Principles of Photography- Aperture (Controlling Depth of Field)

by on October 22, 2009

aperture

In our Principles of Photography Workshop Series we try our best to share what we were able to teach ourselves about photography, in simple, easy-to-understand concepts. These are just some basics to help you get started, there is much more information to learn beyond these basics. But by understanding the most basic principles of photography then building upon them through practice, practice and more practice, you can capture the type of images that you want.

Note: Teaching and understanding photography can be often be complicated and confusing. Of course, there are many ways to explain these concepts & there is no “right” way to teach this. So if  you think you can explain it better, then obviously you don’t need our help. :D Now, everyone grab your camera and let’s start figuring this stuff out together! And have fun!

Our last discussions were about Exposure, then Shutter Speed. Reading about these two concepts first will be helpful in understanding this whole series!

As mentioned in the previous post, Shutter Speed is about controlling motion with the amount of light entering your camera. Shutter Speed works in conjunction with Aperture to create the total Exposure of the photograph.

What is Aperture?

  • Aperture is about the AMOUNT, the amount of light that enters your camera through the lens “hole” or the “eye” of the camera.
  • Once the light enters the hole opening in the lens, it then enters your camer

What is the Aperture on your camera?

  • Just like the pupil in our eyes that open and close depending on the amount of light we see, the camera has an eye too, which is the Aperture.
  • When our eyes need more light, the pupil opens up (creates  a bigger opening) to let in more light.  When there is too much light, the pupil gets smaller (creates a smaller opening) to let in less light.
  • So, the Aperture does the exact same thing for the camera, but the Aperture  “hole” opening lies within your lens.

aperture

(LEFT)  f/1.4, the opening is big, lets a lot of light through (MIDDLE) f/5.6 , (RIGHT)f/16- the opening is small, lets less light through.


How is Aperture measured?

  • Aperture is measured in the size of the “hole” opening in the lens
  • Aperture is measured in a measurement called “f-stops”
  • The size of the aperture hole opening determines the f-stop number
  • The BIGGER the aperture hole opening, the MORE light comes in, which gives a SMALLER f-stop number.
    • The smaller f-stop numbers (such as 1.4, 2.8) let more light into the camera, and these numbers are considered “FAST”
    • So when you hear of terms like “fast lens”, “fast aperture”, “fast f-stop”, just know that means the lens is able to open up WIDE and letting more light coming in.
    • More confusing terms you will hear when describing the big hole opening: “Stop down your f-stop”, “wide aperture”, “open up your f-stop”. All that means is to let more light into the camera by opening up the aperture hole opening, which you do by making the number smaller.
  • The SMALLER the aperture hole opening, the LESS light comes in, which gives a BIGGER f-stop number
    • The bigger f-stop numbers (such as 6 or bigger) let less light into the camera, and these numbers are considered “SLOW”
    • So when you hear of terms like “slow lens”, “slow aperture”, “slow f-stop”, just know that means the lens hole is SMALLER and give you less light coming in.
    • More confusing terms you will hear when describing the smaller hole opening” “Stop up your f-stop”, “small aperture”, ” close your f-stop”. All that means is to let less light into the camera by closing up the aperture hole opening, which you do by making the number bigger.

aperture

Wait! This is confusing! Big opening, why smaller f-stop number? Small opening, why big f-stop number? Why is it opposite?

  • Right! This is why everyone gets so confused and frustrated about understanding aperture!
  • It makes sense that the bigger the Aperture opening, the more light comes in, but why is the f-stop number smaller?
  • And, it makes sense that the smaller Aperture opening, the less light comes in, but why is the f-stop number bigger?
  • Answer- The bastards who set it only wanted to confuse everyone! Just kidding,  it is actually in reference to the lens’ focal ratio, but we won’t get into it further because it will make your head spin.  For now it may be more helpful to understand what the numbers do with the following little analogy:
  • Try understanding the f-stop number relationship this way:
    • Imagine your windows as the aperture on your camera (stand in front of your windows if this exercise helps), with the drapes hanging.
    • Pull all the drapes to the edges, more light comes in, right? So you just opened up the aperture “hole” opening, by letting in more light. Imagine the small f-stop number as the amount of drapes that is covering the hole.
    • So, you have LESS drapes covering the light coming in, the less drapes equals the SMALLER f-stop NUMBER!
    • More light comes in= less drapes covering the window = smaller f-stop number.
    • Exercise again: Pull more drapes in, covering more of the window, which means less light comes in.
    • So, you have MORE drapes covering the window, the more drapes equals the BIGGER f-stop NUMBER!
    • Less light comes in = more drapes covering the window = bigger f-stop number.
    • Finally, imagine the f-stop number as the amount of coverage, covering up the light opening.

