How to Use the Aperture on a Digital Camera

By Donna Porter
tap78 @ (lens), (birds)

Many photographers remember the first time they learned about aperture, given it can be confusing. The good news is that you can begin to use the aperture on a digital camera prior to memorizing all the functional details. Additionally, digital cameras set on auto focus often provide a decent aperture setting for everyday use and overall sharp images. Yet, when you want to get creative with your photography or increase your focus options, experimentation with aperture is the way to go. Read on for the basics on how to use aperture on a digital camera.

Step 1

Locate the aperture setting. Most digital cameras designate an "A" for aperture priority when the setting is adjustable. Typically, numbers should appear on the LCD, some grayed out, when in aperture mode. Aperture adjustment is typically accomplished via a wheel near the shutter button on a digital camera, which may need to be pushed. Refer to the camera's manual if needed.

Step 2

Gain the basic understanding of the aperture function. Basically, the aperture affects how much light enters the lens to reach the camera sensor-the digital replacement for film. Aperture is essentially a hole or opening, formed by the shutter, and the aperture settings (called f/stops) measure the size of this opening. A certain amount of light is needed to properly expose a photo which is controlled by both the aperture setting and shutter speed. As expected, the larger the hole the greater amount of light that is available for exposure.

Step 3

Familiarize yourself with the digital camera's aperture range in the manual as it may not be available on the digital camera in different light settings. Examples include: f/2.8 to f/8.0 or f/2.0-4.8. First remember that the lowest number is a large opening (allows the most light) and the higher number is a smaller opening (allows the least light).This is opposite of what may be expected.

Step 4

Look for the f-stops between the aperture range, though memorization is not required. An example for a digital camera with an aperture of f2.8 to 8.0 may look like this: f 2.8, f 3.2, f 3.6, f 4.0, f 4.5. f 5.0, f 5.6, f 6.3, f 7.1, f 8.0. Fewer or different numbers may be seen, but these represent the measurements of the aperture or opening. Starting at f 2.8, or most light, each f/stop decreases the light by half or less. A typical digital camera set to auto mode defaults in the 3 to 5 f-stop range depending on the lighting conditions.

Step 5

F-stop 2.8, focus on flower, bird softened, background blurred
tap78 @ (lens), (birds)

Use aperture on a digital camera to change the area of sharp focus of your photo or from sharp to blurry, otherwise known as depth-of-focus (DOF). Use the lowest f-stop (f 2.8) for a sharp foreground and blurry background, useful in portraits for example. Change the aperture to the highest setting (f 8.0) when a sharp image is desired throughout, such as in landscape photography. Take advantage of the aperture f-stops in-between to modify the amount of area where a sharp focus is desired.

Step 6

F-stop 8.0, uniform sharp image
tap78 @ (lens), (birds)

Change the aperture setting when you need more light in a low light photo or when taking a motion shot. The first scenario works with a low f-stop, the later benefits from a higher f-stop. Advanced photography also involves adjusting the aperture and other settings to create a sharp focus of an object in motion against a blurry background.

Step 7

Use the aperture in a digital camera to help with shaky or blurry images if needed. Many new cameras have image stabilization, and using a tripod is best, but sometimes aperture adjustment is needed. The higher the aperture, the more forgiving the digital camera is of movement

About the Author

Donna Porter began writing professionally in 1995. Her first major print contribution is "Successful Writing at Work." Porter attended Longview College and holds certifications in cosmetology and Internet research and data evaluation.