How to use a small aperture to get great photos.

A small aperture setting will create a large depth of field, but it will also do more. Learn how to use a small aperture for more than just scenic landscapes.

The creative aspects of using larger f-stop numbers are sometimes overlooked. This may be due to the quality often associated with a massive aperture like f/1 or f/1.2. However, some stunning effects require the use of a small aperture. Whether you’re in manual mode or using aperture priority, there are more reasons to use a large f-stop than just depth of field.

Five reasons to use a small aperture.

Purists who shun auto settings and filters can manually manipulate shutter speed and aperture settings to create a host of fascinating effects. Here are some of the most common situations where you might want to investigate the use of a small aperture:

  1. Large depth of field: The most apparent use of a small aperture is to capture large scenic landscapes, but macro and product photography also require large f-stops to compensate for the subject’s proximity.
  2. Long exposure photography: Long exposure shots, such as capturing light trails, require a small aperture setting to compensate for the slow shutter speed.
  3. Bursting effect: The photo bursting effect is a result of light diffraction. A small aperture can be used to create sunbursts or starbursts.
  4. Maximize sharpness: Small to mid-range f-stops, around f/5.6 and f/8, often yield optimal sharpness.
  5. Wave freezing and waterfalls: The slower shutter speeds needed to freeze or smooth out water necessitate small aperture settings.

Yes, many small aperture effects can indeed be replicated with filters and in editing, but learning to use the full range of aperture settings will make you a better photographer.

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