What is Aperture? | A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Aperture

What is Aperture? | A Beginner’s Guide to Understanding Aperture

What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

3 keys to photography

There are 3 key elements to photography: Aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. These are also known as the exposure triangle. Learning how to use these 3 features on your camera will help you create better photos. In this post we dive deep into one of these elements so you can master how to use it (and then move onto the next 2)!

Related post: The exposure triangle: How to use it to create better photos with your DSLR camera

What is aperture?

Aperture, also known as an F-stop, is how large of an opening you let light through in your camera.

One stop (f-stop) refers to doubling or halving the amount of light making up an exposure. Adding a stop of light by doubling the exposure will brighten an image. Decreasing by one stop or halving the exposure will darken an image.

The smaller the f-stop number (think f/1.4), the larger the aperture. Seems kind of backwards right? This graphic will help you make the connection.

What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

So the next time you’re wondering which aperture to use in any given lighting situation just think the opposite.

Is it super bright outside? Stick to a smaller aperture (f-stop numbers high like 4 and above). Is it just before sunset and the light is beginning to dim? Use a larger aperture (f-stop with smaller numbers like 2.8 and below).

An important thing to note here is your aperture is entirely dependent on the type of lens you’re using. This is why it’s important to invest in quality glass. You’ll notice most kit lens you receive with your camera don’t go past f/4. This makes it challenging to shoot in low light situations or at night unless you lose a tripod. The larger the aperture (from f/2.8 down to f/1.4), the more light your lens will allow in to capture those night scenes.

A nice side effect of larger apertures (low f-stop numbers) is that creamy bokeh effect. Want to make your subject pop while the background fades beautifully behind? Then use those lower f-stop numbers. On the other hand, if you want your whole scene to be sharp and crystal clear in focus then use a smaller aperture (large f-stop numbers).

When to use a wide aperture / small f-stop

  • Shallow depth of field
  • Creates a “bokeh” effect (that blurry, out of focus look we all love)
  • Low-light situations
  • Night photography

When to use a narrow aperture / large f-stop

  • When you want more of the scene sharp and in focus
  • Group portrait shots
  • Landscapes
  • Long exposure photography

How aperture affects a photo

Here are some example photos showing an aperture progression from f/1.4 to f/22.

f/1.4

At the widest opening of f/1.4 you’ll notice a shallow depth of field, lots of bokeh as the background fades.What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

f/2.8

Still plenty of bokeh and fade in the background, slightly more in focus.
What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

f/5.6

More of the scene is in focus.What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to Uu

f/8

Most of the scene is in focus, less background blur with no bokeh effects.What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

f/14

As the aperture reaches higher numbers, more of the scene is in crystal clear focus.What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

f/22

At the highest aperture of f/22, you can see the entire scene of the photo.What is aperture? | A beginner's Guide to understanding aperture

 

 


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San Francisco Skyline from Treasure Island

San Francisco Skyline from Treasure Island

San Francisco cityscape skyline from Treasure Island

Treasure Island from above

Treasure Island is a man-made island in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s connected to the Bay Bridge via Yerba Buena island and is 5,520 feet long by 3,410 feet wide. Built in 1936-1937 for the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939, the island’s World Fair site is a California historical landmark.

Here’s an aerial view of Treasure Island from above from Google maps:

San Francisco cityscape skyline from Treasure Island

San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island

From the marina of Treasure Island you can take in an incredible view of the San Francisco skyline. It’s an amazing sight to see day or night. These photos were taken during and just after sunset.

San Francisco cityscape skyline from Treasure Island San Francisco cityscape skyline from Treasure Island

The view while watching the sun set over the Marin Headlands and the Golden Gate bridge.

San Francisco cityscape skyline from Treasure IslandSan Francisco cityscape skyline from Treasure Island

San Francisco skyline in Polaroids

Here are more shots of the San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island. These are shot with a Polaroid SLR 680 camera on 600 series color film with mint frames.

Related: Want to see more Polaroid photography? Click here to see more.

