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Understanding Aperture Sizes and the Role Aperture Plays in Exposure

Learning about aperture sizes is something that many amateur videographers initially struggle to understand, but learning about aperture size is important as the aperture has a direct impact on exposure and how your film or still images appear. The size of the aperture directly impacts exposure and depth of field, which is why aperture is one of the key components of the exposure triangle, too. 

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What is Aperture?

Aperture sizes vary greatly between various lenses, but you may not even realize it if you’re not sure what aperture even is. Representing one of the most important elements to understand in early cinematographer, aperture represents the size of the hole in your lens.

Similar to a window, a larger aperture represents a larger hole in your lens and allows more light into the camera. A smaller aperture is like having a smaller window, less light comes into the camera. 

Aperture Sizes

Aperture is relatively simple to understand, but it gets a little bit complicated when you begin to measure aperture sizes as they are commonly configured in the camera as f-stops.

Unfortunately, it’s an indirect correlation so, the larger the aperture (the window like hole in your lens that allows light to enter the camera), the smaller the f-stop. 

Aperture sizes that are addressed in f-stops may appear like the following (in order from largest aperture size or largest hole in lens, to smallest):

  • f/2.8
  • f/4
  • f/5.6
  • f/8
  • f/11
  • f/16

How Aperture Sizes Affect Exposure

Aperture sizes impact exposure in a variety of ways. When all other settings are correct, aperture changes in size can result in the addition or reduction of light to the camera sensor which will cause a dark, or brighter, image. 

Aperture sizes that are larger will allow more light to pass through the lens to the camera sensor. This results in a brighter image. Aperture sizes that are smaller will cause less light to pass through the lens to the camera sensor. This results in a darker image.

Aperture Sizes Also Affect Depth of Field

Aperture sizes can also have an impact on the depth of field or the amount of your image that appears in focus from front to back and what portion of the image appears out of focus.

A larger aperture will cause a narrow depth of field or shallow focus, thus a large amount of the background and the foreground will be blurred. A smaller aperture will create a deeper depth of field such that the subject is crisp and the background is blurred.

Understanding aperture sizes and the impact that aperture plays on your exposure is very important as a beginning videographer.

As you continue to gain skills and insight into the ways that you can use your camera settings, including your aperture, to modify your images you’ll find new ways of making even everyday images appear amazingly beautiful!