How to control Aperture?

Just like controlling the amount of light into your room by opening and closing the window shutters, you can control your Aperture and how much light enters your lens, then to your camera. Essentially controlling your Aperture is one part of controlling your total Exposure

  • Most camera’s will have a “Aperture Priority” function on your camera. You can choose your Aperture  and make it fast or slow by turning the dial. Your camera will automatically adjust the rest of the exposure settings.
  • You can control it on “Manual”, but this will take more practice because you will have to manually control the rest of the exposure components (Shutter Speed and ISO).

Why would I want to understand Aperture? Isn’t it easier to just shoot on “auto” or “program” and let the camera do it all the thinking for me?

  • Certainly on most occasions, letting the camera do all the thinking for you will give you good results.
  • BUT, in order to take your photography to a higher level and more CREATIVE CONTROL, you must learn Aperture.

OK, so what exactly does this Aperture thing-y do? How will it give me more choices and creative control? – Answer: DEPTH of FIELD

  • The primary creative control of Aperture is to control the “Depth of Field”, which means how much of the image you want to be in focus.
  • By controlling the amount of light coming into the camera by the size of the Aperture hole opening, you control how much FOCUS you want.
  • When you’re photographing  something with a NARROW or SHALLOW depth of field, that simply means that you want something specific to be in focus (only one part) and the rest to be kinda blurry.
  • When you’re photographing something with a WIDE or DEEP  depth of field, that simply means that you want more of the picture to be in focus.

EXAMPLES of Aperture controlling your Depth of Field- how much you want to be in focus:

apertureThe tomato picture has very NARROW or SHALLOW depth of field because only a specific, selected point is in focus, where as the rest of the image is blurry.

Foreground: the single tomato and the wood in the very front of the image is sharp, in focus.

Midground: the cluster of tomatoes is less in focus, kinda blurry

Background: the tomato leaf, and basket of tomatoes is very blurry, out of focus.

This was shot intentionally so that the focus would be on the single tomato, bringing the perspective to the single tomato. Still pretty, isn’t it?

 

Egg & Pasta Image:

  • In the f/1.4 image, you can see how selective the focus is: only the quail eggs in the foreground are in focus.
  • As the f/stop closes to let less light in (number gets bigger), more of the image starts to come into focus.
  • In f/6.3, the brown eggs start to come into focus.
  • In f/16, everything is in focus: quail eggs, brown eggs and pasta.

aperture

aperture

(Bottom) You can see the obvious depth of field difference between the two extreme f-stops. The f/1.4 has a very shallow depth of field (only quail eggs in focus), vs. the f/16 which has a very wide depth of field (everything is in focus)

aperture

Dog Biscuits image:

  • The left shallow depth of field image has only the front doggie biscuit in focus.
  • When the f-stop is opened up wide, the ALL the doggie biscuits are in focus!

aperture

Our doggies love the wide depth field cause they can see ALL the doggie biscuits!

aperture

There are two main purposes to controlling Aperture:

  • Primary reason – to control how much of the image you want in focus for the photograph. By making the hole bigger (smaller f-stop numbers on camera=more shallow depth of field) or smaller (bigger f-stop numbers on camera=deeper depth of field), you can control the amount of FOCUS.
  • To adjust the Exposure when shooting in Manual.  A faster f-stop, bigger hole (smaller number) will let in more light, and less of the image will be in focus. A slower f-stop, smaller hole (bigger number) will let in less light, and more of  the image will be in focus.

