Why You Should Not Always Shoot at the Widest Aperture

Modern lenses are quite remarkable devices, and they often allow you to shoot at extremely wide apertures with little consequence in image quality, making it easy to fall into the habit of just leaving your lens at that maximum aperture for all your images. That can be a mistake, though, and it can make your work overly one-dimensional. This excellent video essay discusses some of the many reasons you might want to consider stopping down the next time you head out.

Coming to you from Jan Wegener, this insightful video essay discusses why shooting at only maximum aperture can be a mistake, and though Wegener is talking about this in the context of bird and wildlife photography, the points apply to many other genres. I think one of the biggest reasons not to do this is simply that it limits you creatively. If you always blow the background to blurry smithereens, you are missing a lot of changes to create more complex image compositions that achieve interesting balances among the elements in the frame and help to add a bit of context to your subject and more information to the story. Check out the video above for the full rundown from Wegener. 

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Alex Cooke is a Cleveland-based portrait, events, and landscape photographer. He holds an M.S. in Applied Mathematics and a doctorate in Music Composition. He is also an avid equestrian.

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Honest question. Is FStoppers dead? If you scroll through the post there are many articles with no comments at all. Some with 1. Do you guys get any traffic to the site anymore?

Sorry Jan (and Alex), but it’s not always applicable especially for most WL photography. Again, one has to appreciate the subject and factors which effect DOF. So, let’s take a typical example where one is shooting an image of a mammal or large bird using a 800mm lens at a distance of 30 yards at an aperture of f/6.3. DOF is roughly 1.43 ft. Now increase the f stop to f/8 and the DOF is 1.8ft. Now that could make a difference on the appearance of the fur/feathers though at a significant penalty with respect to Tv or ISO especially at lower light. In general, most people prefer images with sharp subjects agains clean backgrounds with the exception of some environmental shots which are usually composed with wider angle lenses.