Photography Foundations: Using Aperture to Create Depth of Field | Suzanne Strong | Skillshare

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Photography Foundations: Using Aperture to Create Depth of Field

teacher avatar Suzanne Strong, Photographer & Filmmaker

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

5 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Welcome to Aperture

    • 2. Aperture & Exposure Equivalent

    • 3. Aperture & Depth of Field

    • 4. Class Project

    • 5. Thank You

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About This Class

Learn the foundations of photography!

Aperture is the first in my photography series, Foundations. In Aperture, we'll be covering exposure equivalent (or the exposure triangle), aperture, depth of field and how create images to help you understand the effect that aperture has on your final image.

In Aperture,  you’ll shoot the same object using a variety of aperture settings so you can hands-on understand how to achieve your desired depth of field.

This class is for beginners who are learning how to use their camera in manual mode and for anyone else who is looking for a refresher in the basics of manual camera use.

REQUIRED: DSLR camera or other  camera with manual mode capabilities. 

Stay tuned for more classes in the Foundations series. I'll be helping you to take control of your art and empower yourself through learning the basics of exposure. Understanding the fundamentals of using your camera in manual mode frees you up to tap into the creative flow so that you can make the images you want to make!

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Meet Your Teacher

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Suzanne Strong

Photographer & Filmmaker


​Hi! I'm Suzanne and I teach photography classes. I'm a Portrait Photographer and the Creative Director at Noun Project Photos. I live in beautiful, sunny Los Angeles. I shoot creative portraits, lifestyle and commercial and I work with fashion bloggers, entrepreneurs, musicians and anyone else who wants authentic images. 

I'm super excited to offer content online. Online courses provide me with a super easy platform for you to learn.  The ability to make my content available to more people for little to no cost is allowing me to share my knowledge with as many people as possible.  

I'm excited to be a part of the Skillshare community! Let's get it!

