In order to get the best out of what your camera has to offer you need to understand some basic settings and functions. I’m going to touch on aperture or the f-stop function. Now to get who f-stop actually works takes a little math and I know what you’re thinking “Great math”, but not to fear I’m not great at math at all and even I can understand this concept. Once you get a few basics it’s not as complicated as you might think or it might appear.
First, let’s take care of what exactly is f-stop? F-stop if just a number, but it controls something very important; focal length. So now I can see the look on your face it says “great well that didn’t help at all” so hang on there’s more. Inside the camera there is an aperture which is like the eye of the camera, it can open and close to let in different amounts of light, and as such function the same way; brighter scene, smaller aperture, less light in; darker scene, larger aperture, more light in it’s almost that simple…almost. F-stop is determined by the aperture diameter/the focal length. So that looked confusing I know, but let’s make it even simpler, there is a relationship between the f-stop number and aperture opening or the amount of light being let into the camera. A jump in double the f-stop number halves the aperture diameter and vice versa a cutting the f-stop number in half doubles the aperture size.
This has a huge impact on how you take photos and what the end result of all your hard work to capture the perfect shot will be. Without getting super crazy here I’ll go over the basics of what you need to know. As you open and close the aperture you also increase or decrease the camera’s depth of field (how much of the photo is in focus). To illustrate what this means let’s look at two different types of photographs. A landscape usually has a lot of the photo in crisp focus (large depth of field) so typically an f-stop of f/16 or f/22 is used to create this, on the other hand, if you wanted to draw attention to a subject such as a flower or person in a busy scene, you can use a shallow depth of field such as f/1.2 or f1/4 to have the subject standout and blur the background of the photo almost giving a 3D look to the scene. On a sidebar approaching the very top or very bottom of the f-stop on some lenses may drop picture quality so know your equipment before you ruin a picture you wanted very much and may only have 1 shot to capture.
Hopefully, that little blurb gave you a basic understanding of what f-stop is and how it can affect your work. I will suggest, however, the best way to really grasp this is to pick a subject and shoot using different f-stop settings and see how it changes your photograph. Using depth of field and f-stop is a simple way to take an ordinary picture over the top, and the more you practice the easier it will become.
Cambridge in Colour. “Camera Exposure.” Cambridgeincolour.com. (Feb. 6, 2011) http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/camera-exposure.htm
PC Mag. “Definition of f-stop.” Pcmag.com. (Feb. 6, 2011) http://www.pcmag.com/encyclopedia_term/0,2542,t=f-stop&i=57755,00.asp
Nikon USA. “Photography Glossary.” NikonUSA.com. (Feb. 6, 2011) http://www.nikonusa.com/Learn-And-Explore/Photography-Glossary/index.page?appendix=A
Clay, Willard. “Control Your Depth of Field.” OutdoorPhotographer.com. Aug. 31, 2010. (Feb. 6, 2011) http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/how-to/shooting/control-your-depth-of-field.html