Beginner Photography: the F-Stop


If you have just purchased a new camera, or perhaps received one as a gift, you may feel overwhelmed with all of the dials, numbers, controls and functions. You may feel that it is best to just set the camera on auto and let it take a picture for you. This will still provide you with an excellent picture, but sooner or later you are going to want to start using some of the advanced functions to take your skills to the next level. Many of these functions will give you a great deal more creative control over the quality of your pictures.

One of the things you are going to want to know about is an f stop. Basically, it is the opening through which light enters your camera. The numbers that show on the f stop let you know how much light is being allowed in. While some cameras use settings such as f4, f8, and f11, others also have half and third stops. This is known as the f stop scale. *The f stop can be imagined as a toilet paper or paper towel cardboard roll, with a piece of foil over one end.  When a hole is made in the foil, and you look through the roll, the light being let in would equate to a high f stop, and a small opening. If you make the hole larger, your f stop number would be lower, and more light would be coming through. Using these controls allows you to have more control over the exposure on your picture. The best way to find the proper f stop setting is to experiment with the effect that you get from the different settings.

It is easiest to get started learning about f stops and apertures if you have remembered a few simple f stop tips. First is that when you are trying to take pictures which are sharply focused, the more light that you have, the better the quality of the picture. When the light is not sufficiently bright, it is best to use a low f stop number.

When you are trying to create a picture where a certain object is in sharper focus than the rest – for instance, a child playing in a field, where the child stands out from the rest of the picture, you will want to use an f/1.2 or f1/4 setting. On the other hand, where you want a deeper depth, such as in landscape pictures, you will want to use an f stop in the f/16 or f/22 range.

It may take a little experimentation, and the best way to get used to your camera is to go out and take pictures, but write down what settings you used, and compare them to the effects you get. There are few rigid rules about using the f-stop, but if you try a few things out, you will learn to balance this setting against others to create the image you want.


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