So f-stops it is.
Can I tell you I was kinda hoping y'all wouldn't pick f-stop. You see it can be kinda confusing with lots of necessary vocabulary, and I promised you that I was going to keep this simple.
But I will say, if you can wrap your head around f-stops, it will come full circle and likely change how you take photos, and affects how happy you are with the images you take.
It was for me.
So sit down, hang on, and bare with me on the vocabulary lessons.
In a nutshell, because I promised you that the Photography 101 posts would be all about keeping it simple and that I would not get into long lessons in physics...
F-stops are a measurement of the size of the aperture.
What is aperture you ask?
Aperture: the hole (or opening) the light travels through in the lens of your camera
F-stop: a measurement of how big (or little) that hole is
|Can you see the aperture in this lens? It's the pentagon-hole thingy in the middle.|
Pounds are a measurement of weight.
Meters are a measurement of length.
Hours are a measurement of time.
F-stops are a measurement of aperture.
Aperture and f-stop are terms that are often used interchangeably. For example-Phyllis the photographer might refer to her f-stop being set at 2.8. Or she might also say her aperture is 2.8. Technically, it's her f-stop set at 2.8, but you may still hear these two words used for the same objective. But you should know that f-stop and aperture are different things.
So here's a typical 50mm lens. Notice all those numbers on the bottom ranging from 16, (the one in orange) 11, 8, 5.6, 4, 2.8, 2, through 1.4? Those are the possible f-stops that this lens has. With this particular lens, the photographer can then choose which f-stop she wants from these possibilities.
Here's the part that trips folks up. You may want to sit down for this one. The smaller the f-stop the larger the opening. And conversely, the larger the f-stop the smaller the opening. So on this lens the 1.4 is the largest aperture and 16 is the smallest.
|See how the littler numbers have the larger openings? And the higher the f-stop, the smaller the size of the hole?|
Which naturally leads to the question... So which f-stop should I choose and why do I even care?
Long story short and physics lesson aside, f-stop is one of the things that control depth of field.
What's depth of field you ask?
Depth of field is the distance of stuff that's in focus in you photo, and depth of field is one of the first things the beginning photographers want to know how to control, even though they may not even know it. One of the first questions I get from new photographers is "how do i get that blurry background?" The answer is to manipulate your depth of field, and one easy way to do this is by having a large aperture (that would be the small numbers) when taking a photograph. Go back here to this Photography 101 post to learn more specifically how to do that blurry background.
So let's talk depth of field for just a bit---
Depth of field can be deep, short, or somewhere in between.
In a photo that has a deep depth of field, there will be a large distance of subject matter (from front to back) that will be in focus, from the foreground to the background.
In a photo that has a short depth of field, there will be a small distance of subject matter that will be in focus.
|This photo has a long depth of field. Everything is in focus, from the ground in the front, to the kiddos, all the way to the back ground. This photo was taken with a f-stop of 8.0... which can also be written as f/8.|
|Again, short depth of field, where foreground and background are out of focus. But Both Tess and Jude's faces and his hands are in focus. f/3.2|
|Long depth of field as almost everything in this image is in focus. f/8.0|
Lower f-stops give smaller depth of field.
Higher f-stops give deeper depth of field.
So one of the big reasons you might care about all those f-stop numbers is because they are a way to manipulate your depth of field, allowing you to capture the image you envision.