Firstly, I apologise if your eyes go all weird and blurry looking at the main image – mine have done the same even with glasses on and I didn’t add a weird film over the top either so either this post really is as conclusive as the title states or some weird witchcraft has happened between the photo-taking session, edit and upload. Either way, there’s some blur, and that’s the focus of today’s post – how you can utilise aperture to get those bright, softly out of focus shots you’ve always wanted.
For a long time, I was dictating the brightness and clarity of my images by the ISO number which isn’t what you want if blur is the name of the game – the ISO is the measure of a camera’s sensitivity to light, and the higher the ISO the higher the risk of noisy/grainy images if you don’t have your aperture set correctly.
Aperture is what allows light into your lens, and it also dictates how much of a blur you get from that depth of field you hear people go on about loads. Aperture is usually written as F2.8 or whichever number setting has been selected, and the lower the number the larger the blur.
Let’s break this down…
F2.8 is on average the lowest aperture you can get on a lens, some go to 1.8 (dreamy) and some can only manage 4 which is still a decent depth of field. The aperture is the tiny hole in the lens that opens and closes to let in certain amounts of light, and the larger the hole the more light comes in. If you want an easy way to remember, the larger the amount of light being let in to the lens, the lower the aperture number (hence why 2.8 is the dreamiest of dreamy settings, because you get bright photos but also a lovely soft blur!)
The higher your aperture setting is, the smaller the amount of blur; f-stops of 5 and 13 are going to give you a more fully-focused image which is good if you’re photographing a large area, however this can compromise on quality if you don’t balance images correctly with the ISO and shutter speed. Below, you can see how on a shutter speed of 1/80 (1/80 to 1/120 is a good shooting speed for manual to get clear and sharp images), different f-stops change the look of the images – I must also disclaim all these images have been left untouched which does nothing for my need for bright images, must resist editing urges)
For the point of comparison, I’ve added the difference in quality and finish with my two most used cameras, the Canon 70D with 50mm 1:1.8 II lens and the Olympus E-PL7 with the Kit Lens. The 1.8 lens respectively reaches an aperture of 1.8, literally blurring everything in shot minus the tiniest point of focus which can sometimes be a hair, it’s incredible. The kit lens on the Olympus only reaches about 3.5 which is fine for it’s main use of vlogging, Instagram photos and on-the-go events/lifestyle snaps, but as always it is the lens that makes a camera good so consider the 45mm and 85mm lenses if you want a more professional finish for a small camera.
But back to aperture – to get the most out of aperture on your camera, whether your lens reaches 1.8 or just highs of 4, using manual will make it easier for you to tailor the depth of field and light in your images depending on the environment, final effect and use of image. Changing the aperture can also effect the white balance so if your images are coming off too blue or yellow, consider having a switcheroo of your settings and you’ll be good to go!
A few sneaky tips on how you can make the blur more achievable whether you have aperture settings or use an iPhone
– Use height to make the camera distinguish the main focus; even by simply stacking a nail polish on some washi tape as I’ve done above, the camera picks up the larger and more prominent feature fully which makes the surrounding props blur easily and dramatically.
– Bounce light back into your images using a mirror or reflective surface; this helps eliminate shadows and softens light which makes the blur look even more noticeable.
It’s taken me years to master aperture even after studying it for so long, but sharing is caring and if you can make an improvement today with your photos thanks to these little tips on aperture and depth of field, then my work is done. Aperture can change your photography game massively, so pick up your DSLR or compact, whatever your weapon of choice is and have a play with your settings to get the dreamy blur you’ve always wanted!
Have you tried experimenting with aperture on your camera? Would you like more in-depth advice on specific areas of photography? How do you like to take your photos?
Lots of Love,
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