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1. Welcome to Aperture: Hi guys, I'm Suzanne Strong and I am a photographer in Los Angeles. This class is called aperture. In this class, we're going to explore how choosing different aperture settings on your camera are going to affect the outcome of your image. The aperture is the opening size of your lens when you push the shutter button, aperture has different effects on your outcome of your photo, specifically the depth of field. We're going to explore all of that in this class. The project for this class is we're going to shoot the same object at least three times, choosing different aperture settings. We can really see how the different aperture sizes are going to affect the depth of field in your picture. This class is for beginners. It's for anyone who wants a refresher and how to use their camera in manual mode, specifically for aperture. You're going to need a DSLR or another camera that you can put into manual mode so you can make choices with the aperture settings. We are going to share our photos as we go along or you can save them all at the end if you'd like, if you drop them in as we're going, I'm more than happy to answer any questions or give any feedback on your images. At the end, I'm hoping that we're going to have three pictures or more that you make using different aperture settings so we can all review and I'll give feedback. I'm super excited to be teaching this class with you guys so let's jump into aperture. 2. Aperture & Exposure Equivalent : Hey guys. In this video we're going to talk about how you can get out of the shoot and pay method in auto and move into manual so that you can create the images that you want to make. Today we're going to talk about equivalent exposure and what that is and what you're going to choose with the functions of the equivalent exposure to make the image that you want to make. A properly exposed image consists of three functions, the shutter speed, the aperture, and the ISO. Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens. The shutter speed is how quickly the shutter opens and closes and the ISO is how sensitive your camera is to the light that's gone on to your image sensor of film. There are endless combos to using these three functions in order to properly expose a photo. It's if you want to think about it in math, there's an endless number of combos that you can add or subtract to come to the value of 10. It's the same with exposure triangle is that you can choose aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and various combinations to properly expose your photo. They all have different effects on the outcome of your image and so we'll go through those real quickly in this video. Then in subsequent classes, I'm going to go break these each down into a longer lesson. Once we understand what each of these functions does, which is aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. We're going to make certain choices that we can properly expose our image and create an outcome that we want to create. Each of these functions has a different effect on the actual image. We'll go over those real briefly now and then we're going to talk about how you can play with that for now until you take the classes more in depth to really understand what each of these functions does. First we're going to talk about aperture. Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens. With this, a larger opening lets in more light and a smaller opening lets in less light. These have functions on the depth of field and outcomes on the depth of field of your image. A large amount of light coming in is going to create a more shallow depth of field. You can choose what you want to have and focus on a shallow depth of field. A less light actually makes everything more in focus increase, for example, if you were shooting a landscape or a group of people, you might want everything in focus and you're not going to want as much shallow depth of field in those types of situations. With aperture, it's measured in F-stops and F-stops range depending on the lens, they range from maybe F2.8, maybe F5.6, up to F22. That's a blur, it depends on the lens, but that's about the range of F-stops. There's one super confusing thing about F-stops , and that is a smaller number, so say for example that F2.8, which you would use to create shallow depth of the field. F2.8 is actually a large aperture, it's a little confusing, I promise you, you're going to get used to it. It'll become second nature the more you practice, F22, for example, is a smaller aperture. That's what creates up really sharp focus. I guess that's a little confusing, but the more you practice this, it's going to just become second nature, you're not going to think about it. You're going to know how to make these choices without thinking right away. Shutter speed is the length of time the shutter is open. A fast shutter speed, lets in less light and a slow shutter speed lets in more light. The effects this has on the image is that a fast shutter speed will stop motion, for example, if you're shooting a sports game, a waterfall, your kids and they're running around, you want that image, the action to stop and freeze. You're going to choose a quick shutter speed. A fast shutter speed. If for example, you're shooting a waterfall, and you want the water to have that screamy, soft, blurry look. You're going to choose a slower shutter speed. With a slower shutter speed, you might need to use a tripods to reduce camera shake and that's when you push the shutter and the blend is open for awhile, the camera might move a little bit. We'll go into that more in the class on shutter speed. The third function that we're going to talk about is the ISO and the ISO is the amount of light that your camera is being sensitive to, so on your image sensor, on your film. In ISO, a low ISO amount 100 is great for sunny days when there's a lot of natural light and it just lets in less light, and that's a great option. A low ISO creates a very sharp image and sharp, meaning not grainy, not pixelated. You can go, a lot of cameras go up to ISO 3200 without a hitch. But when you go into those higher numbers, the ISO 3200, 6400, it can create grain in your image, so it's not going to be as clean and [inaudible] image. It'll be grainy, pixelated, noisy, those types of things. There are some good reasons to use a higher ISO regardless of the grain. If you're at a concert, for example, you can't use a flash, but you need to get as much light into your camera as possible. High ISOs are great choice for that. The grain, you have to sacrifice the grain, which is what you have to do sometimes and that's okay because sometimes you can fix it and post in your account. But the bottom line is with any of these three functions is that you are going to have some pros and cons. There each can have effect on the image and when you are choosing to make this image, you're going to have to choose between the three combos of each of these things. Create a combo that's going to probably exposure image and get the outcome that you want. You want a blurry background for your portraits. You want a sports shot and the athlete is stopped in motion. You're getting these different choices to properly expose and to how the outcome that you want. How do we know if your image is properly exposed? There's a light meter in your camera and the light meter is going to tell you if your image is properly exposed, overexposed, or underexposed. You