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Aperture and DOF – foodphotography exercise I

Aperture 5.6 left and 13 on the right
Aperture 5.6 left and 13 on the right

Whenever I give a workshop, it turns out that aperture and in general lighting is one of the most confusing things about photography. It doesn’t help that all those numbers mean virtually nothing to someone who is just starting out and is trying to get to grips with his or her camera. So when Aparna from my Diverse Kitchen started a series with exercises in foodphotography I figured it would be a great thing to join in and explain a few things here. You can find Aparna’s post here and her explanation on how to join in too.

I get many emails asking me for information on how to take photos, which camera to buy, which lenses to get and general tips on improving food photography. You can already find some of the articles here on the foodphotography page but the exercise of today is to take two photos of the same subject from the same angle with the only variation being the aperture.

I shoot a lot of my photos in aperture priority. It’s easy, I don’t have to worry too much if the light changes and I still have full control over the DOF. (Depth of Field) Now what is the aperture you may ask… It is essentially the hole in your lens that let’s the light in. I always give the James Bond intro as an example as the ring he stand in is what it looks like, more or less.


But apart from the fact that it controls the light coming in, it also controls (for a part) the depth of field in your photo. And depth of field is the area in your photo that appears sharp to the human eye. The smaller the number of your aperture (i.e. F2.8) the smaller the depth of field in your photo, but the bigger the opening in your lens. The bigger the aperture number (i.e. F22.0) the bigger the depth of field in your photo, but the smaller the opening in your lens. In the image above the mint tea you can clearly see the difference between the first and the second shot. This is a dramatic difference as I shot the first on F5.6 and the other on F32.0, which is really an aperture I never use.

50mm macro on F2.5 (left) and F5.6 (right)
50mm macro on F2.5 (left) and F5.6 (right)

Now the exercise that Aparna has us do is to shoot two photos on a 50mm lens. In the image above I used my 50mm macro which has as a widest aperture 2.5 so that’s what I used for the first shot and I used 5.6 for the second one. As you can see the difference between the two shots is not so dramatic as the difference in the first two photos, but that is partially due to the type of lens used and the fact that the difference between aperture 1 and aperture 2 was not that big. For the first two comparison photos I used my 100mm 2.8 lens which I use for 90% of my foodphotos.

I love a photo with shallow depth of field, but there can be too little of it, so play around with your camera and your lens and see what the result is. Every camera and every lens has a slightly different outcome. Also be aware that if you close the opening in your lens (so your aperture number becomes higher but the opening becomes much smaller) your shutterspeed will rapidly go down. Using a tripod is then essential!

Now hop on over to Aparna’s blog and check out the tips she is giving and the exercises that the others have done there too!

The recipe for the lemoncurd will follow shortly!

About the author

Simone van den Berg

Food- and travelblogger from the Netherlands. Loves good food. Loves to taste good food the world over.
She also loves to share travelstories, delicious recipes and ok, cat pictures too. She sometimes feels the need to get really healthy for a while, always mingled with periods of insanely delicious sweets and other decadent treats.
Lives together with Tom and their two cats; Humphrey and Buffy.
Profession: Food photographer


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Welcome In Simone’s Kitchen

Hi. My name is Simone and I believe you can change your life by eating the right foods. I am a certified holistic nutritional coach, food photographer, recipe developer and story teller.
I am based in the Netherlands.

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Travel calendar 2018

March: Blankenberge, Belgium
April: 3 weeks roadtrip through East USA
May: Turkey
May: Germany
June: Germany
September: Newcastle