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Thursday, March 1, 2012

MEP 30 Pictures in 30 Days - Day 18

Today's theme is APERTURE.

Aperture is the size of the opening inside the lens when you take a picture.  The size (which is adjustable) determines how much light gets into the camera when you take a picture.

Aperture is measured by the term f-stop, and is reflected with an "f" and a "/" before the aperture value.

Like this:  f/8.0.

It can get confusing, but here is what you need to know.  A low number (like f/2.8) means a big opening, which means more light gets in.  This is useful in a variety of settings, including low ambient light.  A high number (like f/16) means a small opening, which means less light gets in. This is why it can be difficult to take a sharp picture of a whole bunch of people if there isn't enough light outside.

Aperture all by itself probably isn't very interesting.  It's more of a technical thing.

Low f/stop = larger opening + more light.
Higher f/stop = smaller opening + less light.

However (and this is the intersting part), aperture also plays a role in depth of field.  Depth of field determines how much of your image will be in focus. 

Low f/stop = smaller area of focus
High f/stop = larger area of focus

So if you are taking a portrait of a piece of fruit, and you want the background to be soft so that the focus stands out, you need a lower f/stop, or lower aperture setting.

If you want to take a portrait of a basketball team and you want the back row to be as clear and crisp as the front row, you need a higher f/stop, or higher aperture setting.

The trick in either situation is to have the right amount of light to get the results you need.

I could go on and on forever, but we're going to stop here for now.  Here is your assignment for today's theme.

1.  Find one item in your kitchen that you'd like to photograph (or another room if you so choose).  This item will be your "subject".

2.  Place it on an open space, like a counter top, and then place a few more random objects behind it. Perhaps they are items that are different shapes, heights and/or colors. Or, you could even use a simple backsplash.

3.  Be creative, and organize whatever you choose in a pleasing way.  I'd recommend that your item in front maybe be a little shorter than the items in your background if possible, just so that you can see them in your pictures.

4.  Take 3 pictures.

Picture #1:  Choose a higher aperture setting for your camera will realistically allow.  That would often be around f/22, but things like ambient light, your flash and/or your lens will all determine this.   Focus on your subject.  Your entire image, or most of it, should be in focus. Even the items in the background. Write down your camera settings from this image.  Shutter speed, aperture and ISO.

Coffee and Fruit:  f/8.0 Shutter 1/50 ISO 400
The highest f/stop I could choose was f/8.0 because of low light in my kitchen in the early morning.  I also had to bump up my ISO because I did not want to use flash.  However, even at f/8.0 you can see that the plate of fruit in the background is relatively sharp, and it's about 18" behind the coffee mug.  

The photos on the wall and the blinds etc, WAY behind aren't in focus (and they shouldn't be), but you can still pick out the detail.

Picture #2: Now, adjust your aperture so that it is at around 5.6 - 6.0 if possible.  Again, focus on your subject.  It should be in focus, and you should see that the items in the background are slightly blurred or out of focus. Write down your camera settings.
Coffee and Fruit:  f/4.0 Shutter 1/50 ISO 400
At f/4.0, there is a really nice blur to the background.  The fruit is less sharp than in the first version, but has a nice blur to it.  It makes the coffee mug "pop" nicely.  If you look at the prints hanging on the wall in the background (left) you can see the difference in their shape vs the first picture as well.

Picture #3:  Lastly, adjust your aperture to it's LOWEST setting.  How low you can set it will depend on your particular lens / camera.  For some, you won't be able to go below 5.6.  If so, just take the picture and document it as such.  For others, you might be able to get down to 4.0 or maybe even 2.8.  Record your camera settings.
f/1.6 Shutter 1/80 ISO 400
In image #3, you can see a lot more blur in the fruit.  The coffee cup still pops, but at an f/stop of 1.6, not even the entire coffee cup is sharp, so I would say that the f/stop here was too low for the subject.

When you upload these pictures, please be sure to include your camera settings with each picture, and tell me which one you like the best and why.

Any questions, just holla!

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