can usually see your light meter in your camera when you look through the eyepiece and it's a little bar, and there's going to be a center line. There's going to be a plus sign and there's going to be negative sign. When you are changing the different functions in your camera and you're allowing less or more light to come in, the meter is going to tell you if your image is properly exposed, which is it'll be right in the middle. There's going to be a line that's going to go right in the middle and line up with that center line. If it's overexposed, this is going to be more to the plus side, underexposed is more to the negative side. This will tell you for image is properly exposed or not and you can play around with the different functions that we've talked about, an exposure triangle to see how they're going to create a lot of different combos to create that properly exposed image. I'm going to encourage you all to, if you don't know how to go into manual mode on your camera, or you don't know how to find the light meter or it's not showing. Please go look into your camera's manual because each camera is different, their menus are different, where the buttons are different, how you change things, it's all different and each cameras, so it'll be really good for you to be able to go through your camera manual if you don't know how to do these things already and really play around and see where all these buttons are, how to change all that business so that you can really get to know your own camera. The more comfortable you are with your camera and these different functions, the more comfortable you're going to be taking pictures, the more you know about taking these pictures, you're going to be able to give yourself that foundation to get really creative with your images. It's wonderful. Once you've figured out where all these things are in your camera, I just encourage you to go out and have fun and shoot everything. Just play around and see what the different functions do to your images. Share your images in the classes, tell us what you did. One really cool thing about digital cameras is that you can actually access the metadata and the metadata tells you how each picture was shot. It'll tell you the F-stop, it'll tell you the shutter speed. It will tell you the ISO. You can go back and look at each image and see what functions you chose and how you chose to get that image and you can see the results immediately. Back in the day when I first learned on film, I used to take notes, so I'd say exposure number one, and I write down each of those things. Now you can just look into your camera. It's awesome. The most important thing about all this is to have fun, shoot, have fun, try different things out, get really comfortable with your camera. and all of these things we're going to go in depth in these classes that you can really learn each of these functions very well, though very proficient, be able to create the images that you want to create. Thank you so much. I'm excited to be on this journey with you and I look forward to seeing what you create. 3. Aperture & Depth of Field: Aperture is just one of the three things that we use to properly expose a picture. I think that aperture is one of the most important aspects that you really need to get under your belt for photography to help with your creative expression through photography. Because I think that a lot of us are very drawn to certain amounts of depth of field, and I think it creates a certain amount of emotion and creative expression for you as a photographer. I know for myself when I look at portraits that are really dreamy, they feel really dreamy and emotive are the ones where there's a lot of blur. I've loved pictures where it's even really close up on a person and maybe just like part of their eyes in focus, and maybe their hair is blurry, or the background is blurry, or they have something in the foreground that's blurry. I think that's so beautiful. I think aperture for me as one of the most used functions in my camera when I'm making choices. Let's just review that and think about that as we are moving through this aperture class. Guys, so we've gone over the basics of the exposure triangle and exposure equivalent and now we're going to go ahead and jump right into aperture and the effect that, that has on the final outcome of your image. Right now would be a great time for you to grab a notebook and a pen, and grab your camera's manual or pull it up online so that you can stop this video when you need to, so you can reference the functions on your own camera and how to just help you take some time diving into your own camera, making sure you understand how to use aperture on your own camera. Guys, now that you have your notebook and hopefully your camera and the camera manual and all that stuff next to you. Let's do a quick review of what aperture is. Aperture is the size of the opening of the lens when you depress your shutter button. A one-way, that's a really good way to think about aperture, is it's like a pupil. If you're in a dark movie theater, your pupils are going to be really big because they're going to want to try and take in more light. Then when you step outside into the sun, your pupils get smaller because there's already so much light, they can actually take in less light. If you want to think about aperture in terms of the pupil, it's a good way to reference in your head what a small and a large aperture are, that's an easy thing for us to think of because we all have eyes. What does that mean in terms of taking photos? A small aperture let's in less light, a larger aperture lets in more light. Aperture is measured in something called f-stops, which generally range from about f point 2.8 or f 5.6, and they go up to around f 22 depending on the lens. This is the confusing thing about f-stops and aperture is that a smaller numbers like an f 2.8 actually lets in more light and a large number, f22 lets in less light, it's a little bit confusing but I promise you, the more you practice this you're not even going to think about it. You're going to understand what that means and what it's going to do to your image at the end. With these different apertures, the other thing with that is that a larger opening is going to decrease your depth of fields. You're going to have a shallow depth of field with a large opening. An aperture of 2.8 small number, large opening, more shallow depth of field. What does that mean? That means if you're taking a picture, say for example, of a person, and you want the background to be blurred. This is where you'll choose one of those larger apertures. You're letting in more light, you're decreasing it up the field, you're going to have less and focus with that size of the aperture. A larger depth of field, on the other hand is going to be used in times that you want everything to be in focus like for example, a landscape or group of people now going to let in less light. It's going to widen your depth of field, so you're going to have more end focus. There's different functions for both of these, there's different times that you would want to choose either shallow or a wide depth of field. We'll go ahead and talk about those situations and go a little bit more into aperture and some other ways you can look at depth of field as well. With your camera, you're going to go into the manual mode and see where you can adjust the aperture and as we said it's usually a number that would say like a 2.8, a 5.6. You're going to figure out where