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Photography is not as complicated and difficult as most people think it is. Aperture and shutter speed are two aspects of photography that can be intimidating at times. Once you understand how they work you can concentrate on the more interesting elements of photography.

A camera's aperture is the small hole in the camera lens that restricts the amount of light that passes through the lens to reach and expose the film. Changing the aperture of the lens will dramatically affect the resulting photograph. Aperture is also referred to as a camera's f-stop. F-stops will vary from camera to camera however, the usual settings are: f2, f2.8, f4, f5.6, f8, f11, f16, and f22. Smaller f-stop settings have a larger or wider aperture, which means that more light is allowed to enter the lens. Larger f-stops have a smaller or narrower aperture that does not allow as much light to enter the lens. F-stops are related to each other in that each setting allows twice as much light to enter the lens as the preceding setting. If your camera program says you should shoot a photograph at f8 and you manually reset the aperture to f5.6, you will be exposing the film with twice as much light.

Depth of field is an interesting aspect that is directly proportional to the aperture. The wider the aperture becomes, the smaller the depth of field becomes which in turn shortens the distance of what is in focus. Using an f4 aperture, you will have a focus range of about 2 feet while an f-stop of f8 will increase the focus range to about 4 feet.

The shutter speed is the amount of time that the shutter mechanism stays open and allows the light to reach the film. Shutter speed typically varies from 1 second to 1/1000th of a second. It can be used to control the aperture or as a tool for creativity in photography. Longer shutter speeds allow more light to enter the lens and reach the film while shorter shutter speeds allow less light to enter the lens and reach the film. The concept of shutter speed works on the same principle that aperture does. Each shutter speed setting allows twice as much light to enter the lens as the preceding setting. A setting of 1/250 will allow twice as much light into the lens as a setting of 1/500 while a setting of 1/125 will allow half as much light to enter the lens as the 1/250 setting. By leaving the shutter open twice as long, you allow twice as much light to enter the lens. This makes perfect sense.

The difficulty comes in trying to merge these two variables and have the aperture and shutter speed work together. A good combination of setting for most general-purpose photography situations would be a shutter speed of 1/125 with an f-stop of f8. Faster shutter speeds will allow the photographer to freeze action or movement within the picture. The slowest shutter speed recommended for holding the camera in your hand is 1/125. This will help avoid the risk of camera shake, which may cause your pictures to be slightly out of focus. If you choose to use a slower shutter speed it is advisable to place your camera on a tripod. Slower shutter speeds may be desired when photographing objects with all natural lighting or in dimly lit settings. Aperture and shutter speed seem to be conversely related. Smaller f-stops typically correlate to larger shutter speed settings and larger f-stops usually correlate to smaller shutter speed settings.

In using these two aspects in photography, you must know how they interact when used together and how you want them to work on your picture. In some situations you may want to concentrate on the depth or field and in other instances you may be more concerned with lighting or stopping the action. Being able to understand and use these aspects will allow you to have greater flexibility in your photography.