F-Stop Cheat Sheet: Understanding How Aperture Works in Photography

Still figuring out how aperture affects your photos? Let this f-stop infographic be your handy guide.

If you’ve recently picked up a camera that allows manual controls, then among the variables at your fingertips is aperture. It’s the opening of your lens; each size is called an f-stop. Learning which f-stop to use to get the desired result is one of the fundamental lessons in photography, and for that we have just the cheat sheet for you.

The infographic below is part of Viktor Elizarov’s tutorial on aperture, which he made for beginner photographers who are confused by the term “f-stop.” “They know it is somehow related to the concept of aperture and has something to do with depth of field but aren’t sure what exactly it stands for,” he said. In his guide, he noted that f-stop and aperture are interrelated, and the former can’t be explained without the latter.

Given that photographers are visual creatures, he thought of creating this F-stop Chart to illustrate how a lower f-stop number corresponds to a larger aperture in your lens. Lens names indicate the maximum f-stop so you know how wide your aperture can go — something that will come in handy if you want to do more indoor or low light photos and portraits with a significant background separation (and bokeh!).

The F-Stop Chart makes for a handy cheat sheet if you want to learn how aperture works and experiment with different f-stops when you practice. Aside from the full stop values, it also includes those for 1/2 stops and 1/3 stops, since modern digital cameras now allow for changing the aperture to these increments. Each of these f-stops produce a certain depth of field, which this cheat sheet helps visualize by showing how sharp the background looks in comparison to the subject (or foreground) in focus.

Next, the chart shows us how much light is included in our shot based on the f-stop we choose. A larger aperture like f1.4 will let in more light compared to f5.6, thus making for a brighter picture. Lastly, each lens has a sweet spot — or the aperture value that will produce the sharpest photos with the least distortion and fringing. This is often within f5.6 to f11 and indicated in the chart, but it also varies for different lens models.

This is just one of the cheat sheets you can use to master manual photography, so go ahead and check out what else we have so far!


Photos used with permission from Viktor Elizarov of Photo Traces