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THE RIGHT APERTURE

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PHOTOGRAPHY by KRISS on 16 february 2016

One question I am often asked, lately by my 10 year old girl is : How do you choose the right aperture to make a photo ? This is an interesting question because it will help you determine which lenses to buy to start with and your budget can be quite different if you decide to buy super fast wide aperture lenses (f1.4) or cheaper (f1.8 lenses) for example.

But I have assumed you knew what aperture was all about and if it’s not the case this is the simplest explanation I can come up with :

Aperture is the word used to describe how much you can let the light enter a lens.
A lens has a diaphragm that can be opened and narrowed to allow more or less light entering your camera.
The value that is given next to letter « f » describes the proportion of openness if the lens didn’t have the diaphragm.
For instance f8 means that the lens will allow 1/8 of its last element’s surface to be reached by light, f4 one fourth etc… So the littlest the vale the more light you let in.
Ok that’s enough for the explanation, or you can read what wikipedia has to say about it on this link : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aperture

Now, depending on the amount of light you let in your lens to realize a photograph, you will get more or less depth of field, that means that the foreground and background that will be in focus will be longer or shorter from your focus point.
If you shoot someone using their eyes as your focus point (which you should in most cases by the way) depending on the aperture you choose, the background and foreground will be neat or blurry.
Depending on what you want to achieve, you can choose to do one or the other.

I have created a chart to help you decide what to do with a few common lenses.
This is entirely my habits so it’s no rule of thumb but it can be helpful.
Of course if I had to cover all the areas of photography I would need to write a book and I won’t that now but let’s imagine you are shooting a person with the following lenses and settings.

All examples will be set on a full frame camera.

24mm : most likely if you are using that kind of lens, you want either lots of scenery or a very strange angle and distort a body or a face somehow.
If you shoot someone as part of a whole scene with a 24mm, f8 is your best bet to get everything in focus.
But with such a wide angle even at f2.8 if you are not focusing at close distance to your subject, you’ll get a pretty crispy image.
If you want to create a particular image focusing on a face or a closed scene, you can open more and check what you get.
I believe best results will be around f2.

35mm : that’s an exquisite angle for body shooting and you might use that for boudoir, lingerie or simply a nice family portrait on a sofa.
If you want the people to detach from the background, again f2 is a good bet, you can try opening more but double check all the faces are in focus if not on the same plan.
For body work I often use this lens at f2.8.
Any other time if you want everything in focus, go for f8.

50mm : we’re now talking about what can start to be a portrait lens.
Although it requires to get close to the subject that’s a very common lens for american portraiture (from head to waist) and also for street photography (so is the 35mm by the way).
This is tricky because the 50mm can allow you to realize stunning portraits with nice blurry backgrounds from f1.6 but then you have to get to know your lens and system and know the distance from the subject that will get the whole face in focus otherwise you might get blurry ears.
Then it might be what you are after and you can create even better soft images at f1.4 or f1.2 if you shoot that kind of lens.
I personally stick to f1.6 and f2 with this lens, unless I shoot a boudoir or a a wedding and I go up to f2.8.
This is of course, understanding that my focus point is quite close to me in a context of body or portraiture.

85mm : now we’re talking portrait lens and this is the kind of lens that you will fall in love with when you first handle it.
It will take stunning portraits at wide openings such as f2 or f1.6.
The background will melt away nicely but you have to be careful not to get carried away and to learn the distance to your subjects as well.
At the usual minimum distance allowed with an 85mm, opening at f1.6 for a portrait will get you nose and ears blurry and this is not nice.

105mm : this is not a classic portrait lens (I am talking about the 105mm macro) but we use it as such a lot and we love it.
It only opens as much as 2.8 but allows you to get a lot closer to your subject.
You can do partial face portraiture with this lens and 3.5 to 4 is a good bet when you start getting close to your subject.
Used as an 85mm, stick to f2.8 and you’ll get amazing photographs 99% of the time.

200mm : I do not own the 200mm f2 and actually I would prefer to own the 300mm 2.8 but I do have the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 and this is a lens I use a lot, locked 99% of the time at 200mm.
It is a great lens for portraits as well and I think I have very seldom changed the lens from 200mm f2.8.
If you shoot at this distance it usually means you want to detach the subject from its background and f2.8, the widest opening it will allow, will do that just fine.

Ok as I have said, this is not a set of strict rules, this is how I work most of the time and I have excluded any particular situation not to get too confusing.
The photos I have chosen to illustrate this post were shot with an 85mm once at f8 (the clean one) and the other one at f4.5.
As you can see considering my distance to the subject and what I wanted to achieve, f8 was already very opened and my photo couldn’t have handled any wider aperture.
That being said, have fun and shoot plenty !

#phototips #photography #tips

THE RIGHT APERTURE

THE RIGHT APERTURE

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