Bigger, faster, wider…that’s my rule of thumb.
In other words, what is the widest aperture I can get away with considering:
- lens choices available
- situation….in other words, what and who am I photographing
- the lighting and certain challenges, limitations or options available
- the subject matter
Some examples, from recent shoots….and some explanations as to why I used whatever aperture I used.
Family sessions outdoors….I shot this at 5.6. I would have easily gone wider, BUT, I had a beauty dish and was limited to how wide an aperture I could use due to the maximum shutter speeds available. In this case, no faster than 1/200th of a second. Yea, I know, high speed sync would solve this. Working on it….
Two year old…..shot at 200mm at 2.8. I kinda, sorta got lucky. As you may know, with a two year old, that’s the way it goes. You do your best, and get what you get. The stars were all aligned in this shot. The lighting, the subject and me. She gave me a nano second of her time. I love shooting at 2.8 for obvious reasons. The selective focus, bokeh and compression.
Another outdoor shot at f2.5 at 1/200th of a second. This is the Zeiss Batis 85MM 1.8 lens. In this scene I am limited because of the ambient light. I would have opened up the lens even more, but couldn’t because I was syncing my beauty dish to the maximum shutter speed of 1/200th. Yes, I know…high speed sync. I am on it.
Commercial gigs……first shot, wide angle lens….aperture plays a small role so I’d use f8 in a scene like this.
Family on location….200mm at 2.8 Family in studio….at f8Family on location….200mm at 2.8. This is risky! You need to be very confident everyone will be in focus and on the same plane. This becomes a judgement call. I called it, and it worked. Had I not been so confident I would have likely shot this at around f5.6:
This family in studio shot at f16…I needed to get every one in focus, so I cranked up the ISO and the lights so I could shoot at that aperture.Two more…scenic shots. Scenic photographers use this strategy a lot. Shoot at about one stop wider than the smallest available on the lens. In this case, using the 14-24 Nikon lens, at 14mm, at f16. This ensures front to back sharpness.