Polaroid 600 Film: San Francisco's Skyline and Bay Bridge from Treasure IslandPolaroid 600 Film: San Francisco's Skyline from Treasure IslandPolaroid 600 Film: San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge from Treasure IslandPolaroid 600 Film: San Francisco's Skyline from Treasure Island

San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island at night

Here’s a couple of shots of the San Francisco skyline from Treasure Island taken over 6 years ago. If you compare the two above, you can see the addition of new skyscrapers including the Salesforce Tower and 181 Fremont.

San Francisco night cityscape from Treasure IslandSan Francisco night cityscape from Treasure Island

 


Looking for a little inspiration to get you out there shooting and improving your photography skills?

Check out Fall in Love with Photography, a free 7 day photo challenge to kickstart your photography! Every day for one week you’ll receive a new photo challenge right to your inbox. Each challenge features a theme with plenty of tips and ideas to get your creativity flowing. Enter your name and email below to get started!

Ready to fall in love with photography? Join the free photo challenge today!

San Francisco Cityscape Views from Grizzly Peak

San Francisco Cityscape Views from Grizzly Peak

San Francisco Cityscape from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley

A new perspective from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley

Grizzly Peak is a summit in the Berkeley Hills. It’s located between the county borders of Alameda and Contra Costa. The peak was named after the California grizzly bear which inhabited the area until the late 1800s.

These photos were shot during the golden hour but the view is incredible no matter what time of day. The drive along Grizzly Peak Blvd is short with selective parking. But there’s plenty of vista stops along the way. You’ll see views of the San Francisco cityscape, the Bay and Golden Gate bridges, Treasure Island, and the East Bay.

Over the years I’ve discovered many places to photograph San Francisco, the Golden Gate as a key focus. But Grizzly Peak is a special one, offering a completely new perspective of the Bay Area. Watching the fog roll over the Golden Gate and Marin county is a peaceful experience. The way the colors gradate through the sky and clouds down to the San Francisco skyline is breathtaking.

San Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley

The Golden Gate and the Marin Headlands

Views of the North Bay a place I call home, from Grizzly Peak.

San Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley

San Francisco dreaming

These shots were photographed with a Lensbaby Composter Pro with Sweet 50 Optic lens.

San Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, BerkeleySan Francisco Cityscape View from Grizzly Peak, Berkeley

Polaroids

A few more views of the San Francisco Bay Area through the eyes of a Polaroid.
San Francisco Bay Area cityscape view from Grizzly Peak in BerkeleySan Francisco Bay Area cityscape view from Grizzly Peak in BerkeleySan Francisco Bay Area cityscape view from Grizzly Peak in BerkeleySan Francisco Bay Area cityscape view from Grizzly Peak in Berkeley

 


Looking for a little inspiration to get you out there shooting and improving your photography skills?

Check out Fall in Love with Photography, a free 7 day photo challenge to kickstart your photography! Every day for one week you’ll receive a new photo challenge right to your inbox. Each challenge features a theme with plenty of tips and ideas to get your creativity flowing. Enter your name and email below to get started!

Ready to fall in love with photography? Join the free photo challenge today!

Protect Your Images with Photoshop Metadata

Protect Your Images with Photoshop Metadata

Protect your images with Photoshop metadata

 

Have you ever worried about sharing your images on the Internet? Anytime you upload something to the web you risk the chance of your work being used (without permission!) by another.

When you share information on the web it’s always best practice to give credit in the form of a link back to the original source so the reader can find out more information. Taking credit for photography you didn’t shoot yourself or pay for (like stock photography) is plagiarism and should be taken seriously.

As photographers we’re even more concerned with the copyright of our images. This is why it’s a good idea to get into the habit of adding metadata to our images. That way if an image is ever taken from your website or social media the copyright information will be embedded within the image.

You can get as detailed as you like with metadata. Start with adding your name as the creator of the image, website source, and any other contact information you wish to add.

You’ll even see the © copyright symbol when you open the image up in Photoshop, as shown in the screenshot below.

