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Technical Tips: Aperture

Lesson 4 from: Family Photography: Creating a Successful Business

Kirsten Lewis

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Lesson Info

4. Technical Tips: Aperture


Class Trailer

Class Introduction


What Makes a Picture Successful?


Technical Tips: ISO


Technical Tips: Aperture


Technical Tips: Shutter Speed


Technical Tips: Focus


Using Light to Tell a Story


Using Composition to Tell a Story


Lesson Info

Technical Tips: Aperture

So we're gonna talk about aperture next. I love using the eye. (laughs) So I think of aperture like the eyeball, the pupil actually, and it controls our depth of field, and like visually right. So when we walk into a dark room, what happens, the pupil expands, it lets more light in. If you think about the camera, it's the same thing. When you go into a darker room, you need more light, so a lot of times we ... it's such a round about way. Whoever decided to describe this anyways. We're going to stop down, even though we're opening up the hole, that makes no sense. That also didn't sound right when I said that. (laughs) We're dilating our aperture, but yeah, we're gonna stop down, we're gonna bring that number down, and we're gonna open it up so we have more light, right? When we go outside from being inside our pupil is gonna shrink because it doesn't wanna let all that light in or it'll burn your eyeball out, right. So same thing with the camera. When we first go out, we're probably g...

onna bring that down, right, or open up or expand, or I'm sorry, stop down or bring up the number. So if you can think about aperture kind of like the eyeball in depth of field, it might help you understand if you don't understand aperture 100%. So I find sometimes people moving from lifestyle, which is really beautiful portraiture with some real moments, right. But it's a little bit more directed. A little bit more stylized. That they also still like, in their mind, want everything to be really wide open in terms of the aperture, so that we don't have a lot of information behind, right. So lack of depth of field, less information we're seeing behind what's in focus, does that make sense. You guys all know that, like the kind of blurry, dreamy look. But when it comes to storytelling sometimes having more information is going to help in terms of the story we're visually telling. So this is F2.8, right. Really fast shutter, because I wanted to have all the drips stopped when he ate his cereal. It's the only thing I found interesting about him eating. It wasn't the fact that he was eating cereal, that's boring to me, but what I loved is he was such a messy eater. He was just like, he was such a boy, he was like digging in it, and like there was just milk going everywhere. So I found that to be an interesting detail about how he eats. The other thing is look how he's holding his spoon, right. Like I find that interesting too, because I don't hold my spoon forward like this. So that's why I got really close. It emphasized just this, and I made a conscious decision to shoot at 2.8 because this is the only thing that I need in focus. I don't want the background in focus, so I get close, 2.8. I have a very low depth of field, right. Here is at F4. I wanted this to be flatter. I use a lot of negative space to draw the eye up into the center at what is important. I'm trying to make the eye only go here in terms of the shapes that it's making against all this linear shape. Does that make sense, right? And so I'm actively shooting that flatter at F4. Moving on, this is at F5.6. I wanted a little bit more information in terms of this frame. I loved the slow children at play. I wanted it in focus, because that child at play almost has the exact same gesture as she has jumping off of the rock. I purposely saw this photo and I purposely made choices in terms of my aperture so that both were gonna be fairly in focus, does that make sense. This is a more visual graphic photo. There is a moment in it, but this is more at paying homage to some of the street photography that really inspires me or influences me. The anonymity, I'm working with a lot of anonymity this year, so I'm just trying to explain ... you're gonna see like my newer photos are a little bit different than the ones that I was making in the past. Why 5.6 for this? Like would it have worked at F8 or F11, like? It would have. It definitely would have. I think for me, the reason I went with just 5.6 is because they were quickly moving and it's a little bit shady out. So I only can go so far with my ISO, or wanted to, because I knew that eventually they were gonna stop doing this pretty quickly and move, and so I wanted to make sure I had enough shutter speed. Does that help? Yep. Yeah. This at F8. This was, I feel like I've made two really good complicated layered photos, and this is one of them. Now this I have a lot of lights here, and so I'm gonna shoot at F8 for this. For this, my focus is here, right. It's almost like that ad, like the sunscreen ad. I made a conscious decision, I remember shooting this, that I didn't want this perfectly clear in the event that they started to merge, so I didn't shoot at F11 or F16, I chose to keep it at about F8. This is a really recent photo that I made. Again playing with complicated scene where everyone's doing something different. Everyone has separation. It's the entire, pretty much the entire family all together. And this is at F11, so in this case, I had to work really hard because they're all moving around, and I can't have anyone merging, right. This is also at F11, and I wanted to show you this in terms of what F11 looks like if you get really close to your subject. It's pretty close in terms of it being in focus. It's a little bit off. My emphasis is on ... this couple is so affectionate with one another, it made me feel bad about my participation in my own relationship. (laughs) I'm kidding, I was like, oh my God, I need to be more loving, like. (laughs) I need to just give him more gentle touches. I was inspire, they really inspired me, and that drove how I photographed them. I was really inspired by how much they loved each other. And I have to be honest, in all my day in the life sessions, I mean I have affectionate families. Everyone's level of affection is different, right. But this couple, it was just ... they were my ... I'm gonna talk more about about my muse, but they were my muse. Their love for one another in this session was really my muse, and so I made a lot of photos that emphasized how much they loved each other and how affectionate they were. I could just talk all day about 'em. I love them, so. And here's F16. I'm gonna talk about panning later, okay, so this is a pan shot, but my go to is always F16 when I'm panning because I'm not very good at it. I'm gonna give you all my technicals on panning when we get to that portion, but this is F16 and always be careful of your sensor spots. Do you guys know the higher you go in your aperture, the more likely your sensor spots are gonna show up. So just make sure that you have really clean sensor or you're gonna have a very long session between you and the light room or Photoshop later getting out all of your sensor spots. Thankfully for me with my new camera, there's like two little ones that you can't really see, but I don't remove the lens. And removing the lens is going to add to the risk of you getting sensor spots or spots on your sensor, so if you can commit to just having two bodies, a long lens, and a wide angle, and you do not constantly remove or switch your lenses, you're going to protect your sensors and not have to deal with cleaning them all the time. Does that make sense? (laughs) My husband used to tone my photos, and it was with older cameras that just had spots everywhere and he, (laughs) after a session where I knew I was really playing with like high apertures, he would just come in the room and be like, "I'm not talking to you for the rest of the day." (laughs) Because it had taken like all day to do like five photos. I was like, "I'm so sorry." He was like, "You're not allowed to do that anymore unless you clean your sensor, you're not allowed to shoot at F16 anymore." Okay, now we're gonna talk about shallow depth of field, or when you're gonna open up your aperture, okay. So this is because they had a lack of light, and so I chose to shoot this at F1.4, very slow. Also I think it was 1/40th of a second, maybe, because it was like so dark. The good thing is I had a little bit of light, right. So I just metered off of that, I metered for the highlights, and I probably made ... if you saw my contact sheet, I probably made 100 photos of this one scene because it was really important that the hands kind of worked together. I couldn't have the shadows merging. I wanted to have nice light on all three hands with good gestures in the physical hands plus the shadow. But that was at F1. I'll also open it up or increase or decrease my depth of field if I have a really busy background and I'm not using a long lens to compress and get rid of it. So this is with my 35 mm, I'm shooting at 1.8, because the most important thing to me is this gesture he's making. You can tell that he's, you know, he's throwing the line out. You can see it right here, and dad's arm around him, but I didn't want any of this distracting. And even at 2.8, it was gonna have a decent amount of detail, so I actively made a decision to shoot this at 1.8. This is a birdie. I will open up ... this was shot at 2.0. I will open it up sometimes if I'm doing an environmental portrait, and again I want to focus just on a small area of the subject, and I wanna get rid of everything in the back. So this was at F2. And again, low light, lack of light, or creating mood can also help. I didn't want too much detail. I really wanted to be just about right here, and so this is another one shot at F2. But I'm trying to emphasize the idea that I'm making conscious storytelling decisions in terms of my technical decisions, does that make sense? I'm not doing it just because there's rules for it. I'm thinking about how aperture, and how my ISO, and how my shutter speed is affecting the story that I'm trying to tell, and that's the difference. So now we're gonna look at shutter speed.

