e.g. f/2.8) to blur the foreground and background so that their viewers attention focuses on the subject, with little or no distracting elements.
I shot the image of the bluetit below with an aperture of f/5.6 to give me a narrow depth of field, rendering the background blurred.
When choosing the depth of field there are a few things that you need to take into consideration. It would be nice if you could just decide what depth of field that you want and then just set the aperture appropriately. Unfortunately you can’t!
As the f-stop number increases to get a larger depth of field, the minimum shutter speed needed to achieve correct exposure also increases.
You now understand how you can use aperture to control depth of field and that this determines how much of your image will be in focus. It’s now time to put all of this into practice….
Beginners Photography – Depth of Field Workshop
When carrying out the following steps, don’t worry about changing anything else, just aperture.
- If you’re using a DSLR, the best way to do this is set your camera to Aperture Priority Mode. This allows you to simply adjust aperture, letting your camera adjust the shutter speed to achieve correct exposure.
- Get your camera out and choose something to photograph.
- Set your camera to its smallest aperture f-stop number (e.g. f/4) and take a photo.
- Set your camera to its biggest aperture f-stop number (e.g. F/22) and take a photo.
- Compare the two shots side by side.
- Observe how the depth of field has increased in the second photograph.
- Observe how the shutter speed varies with each photograph. When you increase aperture f-stop number your camera chooses a slower shutter speed. When you decrease aperture f-stop number your camera chooses a faster shutter speed.
- Repeat these steps with different subjects until you are confident that you can control the amount of much of your image that is in focus by controlling depth of field.
If you’re interested in the technical detail of how aperture works, then read on. If not then just skip this section.
Aperture is the size of the opening in your lens and controls how much light gets into your camera.
The images below show how f-stop numbers relate to the size of the lens opening.
The Terminology can often be confusing.
As the f-stop number increases, the size of the lens opening decreases. This is often referred to as decreasing the aperture or stopping down.
As the f-stop number decreases, the size of the lens opening increases. This is often referred to as increasing the aperture or opening up.