Let there be exposure, part III: Aperture? I hardly knew ‘er!

Continuing the adventures of photography!

Now that I have a camera where I can actually change pro-style photographic settings, I’m learning a lot about…stuff I never knew before. One of the biggest things I’m learning about is aperture control, and along with that, depth-of-field.

Put simply, depth-of-field refers to how much of the camera’s image is in focus at any particular time. Low depth-of-field means that only objects in a pretty narrow area will be in focus, while those in the background will be blurry; high depth-of-field means pretty much the opposite. Like any photographic effect, what degree of depth-of-field you want depends on what you’re trying to accomplish with the particular photo you’re taking, what kind of subject you have, and so on.

Before the FZ1000 II came along, I never had any real way of working with depth of field, and now I do. Huzzah!

But…the problem now is a simple one: I actually don’t know anything about depth-of-field and how to use it.

So I’ve done some experimenting here and there, and in all honesty, my initial efforts at adjusting depth of field and seeing the results were not helpful, because I simply didn’t understand what I was doing. This is where I picked on something from Simon d’Entremont’s videos (I mentioned him in my last photography post). He has a couple of little owl figurines, with fuzz and feathers, that he uses to demonstrate photographic effects in his videos. So I realized that I needed something similar: a test subject. In the case of depth-of-field, I figured what I needed to do was select a test subject and set it up in a spot where I could use the background to good effect.


Yes, that is a Funko-Pop figurine of Jerry Seinfeld, wearing the infamous “pirate shirt” from the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry, being polite to “the Low Talker”–a woman whose voice was so soft no one could hear her–inadvertently agreed to wear her newly-designed pirate shirt on a nationally-televised appearance on The Today Show. Look, the details don’t matter. What matters is that I set Jerry up in a spot where I could work my way through a series of aperture settings, called “F-stops”, noting the affect on depth-of-field.

It turns out that the higher the F-stop number, the smaller your aperture is, and the more depth of field you have, and vice versa. Thus, a high F-stop setting gives you a background that’s fairly clear, and a low one blurs the background.

Here is the sequence of six shots I took of Jerry. Note the progression of the background’s blur!

Aperture: f/11

Aperture: f/8.0

Aperture: f/5.6

Aperture: f/4.5

Aperture: f/3.8

Now, if you’re wondering what those numbers mean specifically, I’m afraid I haven’t the slightest clue as yet. I imagine I’ll get that in my head at some point, but I’m still at the very newest part of this particular hobby, when my head is swimming with details and possibilities. But I can’t help seeing in this exercise how the numbers affect the look of each photo, and this shows why low depth of field is used to make a specific subject really pop.

And that’s what I’ve been learning about this week. Hooray for apertures!


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