Well done everyone with the last challenge, this month we’re going to have some fun playing with aperture.  Now you know those photos where there’s 1 thing in focus and everything else is a pleasing blur?  (The Japanese call it bokeh, and apparently the arty farties in the western world decided in recent years that that was a nicer word than blur…) That’s influenced by your aperture, and we’re going to see how that works.

Your challenge is this:

Find a group of small things which you can arrange in a line marching away from the camera in a nice, well lit area.  You will need to arrange them at a slight angle so that you can see the effect of how the change in aperture affects all the objects.  Examples of things which are good for this would be Lego minifigs, spools of thread, marbles, wonder clips – just raid your sewing room or toy collection!

Switch your camera into Aperture Priority mode – in this mode the camera will find the shutter speed best suited for your aperture to give you a well exposed image.  You should also be able to adjust the ISO in this setting.  Ideally you want your ISO number to be as low as possible, as the higher the number, the grainier the photo, so aim for a maximum of about 800 if you can, but preferably around 100-200.  A couple of desk lamps on either side of your subject may help if you have no natural light, or you happen to live somewhere commonly grey and rainy.

Check where your focus point is – you need a single focus point which you have trained on the nearest object in your group to you.  Most cameras come set to a matrix type focus as default, so if you half press the shutter button, you will see several wee lights show up on your photo, but you can switch from multi-focus to single focus points easily enough – your manual should be able to show you how.

Now starting at the lowest number you can for your aperture, take a photo.

Move up through your aperture numbers until you get to the highest possible number, taking photos as you go.  Note that you don’t need to do this with every single number, every 3-5 should suffice.

Now change your focus point so that it is about half way down your group, and repeat the exercise.

Here’s an example of the setup that I will use for this (note that the tripod is not essential, I just didn’t have enough hands!):

Now, using a different subject for your photos, choose a point much further away to focus on without zooming in and move up through the aperture numbers in the same way as before.  If you’re feeling particularly keen, you can also see what happens when you zoom a long way in on something far off and try it.

Finally, have a play with your aperture in different light settings with your flash turned off.  You may need to use a tripod for this, or to be able to increase your ISO to around 1600 so that you can still hand hold it in darkened areas.

I look forward to seeing your results in a couple of weeks!

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