What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?

1 December 2021

F-Stop camera capability, also known as aperture range, is a key consideration when choosing a camera lens. Your choice of F-Stop has a dramatic effect on your final image. But what is F-Stop, and how can it be used to create more interesting images?

Before you delve into the world of stops, it's important and useful to think about the type of photography you are looking to capture and the environment you will be working in. As you’ll discover, F-Stops offer an array of creative possibilities.

Are you a budding portrait photographer? Will you be cave diving in Peru? Are you looking to capture sunrises or sunsets while travelling the world? Each of these instances will no doubt use F-Stops in differing ways. Let’s dive into F-Stops, and which one you’ll want to use for each type of photography.


What does the F-stop do on a camera lens?

F-Stop is a value that represents the aperture setting of your lens. The aperture controls how much light is let into the camera. You will commonly see lenses with F-Stop as low (or as wide, meaning more light gets into your camera through the lens) as f1.4-f1.8 or as high (with a small opening, meaning less light) as f22-f32 with a host of options in between.

What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?

Why is it important to understand F-Stop?

What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?

F-Stops are used by photographers to control light based on external conditions. If there is less ambient light you can choose a lower F-Stop to let more light into your camera. Using F-Stops in conjunction with ISO ensures you have the clearest image possible. By contrast, If you are outside on a bright day, you risk over-exposure at the same stop. Having the ability to increase the F-Stop means you can lessen the amount of light coming into the camera to ensure an equally sharp image in different light situations.

F-Stop and depth of field

F-Stops also offer varying depths of field for your images, which can be used in a variety of creative ways. Using a larger aperture or smaller F-Stop, such as f1.4-f1.8 creates a shallow depth of field. This means subjects in the foreground stay in focus, but everything behind that point will be blurry. This blur effect is often called bokeh, a pleasing or aesthetic quality of out-of-focus blur in a photograph. This is particularly popular among portrait photographers as it draws the gaze to a central figure or object.

Take a look at some of the world’s most recognised photos of people. You will find that they often are blurry in part of the image. The eyes and central features may be crisp but the background could appear much softer. F-Stops are responsible for creating this effect and is why many photographers opt for lenses that offer the lowest F-Stops possible.

What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?
What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?What Is F-Stop on a Lens and How Does It Work?

A smaller aperture or larger F-Stop, such as f16-f32 is best for a greater depth of field, putting more objects in focus. Landscape photographers use this to capture more elements of a scene, so that objects that are close and in the distance are both in focus. In this instance, bushes or people in the foreground may appear as sharp as trees in the distance.


Here are some great lenses for Bokeh


Master F-Stops and find your own photography style

F-Stops not only enable you to have manual control over the amount of light you allow into the camera but the effects all afford photographers the ability to be creative and direct the viewer’s gaze to particular areas of a photo. To really brush up on your photography skills, you can discover Ted’s beginner's guide to basic camera settings.


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