What Is The F Stop

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Understanding f-stops is of import in order to create stunning photographs like this i.

As a beginner photographer, you might take heard of such terms as
and wondered what they actually mean. In this commodity, we will dive into these in detail and talk well-nigh how to employ them for your photography.

Why Aperture is Important

As we have previously defined, aperture is basically a hole in your camera’s lens that lets light laissez passer through. Information technology’southward non a particularly complicated topic, simply it helps to have a good mental concept of
aperture blades
in the first place.

Yes, discontinuity
blades, which are besides known equally the diaphragm in eyes.

Have a look inside your camera lens. If you lot smoothen a lite at the proper angle, you lot’ll see something that looks like this:

Aperture blades

These blades course a small-scale hole, about circular in shape — your aperture. They also can open and close, irresolute the size of the discontinuity.

That is an of import concept! Oft, you’ll hear other photographers talking about
apertures. They will tell you to “stop downwards” (shut) or “open upwards” (widen) the discontinuity blades for a particular photo.

As you would look, there are differences betwixt photos taken with a large aperture versus photos taken with a small aperture. Aperture size has a directly impact on the effulgence of a photograph, with larger apertures letting in more than calorie-free into the camera compared to smaller ones. However, that isn’t the merely thing that aperture affects.

The other more of import impact isdepth of field
– the corporeality of your photograph that appears to be sharp from front end to back. For example, the two illustrations below have different depths of field, depending on the size of aperture:

Depth of Field at Different Aperture Settings

Adjusting your aperture is one of the best tools you lot have to capture the correct images. Yous can accommodate it by entering your photographic camera’s aperture-priority mode or manual mode, both of which give you free rein to option whatsoever aperture yous like. That is why I merely always shoot in aperture-priority or transmission modes!

Earlier y’all try it out for yourself, though, at that place are a few other things y’all might want to know.

What is F-Stop?

f-stop, which is besides known as the
f-number, is the ratio of the lens focal length to the diameter of the entrance pupil. If yous did not sympathise that, don’t worry, considering there is a much easier explanation of it for beginners. In very simple linguistic communication, f-stop is
the number that your photographic camera shows you
when you change the size of the lens aperture.

Yous might accept seen this in your camera before. On your photographic camera’s LCD screen or viewfinder, the f-stop looks similar this: f/two.viii, f/4, f/five.6, f/8, f/11, and and then on. Sometimes, it will be shown without a slash in between like f2.8, or with a capital “F” letter in the front like F2.viii, which ways the exact same thing as f/ii.viii. These are just examples of different f-stops, and you might run into much smaller numbers like f/1.2 or much larger ones like f/64.

f-stop on the camera
Aperture is labeled in f-numbers. In this case, I’m using an discontinuity of f/8.

Why is Aperture Written as an f-number?

Why is your aperture written similar that? What does something like “f/8” even mean? Actually, this is 1 of the nearly of import parts about aperture:

it’due south written as a fraction

Y’all can think of an discontinuity of f/8 as the fraction i/8 (one-eighth). An aperture of f/ii is equivalent to 1/2 (one-half). An aperture of f/xvi is 1/16 (i-sixteenth). And and so on.

Hopefully, yous know how fractions work. 1/ii cup of saccharide is much more than 1/sixteen loving cup of sugar. A 1/four pound burger is larger than a 1/ten pound slider.

By that same logic, an discontinuity of f/ii is much larger than an aperture of f/16. If you ever read an commodity online that ignores this unproblematic fact, yous’ll exist very confused.

Pop quiz: Which aperture is larger — f/8 or f/22?

Yous already know the answer to this question, because
aperture is a fraction. Clearly, one/viii is larger than i/22. Then, f/eight is the larger aperture.

If someone tells you lot to use a
aperture, they’re recommending an f-stop like f/1.four, f/ii, or f/2.8. If someone tells yous to employ a
aperture, they’re recommending an f-stop like f/8, f/11, or f/16.

See the beneath diagram that shows different sizes of aperture to understand:

Size of Aperture Chart
As you can see, an f-terminate like f/ii.viii represents a much larger aperture opening than something like f/sixteen.

What Does the “f” Stand For?

A lot of photographers ask me an interesting question: What does the “f” stand for in f-terminate, or in the name of aperture (like f/8)?

Quite simply, the “f” stands for “focal length”. When y’all substitute focal length into the fraction, you’re solving for thediameter of the discontinuity blades
in your lens. (Or, more than accurately, the diameter that the blades appear to be when you wait through the forepart of the lens).