 

Protect your photos: Use Photoshop metadata to add copyright and contact information

What is metadata?

First, you may be wondering what metadata is and why it’s important. You may have already heard all about the amazing benefits of adding metadata but have never tried it yourself or know where to begin. This post will help clear up a few of those confusions.

Metadata is data that describes other data. It helps you organize and retrieve vital information on your image. It also makes the file searchable on the computer and/or Internet.

Metadata can be created manually or automated by a process (like the one I’ll show you below). A few examples of automated metadata are date created, date modified, and file size. These fields automatically populate themselves.

If you take a look at the metadata of a photograph you might be amazed by how much information is captured and stored! You can find out which camera created the file, exposure information, and descriptive information like keywords.

How to add copyright information with Photoshop actions

Before we get into the step-by-step tutorial on how to add copyright information to the metadata of your images, be sure to create a new Photoshop action so you only have to go through this process once. Once you press Play, the Photoshop action performs a series of pre-recorded steps.

The purpose is to create a sequence that can be applied repeatedly, giving you the same results every time. We want to eliminate tedious, repetitive work by automating as much as possible. It’s time-consuming to add these steps to your editing workflow for every photo. Using a Photoshop action will cut down the time.

If you’ve never created or used Photoshop actions before, don’t worry. I’ll go through it one step at a time. By the end of this tutorial you’ll be glad you took the time to set up the workflow and look for more ways to use Photoshop actions to save time in the future!

Step 1: Create a new Photoshop action

After opening an image in Photoshop go to Window > Actions (from the toolbar menu). The actions tab will pop up on your screen. Click Create New Action to start a new workflow.

 

Protect your photos with Photoshop metadata: Step 1 – Create new Photoshop action

 

Step 2: Name your Photoshop action + record

Under Name enter a title for your new action. For this tutorial I named mine Copyright to remind me its purpose. If you want to increase the automation process by a notch, assign a Function Key to trigger the action.

 

Protect your photos with Photoshop metadata: Step 2 – Name Photoshop action and click record

 

When you’re ready click the Record button to start recording.

Note: Anything you do from this point on within Photoshop will be recorded in the action. It’s important to only perform the required steps for this workflow. The point of a Photoshop action is to create a workflow that can work on any image without interruption.

Step 3: Open File Info

Next, go to File > File Info. All the fields in the dialog box should be blank since this is a new document. Take a minute to explore all the options.

 

Protect your photos with Photoshop metadata: Step 3 – File > File Info

 

Step 4: Add your information

Under the Basic tab fill in your name or company name under Author. Change the Copyright Status to Copyrighted, add a copyright notice, and insert the Copyright Info URL. Take a look at the example below to see how to personalize with your information.

Quick tip: To add a © copyright symbol on a Mac press the “alt” or “option” key while typing “g” on the keyboard. To add a © copyright symbol on a PC press the “alt” key while typing “0169” on the keyboard.

 

Protect your photos with Photoshop metadata: Step 4 – Add author name, copyright notice, and URL

 

Notice the Creation Date, Modification Date, Application, and Format. These are examples of automated metadata we mentioned earlier. You can’t modify these fields.

Next, choose the IPTC tab. You’ll notice the Creator field populated itself with the same information you added in the Author field in the previous tab. You can get as detailed as you like by adding information into the fields. If you’re a photographer and want others to know the location of your business you can add a business address.

 

Protect your photos with Photoshop metadata

 

The most important pieces of information you’ll want to add are your email address and website URL (if you have one). That way if someone finds your photo online and falls in love with it, they can contact you and possibly hire you if they’re interested!

Step 5: Add rights usage terms

If you scroll down to the bottom of the IPTC tab you’ll notice the Copyright Notice also populated itself from the information you entered in the Description tab. Under Rights Usage Terms, add All Rights Reserved.

 

Protect your photos with Photoshop metadata: Step 5 – Add "All Rights Reserved."