Final Thoughts on Aperture: In order to really start understanding, you have to practice.  Reading about it will only allow your brain to get so far.

Find the Aperture Priority Mode on your camera (some point & shoots may not have this option).

  • In Aperture Priority, you will be telling the camera what Aperture  you want to shoot at, and it will adjust the rest to get what it thinks is the correct exposure (usually this will at least get you close to a decent exposure.)
    • Remember  - Fast Aperture Number (1.4, 2, etc…aka wide aperture-recall it is a bigger hole opening) = More shallow depth of field
    • Slow Aperture Number ( 10, 13, etc… aka narrow aperture) = A deeper depth of field
  • POTENTIAL PROBLEMS:
    • Your lens will limit how much you can open the aperture (how small the number will get). Some lenses won’t allow a very shallow depth of field.
    • If you do have a very fast lens (1.2, 1.4, etc…) and are shooting on those lower aperture numbers, the super shallow depth of field can make getting a good focal point tricky.  The tip of the nose might be in focus and everything else starting to get blurry.  It takes time & practice to shoot very shallow depth of fields well.
    • Many times in order to get a correct exposure, larger aperture number (bigger numbers ie. 13, 16) require a slow shutter speed.  This can result in camera shake if you are not shooting on a tripod.
    • How to find out fast is your lens or the speed of our lens? The  lowest f/stop number your lens can achieve is usually written on the barrel of the lens.

Now go shoot something and play with Depth of Field. Choose what you want in focus or choose it all to be in focus. Either way, there is no right or wrong. You have the creative control to decide what type of look you want for your photograph.

Whew! Is it time for another drink yet? We’re ready for it!

We know this is a lot of info to digest.  Read it a few times, and try to understand at least the depth of field part.  That will help you get more creative with your photography.  By the time you go full manual, it helps to understand the full concept of aperture in order to use your camera fluidly, so don’t throw that part of it out of your brain just yet.  Slowly build your understanding through practice and finding other ways people have explained it.  All of us learn differently, so it helps to have exposure to different forms of teaching.

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Photography Series: Understanding these concepts one step at a time will help you capture the images that you want.

1. Exposure
2. Shutter-Speed – “Controlling Motion”
3. Aperture – “Controlling Depth of Field” – This Post!
4. ISO
5. White Balance – Up Next!!
6. Flash Your Food Photography #1- Using Built-in Camera Flash for DSLR and Point & Shoot. Includes some tips to making your own accessories.
7. Flash Your Food Photography #2- Using Speedlight Flashes ON the camera
8. Flash Your Food Photography #3 – Using Speedlight Flashes  OFF the camera with remotes, sync cords, triggers and commander mode. (Cool cocktail shots will be highlighted here! )
9. Flash Your Food Photography #4 – Using multiple Speedlight Flashes or Strobes OFF the camera. Short discussion of Dedicated vs. Non-Dedicated flash mounts.
10. Natural light Food Photography
11. Photography inside restaurants, kitchens and capturing Chefs in action.
12. Editing

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{ 53 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jessica@FoodMayhem October 22, 2009 at 7:17 pm

This is an amazing series. Even though many of these things have been told to me before, seeing the picture illustrations, along with your very clear explanations is helping me to understand it a lot better. Thank You!

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2 jen October 22, 2009 at 9:25 pm

Thank you for dummying this up for me!! I learned all this stuff years ago but you have managed to explain it in such a clear and concise manner – better than any way that I’ve remembered before!

This series is liquid gold…and so are you guys!

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3 Kristina October 22, 2009 at 9:54 pm

Wow! Once again, another amazing post. This one I’m going to have to read, and read again. You’re right, it IS confusing, but I think your plain-english explantions are going to help me “get” it. Thanks again for taking the time to put these post together.

