Road Trip With The Girls! (A lesson on F stop!)


F stand for FUN! And there is nothing more fun than a road trip with the girls! Be sure to make all the fun stops along the way so you don’t miss out!



Set your F-stop

How blurry do I want the background?


Now we need to talk about Aperture, which means opening,  or F-stop, which is how you measure the opening (aperture). It is not a scary as it sounds. These two words refer to the same thing. (so why are they trying to confuse us?!) Once you learn this concept you will be on your way to getting those beautiful photos with the blurry background. Just in case you were wondering, the F in F-stop stands for Focal Length but we don’t need to know about that for now.  Just think of Fun when you think of F-stop…or think of Road Trip…or how about a Fun Road Trip with your Photo Friends!

This is the deal.

Think about the pupil in your eye. When you enter a dark room, your pupils get really wide open so your eye can ‘see’ as much light as possible. Flip on a bright light and your pupils gets real tiny trying not to let so much light in.

The F-stop or Aperture opening is like the opening of the pupil in your eye, it determines the intensity of or how much light will be allowed in through an opening that is either a tiny hole or a large opening….just the way your pupil regulates the light  like your pupil.

When the bright light gets turned on in the room, your pupil gets smaller. You can see just fine with a small amount of light coming in because there is so much of it. The size of this opening is determined when you set the f-stop value on your camera. How much light will  be allowed to get through this opening is determined by how long you let the shutter stay open. The shutter is like your eye lid in our ‘eye’ example. When you blink fast you are letting less light in then when you do a long slow blink and more light is allowed in.

Try this experiment: close your eyes. (well you have to open them to read this! Read this first then do it!) Close your eyes. Then open and close very slowly. Now open and close real fast. Now blink faster. See the difference in how much light was allowed in with the length of your ‘blink’? The size of the opening of your pupils along with the length of your ‘blink’ will both determine how much light gets to the retina of your eye (the retina is like the digital sensor!) Do this a few times to get the concept down.

But the F-stop camera setting number or value can be a bit confusing. When this opening on your camera is open really wide it lets in more light like your pupil. Bigger opening = more light comes in…makes sense. But the thing that doesn’t make sense is that the larger opening is actually represented by a lower F-stop number on your camera setting. They obviously didn’t ask a mom about how to set this up. I think the same people that invented the remote control for your DVD player and Tupperware lids that never fit, invented this crazy system! They are out to get us moms! But we are onto them now, thanks to this Confident Camera Moms site!

The other point to know is that while ISO and Shutter Speed are controlled by the camera, the Aperture is controlled by the lens. A less expensive lens may only open to F/5.6 where a more expensive lens will open to f/2.8. That is why it is better to put more money in your lens than your camera body if you have to make the choice. … go for the nicer lens!

If the F-stop is wide open (F1.4) it lets a lot of light through, which is what you may need in a dark setting, If it is more closed (F8) only a little light gets through, good if you are outside on a sunny day. This chart represents the F Stop values:



Moving on to fun blurry backgrounds!

This opening (F-stop or Aperture) also controls the amount of blur in the background and how much of your subject is in focus.

When you look at an object on your desk, that object is in focus. All the other objects on your desk are not in perfect focus, in fact, they are a little blurry, but the thing that you are looking at is sharp. Do it now, look at something close by, the phone on your desk where you are sitting. Our eyes naturally set the ‘aperture’ for our brain to focus on the phone and not on everything else at the same time because it knows that if everything was ‘sharp’, it would be too overwhelming for our brain to take it all in (and we are overwhelmed enough as it is). If you look at the lamp way across the room more of the stuff around it in the room seems to be in focus.

So setting the F-stop with a low number (look at the chart, big opening) is a way of telling your viewer what you want them to notice most in the photo. It says “Hey, look at THIS phone…(the thing that is in focus and sharp)….and I’m going to make it easy for you to do that by making everything else a little or a lot blurry”. F-stop let’s you define what you think is important in the scene. What is it? The boy with the red hat? Or the field in the background? See how your F-stop gives you so much control over what you want to focus on! WooHoo!


F Stop 2.8, large opening

Most the time, when you take snapshot with a high F-stop number (little opening), it looks ‘flat’, it doesn’t have much dimension, most everything in the photo is in focus, which may not be a bad thing for a snapshot but it is not as interesting because our brain doesn’t really know what is important…is it the boy in the red hat or the other players?

If you want more of the players to be in focus, you will use a larger F-stop number (small opening. This allows more of the scene to be in focus.


So a low number is actually a really wide opening that lets in more light and also makes the background really blurry like the photo above with the boy in the red hat. You will notice that only a very small ‘slice’ of the scene is in focus when your F- stop is low. This happens because of something called Depth of Field and can be explained with a lot of math and something called the Circle of Confusion (go figure- can you believe they actually call it that!). Photo tips build on each other once you get these first few things then you can go on to learn about  Depth of Field – a very COOL phenomenon that explains why only a certain amount of the photo will be in focus when you change your F-stop around.

Just remember:

· The low F-stop number lets in more available light allowing you to take pictures in low light situations like a gymnasium, a restaurant or any other nighttime or indoor activity. This is why as a mom, you need to know how to make this work for you because you find yourself in these situations a lot.

· The low F-stop number also means a blurry background the closer you are to your subject, but the further away you get from your subject the less that background will be blurry and the larger the Depth of Field will be, and more area will be in focus.

· When your F-stop gets lower you are usually increase your shutter speed making it easier to get fast action shots.

– Generally more expensive lenses will have a lower F Stop and you may have to eventually get a lens that can go lower to suit your ‘blurry background’ desires!

How are you doing? Realize that you will have to practice with your camera for these concepts to sink in, but it is so much fun to start figuring this out you will get the hang of it!  Read on about Shutter Speed, we are almost done with the basics!


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