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What is aperture, and how does it affect my photograph?

I have just started learning photography. One question for which I am still not able to find a good answer is how one can choose a creative aperture for an exposure.

I know that this is not the only criteria for a perfect or creative exposure but still it is one of the core thing one needs to understand.

Can anyone help me to understand some of the basics of choosing the aperture as I am sure it is quite early to ask this since I have to learn a lot.

  • Hi @umesh! The answers to the question @rfusca mentions should be helpful to you. If not, or if you need further clarification, let us know!
    – mattdm
    Aug 30, 2011 at 2:03
  • @rfusca i guess i got my start-up point so let me first get it only than i can ask more thanks for the quick help :) Aug 30, 2011 at 2:08
  • Also, a followup question for you: are you interested in creatively choosing an aperture for exposure (overall bright or overall dark scene), or for choosing an aperture for the effect on composition (great or shallow depth of field)?
    – mattdm
    Aug 30, 2011 at 4:08
  • i believe in "choosing an aperture for the effect on composition" though i am just a beginner so may be changes can be there in future :) Aug 30, 2011 at 4:27

2 Answers 2


As far as selecting an aperture goes here are a few starting points

  • Portraits - go with the widest aperture/lowest number, this will help your subject to stand out by reducing the depth of field and blurring the background.
  • Landscapes - go with a smaller aperture, f16 for example, to give you a greater depth of field to allow most things in the picture to be in focus.
  • Sports - a wider aperture will help you freeze the motion although you may want to close the aperture down somewhat to intentionally blur the image to give the impression of
    movement. In this instance you might be better off setting the
    shutter speed rather than the aperture.

Exposure is a function of ISO, shutter speed and Aperture. The wider your aperture is, the more light hits your sensor but your DOF reduces (think of it as the amount of picture in focus).. it is a balancing act that you'll learn from experience.

You should learn how the ISO, shutter speed and Aperture are interacting with each other first, only then you'd know how to choose the best aperture for the situation. E.g if you want lesser light but more blur, then you can compensate for the wide open aperture with a faster shutter speed.

Play with the virtual camera simulator to see this effect in action.

  • I know a bit about how these three factors work together but somehow was not able to relate with choosing a creative aperture :( Aug 30, 2011 at 2:09

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