Do you want to take your photography to the next level?
Using a wide aperture lens and a large aperture setting can help you to capture breathtaking photos that will have everyone talking.
Learn how to use these optics to create beautiful bokeh effects, highlights and shadows, and stunning images even in low light conditions.
Get ready to unleash the creative photographer in you and turn your shots into stunning works of art!
What is A Wide Aperture
An aperture is a hole or an opening through which the light enters your camera. This concept is easy to understand.
You can think of the aperture as our pupil, shrinking in bright conditions and expanding in dimmer ones, allowing us to see clearly and adjust our vision to different lighting conditions.
Aperture size can make a huge impact on your photography.
By adjusting the amount of light that enters through the lens, you can achieve different artistic effects.
F-stop (also known as f-number) is a numerical measurement that expresses the size of the aperture. Common f-stop measurements you’ll find on viewfinders, LCD screens, and lenses include: f/1.2, f/1.4, f/2, f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, f/11, and f/16.
Adjusting the aperture size opens up a world of creative possibilities – experiment and have fun!
Do you need clarification about the difference between f/2 and f/4? Which one is larger?
If so, it’s actually quite simple to understand.
F-stop is calculated by dividing the focal length of the lens by the diameter of the aperture.
The letter “f” stands for “focal length,” and the number following it tells us the size of the aperture blades. So distinguishing their size is the same as for fractions.
In this case, f/2 represents a larger aperture than f/4, just as 1/2 is larger than 1/4.
Unfortunately, there is a limit on how wide or narrow the aperture blades can be opened or closed.
The transition between f-stops is not smooth, and you cannot set any values you want.
Generally speaking, a wide aperture refers to an opening greater than or equal to f/2.8, such as f/1.4 or f/2. On the other hand, a small aperture would be considered f/8, f/11, or f/16.
When do you really need a large-aperture lens
Large aperture lenses are also called “fast lenses” because they allow more light to enter the camera, resulting in faster shutter speeds.
They are sought after by many photographers, but at the same time, they are also costly.
They require more precision and craftsmanship to make than other camera lenses. Their size and focal length must be precisely calculated and machined, and the lens must also be able to maintain a constant ratio of light and sharpness when zoomed in or out.
Additionally, larger maximum apertures need more optical material, which drives up the manufacturing costs.
Do you really need that expensive, large-aperture lens for your photography? Let’s explore when it may be essential to have one.
Shooting in dark environments
Capturing amazing images in dimly lit environments can be a challenge for photographers.
Every year, camera giants invest significantly in boosting the sensitivity of sensors, but lens quality is just as essential for capturing clear photos in low light – if not more important.
With a fast lens, you can collect more light and have the potential to produce an image with significantly less noise than if you had to increase the light-gathering ability of the camera sensor.
Not only this, but you can use a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion of your subject, making it possible to capture sharp images in various genres – including breathtaking Milky Way photography!
Capturing an excellent Milky Way shot with stars twinkling in the night sky can be a challenge due to Earth’s rotation.
Even if we don’t feel it, the camera will record the movement, and if the shutter speed is not fast enough, the stars in the night sky will appear with trails in the image.
A fast lens is essential in dark environments like this because simply raising the ISO can cause the stars to be drowned out by image noise.
Achieve creamy bokeh
If you’re looking for creative and stunning photography with beautifully blurred backgrounds and gorgeous bokeh, then wide-aperture lenses are your best bet.
With the widest aperture of f/1.8, you’ll be able to take photos like these easily. However, not all lenses can reach this level of aperture; it depends on the specific model.
The widest aperture available on a given lens will usually be included in the lens’s name.
For example, the kit lens that came with my Nikon D7500 is an AF-P DX 18-55 mm f/3.5–f/5.6G. That means it has a maximum wide aperture of f/3.5 when taking pictures at 18 mm, but the maximum wide aperture at 55 mm is only f/5.6.
With this lens, you can still achieve some neat effects, such as some degree of blurry backgrounds, but you can get even more creative with an even wider aperture for truly stunning shots!
With a fast lens, like 85mm f/1.8, I can get even more dynamic bokeh effects even in dark indoor environments. It is lighter and more compact, making them easier to carry around for long shoots.
Additionally, it is sharper and more responsive than the kit lens, providing better image quality. It has less distortion and chromatic aberration, meaning that the colors and composition of your photos will be more consistent.
Ultimately, each photographer must make the decision for themselves as to whether fast lenses are the right choice for their needs, but it’s clear that there are some tremendous advantages to investing in a quality fast lens.
As I mentioned, a fast lens allows more light to reach the image sensor quickly, enabling you to take higher-definition shots at faster shutter speeds. The result is a freeze-frame effect on moving objects. This is essential for some photography genres, such as sports and wildlife photography.
To capture the full beauty of sports photography, you’ll need a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th if you want to freeze motion successfully.
If you’re shooting a sport with faster action, such as tennis, then you may need to increase the shutter speed even more – up to 1/2000th or 1/8000th.
Wildlife photography often includes capturing birds in flight; a fast lens is essential for success.
For successful images of birds, such as hummingbirds and sparrows, the shutter speed should be set to 1/2500 or faster to freeze them mid-air.
Increasing the shutter speed to 1/4000 or higher is even better for freezing water splashes.
Capturing wildlife in motion requires patience and the right equipment, but it can be rewarding and exciting. And a fast lens can give you confidence!
Things to watch out
I remember the time when I took most of my pictures with just a kit lens. At first, I couldn’t tell the apparent differences between these photos and those taken by others using their cell phones – until I finally got my first fast lens, a 50mm f/1.8.
I was utterly in awe of its ability to create stunning creamy bokeh, and I would open it up in each photo session to its widest aperture.
As I continued using my lens, I quickly realized that having such wide apertures did not necessarily make me an expert photographer.
Today, I want to share a few tips I’ve learned over the years and why you might want to be careful about not shooting wide open with your fancy big aperture lens.
Too Shallow Depth of Field
We often use fast lenses to blur out the busy background and create a beautiful, shallow depth of field that makes our subject stand out.
While this method can give us clear backgrounds, it can also cause issues when misused.
I’ve had this problem many times – shooting portraits with my f/1.4 lens only to have one eye out of focus in the final photo. It was a real shame, as sometimes the background can add interesting context to the picture, but I was so focused on making the most of the widest aperture of the lens that I failed to take that into account.
Plus, using a lens’s maximum aperture can make images appear soft, so it may sometimes be necessary to stop down 1 or 2 f-stops to get a sharp result.
In some photography genres, such as landscape and macro photography, a shallow depth of field is only sometimes required – here, it is essential to retain maximum detail throughout the image.
Chromatic Aberration & Vignetting
If you’re seeing odd color fringes around objects in your image, it might be longitudinal chromatic aberration. This happens when different color wavelengths don’t merge appropriately after going through a lens.
Faster lenses are often more susceptible to this issue, so try to stop down your aperture to reduce or eliminate it.
Another potential issue is vignetting.
Vignetting, or “light fall-off”, is common in optics and photography. It refers to the darkening of the image corners compared to the center.
All lenses are subject to this effect, though the strength of it can vary depending on the design and construction of the lens – particularly with prime or fixed lenses that feature a large aperture.
One of the major advantages of using a wide aperture lens and a large aperture setting is that it allows you to capture more light and create a shallower depth of field.
This can be extremely useful in creating beautiful bokeh effects in your photos, as well as isolating your main subject from the background.
However, when shooting with a wide aperture, keep in mind that it can sometimes cause problems, so make sure to compose your shots carefully.
Have fun experimenting with your camera, and let your creativity soar!