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Category: Manual Mode Tips
Aperture Rebellion: 7 Reasons to use a smaller f-stop
Manual Mode Tips
Aperture Rebellion: 7 Reasons to use a smaller f-stop
  • No.
    01
    Photographing a fast moving child or subject

    We all love bokeh (you know, that blurry background) and using a wide aperture like f/1.8 is sure to help you get it. However, that wide aperture also makes your plane of focus smaller and makes it harder to get your focus just right. When you’ve got a quick moving child, you need some wiggle room. You don’t need to go extreme with f/22 or anything but consider closing up your aperture some to f/3.5 or so. This will still allow you to get some good bokeh as long as your subject is pulled away from the background enough.

    backlit-photo-of-child-dressed-like-Princess-Belle-by-April-Nienhuis

  • No.
    02
    Landscapes

    This world is beautiful and sometimes we want to see every detail we possibly can. When photographing landscapes, it’s quite common to shoot at a small aperture in order to get as much in focus as possible. While I’ve photographed my fair share of landscapes at f/8 or larger due to light restrictions and lack of a tripod but I much prefer something around f/22 to really be able to capture the clarity and details that surrounds me.

    top-of-a-mountain-in-Park-City-Utah-photo-by-April-Nienhuis

  • No.
    03
    When photographing a group

    Getting one person in focus at f/1.8 is hard enough but add in a few more people and it gets extra tough. How small your aperture needs to be is going to depend on how close you are to the group and whether they are on the same plane of focus or multiple ones. For example, in the following image I am far away from them with a long lens. Since they are hugging their snack covered faces tightly together, the focal plane for each child doesn’t differ too drastically and I can get away with an f/4 aperture.

    siblings-hugging-outside-by-April-Nienhuis

    However, being at f/4 with the below image wasn’t cutting it since I was so close to the group and there are 3 different focal planes. This is an instance where a smaller aperture of f/8 was needed to get everyone in focus.

    family-of-five-portrait-by-April-Nienhuis

  • No.
    04
    In order to include a clear focus of the atmosphere

    Don’t get me wrong, I love some buttery bokeh as much as the next person but sometimes your surroundings are important to the story of your photo. For example, in the photo below, it was important to see both the definition of the clouds in the background as well as the elements in the foreground. Perhaps you’re photographing a portrait of a bride and groom in front of the church they’re getting married in? The church is an important detail too so make sure and get a shot with the couple and the building both in focus. Maybe there’s just a really cool structure like a detailed bridge or funky wall in the background of a portrait? Get a shot with it in focus too.

    storm-clouds-in-Oklahoma-picture-by-April-Nienhuis

  • No.
    05
    To get starbursts

    Starbursts have a knack for making bright items clean, shiny, and fancy. It’s like Orbit gum for your pictures. In order to get a good starburst, you need a small aperture. The smaller the better. If you don’t have enough natural light to embrace a small aperture you may need to consider including a secondary light source or a tripod to embrace a slower shutter speed. Starbursts are especially fun with the sun or Christmas lights.

    starburst-picture-through-tress-by-April-Nienhuis

  • No.
    06
    The night's sky

    I grew up in the country and being able to see the stars is special to me. You really want a nice solid focus of the stars when photographing them and the best way to do that, especially since you’ll need to be manually focusing, is to use a small aperture. You’re working with a slow shutter speed anyways in this situation so you might as well slow it down a little more in order to use a smaller f-stop. Don’t forget that your best bet for astrophotography is when there’s a new moon and in a place with very little, preferably none, light pollution. If you have trouble keeping up with the moon phase, I’d suggest downloading the Star Walk app – it’s by far the coolest app I have on my iPhone.

    astrophotography-by-April-Nienhuis

  • No.
    07
    Macro photography

    With macro photography, you’re all up in your subject’s grill and because you’re so close, your depth of field is much more narrow than when taking a portrait. Because of that narrow depth of field, you need to use a smaller aperture in order to get more in focus. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes being that close with a larger aperture can create a fun and pretty abstract sort of look but when you want all the details, think of using a smaller f-stop. The below photo was shot at f/8 and you can see how I got a good deal in focus but because I was so close, I still got some lovely bokeh.

    seashell-photo-by-April-Nienhuis