Don’t Ever Stop Your Aperture Down

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The worst thing you could possibly do in the photo world would be considered heresy and sacrilege in the church of photography. Truthfully, if you buy a lens with a fast aperture, you should never stop it down. You bought it to get that beautiful bokeh look. It’s also probably the reason why you upgraded from your phone. These lenses are wonderful: it’s why you’re paying so much for them. So we’re going to let you know why you should never stop your lens aperture down.

Bad Photo Tips is a new, satirical series that provides the best photography tips on the web. You won’t find these tips anywhere else on the internet, not even YouTube.

You Can Focus Stack Instead

Modern cameras, at least the good ones, have the awesome focus stacking feature. This means you can shoot an entire scene wide open. Then the camera will take tons of photos, blend them all together, and make a single photo. This is popular in the macro photography world. And for a long time, you could only do it through post-production. Want to know what to do?

  • Set your camera to shoot wide open.
  • Focus on the closest spot you want in focus.
  • Then set the camera to photograph as much of the rest of the scene you want.

If you want someone’s entire face in focus, this is the best way to do it. You won’t need to stop the lens down either.

Interested in more? Here’s a piece we did on Focus Stacking and a pertinent quote:

“Bargh starts off the video explaining the pitfalls of using the smallest aperture when lenses designed to shoot best at f8. Using a miniscule aperture also means you’ll need a tripod to keep the camera steady for long shutter speeds or invest in a ring light, which can introduce unwanted light streaks. As Bargh highlights going with a wider aperture also allows bokeh to invade most of the frame.

This is where focus stacking comes to save the day. All shooters have to do is keep the camera steady with a tripod or in hand whilst they take multiple images of the subject at different focusing distances. Once users have the images they can migrate the images over to piece of software. There are a few programs that will stitch together images including Zerene Stacker and Photoshop, but Bargh suggests Helicon Focus as the best paid solution.”

The Best Images Just Have Lots of Beautiful Bokeh and a Wide Aperture

Years ago, we looked at lots of beautiful images shot of the world. Many of them had most of the scene either in focus or out of focus. But none of these images were shot because of the bokeh. Today’s photos are different. Look at various portraits on Instagram, Facebook groups, and Zoom events. 

Modern Lenses Were Designed to Be Shot Wide Open

Finally, in the past couple of years, companies have made their lenses able to be shot with wide-open apertures most of the time. They know the market wanted it: that’s why they gave them more aperture blades, most micro-contrast, deeper saturation, etc. Manufacturers also like to tout how their lenses perform when shot wide open in MTF charts. Of course, this isn’t the case for everyone. Modern lenses are also very clinical: there’s no vignetting or anything. Some of us like character in our lenses.

That’s yet another reason to not stop your lens down. You’re going to kill any and all character. If you want it, you can just add it in via post-production.

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