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4 Divina October 22, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Very interesting but still confusing at the moment. You’re absolutely right that taking photos takes practice. I did try adjusting the aperture with a higher number. but then I also have to adjust the shutter speed, because if I don’t, I would get a really dark photo. That’s what is confusing me sometimes. And there are also times that I don’t have a good, bright light. Well, I need to start practicing and see the difference. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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5 White on Rice Couple October 22, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Divina- It sounds like you are shooting full manual right now, which can be very challenging. Try using the Aperture Priority mode first, and let the camera make the other adjustments to get a decent exposure. That way you can see how changing the aperture affects your depth of field and you can start to control aperture to make creative decisions with your photos.
And remember that you can only shoot within the parameters of the lens that is on your camera.

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6 yael October 23, 2009 at 12:56 am

Thank you so much for the great explanations. I have been using a point and shoot to photograph my pictures for my blog, but I know the time hascome to move to the next step. Do you have any recommendations for a first “good” camera , without getting something too complicated or expensive?

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7 White on Rice Couple October 27, 2009 at 10:04 am

Yael- Hi Yael we get this question multiple times a week. So we’ve decided to write a post on it. Please be patient and wait for that post, thank!

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8 Liz from Food, she thought. October 23, 2009 at 5:34 am

Like Jessica, I learned this all a long time ago, then pit down my SLR for a v long time. When I picked it up again, it was digital! I am having such a good time relearning the process without the expenditure and guess work of film processing. Thank you for assisting beautifully in the process! I love your boxers!!! Kiss them for me. Also, a recent blog entries shows pics of my future GSD puppy. http://www.foodshethought.com

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9 Kalyn October 23, 2009 at 6:38 am

I’m loving this series. I’ve been shooting mostly on AV setting for quite a while, but still didn’t completely understand this! Thanks for taking the time to prepare all the examples, beautifully done.

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10 veggiebelly October 23, 2009 at 8:24 am

excellent write up! i really appreciate the ‘potential problems’ section. and the drapes analogy is great! thanks!

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11 Fuji Mama October 23, 2009 at 10:34 am

This series is so timely for me! I’ve been working through a companion book to my DSLR and trying to wrap my head around everything. It’s been slow going. Your explanations are so easy to understand. I love the visual of likening the f stops to curtains–now THAT makes sense!!

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12 michelle in chicago October 23, 2009 at 12:01 pm

Thanks for another great post! You make complex issues so easy to understand.

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13 lk (healthy delicious) October 23, 2009 at 12:51 pm

I absolutely love this series! Can’t wait to get home and play with my camera!

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14 Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets October 23, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Great post (and series)! I wish this had been around when I first got my DSLR (not that long ago). After reading a lot of tutorials, I finally got it enough to know which direction to adjust the aperture though it’s till confusing sometimes. But you guys did a great job of making it approachable and understandable.

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15 Gastronomer October 23, 2009 at 4:25 pm

I totally get it! Woo hoo! Thanks, guys!
And I love this, “Our doggies love the wide depth field cause they can see ALL the doggie biscuits!” So silly!

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16 mattatouille October 23, 2009 at 5:01 pm

ah you are teaching us all of your secrets :) one note as well with aperture, sharpness increases as you hit an “ideal” aperture for each lens, which is usually around F/8 or F/11 depending on the lens. Many lenses with lower aperture ratings tend to get very soft at F1.4. I find that Nikon’s F1.4D lens (and maybe even the G lens) is cloudy at F1.4, so there’s give and take when it comes to bringing your aperture to that figure. But great tutorial!

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17 White on Rice Couple October 23, 2009 at 6:50 pm

mattatouille- Hi Matt! Thanks! The information here aren’t secrets, it’s all common and basic information explained in very simple way to help as many beginners as possible. ;) Yeah, there are many many more technical details about aperture that can be discussed, but like we said, this is just a simplified version.

