How To Shoot in Manual – “Dreamy” Aperture

This might be my favorite part of the series! If you know me, you know I love “dreamy”! Today, I’m sharing how to get your images to look more dreamy in camera.

Aperture is the subject of the day! It’s also called f-stop. There’s no difference between aperture and f-stop, and you can use whichever term you prefer. Aperture is to a lens as your pupil is to your eye. When it’s dark, your pupils open wider to let more light in. When it’s bright out, your pupils get smaller to let less light in. The aperture is simply the opening of the lens. Not only does this affect the amount of light that comes in, but it also affects how much depth of field there is to a photo. The wider the aperture, the more that light comes in.

Depth of Field

You know how everyone these days wans the “blurry background” look? That’s depth of field! You can also blur the foreground.


Understanding the Numbers

Here is the confusing part. The wider your aperture, the lower the number gets. Your lens has a maximum aperture, and it’s written on there next to the focal length. For example, a great starter lens for portraits is a 50mm 1.8/f. The 50mm stands for focal length (how long the lens is). The 1.8/f stands for maximum aperture. 1.8/f is the widest the aperture goes, but as the number increases (2.0, 2.5, 2.8, 3.2, 3.5, 4.0…) the aperture width decreases. Confused? You just need to put this to practice, a lot of practice! Then you’ll start getting the hang of it.

For now, remember this.
Lower number = more light & more depth of field.
Higher number = less light & less depth of field.

Now to the fun part! Examples:

The two images above are SOOC (straight out of camera). My settings for each are below! Before looking, can you guess which one has a wider aperture? Wider aperture = lower number.

Image left: ISO 3200, Aperture 8.0/f, Shutter Speed 1/160.
Image right: ISO 200, Aperture 2.0/f, Shutter Speed 1/160.

Note that the image on the left has an aperture of 8.0/f, and the image on the right is at 2.0/f. The lower aperture is more dreamy and the background is more blurred. Also note how high my ISO was on the image to the left. I had to do this to let more light in, because bringing my aperture up to 8.0 lost so much light, I needed to balance that out. See how the balance of settings is so important? It’s not just about getting the right exposure, but also getting the right affect!

Something to note…
Dreamy, low aperture may be pretty, but be careful when shooting more than one person, large groups, and far away shots! I always bring my aperture up for these, to make sure that everything I want in focus, is in fact in focus (like everyone in the group shot!).

I hope you found this helpful! To catch up on the rest of the series, check out the posts below!

Why Manual
The Exposure Triangle
Understanding ISO

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  • […] When shooting manual, I set my shutter speed last, after I start out with my ISO, and second my aperture. The reason I change shutter speed last, is because I can move this around quite a bit to get […]ReplyCancel