 

You may want to skim through the other tabs within this dialog to familiarize yourself with what’s available. Feel free to be as detailed or brief as you like. For the purpose of this tutorial, we’re only adding copyright information.

Once you’re done adding your information to the fields click OK. Then click Stop on your Photoshop action tab and you’re done!

Now that you’ve gone through this process once and created a Photoshop action, you’ll never have to do it again. The next time you open a new photo in Photoshop and click Play on the action, it’ll automatically run through the workflow process.

It’s a good idea to test your new Photoshop action a few times with other images to make sure everything runs smoothly. Open a new photo, click Play or use the assigned function key if you specified one. Now you can quickly and easily add copyright information to the metadata of all your images with a click of a button!

Get your Photoshop metadata tutorial guide

 


Photoshop actions can be a huge time saver and create consistency in your photo editing workflow!

Have you ever used or created your own Photoshop actions to help speed up and automate a workflow process? How have you used Photoshop actions?

Canon Prime Lens Guide

Canon Prime Lens Guide

Canon prime lenses guide

Prime vs. zoom: How to know which to use

I’m a big advocate for shooting minimally. I’ve shared more on shooting with minimal equipment and why you might want to. When it comes to traveling or spending the day with my camera in San Francisco, I choose to bring as little gear possible. But how do you choose?

When you’re heading out for a day of shooting without much of a plan it’s hard to decide what lens or lenses to bring. Should I bring the telephoto lens so I don’t have to worry about focal length and can zoom in close to my subject? Or should I bring I bring the 50mm prime lens cause I know I’ll need the lower f-stops to take my best photos as the sun sets? What about those speciality lenses like Lensbaby or Petzval? So many choices. Each creating entirely different sets of photos.

Lomography Petzval 58 Art LensLomography Petzval 58mm art lens in brass

We can’t predict the future and know which lens we should bring. We could decide to bring everything but it’s bulky, heavy, and not to mention unsafe on the streets of any city. The more you bring, the less creative you are. If I commit to bringing one or two lenses at most I’ll make them work in every situation.

If you’re just starting out and you only have one lens it’s actually a good thing. It means you’ll push yourself to be creative with how you capture your photos. You’ll learn what works and what doesn’t and focus on doing your best with what you have.

What is a prime lens?

A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length. When I first heard about prime lenses I immediately shrugged them off as I wanted the convenience and flexibility of zoom lenses, you might be thinking the same.

Prime lenses are faster and have a larger maximum aperture. Most typical 18-55mm kit zoom lenses have a maximum aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 depending on the focal length. If you use a prime lens like the 50mm f/1.4 lens, your aperture is four stops faster. That sounds good but what does it really mean?

With larger apertures you can take better photos in low light conditions without a tripod. The other great advantage is the range in depth of field. All those photos with beautifully blurred backgrounds (also known as bokeh)? They’re created with wider aperture settings like those on a prime lens.

Starting with a kit zoom lens

The first lenses I ever bought were two kit lenses for a Nikon D40 back in 2007. I made the same buying decision when I switched a year later to the Canon Rebel xSi.

I bought these lenses for one reason. I thought they were a good deal. They were cheaper together and it seemed like I could capture any shot with them. I was wrong. For those first few lens purchases I only considered focal length. But there’s so many more important factors to consider.

After a couple years of experimenting with these lenses I realized their limitations. I could never shoot good photos at night unless I had a tripod. But that takes forethought and personally I dislike walking around the city with a tripod. Nothing makes you stick out more than setting up a tripod.

The point of a street photographer is not to stand out. You need to blend into your surroundings so you can capture the scene as it is. It’s just like asking a person to “smile” when you take their photo. It’s a guarantee for shooting the most inauthentic portrait ever. The same is true with street photography.

Canon zoom lens EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USMCanon EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM Lens for Canon EOS SLR Cameras

The other drawback of these kit lenses are the focus and mood I wanted to create but couldn’t. At some point your level of skill in photography will surpass your equipment. When you find yourself frustrated and unable to create the photo you have in mind, you know it’s time to invest in better equipment.