As far as the “ideal” aperture for each lens, so many circumstances can attribute to that “cloudy” that you refer to and the same goes for achieving great sharpness at wide apertures such as 1.4. We’ve been able to capture some really crisp, sharp shots stopped way down by correcting other variables within the camera, lighting and set-up. It all depends on the camera body, sensor size, etc…
It is true that lenses are slightly less sharp at the lower aperture settings, and that as you increase the aperture number (many super geek reviews we’ve read often get the ideal clarity around as low as f/5.6) the sharpness will hit its prime. It is something which really depends on the optics of the individual lens. Although for nearly all of our lenses we shoot with, we would be hard pressed to say it was “very soft” at the lowest aperture settings. Most people aren’t going to be able to see it with the naked eye unless the image is blown up to bigger sizes. Often times this slight softening actually makes the photo a bit more visually appealing. Kind of like how HDTV’s super clarity isn’t always the most complimenting for real life.
The new 50mm 1.4 G series lens is quite wonderful, we haven’t had any sharpness issues with it when compared to our 35mm 1.8 . We highly recommend the Nikon 50mm, it’s the best for it’s money. It isn’t perfect. No. But is it still a great lens? We would have to say yes.
All this of course, is really technical talk, dealing with variables on specific equipment. This post is intended to be more about understanding the basic principles of aperture without making people bang their heads against the wall in confusion. We didn’t want to force in too many variables to increase an already bewildering subject.
Maybe when we have more time, we’ll share more details in our upcoming photography workshops!

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18 The Duo Dishes October 23, 2009 at 5:43 pm

One day, when we have a great camera, these tips will come in handy!

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19 mattatouille October 24, 2009 at 12:15 am

white on rice: you’re right in that you’ve done a great job of keeping in layman’s (or woman’s) terms. You’re right that the cloudyness is sometimes aesthetically useful or pleasing and I’ve used it to that effect. I’m certain that if I had a full-frame camera (well I already use my film camera extensively), then I’d invest in the 50mm F1.4G. I’m not sure how the 35mm F1.8 pairs head-to-head with the 35mm F2 (which I use primarily), but I’ve been more than pleased with my F2 prime lens at the lowest apertures. But I do find that if I’m shooting more landscape-type photos, I’ll push the aperture to something like F/8 to get it as sharp as possible.

I think what you’re doing is great for casual and hobby photographers, especially food bloggers armed with SLRs. This way, they can get the most out of their (generally) very complex cameras. In a sense, I wish they made SLRs with LESS controls, and just the ones you really need. Like the controls that Leicas have, just the bare minimum. Even tiny point-and-shoots have features and options that 90% of people will virtually never use.

I like this piece because it covers a part of photography that is very difficult to understand for beginning photographers, but arms them with powerful tools to get the most out of their photography. One thing I’m trying to do more with my camera is increase aperture (to F/4 or F5.6) in ample light because sometimes depth-of-field is just too paper thin. Sometimes even parts of dishes are thrown out of focus, like the sides from the main ingredient. It seems to be a bigger problem with 50mm lenses on cropped sensors (75mm equiv). Do you see this as well? Anyways, I think sometimes food photographers overuse small DOF, and I’m beginning to see that very wide DOFs can look very cool as well, like those F/16 photos you’ve made.

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20 Andrea Meyers October 24, 2009 at 5:16 pm

So many tutorials on this subject make my eyes glaze over, but you have written an excellent, easy to understand explanation of a tricky subject. This is a wonderful series and I’ve found it very helpful.

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21 Hélène October 24, 2009 at 6:35 pm

So far I’ve been enjoying reading all of your photography tips series. This is one of the best I’ve read for Aperture. I started to play with Aperture only during the summer. Now I set the Aperture first when I shoot a picture. Love the pictures with the comparaison between f/1.4 & f/16. A picture is worth a thousand words. Thanks! xx

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22 Darina October 24, 2009 at 9:19 pm

This is such great information to have. I just fiddle around with my camera and hope for the best. I’m not sure I want to invest in a photography course right now so having information like this at hand really helps. Thanks!

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23 Megan Gordon October 25, 2009 at 7:02 pm

You have no idea…this is the first time I’ve read something very clear and approachable f-stops/aperture. I’m a visual learner so your photos were really helpful for me. I’m about to dive into the dslr world, and am enjoying your series very much!

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24 Tuty October 25, 2009 at 10:10 pm

Superb writing for a photography challenged person like me ;-) You truly deserve an award for these series. Two thumbs and two big toes up for both of you!

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25 Barbara October 26, 2009 at 7:38 am

Really a great series. I have a decent camera but don’t take great photos with it so I am soaking up all your information.
Love your doggies!

