Aperture | Food Photography Tips (beginner)

What is the difference between these 4 pictures? (click them to enlarge)

They look pretty similar, right?  The composition is the same, lighting is generally the same…

Compare the first and the fourth images to see the most noticeable difference.  The first is kind of fuzzy in the background whereas the fourth is mostly clear.  This effect shows depth of field through the manipulation of the aperture.

What’s aperture?

Without getting too geeky, it’s the size of the opening of the lens’ diaphragm. This allows a specific amount of light into the lens’ sensor.  It contributes to the overall exposure of the image, but also impacts the depth of field.  So, in the image examples above, the first image, it’s a very narrow depth of field.  Only a small sliver of the image is in focus.  Then, as you progress down the line, the depth of field expands until the fourth image, which is mostly in focus from front to back.

We measure aperture in f-stops.  The first image above is f 1.8, followed by f 4.0, then f 5.6 and finally f 10.  The smaller the number, the thinner the depth of field.

So, which is most successful?  That’s totally based on the viewer’s taste.  I personally like this image and subject at f 5.6.

I like it most since it keeps most of the artichoke in focus, but still creates a little bit of that fuzzy effect in the background.  As you start to look at other photos by other photographers, take note of their use of this technique.  Some folks are hardcore into narrow depth of field, others, they like everything sharp.

I encourage you to play around with aperture and find your own personal style.  As much as some folks will tell you there’s a “right way” and a “wrong way,”I say, as long as the image expresses your vision and message, you were successful.

Do you like the more narrow depth of field or do you like the fully clear image?

Joanie Simon

I'm a pro food photographer living in Phoenix, AZ with my hubby and two little dudes. Join me on YouTube for photography and cooking tutorials.

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