We all love the look of a soft, blurry background in our photographs and today I'm going to share with you one way you can achieve this look. There are a few things that affect the background sharpness of your photos and one of these is aperture.
Aperture is the opening in your camera's lens that allows light to enter. It is measured by f-stops which indicate how large the opening is. The lower the number the larger the opening and, therefore, the larger the amount of light that enters your camera's lens.
When you use a larger aperture (smaller f-number) you let in more light and you create a more shallow depth of field.
Think of depth of field like a slice of your photo. When you have a smaller depth of field, a smaller slice of your photo is in focus. The rest is blurred away. Conversely, when you have a larger depth of field, a larger slice of your photo is in focus.
Now that's a lot of photo jargon, but it really boils down to this:
Larger aperture (smaller f-number) = Blurrier background
Here are a few photos that illustrate this principle. I shot these photos in aperture priority mode on my camera (A for Nikon, Av for Canon). In each shot I simply changed the aperture and let the camera control the ISO and shutter speed. You can see the difference the aperture settings make.
I started out at 1.8, which is as large an aperture (small f-number) as my 85mm lens will go. The slice of my photo that is in focus is so small that the whole daisy isn't even in focus!
In this second picture, I set the aperture at 4.0 and you can see that the background is just slightly more in focus. More of the daisy is in focus, too.
At 7.1 the depth of field has increased enough to allow the whole daisy to be in focus.
Can you see how the background becomes more focused as the f-number increases?
At f/16 the background is nearly in focus. You can also see that the main daisy doesn't grab your attention like it did in earlier photos. You can help highlight the subject of your photos by choosing the appropriate aperture to help it stand out.
You can see the difference changing aperture can make for your photos. Now it's your turn to try this out with your DSLR. You will enjoy having control over the softness or sharpness of your backgrounds.
I made you a little cheat sheet, too, that you can download and print for future reference. Enjoy and have fun playing with your camera!
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