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26 Tokyo Terrace October 26, 2009 at 8:03 am

Holy moly! This is great. I was just about to go to sleep and then I thought “hmmm, I’ll stop by WORC and see what’s cookin’ ” when lo and behold it is a post with answers to photog questions I have been pondering for quite some time! When I am more awake I will be studying this for sure. Thanks for sharing so much of what you know! It’s so wonderful seeing that self-taught photography can lead to photos like yours. Appreciate the information immensely! –Rachael

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27 katrina October 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

Thank you! This is a huge help . I’m still trying to get used to auto/digital after using primarily SLR Pentax and Nikon. I’ve been wondering how to get that out-of-focus background, and you’ve explained it beautifully!

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28 Shiyo October 27, 2009 at 3:05 am

I’m not a member of this website however I’ve been reading all of your food posts throughout the year. Love all of your recipes and pictures. Thanks for the informative info on this post also! I am in the process of shopping for a SRL camera and would ask if you could recommend one? Canon, Nikon, etc.. Better yet, which brand and model do you happen to have? Thanks much!

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29 White on Rice Couple October 27, 2009 at 10:05 am

Shiyo- we’ll be writing a post on this because we get asked this question multiple times a week. So please stay tuned for that post, thanks!

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30 Chrissy October 28, 2009 at 3:33 pm

keep em comin! this series is VERY much appreciated!

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31 susan November 5, 2009 at 8:19 pm

thank you so much for these photo lessons! i haven’t been able to improve my photography bc i keep getting confused about all the technicalities. now i can practice with your help. :)

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32 Maninas November 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm

Guys, this is very very helpful! THANK YOU!!!!

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33 texasgirl November 7, 2009 at 7:52 pm

Love your blog! question….is the smaller f-stop in any relation to MACRO??? I’m confused. When I shoot on Macro it gives the similar effect of a focus on an object with a blurred background…

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34 White on Rice Couple November 7, 2009 at 9:16 pm

texasgirl- Thank you. The blurred background effect is the depth of field. Aperture controls the depth of field, and in the case of using a macro lens, the depth of field is further emphasized by the nature and construction of the lens. Macro lens have a more shallow depth of field than other lenses. The principle of Aperture controlling the depth of field is the same, only with a macro lens you are going from a super shallow depth of field to a somewhat shallow depth of field as you increase the aperture number; compared to a “regular” lens where you’ll go from a shallow depth of field to deep depth of field as you increase the aperture number. Hope that makes sense.

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35 Trang, November 13, 2009 at 12:42 pm

Thank you for your helpful lessons. They are all basic but very important information, especially to beginner like me. I read over and over so many time, word by word. Although it’s easy to understand but it’s not easy to remeber such as big number, small window…However, when I practice and get used to it, I start to enjoy taking photograph. I really appreciate your work as well as the way you explain your work. Just want to say thanks. Can’t wait for next lesson.

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36 Chelsey November 25, 2009 at 3:00 pm

Your drape analogy makes total sense, it’s totally putting it all into perspective for me. I LOVE your simple explanations for the basics, and I am so excited for the rest of your series. Right now I am shooting with a crappy $100 dollar point and shoot. I accidentally put it through the washing machine, only for my hubby to bring it back to life in our food dehydrator! The camera has served me well (it must be natural talent…), but I am ready to take my photography to the next level. I’m pretty sure there will be a canon rebel waiting for me under the tree this year :). Your series has me keeping tabs on how to use it….

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37 Angela@spinachtiger.com November 26, 2009 at 6:35 am

Excellent post. The “drapes” make sense to me. You have put so much into these posts and I super appreciate.

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38 Joanna November 26, 2009 at 8:12 am

Really like the easy explanations- I think for someone who is starting to learn about these concepts this is great place to understand what all these numbers and names mean.

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39 K.N.Vinod December 11, 2009 at 10:15 am

Nice article!

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40 rinie87 December 14, 2009 at 1:19 am

thanks for the tips!