that is on a film camera. If you have a film camera, if you've ever used a film camera, there's a little dial here and I'll post, [inaudible] so that you can see this closer. But basically there's a little thing here that you can turn to open and close the aperture, but this is film camera so it's a little different than a DSLR. But basically you turn this dial on a film camera to choose different openings and different depths of fields, or to create depths of fields. We can do the same thing on our DSLRs or any camera with manual function, what you're looking for in your display, which for example, mine's on top of the camera is this F and see as I scroll through this button, it's the f-number shunting so this lens, for example, only goes to f 16, so let's see. I can scroll this and as I'm scrolling down now these numbers, I'm actually letting in more light, so 76.3, 5.6, this one goes to 1.8. In your camera it's going to be the same. You just have to find through your manual where to change the f-stop numbers. Just to show you this right here, the 40, 30, this is the shutter speed. It's actually measured in one 100th of a second. They just writing 100 th, and just if you're curious, the E means I don't have a memory card and that means my battery is almost dead, so but it's fine because I'm just showing you this. Again, scroll through here on your digital camera. I'm on Manual mode. There's the M right there on the for manual mode, scroll to this to change your aperture. There's one more thing about depth of field that we need to talk about. This class is specifically talking about aperture and how to use aperture to create depth of field in your pictures. There's two other things that you can use in your camera toolbox that you can use to change your depth of field as well. One of those is the distance between you and your subject. If you move closer to your subject, say, this is me and this is my subject, I'm shooting this camera. I'm taking a picture of this camera, so this is great, but just pretend. This is me. I'm taking a picture of this camera, when I push in closer, I actually create a more shallow depth of field. If I, for some reason don't have any more aperture I can play with to make a more shallow depth of field, I can push in closer to my subject to create a more shallow depth of field. The opposite is true as well. If you want a larger, if you want a less shallow depth of field or a wide depth of field, you can pull your person, this is me, away from the subject and you actually create a wider depth of field so less will be out of focus. That's one, is how far away you are from the subject. The second thing which is a little bit controversial, but it's how long your focal length is and focal length is the length of the lens. This is a 50. I have an 85 which is about that long. There are zoom lenses. The longer the focal length, the more it appears to create shallow depth of field. If you're shooting with a zoom, say, or a lens that's 105 millimeters, that's the length of the lens. You're going to get a more shallow depth of field. This is controversial because it just appears to have that. It doesn't actually literally create that depth of field, but it creates the appearance of it. For all purposes, you're getting a more shallow depth of field. Just in review the three things that picked up the field and where you know your focal plane and all that business is your aperture. The three things are your aperture, which is the majority of this class. Distance from your subject and your focal length, the length of the lens, so you can play with those other two functions if you have them. Aperture is a really great way. It's easy. It also is going to help you really understand the mechanics of your camera and then help you get the foundations that you need to help make your photos great. 4. Class Project: With this class we're going to get a real understanding of both firm grasp of what aperture does is just do it and dive into it. We're going to create a still life. In still life, you want, I set mine up to be my first film cameras and on top of some photography books and we're going to set our camera up on a tripod or some stable surface and with that, we're going to take the same still life in various functions. We're using different parts of the exposure triangle so that we can get a proper exposure, and if you need a refresher on how to do that, just go back and jump onto my video about exposure triangle and exposure equivalent. So what we're going to do in that is keep the camera on the tripod. We're going to focus on the scene that we want to take the picture of and choose different settings to get the same exposure at the end and in this, the main thing you want to focus on is choosing the largest. So again, a low number aperture up to the highest at your lens can go and do a bunch of combinations. So you're going to have to adjust the other settings to properly get the exposure. But we want to make sure that you're changing your aperture, your f-stops. So again, 2.8, 5.6, some 0.1, you're going to have a whole range. So take your pictures, each with different aperture settings. Just make sure you adjust the ISO and shutter speed accordingly so your image is properly exposed. What you're going to find is that, as you go through this process that each picture is going to have a different plane of focus, different type of field. So in my example is you see with a camera, when I use a really low aperture light, I went to F 1.8 on these, there's very little. I focused on the edge of the lens and there's very little aside from that, that's in focus. What that is, that's called the plane of focus. So if I have my focus setup on this lens, let's do it for the best. The focus is set on this lens, what's going to happen with that 1.8 is pretty much anything in this range is going to be in-focus, it's a plane basically. If I set my aperture to say 5.6, my plane of focus, my depth of focus might be from here to here. I'm still focusing on this, but my range will increase when I set it to F 22, you can see the background is clear and crisp. You can see the foregrounds clear and crisp, so that focus plane is much wider. It's a wider depth of field. So what this project is going to do is it's going to show you in your own camera with whatever you choose to shoot, what that does in your own camera. So for the project, that's what we're going to do. Set up your tabletop, still life that you want to shoot, set up your camera on a tripod, take all the pictures that you want to make different things, and then go back and review the metadata which I talked about in the exposure equivalent video as well. So you can go back and see what settings you chose for each of those photos. You can really understand it helps so much to help understand what these settings are going to do to your photos. So that's our project. Go ahead and post those up in the class and as we go along and I will be there for answering any questions. 5. Thank You: Okay guys, so that concludes our class in aperture. I want to thank you so much for taking my class, and I hope you had fun. I hope this class gives you a better understanding of how you can use aperture to create a photo that you want to make. I'm Suzanne Strong and I hope you continue taking my Skillshare classes. Please feel free to drop me questions you have in the discussion board on our page, and I'm more than happy to answer them. I hope you guys have a great day. Thank you so much for taking my class.