Every photographer needs certain skills to succeed in taking excellent photos. One of those skills crucial for quality images includes knowing what the aperture is, and how to adjust it to control the exposure in photographs.


For your photographic education, we’ve gathered some basic information, and given a general tutorial for finding and changing your aperture settings on a DSLR camera.


What is the Aperture?

The aperture is the opening within a camera lens that allows light into the lens.


The size of the aperture is controlled by overlapping blades, whose sole purpose is to control the amount of light let into the camera to reach the digital sensor or film while the photo exposure process takes place.


Camera shutter settings, or more specifically, aperture settings on cameras, change the size of the aperture of the camera lens.


At the time the photo is taken, the blades move to create the opening in the lens just before the shutter opens, and controls the duration that the light is let in. This is called the exposure time.


The opening in the aperture is quantified by f numbers, which are referred to as f stops. The f numbers vary by lens size as they apply to the aperture opening. For example, an f4 represents a 50-millimeter opening in a 200–millimeter lens.


How to Use a Camera Aperture

I’ve created this tutorial from using my Canon EOS Rebel T5, but the basic steps will apply to other DSLRs, and many bridge cameras and even compact cameras.


1. Turn Your Camera On

It’s a basic, but necessary to step to find your aperture settings on a DSLR.


2. Turn the Camera to Electronic Viewfinder Mode

Digital cameras show menu and camera settings on the LCD screen. If you’re set to optical viewfinder, you won’t be able to see the settings.


3. Turn the Mode Dial to M (Full Manual Mode)

On the full manual mode, your LCD screen will display a variety of settings. On a Canon DSLR, you’ll notice a Q button. On other makes, you’re probably looking for the “i” or information button. These buttons give you access to the basic functions of your camera, and allows you to change settings.


4. Use the Left and Right Buttons to Navigate

On the back of your camera, somewhere around the Q or information button, you’ll see a round series of buttons that include indicators like ISO, set, A-F, or WB. The buttons on the left and right of the circle are your “arrow” buttons.


Use these buttons to navigate through the setting options.


5. Find the Aperture Setting

On a Canon, the aperture setting will look like “F4.5” or another f stop setting. As you push the arrows through, the screen should show the proper name of the setting each item adjusts.


The f stops are the width of the aperture.


6. Adjust the Aperture Settings

Now that you’ve found the aperture, you can click on that center button within the circle of buttons. On Canons, this is the “set” button.


Use the left and right buttons to adjust the aperture width up or down.


If you move the camera aperture to the widest setting, this will let in the most light possible.


Just remember that the smallest number represents the widest aperture, rather than the narrowest.


For example, f/1.4 is a larger opening than an f/8, which means more light will get into the camera, and the image will be brighter.


7. Take Some Photos

One of the most important things you can do while learning how to use a new feature on your camera is experimentation.


Try a variety of subjects with the different f stop settings to learn what each setting does. Take multiple shots of the same still, however, so that you’ve got more solid comparisons.


For example, find a bouquet of flowers or bowl of fruit on your counter, and take a single shot of the focal subject using an f/1.4 setting. Now, adjust the aperture to the next smaller setting. Shoot the same subject from approximately the same angle, with the same lighting.


Do this several times, until you have gone through the entire series of f stops on your camera.


8. Take the Images to the Computer

Now, take your memory card to the computer and pull up the photos on a split screen. Compare the images side-by-side to see the differences in close detail.


This comparison will help you understand what settings work best for the various types of photography you’re interested in.


Using Your Camera Aperture

Aperture is one of the three core aspects of great photography. The opening that allows the light into the lens will help to determine the clarity, brightness, or darkness of your images.


The best way to understand aperture is to use a tutorial and follow the steps through, experimenting with the different settings.

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