aperture and f stop

Since Christmas...
 I have been reading the camera manual for the Canon XT Rebel that I have had since Christmas 2007.
Better late than never!!

I confess...
I like the auto button on my digital SLR.
It takes fine pictures on the auto button but I've been curious about the different terms and have been frustrated by poor light when taking my food photos during the winter months.

Every day for the last few weeks...
I take about 10 minutes to read the manual..
locate the appropriate buttons and push and turn the knobs  and see if I can make something look different.

This week I have been trying to get straight in my mind about the aperture and what it means.

I'm learning why a low number means a large opening in the aperture letting in more light...
and why they call this an f stop number instead of aperture opening.
I finally found that if I think of the "f" as a 1....it will make more sense.
Instead of reading f/4.....I now say in my mind 1/4.
Thinking of it as a fraction....will make more sense when I am trying to remember that 1/4...
is bigger than 1/8.
The f means focal length and the "/ " means divided by.
Am I close?

I  know now that the low aperture is what allows me to focus on a small subject and make the non important background blurry.  This is referred to a shallow depth of field.
Low aperture lets in more light and is used for evening and indoor shots without a flash.

Higher aperture....like f/16 is used when you have lots of light and will have a large part of the photo in focus.

If you are an accomplished photographer...
it is not necessary for me to tell you how confused I am by my narrative.
I have decided to try putting what I am learning into my own words each week and see if that will help me remember.
I have been taking three or four photos at a time and then loading them onto the computer to see what the adjustment in settings has accomplished.

You might be wondering why I don't go take a photography class.
I will...oh I will.
Before I go though..
I want to know where the basic buttons are.
I want to know what an aperture does and what a shutter speed should be when you are taking a snow photo.
I want to know why snow looks grey or blue when it should look white.

I want to know what composition makes a beautiful photo.

I've learned something...
I think I love a challenge...
and I'm not afraid to push a few buttons to learn....
and I'm not afraid to look like a student in a classroom.

So tell me...
do you use the auto button or do you understand what your digital camera does?
I would love some feedback on what I think I am understanding.

all for now...


  1. Ha ha ha! We sound alike! I went into the camera store this week to find out how much I would need to save for what I want next and I sure felt like a fish out of water. I'm sure the guy realized how little knew.....Silly me would rather experiment than sit down and learn. I should pull out my book.

  2. You lost me somewhere..I may just have to take a course on photography too or rely on my grandchildren:)

  3. You and I are at the same place - I keep forgetting what those terms mean. I have a book to for my new Rebel t3i - but I confess - I haven't studied it well. I love learning along with you though. Keep it up! I'm following along.

    (PS - download the gimp - a free photo-editing program similar to Photoshop - they have an auto white button that's great for making snow white :)

  4. I very rarely use the auto button and I very rarely get the quality that you have right here. What beautiful photos, wonderfully framed. No need for a class...if you want one, take them on You Tube...just plug in your camera and up will jump some things pertinent for you. Enjoy the experiment!

  5. That was a fun post - I learn much better by doing and figuring things out on my own. Your series of photos aptly demonstrated exactly what you were explaining. Your photos are always top quality! Even though hubby bought me a simple point and shoot, I find that I'm just not into photography and very reluctantly takes photos. Usually after the fact I've said, "I should have brought my camera!" Lovely view!!

  6. You're doing well :) I learned the same way you did. setting my camera to manual, adjusting the shutter speed and aperture and taking the same picture over and over with different settings. trial by error :) The learning is endless, but spending time on those basics will certainly send you in the right direction.
    the tone of your picture (blue/yellow, red/green) is your white balance. unless you're getting really creative, it's probably easiest to have that set to auto.
    then there's your ISO (sensitivity/speed). the lower it is, the less grain you will have in your picture, but the lower it is, the slower it is, just like good old film :) The popular films were 100, 200, 400, right? for outdoor, sunny photography, i like setting mine to about 200. higher ISO is used for low light photography and will make your picture more grainy. Again, this is something that can be set to auto while you learn the shutter and aperture settings, but is good to get informed on as well :)
    Happy snapping!!!

  7. Like you, getting manual setting terminology to stick in my brain in a meaningful way is an on going project.

    Wouldn't it be great if somehow the terms and meanings could be put into some little preschool song? I think if I could sing the terms, I could remember what they are and what they mean much better!

    Meanwhile I wish you would go back into Picasa and open the tab that tells the settings that were used on your snow scene pictures, then tag each of your post pics with the info. The first one...you let in a lot of light so the number must have been...errr...small, right? No wait...big. No...small.
    Understanding fractions : always hard for me in math.

