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Understanding Maximum Aperture

Learn how aperture affects the end-result image.

Beginner

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4.6 Rating
How to Use Aperture and ND Filters to Control the Depth-of-Field in Movies

Depth-of-field for video

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4.4 Rating
Bokeh for Beginners

Have your subjects stand apart from the background with this easy technique

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4.0 Rating
ISO Control

For digital photography, ISO refers to the sensitivity of the camera's sensor. The ISO setting is one of…

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4.3 Rating
Using Variable Neutral Density Filters to Adjust Exposure in DSLR Video

Adjusting exposure with Variable ND filters

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4.2 Rating
Photographing Sports Indoors and Out

Capturing the action of a sporting event is easy when you follow a few simple…

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4.6 Rating
Popular Nikon Lenses for Shooting Video

Primer on popular NIKKOR lenses for HD video shooting

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4.1 Rating
Vibration Reduction

Vibration Reduction (VR) is an image stabilization technology that minimizes blur caused by camera…

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4.2 Rating
The Sum of the Parts

Making Movies with the D5000

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4.4 Rating
Understanding Focal Length

Focal length, usually represented in millimeters (mm), is the basic description of a…

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3.9 Rating
Exposure Compensation When Using i-TTL Gets Easier with the D4/D4s

Exposure compensation and flash compensation can be…

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4.3 Rating
Exposure Bracketing: The Creative Insurance Policy

Get creative with your photography by using this age-old technique.

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4.2 Rating
Macro Photography Tips: Photographing Insects and Other Small Creatures

A few quick tips on macro photography

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Bright Idea: Adding Star Power
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Bright Idea: Adding Star Power

Creating a starburst in your photographs

Beginner

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Flash Photography the Easy Way

David Tejada's easy-does-it flash tips

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4.4 Rating
Quick Tips for Taking Better Portraits

Suggested Lens choices, exposure settings and focus modes

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3.6 Rating
Second Time Around

Take a closer look at some of our classic lenses updated with the latest technology.

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Capturing or Freezing Motion in Photos

Learn how to freeze the motion in an action scene or capture a blur to show…

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4.3 Rating
Zoom Lens Maximum Aperture: Fixed and Variable Apertures

Zoom lenses can have either a fixed maximum aperture or a…

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How to Take Pictures of Water Using Long Exposures

Getting that "silky" look when photographing moving water isn't…

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Understanding Auto ISO

Auto ISO can simplify shooting under changing lighting conditions

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4.7 Rating
FOCUS First: A System for Better Photos

Mark Alberhasky's 5 step system for taking better pictures

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When to Use Graduated Neutral Density Filters

How to use a graduated neutral density filter to decrease extreme light to…

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4.4 Rating
Shooting Long Exposures:

Deborah Sandidge on shooting long exposure landscapes and cityscapes

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Exposure Choices for Moody Images

Moose Peterson explains how exposure can add to the mood of an image

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4.3 Rating
One Shot: See a Puddle, Make a Picture...or Two

Randy Ziegler on the importance of patience while out shooting

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Which NIKKOR Lens Type is Right for Your DSLR?

Learn what the different types of NIKKOR lenses are and which ones will…

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Take Control of Color using Picture Controls

Diana Robinson gets the color she wants with Picture Controls in-camera and…

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Taking Better Photographs of the American West

When you get a chance to visit the open prairies, and photograph ranchers…

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Flash Points: The Control of Light

Color temperature, rear sync, slow sync: Three key elements in flash photography.

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Moose Peterson: How to Photograph Winter Landscapes

Exposing so the Snow’s White and Six Other Tips for Great Winter…

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Photographing the Night Sky: Star Trails

Astrophotography: tips for making great star trail images

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Shooting Spectacular Sunrises and Sunsets

Jim Harmer’s tips for photographing at dawn and dusk

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Extra-low Dispersion Glass

ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass is the result of an alternative glass manufacturing technology…

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A Nikon Ambassador's Photography in Cuba

Vincent Versace on photographing the culture and people of Cuba

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Mothers' Days: Good Timing and Great Locations Result in Memorable Maternity Photographs

Beth Wade discusses tips for…

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Understanding Maximum Aperture

Aperture refers to the opening of a lens's diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops and is generally written as numbers such as 1.4, 2, 2.8, 4, 5.6, 8, 11 and 16. The lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, while the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures. This may seem a little contradictory at first but will become clearer as you take pictures at varying f/stops. Be sure to check your manual first to learn how to set your camera for Aperture Priority, then try experimenting to get comfortable with changing the aperture and recognizing the effects different apertures will have on the end-result image.

 

How Aperture Affects Depth of Field

Depth of field is defined as "the zone of acceptable sharpness in front of and behind the subject on which the lens is focused." Simply put: how sharp or blurry is the area behind your subject. Here's the equation:

The lower the f/stop—the larger the opening in the lens—the less depth of field—the blurrier the background.

The higher the f/stop—the smaller the opening in the lens—the greater the depth of field—the sharper the background.

How Aperture Affects Shutter Speed

The f/stop also affects shutter speed. Using a low f/stop means more light is entering the lens and therefore the shutter doesn't need to stay open as long to make a correct exposure which translates into a faster shutter speed. Again, the reverse is true: using a high f/stop means that less light is entering the lens and therefore the shutter will need to stay open a little longer which translates into a slower shutter speed.

 

Where to Find the Aperture                          

All lenses have a maximum aperture, and all NIKKOR lenses list the widest possible aperture on the lens barrel. Some zoom lenses will detail something like f/3.5-5.6 on the lens barrel or 1:3.5-5.6 (below right). These numbers, the 3.5 and the 5.6, are referring to the maximum aperture or widest opening the lens can achieve for each end of the zoom range. Some higher end lenses can maintain the largest aperture throughout the entire zoom range, so only one number is detailed (below left).

 

Choosing the Aperture

Now that we know how to control depth of field, what determines the choices we make in selecting the aperture? We use focus and depth of field to direct attention to what is important in the photograph, and we use lack of focus to minimize distractions that cannot be eliminated from the composition. While there are no rules, there are some guidelines.

For classic portraiture we separate our subject from the surroundings by using "selective focus." Choosing a large aperture (lower f/stop, like f2.8) creates very shallow depth of field with only the subject, or just a portion of the subject, in focus. This helps direct the viewer's attention to the subject.

In a landscape or scenic photograph we usually want to see as much detail as possible from foreground to background; we want to achieve the maximum depth of field by choosing a small aperture (higher f/stop, like f/8 or f/11).

While we can get the maximum or minimum depth of field by working at each end of the aperture range, sometimes we want a more intermediate level of depth of field, limiting focus to a specific range of distances within the overall photograph. One way to do this is to choose a mid-range f/stop, like f/5.6, and shoot a test frame. In image playback, use the magnifying function of the LCD to zoom in and check the depth of field; make adjustments if necessary and reshoot.

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