However, I don’t recommend you start with the most expensive lenses as a beginner. Instead, grow with your equipment. If you don’t start by experimenting with a standard zoom kit lens, you’ll never learn what features you care most about. Reaching a level of frustration is a good thing, it means you’re learning and progressing.

So what do you do when your kit lens is no longer cutting it? You choose a prime lens.

Which prime lens should you buy first?

Remember when I said I only focused on focal length when choosing my first lens? You probably did too and I know why. You want the one lens, the “unicorn” to do it all for you. You want to be able to shoot wide angle cityscapes or landscapes as well as zoom in to capture the details. But the harsh reality is this unicorn doesn’t exist.

If it does exist (or will in the near future), it’ll be extremely expensive and heavy to carry. You might not think about the size or weight of your equipment right away but after an hour or two of shooting, you’ll feel it in the strain of your neck and shoulders.

This is why you need multiple lenses for multiple shooting purposes. Again, you’ll only learn what you need in a given situation through practice, trial and error. Each lens serves a purpose and creates a different mood or type of photo.

If you find you prefer shooting wide open spaces, you may want to invest in a 24mm lens or 35mm lens. Is your main focus portraits? The 85mm lens is what you’re after. Or if you’re like me and love to shoot in cities, you may find the 50mm prime lens to be an ideal focal length for 95% of your shots.

Want a more affordable option? Check out the Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM prime lens, also known as the “pancake lens” for its compact size. It’s on the lower-end of pricing, still offers a wide focal length and bonus! Its weight and size makes it an ideal option for traveling.

Canon 40mm f/2.8 STM prime lensCanon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM “Pancake” Lens

Complete Canon EF prime lens guide

To help you choose which prime lens to start with first, I’ve created this infographic as a quick reference guide to help you choose! This guide includes all Canon prime lenses, which is what I shoot with and recommend.

Canon prime lenses guide

#1 recommendation: The “nifty fifty” or 50mm

The 50mm is the number one lens recommendation I’d heard about before I even considered prime lenses. So many rave about it in online reviews. Most who buy it say it’s their favorite lens, use it all the time, and can’t imagine shooting without it.

I agree completely. Ever since I purchased the 50mm prime lens, I never leave for a photo adventure without it.

Canon prime lens guide: The 50mm f/1.4 prime lensCanon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Standard Lens for Canon SLR Cameras

What’s to love about the 50mm prime lens

It’s lightweight and compact. The perfect companion for street photography as it’s not conspicuous and it doesn’t strain my neck while walking around for hours.

50mm is the happy medium of focal lengths. 24mm and 35mm is too wide for most situations unless you shoot landscape and interior spaces only. 85mm is zoomed too far in and I don’t shoot portraits. So 50mm is the closest you’ll get to meeting both worlds.

Most importantly, it allows me to take the photos I’ve dreamt of but simply can’t with a standard zoom or telephoto lens. I crave the smooth, creamy bokeh effects of wider apertures like f/1.4 (and I’m not afraid to admit I mostly shoot at f/1.4 when the situation permits). It creates natural vignettes that draw you into the city scenes I capture.

With this lens I can easily shoot clear and focused photos during the golden hour and long after into the night. I couldn’t shoot the bright lights of San Francisco’s streets without my 50mm. Like this one!

San Francisco cityscape skyline from Fort PointSan Francisco cityscape skyline from Fort Point

The Canon prime lens guide

With so many choices for your first prime lens, it’s easy to get them confused. To help out I’ve created a downloadable guide for you. Enter your info below and I’ll send it to you!


Looking for a little inspiration to get you out there shooting and improving your photography skills?

Check out Fall in Love with Photography, a free 7 day photo challenge to kickstart your photography! Every day for one week you’ll receive a new photo challenge right to your inbox. Each challenge features a theme with plenty of tips and ideas to get your creativity flowing. Enter your name and email below to get started!

Ready to fall in love with photography? Join the free photo challenge today!