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Ratings and Reviews


I own Kirsten's 3 classes. And they are ALL amazing, inspiring and refreshing. She is not only a super talented photographer but an amazing teacher and person as well. I have learned so much from each one of her classes. I have never met a photographer so willing to share and see their students succeed. I highly recommend people not only to buy this class, but all 3! I would not be the photographer I am today if it wasn’t for her. After following her advise for the last 3 years I am finally engaging with the audience I want and I feel true to myself in the way I shoot. This makes a huge difference in my everyday. I am am truly grateful to this photo wizard lady. ps: warning, make sure you are on birth control. These classes might make you want to have children, just to get amazing images like the ones she takes LOL (joking) #not

Carrie Littauer

This workshop was by far the best photography workshop I have ever been a part of. Kirsten's work, her humor, her authenticity, her expertise and perspective will forever change the way I work with families and go about documentary photography. I am so motivated and inspired to dig deeper into my role as a photographer, and as a person, to make a real difference in the lives of those that I photograph and with my art. I'm thrilled to have been in the LIVE studio and am so grateful for Creative Live for giving phenomenal artists like Kirsten this exposure and opportunity to teach other creatives like myself! Thank you.

Johanne Lila

In the very minutes Kirsten Lewis' first class (first of three) for cL aired, I realized I needed in on this awesomeness. I became a 1 Year Mentorship student with her right away, and now I have been so incredibly fortunate to be in the studio audience for the live taping of her final class (or the third of the three, who knows what the future might hold!). For me as a 'Kirsten Lewis alumni' taking this class was perfect. I was reminded of things I knew, but had forgotten. I learned a ton of new stuff. But most of all, I remembered why we do this work in the first place: The love that is right there in the reality of life. How much this work matters to real families out there. And how much it matters to keep getting better at this, to give our families better work. I will be forever greatful that I chose the best mentor, Kirsten is such a gift to all of us. And if you're still in doubt: This class is AMAZING! If you're new, if you've at it for a while, if you're alumni: Gold is HERE!

Student Work