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41 Vera Lee January 11, 2010 at 6:12 pm

Hi There,
Thanks for the tutorials – they are super easy to read and understand! I do have a question on DOF though: I’ve been told that using a telephoto lens gives pictures a very “flat” or “flattened” look. I _kind of_ understand, but am not really sure I’m getting the concept. So is this flat look a bad thing? Abnormal? To be avoided at all costs? I’d love to see a post or reply on this one..
Thanks again!

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42 letitia February 3, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Drape analogy was genius! Thank you!

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43 Betsy February 16, 2010 at 11:49 am

Just discovered your blog and am very thankful for the photography lessons (and info on Japan since I am traveling there in May). Thanks!!

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44 Angie April 6, 2010 at 11:20 am

So what is a general rule of thumb for the aperauture setting on a dinner plate? I statred with the 1.8, and it looks like only maybe 1/10 of the photo is in focus. At 3.5 it still isn’t looking good. Do I need to be closer to 7 to get most of a plate at a 15-30 angle of view in focus? Nothing looks right to me, would a 100mm get more in focus with a better background blur?

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45 White On Rice Couple April 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm

The depth of field is dependent of the relationship between the lens and aperture. Diff. focal length will have diff. depths of field at the same aperture. A micro (also known as a macro) lens will also have a more pronounced depth of field than a lens that isn’t a micro yet is still of the same focal length. Confusing huh? Best way is to shoot with the lens you like and adjust the aperture until you find the depth of field you like. This is what everyone refers to as “practice, practice, practice.” Soon you’ll start to know your equipment and can adjust to get what you want.
Keep closing down the aperture (make the number bigger) until you get what you want clean. 3.5 is still fairly shallow. Hit 6.4, 7.1 and see how you like them. Keep increasing the number to find what you like. That is the beauty of digital in that we get instant feedback. Zoom in on the image or tether, if you can, so you can see everything instantly.
A deeper focal length will change the perspective as well. If we shoot something with the 105mm vs the 50mm, the objects in the background and foreground will seem closer to the subject with the 105mm. If you have an assortment of lenses to shoot with, or can rent, play with them to see what you like better. A telephoto tends to compress the images, which is sometimes wanted and other times not. We’ll be doing a post on it to give a visual representation of what we mean. Hope this helps in the mean time.

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46 Angie April 7, 2010 at 6:03 pm

thanks, good info, I have to practice, practice, practice.

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47 Mhel June 23, 2010 at 7:06 pm

That was a great tutorial! I must have read it about a dozen times :) I didn’t know anything about Aperture and Shutter speed before, but with this tutorial, I understand it a lot better…Like you said, “Practice, practice, practice”…Just got my first DSLR and I can’t wait to apply what i’ve learned…Thanks for sharing :)

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48 Inan Acer June 26, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Hi. My name is INAN from Germany. I love your Blog! Thanx for sharing your knowledge about food photography. My Question is:

When will you write the articles about:

FLASH YOUR FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
NATURAL LIGHT FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY
PHOTOGRAPHY INSIDE RESTAURANTS
and EDITING
??????????????????????????????????????????????

Please go ahead and write these articles :-)

Bye from Germany . . .
INAN

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49 White On Rice Couple July 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm

Inan – Thank you for the compliments. We definitely still plan to write about each of those topics, we’ve just been too busy at our studio to write the tutorials properly. Don’t know when we will be able to get to it, but it shall be done some time in the future.

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50 parisbreakfast June 18, 2011 at 6:50 am

Just a year or so late finding your terrific material here…
And just having completed a 2-day so-called intensive on the SLR at Cooper Union that didn’t come close to informing this kind of material, I am so happy to have found you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you!!
Carolg

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51 parisbreakfast June 18, 2011 at 6:51 am

Oh yes, when is the book coming out?
It would be a winner.

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52 Jessy (squeezetheday) October 28, 2011 at 5:00 am

I just read the entire series, thank you so much for the helpful tips! I hope you also decide to write a bit about focus and your photography tools (what camera and lenses you use, etc.).

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53 ghada November 21, 2013 at 9:54 am

wow amazing where is the rest of the course?? I need to know about white balance to start my journey with photography.

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