You know your shutter needs to be fast enough to "freeze" what you're trying to capture with your camera.
You know what your ISO should be to give you the light you want.
What's your aperture literacy?
In this post I'm going to teach you a bit about aperture and depth of field.
What is depth of field?
Depth of field is also sometimes called focus range. Depth of field marries aperture, focal length, and the distance between your camera, subject, and the setting. The longer your lens and the wider your aperture, the more shallow the depth of field in your image will be. On the other end of the spectrum, the shorter your lens and the more narrow your aperture, the deeper the depth of field in your image.
Knowing how depth of field functions is an essential quality of being a photographer. But more than that, knowing when to select what aperture, what your depth of field will be, and what that image will therefore evoke, is artistry.
When to Shoot Wide Open
What's your subject? Are you shooting a recently engaged couple in a wooded area? Go for the blur, if you like. Holiday sessions for longtime clients? You may want to "shoot wide".
In this image, I wanted a bit of bokeh from the carousel lights. You can see that I've accomplished that by shooting wide.
When to Narrow Your Aperture
You may also hear or read closed down aperture or small aperture in reference to a narrow aperture. If you are shooting with a narrow aperture, you're most likely set in a beautiful natural area and want to capture more of the details of your setting. This is also a beautiful way to play with sunlight. Aperture setting has the ability to shift the mood and tone of your imagery, so choose carefully!
For this image I decided to narrow my aperture to capture the painted details of the fun house.
When to Select the Middle Ground
If you are a child and family photographer, or a hobbyist mama, it's quite likely that you'll be shooting somewhere in the middle most of the time. You want to capture the details of your subject and the background is relatively uniform. For this image it was best to shoot in the middle aperture range in order to capture those baby blues as well as the texture of the clover.
And in this photo, darling Cruz is my subject but I also wanted to show off the balloons and ribbon.
Is Wider Better?
If you're familiar with my work, you know I love the blur! However, even I sometimes have to remind myself that I have so many aperture settings from which to choose, for a reason. I'm a bit of a nerd (I used to write curriculum for a living!) but I also trust my instincts when it comes to depth of field.