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  1. #1

    BlueMac's Avatar
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    Post For those confused about aperture and shutter speed.
    What is Aperture? Intro to lesson.

    This is a very common question among novices and amateurs alike. Isn't it about time someone puts it in simpleton terms anyone can understand?


    OK, but how does the aperture size affect my photos?


    Again, a very common question. Aperture will affect your photos in two ways:

    -How bright or dark your photo is-

    -How shallow or deep your DOF (Depth of Field) is (we will not cover that in this lesson)-

    Let's talk about how it affects the brightness of your shots. Aperture rates are shown in units called 'ƒ-numbers'. What the purpose of the ƒ-number is is to show us the diameter of the 'diaphragm' in the lens, which means the opening in the back of the lens. The diaphragm allows the light into the camera's sensor or film, depending on if you use a film or digital camera. This creates the image. The higher the ƒ-number, the less light allowed onto the sensor or film, thus determining the brightness of the photo. Yes, the higher the lower. It is a confusing system, yes, but just don't let it mess you up. The standard aperture range on an SLR camera (digital or film) is ƒ/1.4, the highest aperture, to the lowest aperture, ƒ/8. The settings in between ƒ/1.4 and ƒ/8, known as ƒ-stops, are usually ƒ/2, ƒ/2.8, ƒ/4, ƒ/5.6. Aperture alone does not determine how the photo will come out, though. The other element is shutter speed, meaning how quickly the photograph is taken... and how much light is allowed in. But I thought aperture controlled that? It does. Lets get into detail (We can't explain aperture without talking about shutter speed!)

    Shutter Speed In Detail:

    Shutter speed dictates how long the shutter is open, which in turn means how much light is in the picture (how bright it is). Aperture determines the brightness of the light that comes in. You may need to read this paragraph over a few times, and think about it for it to make sense. The reason we need to talk about shutter speed in a lesson about aperture is simple: there is no avoiding them both when taking a photo manually. So, lets get started.

    What's my shutter speed gonna do?


    Your shutter speed will determine how long your shutter will stay open. Most cameras have a maximum shutter speed of anywhere from 15 seconds up to 30 seconds. You have probably heard of the term "long exposure" before. A long exposure is normally considered a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second, meaning half a second. Some shutter speeds considered long exposures are 1/60, 1", 3", 5", etc. If you want a sharp image, you need a tripod. To get an exposure above the preset setting on your camera's maximum setting (usually 15"-30") you will need to have a "bulb" mode. For a bulb mode, you will need a cable release, which can be set in the cable release socket on a film SLR or the hotshoe terminal on a digital SLR. You can have an exposure for however long your heart desires. This is especially useful when you want to do photos like star trails, because you can't get star trails with a 3" exposure. All this talk about long exposures, and no fast shutter speed discussion? Well lets talk about that now. Anything below 1/50 is considered a fast shutter speed. Examples of fast shutter speeds are 1/40, 1/1000, 1/400, and 1/2000. Most normal SLR's fastest shutter speed is 1/2000. If you took a photo at 1/2000 then the shutter would be open for 1/2000 of a second, allowing 1/2000's worth of light in. You will have a somewhat dark image at this speed, because 1/2000 will not allow as much light in as a longer would, such as 1" would. Here is an easy way to remember that: the higher the exposure, the more light that can enter the sensor or film, the shorter the speed, the less light. But, the quicker the shutter speed the quicker the picture is taken, meaning that moving subjects can be easily captured.


    I hope this helps some of you!
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  2. #2


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    Great write up! covers all the basics.

  3. #3

    RNDdave's Avatar
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    nice, when is part 2 coming

  4. #4

    lifeafter2am's Avatar
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    Excellent write up! Great for the newbs!
    masakatsu agatsu

    @lifeafter2am

  5. #5

    BlueMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RNDdave View Post
    nice, when is part 2 coming
    Part two, hmm... I think I will cover Depth of Field.


    Thanks for the positive feedback, guys.
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  6. #6


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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueMac View Post

    OK, but how does the aperture size affect my photos?



    -How bright or dark your photo is-

    Ummmm actually this is misleading, the amount of light in your photo is determined by three variables (ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture) and not just aperture on its own.

  7. #7

    B&O's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BlueMac View Post
    Part two, hmm... I think I will cover Depth of Field.


    Thanks for the positive feedback, guys.
    I know that stuff but useful nonetheless especially considering I am about to take up photography again (after camera was killed a few months after I started last year).

    I am looking forward to PT2.
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  8. #8

    BlueMac's Avatar
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    Part 2 is now up.
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  9. #9

    eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Del View Post
    Ummmm actually this is misleading, the amount of light in your photo is determined by three variables (ISO, Shutter speed and Aperture) and not just aperture on its own.
    agreed, i would say (specifically regarding light and not depth of field), aperture regulates the amount of light allowed through a given lens regardless of shutter speed.
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  10. #10

    rocketman766's Avatar
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    This thread is EXACTLY the type of thing I need. Thanks, even if I have to read it a few times...

  11. #11

    rocketman766's Avatar
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    Ok, I have a question about lighting. If I am taking pics of my daughter Cheerleading team at a competition, I will likely be in an area not very well lit, but she will be on brightly lit stage. Do I set the camera for the lighting where I am or where she will be? I am thinking I will be using a fast setting on the shutter speed so I can catch the tumbling and flips with no blurring. Her first competition in New Years Eve so I will get to try out my new camera then.

  12. #12

    cwa107's Avatar
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    This is sticky-worthy, in my opinion...
    Liquid and computers don't mix. It might seem simple, but we see an incredible amount of people post here about spills. Keep drinks and other liquids away from your expensive electronics!

    https://youtu.be/KHZ8ek-6ccc

  13. #13

    BlueMac's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rocketman766 View Post
    Ok, I have a question about lighting. If I am taking pics of my daughter Cheerleading team at a competition, I will likely be in an area not very well lit, but she will be on brightly lit stage. Do I set the camera for the lighting where I am or where she will be? I am thinking I will be using a fast setting on the shutter speed so I can catch the tumbling and flips with no blurring. Her first competition in New Years Eve so I will get to try out my new camera then.
    First, let me say thanks for the sticky, cwa107.

    Here is an answer to your question, rocketman. You will have to set the aperture and shutter speed for were your daughter will be, since you will be taking photos of her on the stage. Good luck, please post the results!
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  14. #14


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    Excellent Post

  15. #15


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    Thank u so much... this was quite describing and clearing my doubts....

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