Understanding Aperture – camera fundamentals

Posted on August 8, 2011 by Tim 2 Comments

The closer you are to your subject, the shallower your DoF. This applies even when shooting the same focal length and same f-stop. When shooting with a closeup lens like the 105mm at f/16 your DoF at the minimum close focus distance may be just a few millimeters while using the same lens and f-stop with your subject 10m away may allow a DoF of around a meter.


This is the banded snail eater Sibon longefrenis shot at very close range with a 105mm macro lens. I am just a few centimeters from it. Even at the very small aperture of f/20 it is difficult to get more than just the snakes eye sharply in focus – an range of just a couple millimeters.

Now I pulled back maybe a meter to get the entire snake in frame. Using the same lens and same f/20 aperture you can see that more of the snake appears in focus.

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  • Lyle says:

    Hi Tim,

    I can’t get enough of your work. In fact I have been staring at it at work for far too long. I just read your aperture article and have a question about flash. I’ve been using the 105mm Nikon macro lens and am having trouble with DOF, i.e. not enough of the subject is in focus. Does flash have an effect or am I probably too close and need to back off a little? Thank you

    • Tim says:

      Lyle, flash won’t effect DoF. The distance to subject (more magnification – closer is less DoF) and aperture size (smaller aperture [bigger f/#] the greater the DoF). I suggest putting your Nikon in Aperture priority (A) mode. Then selecting an aperture to get your desired effect. Start with f/11 then go smaller (f/16, f/22) and see what results you get. The flash will give you more light which allows you to shoot those small apertures. Nikon’s CLS (advanced flash lighting meter system) will compensate the power of the flash to give you a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the subject. It gets more technical from here but this is a start.

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