Stop down . Is somethingg important for me?

Discussion in 'Open Discussion' started by alaios, Aug 2, 2013.

  1. alaios

    alaios TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2013
    Dear all,
    I am new to this forum (I guess this is pretty much well known) and I am looking in the forums people discussing about sharpness and stopping down lenses (whatever this terminology is).

    I was wondering though
    1. If that is important for me, as I think it would be more useful to focus on exposure, light metering, composition and I should avoid "protect" me for now for so much of the details
    2. If is really is also important for the "pros" ones. Have you evern found that the sharpness really killed your lovely composition? Do you have any example to share?

  2. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    For me it was easier to learn the technical aspects of photography, than to compose images I was happy with.

    It wasn't until I could adjust settings without thinking, that I could focus on the artistic side of photography, ie finding the light and the lines that create images rather than just take photos.

    Understanding aperture comes first. First you must set aperture to the the required field of depth and structure in your photo. Then you select ISO and shutter speed accordingly.

    You can't use one without the other. The general rule of thumb is set aperture, pick the lowest ISO that will give adequate shutter speed, compose focus and shoot.
  3. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    There are a couple of online toutorials that are great for learning this.
  4. Jaf-Photo

    Jaf-Photo TalkEmount Veteran

    Mar 25, 2013
    Yeah, and you should really get a NEX Field Guide. This book explains what all the settings do.
  5. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    There are huge differences between lenses. With some legacy lenses it was almost always necessary to stop down to have acceptable level of sharpness for general use. Softness was and is used for special purposes and still some lenses have this property but most modern lenses are much sharper wide open.

    In the old bad days fast lenses were needed because there was no good fast film and focusing in dim light with slow lenses was very difficult . For example press photos (newspapers, that is) could be taken with 3200 ISO film and wide open in many cases as sharpness wasn't needed. The same lens would produce much sharper images stopped down. In a way that means that lens was pushed beyond its optical design. As old SLR's were focused wide open fast lenses that were soft wide open but sharp stopped down were much easier to focus. Now there is no need for that (at least with mirror less cameras) and manufactures don't push the optical design over the limits so they are pretty sharp wide open (modern lenses are much more complicated than old ones).

    Still, zooms are many cases much better stopped down even these days. Eventually need of sharpness depends depend about magnification, low sharpness limits how large print you can make (while I don't understand why you need to watch 50 cm* 75 cm photo from 20 cm away).

    Artistically aperture makes much more sense, it controls DOF and maximum shutter speed (and minimum ISO).
  6. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    As others have mentioned, Alex, there's more than sharpness to be gained by stopping down. And changing your aperture, whether stopping down or opening up, will have an effect on more than just exposure. It will affect depth of field, contrast, color rendering, as well as overall sharpness (Have I missed anything?).

    Here's a quick example, both shot with my Industar-61L/D 55mm, a lens that is very soft wide open.



    As you may be able to see, just stopping down one stop makes a visible difference in contrast and color, as well as sharpness. And the quality of the blurred background, also known as bokeh, is improved as well.

    There may be times when you want the dreamy look of a wide open lens; portraits, for example. But especially with lenses that are soft wide open, stopping down can improve the look of an image substantially.
  7. eno789

    eno789 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Jan 1, 2012
    NoCal, USA
    I knew some one already knew how to changing aperture with the dial on camera, just did not know "increasing aperture value" == "making aperture opening smaller" == stop-down, "decreasing aperture value" == "making aperture opening bigger" == open-up. Once I explained to the person, she agrees stop-down and open-up is the right terminology, more concise, and to the point.

    This would be more obvious, if you use any lens with on-lens aperture ring.
  8. alaios

    alaios TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 11, 2013
    That is what I am stll missing from the "theory" .. where I can read that in the literature?

  9. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    What exactly - the technical or artistic role of aperture? Technically, stopping down to the diffraction limit will always give you the best possible image out of a camera / lens combination (that's why you should know when exactly your lenses start to be diffraction limited), and in many cases (like landscapes), depth of field is not as big of an issue as it is in other cases, because you usually want everything in focus. That's when you stop down to the diffraction limit without any further considerations usually.

    But if you want to use depth of field artistically, there's no reason to stop down modern lenses just to get a little bit more resolution and contrast. If you use fast legacy lenses, you should at least know where it really falls short, and act accordingly (for example by not putting any subject in the corner of an image when using a lens close to wide open).

    In the end, the artistic value of an image is always much more important than the technical perfection. I've seen many photos with blown out skies or absolutely no shadow details in galleries, but I haven't seen a single one with a bad composition or one that doesn't trigger any feelings.
  10. WoodWorks

    WoodWorks Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Dec 12, 2012
    Ashland, OR, USA
    Exactly! Many of the greatest photos ever taken were shot with cameras that don't even rise to the technical level of today's smartphone cameras.
  11. ajm80031

    ajm80031 TalkEmount Regular

    Jul 16, 2013
    "There is nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept." Quote attributed to Ansel Adams. In other words, is sharpness really the most important aspect of your photography you should be working on at this time?

    To fully master photography, you will need to understand the relationship between aperture, depth of field, and sharpness. However, when it comes to the end result (the photograph, as viewed by you or others) I'd rate it to be of considerably less importance than some of the other aspects you mentioned. A well-composed and lit photograph that could use a little more (or less) sharpness or depth of field is most likely still going to be a good photograph. The reverse isn't true -- a photograph that expertly handles the trade-offs inherent at different apertures but that is poorly composed or has uninteresting light is going to be a poor photograph. For most people, I'd suggest concentrating first on the most important aspects -- learning to "see" potential photographs, selecting the composition, get the timing down (if dealing with moving subjects), etc. -- before getting into details on the effects of aperture.

    In general, wider (smaller numerically) apertures give you softer images and less depth of field while closed-down (numerically larger) apertures give you sharper images and more depth of field. While you're still on the steep part of the learning curve with some of the other aspects, I'd recommend sticking with apertures that don't get extreme on either end (e.g. 5.6 to 8 or maybe 11) when you can. That will give you adequate depth of field in most cases and let you concentrate on other, most important things. Once you reach a point that you think sharpness and depth of field are the limiting factors on your work, then start working on getting a detailed understanding of aperture.
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