Getting Creative with Aperture and Colour - Digital Photography School

Getting Creative with Aperture and Colour

Creative use of aperture and colour

 

Andrew S. Gibson is the author of Mastering Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Digital Cameras, on offer now at Snapndeals for a limited time.

You are probably already familiar with the effect of aperture on your images. If not, here’s a quick recap: for any given focal length and camera-to-subject distance, use a wider aperture to get less of the image in focus. There’s a fair amount of science behind that statement (some of it subjective, such as the definitions of depth-of-field and sharpness) but the end result is that you can use wide apertures to limit depth-of-field and add a real creative edge to your images. Note that you’ll get the best results with a prime lens as they have wider maximum apertures.

I’m writing about using wide apertures in this article because they are exciting. You can use them to do wonderful things with composition, focus and colour. Today I’m going to concentrate on the relationship between aperture and colour, something that I hadn’t really thought about before until someone pointed it out in a comment on a previous article. It made me realise that a wide aperture alone isn’t enough to make a good image. Light (as always in photography) is important, and (unless you’re working in black and white) so is colour.

Creative use of aperture and colour

Here’s an example. I used an 85mm lens and an aperture of f2.0 to create a portrait with very little depth-of-field. Now, look at the model. She has fair skin and dark hair. She’s wearing a black top over another green top. There is very little colour. I emphasised that by placing her against a grey coloured background. I darkened the background in Lightroom and reduced the saturation. The end result is a portrait with a lot of neutral light and dark tones and very little colour. The colour has become a subtle and understated part of the composition.

Creative use of aperture and colour

Here are two more portraits. They were taken during the same shoot, just with different backgrounds. In both cases I moved the model away from the background so that it would go out of focus. The idea here was to have fun and play around with the colours. Unlike the previous example the colours are strong, rather than subtle.

The background in both portraits was a painted door. Perhaps it’s also another example of seeing – where many photographers would see a door I saw colour, because I understood that I could throw the doors out-of-focus by choosing the right lens and aperture.

Creative use of aperture and colour

This portrait has a different approach. We took the photos in a children’s playground, and I noticed that the model’s jumper was nearly exactly a match with the colour of one of the plastic climbing frames. I was able to position her so that the colour of the background (out of focus again) matched her jumper.

The key in all these photos is first in observing the colours (seeing what is actually happening in the scene) and then finding interesting ways to work with the colour palettes presented by the combination of clothes worn by the models and the environment we were in. None of these were pre-conceived concepts. I was simply reacting to the circumstances given to me.

It’s also part of learning about how lenses and aperture work. Once you understand that you can make the background go out of focus by moving your model away from it and using a short telephoto lens with a wide aperture, you can start seeing what the camera sees, rather than what you see when you use your own eyes.

Mastering Photography

Creative use of aperture and colour

Would you like to learn more about aperture and the other important settings on your digital camera? My latest ebook, Mastering Photography: A Beginner’s Guide to Using Digital Cameras introduces you to digital photography and helps you get the most out of your camera. It covers concepts such as lighting and composition as well as the camera settings you need to master to take photos like the ones in this article. It’s available now at Snapndeals for a special price for a limited period.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category.

Andrew S. Gibson is a writer and photographer living in New Zealand. He is the author of over fifteen photography ebooks and he's giving two of them away. Sign up to his monthly newsletter to receive complementary copies of The Creative Image and Use Lightroom Better.

  • John B.

    Simple but great article! I’m quite familiar with using wide apertures to blur a background, but never thought about the color of the background. Thank you!

  • Allen Lawson

    I wont criticize but what have you done to her eyes in the first image although the others aren’t crash hot either.
    I took a photo of my dog with my 50mm lens and it crashed the dogs eyes too and I cant explain why.

    Maybe you can help. Ciao.

  • http://blogs.gonomad.com/traveltalesfromindia/ Mridula

    Super cool, the background bit, as usual I never thought about it!

  • Marjorie

    good article, but I’m curious what the comment means about “crashing” the eyes…

  • Jill Dawson

    Loved the article, very keen to lean more and more, especially lightroom :) Im not a huge portrait fun, but will deffinately try to give it a go with my son. My passion is landscape so learning something new is always a challenge to push my boundarys. thanks Andrew:)

  • Amanda Oldham | Photographer

    Great read, Andrew. Thank you for sharing!

  • Donna Mohr Bungo

    yes, what does “crashing the eyes” mean?

Some older comments

  • Jill Dawson

    September 26, 2013 05:11 pm

    Loved the article, very keen to lean more and more, especially lightroom :) Im not a huge portrait fun, but will deffinately try to give it a go with my son. My passion is landscape so learning something new is always a challenge to push my boundarys. thanks Andrew:)

  • Marjorie

    September 26, 2013 02:36 am

    good article, but I'm curious what the comment means about "crashing" the eyes...

  • Mridula

    September 21, 2013 06:35 pm

    Super cool, the background bit, as usual I never thought about it!

  • Allen Lawson

    September 20, 2013 10:37 am

    I wont criticize but what have you done to her eyes in the first image although the others aren't crash hot either.
    I took a photo of my dog with my 50mm lens and it crashed the dogs eyes too and I cant explain why.

    Maybe you can help. Ciao.

  • John B.

    September 20, 2013 07:08 am

    Simple but great article! I'm quite familiar with using wide apertures to blur a background, but never thought about the color of the background. Thank you!

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