Have you ever wondered how photographers capture those stunning shots where the subject is in sharp focus while the background is beautifully blurred? The secret lies in mastering aperture – one of the fundamental pillars of photography that directly influences the depth of field. This technique not only elevates your photography skills but also enhances the aesthetic appeal of your shots.

Deciphering Depth of Field

Before diving into the details of aperture, it’s important to understand what depth of field is. Depth of field refers to the zone within a photo that appears sharp. It extends from the foreground to the background of your shot, and the depth of this zone can be manipulated by adjusting the aperture.

Breaking Down Aperture

Aperture refers to the size of the opening in the lens through which light travels into the camera body. It’s measured in f-stops: a lower f-stop means a larger aperture, and vice-versa. A broader opening allows more light to reach the camera sensor, creating a shallow depth of field. This results in a sharply focused subject with a blurry background, perfect for portrait or macro photography. On the other hand, a higher f-stop (small aperture opening) lets in less light, offering a larger depth of field. This keeps more of the scene in focus, ideal for landscape photography.

The Balance Between Aperture and Light

While aperture controls depth of field, it also impacts the amount of light entering your lens, which can directly affect the exposure of your shot. A wide open aperture (low f-stop) allows more light in, leading to a brighter photo. Conversely, a smaller aperture (high f-stop) will darken your capture. Therefore, when adjusting your aperture, you may need to balance it out with shutter speed and ISO to achieve correct exposure.

Understanding Aperture Numbers

Frequently, beginners find f-stops confusing because the smaller numbers represent larger apertures and a shallow depth of field, while larger numbers correspond to smaller apertures and a deeper depth of field. However, with a bit of practice, knowing how to manipulate these numbers will become second nature. A helpful tip to remember is ‘small number = small amount in focus’ and ‘large number = large amount in focus’.

Now that we have clear what the aperture is, let’s explore how different aperture settings affect the depth of field in your images. There is an inversely proportional relationship between the size of the aperture and the depth of field. This means that the larger the aperture (smaller f-stop number), the shallower the depth of field, and conversely, the smaller the aperture (larger f-stop number), the greater the depth of field.

Practical Tips to Control Depth of Field Using Aperture

1. Identify your Subject: Before you adjust your settings, determine what your primary subject is. If it’s a single object or person that you would like to isolate from the background, a large aperture creating a shallow depth of field will be the best.

2. Select Your Aperture: Once you have your subject, choose the correct aperture setting. A landscape shot where you want everything from the foreground to the background in sharp focus requires a small aperture (high f-stop). A portrait where you want to blur the background and have the subject in sharp focus requires a larger aperture (low f-stop).

3. Take Light into Consideration: Remember, when you increase your aperture size (lower f-stop), you also increase the amount of light entering your lens. In such cases, you may have to decrease your ISO or shutter speed to avoid overexposure.

4. Experiment: It’s all about finding the right balance. Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO all interact, so it’s essential to experiment to see what works best under different conditions.


Your journey to mastering aperture is a combination of understanding theoretical nuances and plenty of practical experimentation. By learning to harness the power of aperture, you can gain greater control over your image aesthetics, especially when it comes to the depth of field.

To explore more about controlling the depth of field, check out our intermediate photography tutorial. The world of photography always has something new to learn and plenty of ways to boost your skills.

What’s your favorite aperture technique? Have you captured an image where aperture played a key role? Let’s discuss! We’d love to hear your experiences and see your pivotal shots. Happy shooting!