For example, say that you have an 80-200mm f/2.8 lens fully zoomed out to 80mm. If your f-terminate is set to f/4, the bore of the discontinuity blades in your lens volition look exactly 20 millimeters across (80mm / iv), whereas at f/16, the diameter will be reduced to mere five millimeters (80mm / 16).

This is a absurd concept. It also makes it piece of cake to visualize why an discontinuity of f/four would be larger than an aperture of f/xvi. Physically, at f/four, your aperture blades are open up much wider, as shown below:

How the size of the lens aperture appears in the front of the camera at f/4 compared to f/16 aperture

Which F-Stop Values Can You Actually Set?

Unfortunately, you lot tin can’t simply prepare whatever f-stop value that you lot want. At some point, the aperture blades in your lens won’t be able to shut any smaller, or they won’t exist able to open whatsoever wider.

Typically, the “maximum” aperture of a lens, which is also often referred to equally “wide-open up” discontinuity, volition be something like f/1.iv, f/1.8, f/ii, f/2.eight, f/three.5, f/4, or f/5.6.

A lot of photographers
care well-nigh the maximum aperture that their lenses offer. Sometimes, they’ll pay hundreds of extra dollars just to buy a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 rather than f/4, or f/1.four rather than f/1.8.

Why is large maximum discontinuity in a lens so of import? Because
a lens with a larger maximum aperture lets more calorie-free into the camera.
For example, a lens with a maximum aperture of f/2.8 lets in twice every bit much calorie-free when compared to a lens with a maximum aperture of f/4.0. This difference could exist a big deal when shooting in depression-lite conditions.

Since people care so much about maximum aperture, camera manufacturers decided to include that number
in the name of the lens. For example, one of my favorite lenses is the Nikon 20mm f/1.8G. The largest discontinuity information technology offers is f/1.8.

Milky Way with the Moon captured at f/1.8 aperture - f-stop
I took this photo at f/1.8 with the Nikon 20mm f/ane.8 lens. The only lighting in this shot is the moon. With a large aperture (and a tripod) you can practically see in the dark.

If y’all have a 50mm f/ane.4 lens, the largest aperture you can utilise is f/1.4. Professional person abiding aperture zoom lenses like a 24-70mm f/two.viii will have f/ii.viii as their maximum discontinuity at every focal length. Whereas cheaper consumer-class lenses such as 18-55mm f/iii.5-v.6 will have their maximum aperture change depending on focal length. At 18mm, the maximum is at f/3.5, while at 55mm, it changes to f/five.six. In between is a gradual shift from one to the other.

Photographers generally don’t care as much nearly the smallest or “minimum” discontinuity that the lens allows, which is why manufacturers don’t put that information in the name of the lens. However, if it matters to you, you lot will e’er be able to find this specification on the manufacturer’southward website. A lens’due south smallest aperture is typically something like f/16, f/22, or f/32.

F-Stop and Depth of Field

Along with the amount of light a lens aperture allows, it has one other huge effect on your photos – depth of field.

I ever find that it’due south easiest to understand depth of field by looking at photos, such as the comparison below. In this case, I used a relatively big aperture of f/4 for the photo on the left, and an incredibly small-scale aperture of f/32 for the photograph on the right. The differences should be obvious:

Depth of Field Comparison f4 vs f32

This is very interesting! As you lot can see, in the f/4 photo, only a thin slice of the lizard’s head appears sharp. The background of the photo is very blurry. This is known every bit
depth of field.

You lot can think of depth of field as a glass window pane that intersects with your subject area.Whatsoever part of your photo that intersects with the window glass will be sharp. The thickness of the glass changes depending upon your aperture. At something like f/4, the glass is relatively thin. At something like f/32, the glass is very thick. Also, depth of field falls off gradually rather than dropping sharply, so the window glass analogy is definitely a simplification.

This is why portrait photographers love f-stops similar f/1.4, f/2, or f/two.eight. They requite y’all a pleasant “shallow focus” consequence, where only a thin slice of your subject is sharp (such every bit your discipline’s optics). Yous can see how that looks here:

Cat photo at large aperture
The most popular genre of photography is true cat photography! If you want a shallow focus consequence, set a large discontinuity like f/ane.4. That’south what I used here in social club to capture this cat’s eyes as abrupt as possible, while rendering the groundwork extremely out of focus. (This also works for portraits, or whatever other subject.)

On the flip side, yous should be able to see why landscape photographers prefer using f-stops like f/8, f/11, or f/16. If you lot want your entire photograph abrupt out to the horizon, this is what yous should utilize.

Landscape photo with small aperture and large depth of field
This might non be as exciting as cat photography, only I still similar it! Y’all can run into how all the ice crystals at the lesser of the frame are completely precipitous, and and then are the mountains in the distance. That’s only possible because I used a small discontinuity of f/16.

