Photo Tip Friday - What's that dial for? Pt. 2

by Mary Denman   @MaryDenman

Today's post is about Aperture Values or f-stops. 

Let's recap last week's post

Many cameras have multiple settings so you can control how you take pictures.  

This is my camera's dial and settings.

The main settings we're focusing on now are:

Manual - where you have total control of the                  following components:

Av -       Aperture Value
Tv -       Time Value
ISO -     which is the "speed" of your film. 

I won't go back into what each component does since you can read the prior post. But I do want to give you some photos that will help illustrate what the components do. 

Today, we're looking at Aperture Values.  
Because they serve two functions, I'm just going over them today. We'll hit Time Value and ISO in a future post.

Apertures typically run: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.5, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

Aperture determine 2 things. 

1) What your depth of field is.  The term f-stop refers to Focal Stop or Focal Length. Think of this as how clear you want your photo. Do you want the entire shot clear or do you want a narrow field of focus?  Let me illustrate.

The picture on the right shows a narrow depth of field. Only the front hydrangea is in focus. The bride-to-be is softly out of focus. So the f-stop or aperture is narrow. f/1.4

In the second shot, the lovely bride-to-be is all in focus. This shows a much deeper amount of focus in the shot. Think of this shot with a large f-stop.  f/22.

The reason I told you the extremes is the way I remember what the f-stops do.

Think of f/1.4 as 1.4 inches of depth of field. That's not very "deep" and not much will be in focus. 
Think of f/22 as 22 inches of depth of field. That's very deep and most of your shot will be fairly clear. 

So on to the next part of aperture values. 

2) How much light it lets in.  This is where things get a tad tricky and why we're only looking at apertures today.

Not only does it determine the depth of field, but also how much light comes in.  

How it lets light in is determined by how big or little the f/stop number is because they correspond to how big your shutter opening is. I'm not going into more detail about that right now. Just know that the Av, f-stop, f/1.4 to f/22 are different names for the same things. 

Let's go back to our numbers.

Apertures typically run: f/1.4, f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.5, f/8, f/11, f/16, f/22

So what does that mean? f/1.4 lets in the most light on the f-stop scale
                                    f/22 lets in the least amount of light on the scale

You can handhold a camera and take shots in the lower range like f/1.4. 
But not at f/22. You'll need a tripod. 

Why? Because you have to let in more light which means the shutter has to be open longer. 

Here's an example of why you may want to learn how to manually control your camera. You can't take a shot like this without learning how.

You can't get this with a point and shoot camera or setting. 

In order to get the milky effect of the water, you have to have the shutter open (time value, another post) for part of a second or more, depending on the lighting. 

This shot was taken at f/22 for about 3/4 of a second. On a tripod. 

f/22 insured that most of the photo was in focus, and allowed the camera enough time to to capture the individual drops of water actually falling, making them milky white and soft. 

So, what does this mean for you? 

Pick up your camera and play with it. Set the camera on Av if you have that setting and take shots right where you are. Around the house is fine. EXPERIMENT! 

I'm sure you'll have more questions once you do. But it will help you learn this material. And, as I continue to guide you through the dial, the pieces will start falling together. 

Again, if you have photos you'd like me to glance at, leave me a link. 

And if you have a question, feel free to leave it for me. 

Of the two engagement shots, which one do you like better and why?

Hope this tip helps! 

Keep on clicking!



  1. I love your blog and I'm looking forward to going back and reading more photography hints and tips and hopefully finding the time to get out and start using my new camera.

    I've started a bit of an Easter Saturday blog hop with a little mystery prize up for grabs on Ms Mystery Case if you wanted to hop over and link up.

    Have a great Easter.

  2. Hi Mary!! I loved the comment you left on my blog! lol. Thanks for linking up this weekend :)


  3. I have been waiting for you to help me figure all of this out Mary. I keep waiting for every Friday post! :) Thanks!

  4. I don't have those gadgets on my cell phone camera either.

    1. Hey Joyce, keep reading and we'll get to more information about how to take better shots and how you can use your cell phone camera to get better photos! What kind of cell phone do you have?