I got a ton of great response to my post on Monday about How To Take Better Blog Photos. So much so that I decided to delve a little bit deeper in into the basics.
What exactly does aperture do?
If you are wondering what even aperture is, it’s the size of the opening of your lens when you take a photo. Why does that matter? It matters because that is what gets you the background “blur” that you see in images from really great blogs. That “blur” is called depth of field which creates “bokeh”.
An example of aperture is below. The one on the left is shot at 1.8 which has lots of background blur which creates the bokeh from the trees. The shot on the right is at a higher aperture which doesn’t give me very much blur or any bokeh effect.
The lower the aperture, the more the light that is being let it. Yes, it’s completely confusing. The larger the number the smaller the light opening. What the heck does this mean? It means that the lower the number the more light it lets in. That means it’s perfect for night photography. The higher the number, the less light that is let in which is perfect for sunny days. As an example, 1.8 is much, much larger than f 22 because the aperture at f 22 is actually not letting in very much light.
So why am I shooting at 1.8 and 3.2? Because I don’t shoot according to traditional rules. I shoot at 1.8 and 3.2 because I want the background blur. So how do I make it work? Shutter speed, which we will cover in a bit.
Below is a good example of what your lens can do at an aperture of 1.8 and 2.0. The image on the left, at F 1.8 has lots of bokeh and very shallow depth of field. The image on the left is at F 2.0 and still has great depth of field but not as sharp and crisp looking as the F 1.8.
Both images are fine but for blogging the one on the left is much preferred. So now you know, the “background blur” is actually depth of field which creates those beautiful little bokeh circles.
When shooting at a super low aperture with great depth of field you need to really make sure that your subject is in focus. It is incredibly easy to think you are taking great photos and then upload them to your computer and realize you only have half your face in focus.
What is shutter speed? Shutter speed is the second most important element in creating great images. Shutter speed is the amount of time the camera shutter is open. Why does it matter? Because if you have your shutter open for a half a second and it’s a sunny day, you are going to have nothing but a white image. If you have it open for 1/5000 of a second it might be too dark.
Below is an example of how different shutter speeds apply in different situations. The one on the left was taken during an overcast day. However, since I was shooting these near lots of natural reflectors (such as concrete) I knew I still needed to have a fast shutter so I didn’t blow anything out too drastically.
The image on the right was taken on a sunny day. Even though I was under a shelter I still had sunlight coming in from the sides. Since I was shooting at a 1.4 aperture I had to really up my shutter speed to compensate for the amount of light I was letting in.
Below also shows that time the time of day is also a factor in deciding what shutter speed to use. The one on the left was taken mid day and it was very bright out. The one on the left was during the golden hour, the hour before sunset, so it required a slower shutter speed. In essence, the shutter needed to be left open longer because there was less light out.
What Kind of Lens Should I Choose? I told you what is in my camera bag here but some of you were wondering what the difference between the 50 and 35 lenses are. Since I have a cropped sensor things are a little bit different but I’ll just explain in general the differences.
The 50mm 1.8 lens is a portrait lens. You are able to get a full body image easily. The 35mm 1.8 lens is a wider angle lens which lets you get more into the image. Do they distort? Nope. The 35, since I am on a cropped sensor, has no distortions. The 50, on a cropped sensor, has very, very minimal to no distortion.
What lens do I recommend? For blog photography I recommend both. Hah, yeah, I know. That didn’t really answer your question. The 50mm is just such a good lens and Nikon has such a sharp one at an incredibly affordable price that I think it wins.