What is the Aperture Scale?

Hither’s the aperture scale. Each pace down lets in
equally much light:

  • f/i.4 (very big opening of your aperture blades, lets in a lot of lite)
  • f/two.0 (lets in half as much light as f/1.4)
  • f/2.eight (lets in half every bit much light as f/2.0)
  • f/4.0 (etc.)
  • f/5.6
  • f/8.0
  • f/11.0
  • f/xvi.0
  • f/22.0
  • f/32.0 (very small discontinuity, lets in almost no light)

These are the primary aperture “stops,” but most cameras and lenses today let you set some values in between, such as f/one.viii or f/3.5.

If yous’d prefer to see that information in a nautical chart, hither you go:

f/1.4 f/2.0 f/two.8 f/4.0 f/five.6 f/eight.0 f/eleven.0 f/sixteen.0 f/22.0
Very large aperture Large aperture Large aperture Moderate aperture Moderate aperture Moderate aperture Small aperture Small aperture Very modest aperture
Lets in a huge corporeality of light One-half equally much light One-half as much calorie-free Half as much low-cal Half as much light (a very “medium” discontinuity) Half as much light Half as much low-cal One-half as much low-cal Half equally much lite (by which point your photos are very dark)
Very thin depth of field Sparse depth of field Sparse depth of field Moderately thin depth of field Moderate depth of field Moderately large depth of field Big depth of field Big depth of field Very large depth of field

Usually, the sharpest f-stop on a lens will occur somewhere in the eye of this range — f/4, f/5.6, or f/eight. However, sharpness isn’t as important as things like depth of field, so don’t exist afraid to set up other values when you demand them. In that location’s a reason why your lens has so many possible aperture settings.

Other Furnishings of F-Stop

The second page of our aperture article dives into every unmarried outcome of aperture in your photos. Information technology includes things like diffraction, sunstars, lens aberrations, and so on. Even so, equally important as all that is, it’s non what you
demand to know – particularly at first.

Instead, merely know that the two biggest reasons to adapt your aperture are to change brightness (exposure) and depth of field. Learn those first. They accept the nigh obvious impact on your images, and y’all tin can always read about the more minor effects later.


Hopefully, you now accept a expert sense of f-end and the ways it affects your photos. To recap:

  • F-stop (aka f-number) is the number that you meet on your photographic camera or lens every bit you adjust the size of your aperture.
  • Since
    f-stops are fractions, an discontinuity of f/2 is much larger than an aperture of f/16.
  • Simply like the student in your eye, a large aperture lets in a lot of light. If information technology’s night out, and y’all don’t have a tripod, you’ll want to use a large aperture, something like f/1.8 or f/3.5.
  • Your lens has a maximum and minimum aperture that yous can set up. For something like the Nikon 50mm f/1.8G lens, the maximum aperture is f/one.8, and the minimum aperture is f/16. You tin’t set anything across that range.
  • In addition to the corporeality of light aperture passes through, it also affects
    depth of field
    – how much of the image appears to be in focus. Large apertures like f/1.8 have a very thin depth of field, which is why portrait photographers like them so much. Landscape photographers adopt using smaller apertures, like f/eight, f/xi, or f/xvi, to capture both the foreground and background of a scene as sharp as possible at the same time.
  • There are other effects of aperture, too, simply exposure and depth of field are generally the most important.

That’s it! If you understand the basic bullet points, you’ve got the nuts of f-stop and aperture.

Of course, putting everything into practice is some other matter. Even if this entire commodity makes sense for at present, you’ll still need to take hundreds of photos in the field, if not thousands, before these concepts get completely intuitive.

Luckily, you have the building blocks. Discontinuity and f-stop aren’t complicated topics, but they can seem a fleck counterintuitive for photographers who are just starting out. Hopefully, this article clarified some of the confusion, and you now have a better understanding of the fundamentals of aperture.

Beneath are some examples of photographs captured at unlike f-stops from f/2.8 to f/xvi, to give you an idea of how they are used in the field:

f-2.8 aperture with shallow depth of field
Taken at a large aperture of f/2.eight, which provides a shallow focus effect.
f-8 aperture landscape photo
Taken at f/8, a relatively medium aperture value. In this case, since there was no foreground right side by side to my lens, every role of this paradigm (from front end to back) is very sharp.
f-16 landscape photo with small aperture
Taken at a minor aperture of f/xvi. Here, my foreground was so shut to the lens that I needed a huge depth of field.

Source: https://photographylife.com/f-stop