How does Aperture Work in Photography?

Many novice photographers find it very hard to get a hold on the concept of aperture. In fact the technical jargon kind of scares many beginning photographers. While looking at your camera, have you ever imagined what is this "A" written or have you ever heard photographers discussing the aperture settings for a better photograph and you thought to yourself What is this crazy thing? If so, worry not! Today we shall be discussing the "Aperture" in a way that will elaborate the essence of its functionality and working in the camera world. Aperture is in a way the lesson 101 in terms of photography.


Aperture is the number one area of learning for the beginning photographers in their attempt to achieve the correct exposure of their photos and freedom to decide which area of the frame one wants to keep in focus and which one wants to keep out of focus. This technique can allow the major subject under focus to appear extremely sharp, prominent and crisp.

Correct Exposure:

Correct exposure means that the lighting in the picture is just perfect. It's neither under-exposed nor is it over-exposed. The term under-exposed and over-exposed can be very subjective terms with respect to the creative requirements of the photographer. Through manual modes of the camera, aperture helps in the getting correct exposure in different light conditions as per the esthetic requirements of the photographer.

Focus Area:

Modifying the focus area at different places in the photo can create an extremely creative effect. With the subject in supreme focus in the front and the background being blurred, subject says screaming Watch me! Watch me; meaning to say that it becomes the center of attention in the photo and draws supreme consideration towards itself. In other cases, the photographer can also bring the entire frame in focus with the help of aperture, which can be used for different creative purposes as well.


The word aperture in photography points out a small opening inside the lens of the camera which allows the light to pass through the lens and enter the camera body and finally being thrown on the image sensor of the camera to generate a photo.

Natural Analogy:

Finding a hard time imagining how the aperture works in cameras? Worry not! The most interesting and easy way to get a hold on the concept of aperture in photography is to consider the working of a human eye. The truth of the matter is that any camera that the human mind has ever seen, was built on the fundamentals of a human eye. It's the pupil in the human eye that is completely similar to aperture in cameras. If the opening of the pupil is more, more light passes on to the retina and a brighter image is registered on the brain in comparison to what would have been with a smaller opening of the pupil in the same environmental conditions.

The same goes for cameras. Bigger the opening of the aperture in the camera, more the light will be passed on to the image sensor and hence a brighter image. Similarly, if the opening of the pupil is small, lesser light passes on to the retina and hence a less bright image is registered in the brain than what would have been, had the opening of the pupil was wide, considering the environmental conditions to be the same in both cases.

Aperture Priority Mode:

Aperture along with shutter speed and ISO, collectively define the total exposure of the photograph. The more you increase the aperture and let more light in , the brighter the image gets and lesser the opening of the aperture and therefore its value, the lesser light will be put on to the sensor the camera and hence a darker image. For the ease of the photographers, many cameras come with an aperture priority mode which automatically adjusts the value of ISO and shutter speed to get a proper exposure according to a particular aperture requirement of the photographer. What needs to be remembered is that these aperture requirements are for different creative necessities and also affect the area under focus in the photograph.

Written by: Rajesh Bihani, New Delhi, India

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Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )

Disclaimer: The suggestions in the article(wherever applicable) are for informational purposes only. They are not intended as medical or any other type of advice