What the F Stop

If you are progressing to an SLR camera one of the things you will need to know about is F stops.

When I decided to dip my toes back in to photography 11 years ago I bought myself a Canon Rebel. A friend of mine, an engineer and an amateur photographer, decided to sit me down and explain f stops. I nodded my head and smiled sweetly but didn’t have the heart to tell him I had no idea what he was talking about. Fortunately the University of New Mexico held photography classes as part of their continuing education program.

The aperture is the hole in the lens that allows light to pass through the lens and onto the camera’s sensor. In photography, f-stops are a way of describing how open or closed the aperture is. Smaller f-stops like f 2.8 mean larger apertures and more light. Larger f-stops like f 16 mean smaller apertures and less light.The aperture also has an impact on the depth-of-field.

The depth of field is the zone within a photo that will appear in focus. In every picture there is a certain area of your image in front of, and behind the subject you are photographing that will appear in focus. A small f-stop (large aperture) gives you a smaller area of focus and a higher f -stop (small aperture) gives you a larger area that’s in focus. For instance if you want the background behind the main subject to be blurred you use a small f-stop and if you want everything in focus use a higher f-stop like f 16.

My goal here isn’t to give you an in depth review of f-stops as there are many resources available online. Neither is the goal to send you straight to E bay to sell your newly acquired camera or discourage you from taking the next step. It all seems like weird science to start with but if you use available resources and persevere you will develop a working understanding quite quickly. Practice, practice, practice. Photograph subjects using the different f-stops and you will be able to see the difference.

Be brave. The best part about digital photography is the ability to practice and delete.

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