  8. Jill....that is a good idea and I'll do that on future learning posts. It would be helpful for me too. I will see if I can go back and isolate which photos I used. I didn't delete the ones I didn't use. That would have been smart.

    Kelly ..thank you so much. I think I will focus on the ISO soon.

  9. Good for you! I know you love learning and will understand in no time at all....you catch on quick.
    Me...I've been watching my camera video....slow learner. Retention.....I can admit it:)
    Some of the commenters have good ideas....me....I'll sit in the class to learn for now:)

  10. Oh I have to take the leap and try to understand all of this. I like your experiment photos. But still all that stuff about aperture, etc. is jibberish to me. I'm still set to auto here...

  11. Have fun...if you love that kind do a challenge go for it. I would prefer to take tennis lessons any day but am looking for more tome. I like how you want to understand all that aperture stuff before you go to class..that,s where I missed the whole que... Sign up with Darcy. You are ready!!!

  12. I admit I'm too lazy to study all the options of my point and shoot, though there was a time when I learned how to use an SLR before digitals were invented; I've forgotten whatever I knew back then. Sometimes I wish I remembered. I almost always use the auto button as it seems to work so well. I should look into the options though, so I can photograph red flowers in sunlight and not have them look yellow where the sun hits them.

  13. I have a feeling I could understand your teaching better than that in a class. I've had this lesson from my son-in-law and it kind of makes sense for a few minutes and then I forget again. Very frustrating.
    I just saw Kelly added ... can't concentrate on that now with a three year old chatting.. I'll be back.

  14. Hubby bought me a new Nikon for Christmas... Where do I sign up for your photography class ? :-) I thank you for making my manual easier for me to understand!
    Hope you continue to share as you learn...


  15. I'd like to know it all without the hard work of learning something new! I'm afraid I still use the auto setting alot. I know ISO is good to use when the light is low. But when H. tried to teach me about aperture, I got so confused. We don't have an SLR now but our digital has some great manual settings which I am slowly learning how to use.

  16. I'm trying to learn but the best way really is to do exactly what you are doing and just take the same picture over and over at different settings. Some days I like trying and then on others...well on those days I just default to the auto setting!

  17. To my shame, I always use the 'auto' button because I am too scared/lazy to read the manual. Top that off with the Kobo that was my Christmas gift and now I have two items that require me to pay attention to something that seems like math or trig or algebra.....I am doomed to be a techno-idiot, I'm sure.

  18. I should read my manual too. I've noticed that depending on time of day, my photos look 'blue'. I suppose I should find out why.

  19. Here is a link to an online photography course, Mastering Manual Mode. Maybe this would be helpful for you. I have been planning on trying it for a while, it looks very helpful.

  20. Once you go manual you may never go back :) you are totally me 3 years ago when I got my first DSLR reading the manual and trying to make sense of it all . I would think the bigger the number the more light but I guess not lol

    I took a beginners course (4 hours)through Lens and Shutters and it was great I left really understanding aperture, shutter speed and ISO and being able o ask someone questions was great . There is so many tutorials on you tube and you can watch ones specific to your camera but if you don't understand what they mean you can't ask them .... you just wait you'll want to add lenses , flashes and other fun accessories to your kit in no time , I just wish all the ones I wanted weren't so expensive

  21. OH! This is so encouraging. I would so love to learn more about my camera, but just don't have the time with a little one to wrap my head around it. I am definitely an 'auto' person. I would love to see more posts as you learn, as it will be something to get me started. Taking the same picture with different settings is such a brilliant idea! I'll need to work on that in my 'spare' time... :)

  22. Like Anneliese said, I understand this stuff for the few minutes right after I read about it or get it explained by someone, then out it goes! I forget how to do it. The few times, I have retained the info and experimented, I've been really happy with the outcome. But then I go right back to using auto! What I need to do is make a cheat sheet and stick it in my camera bag. What I really want is to buy this camera bag, maybe that would motivate me to learn more about my SLR! Do you think? :-)

    1. Oh...I love the camera bag..go for it! It would most surely encourage motivation.

  23. great job Lovella! I remember all of that being quite confusing when I started learning. My grandpa was my teacher, and my camera was his film SLR which he couldn't see well enough to focus anymore. The beginnings of my photography instruction (which I followed later with classes in university, and now manual reading) will always be a treasure to me. Digital is leaps and bounds easier for learning because you get instant feedback! I sure enjoy that now about my DSLR.

    1. Thanks for that encouragement Aimee. I am loving another new challenge. It's good for the brain!

  24. Oh - this is SO good! I need to read and reread this post. I am an "auto" person too much!!! I am looking forward to your tutorials. I need to be challenged in this regard. I like your new header too!


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