Technique Tuesday: Choosing a Lens

Hello! Long live Technique Tuesdays! It has been awhile since I’ve been able to post one; I spent the summer absorbing my last few months in Vancouver before moving to Toronto a month and a half ago. Suffice to say this last month has been CRAZY trying to get used to school again! But being here has sparked my work ethic (haha) so I want to make sure I keep putting these out there for everyone!

The number one question I get asked the most is:

What type of lens should I use?

This is always an intriguing question to me. Lenses can be versatile, but my number one reply to this question is:

The lens is not as important as the person!

I don’t say this with a passive aggressive undercurrent of being like “oh, haha, lenses? How absurd. I am above them.” The only reason I say this is because I want people to know that THEIR eye is more important than the lens eye. A creative angle, thought, or light choice can happen no matter what the lens. I cannot express how important this thought is: depend on yourself and your eye and not your technology.

(I might also say this because I can’t afford new technology… but that’s beside the point!)

OKAY. So you’ve asked me that question and I’ve responded with the above.

The next thing to consider is:

What do you want to take photographs of?

Lenses can be very situational OR they can be very versatile. Here is what I mean:

Most affordable lenses these days are zoom lenses, otherwise known as telephoto lenses. What I mean by that is that it has a ring on the lens that lets you change your distances (or mm). For example, my favorite of these is 18-200 mm, meaning it can go wide and zoomed out at 18mm all the way up to 200 mm, which is closer to your subject. This is very handy and I LOVE my telephoto lenses because they are versatileDownside: their image quality is not as good as a prime lens.

What is a prime lens? A prime lens is a lens that focuses on only one distance. An example of this is my beloved 50 mm. These lenses are often more expensive, but their image quality is gorgeous.

giphy-2Oh George! Buy an SLR! Source.

The NEXT thing to think about is image stabilization (IS). This is your camera’s/lens’ ability to stay still when taking photographs, even when zoomed in (which is tougher). Some companies have IS in their camera body, like Sony. More often than not it will be in the lens (such as Canon and Nikon). This is lame, because the lenses with IS can cost 500+ more than their non-IS version (for Canon L lenses for example). This frustrates me because I feel IS should be in every camera no matter what–common sense? Otherwise, say you have an 18-200 mm zoom with no IS; you zoom in to take a photo of a bird–snap snap–and then it’s fuzzy! It will always be fuzzy unless you have a tripod.

Therefore, it is worth saving that extra bit to get a lens with IS; it will make all the difference! If you do not need this and can deal with never zooming in, always using a tripod, etc etc than you are fine getting a cheaper lens with no IS.

The NEXT thing to think about is f-stop. I discussed this briefly in my Depth of Field Technique Tuesday, however it is worth going over again with my handy very professional graphic:




The circles in the image above show the f-stop on the box. The smaller the number, the blurrier your background will be a.k.a the more “bokeh” your image will have. People love this for portraiture, food shots, insects/plants, basically anything close up where you need your subject to be the main focus.

This is something to consider when buying your lens if you are looking into portrait photography. It may be cheaper to buy the 17-85 mm with the f/4.0, however that means your backgrounds will not get as blurry as say a prime 85 mm with f/1.4, which is a great one for small focus points and blurry backgrounds. So consider the f-stop number you may want when purchasing your lens ESPECIALLY if you think you will be taking portrait photos!

OKAY. So, three aspects of a lens to think about:

  • the zoom/prime
  • the IS or no IS
  • the f-stop number

you may want. These are 3 things I usually think about when purchasing a lens.

To go back to the main question though, you must answer yourself:

What do you want to take photographs of with it? 

This is important because if you go out and buy a 2000 dollar wide-angle lens and then NEVER use it because all you do is take photos of plant leaves and people’s faces, that’s a bad thing. A very bad thing. When you buy a lens you want it to serve a purpose. All of my lenses are integral to my photography. I constantly carry most of them with me because they all do different jobs that I actually utilize. This is key.

This does not mean you have to buy a unique lens for every single situation you may be in. This is the DREAM of course, but we are not all that rich (now I’m just thinking about all the new lenses I want!). All it means is that you have to think about the type of photography you enjoy, the type of photography you want to work on, and the type of photography you think matters to you.

Below I’ve made a general list of the types of lenses and what their most common uses are. REMEMBER: you don’t have to fit inside this box! I’ve used my 50 mm for nature or landscape photos; I’ve used my wide angle for close-ups; all sorts of fun stuff!


I am a Canon user, so I’ll leave a tidbit for my fellow Canonites, just in case. There are two main types of lenses: EF lenses, which are lighter and have plastic components. They work well but they are cheaper and therefore not professional quality. Then there are L lenses, which are heavier, have metal components, and take high-end photos, particularly for enlargements. They tend to be more (by quite a bit) but depending on what you will use it for it could be worth it to save up!

Lenses are super fun and creative and amazing and constantly changing with technology to be better and better. However, in the end the really fun and creative stuff is on your end!

Happy shopping, and feel free to comment with any questions! 🙂

PS: Because I am a Canon photographer I will be focusing on Canon lenses because that is what I know best. However, if you have something else just googling it with your camera type will often give you the equivalent!

REMEMBER: most telephotos can be used to get the prime lens ranges; the only difference is that their quality may not be as good. Also, using a prime is fun because it forces you, the photographer, to move your body around! Sometimes this is fun, also good exercise.



35 mm (f/1.8 etc) good for portraiture shots and low light situations

50 mm (f/1.8 or f/1.2) have to be a bit further away than 35 mm if taking portraits (can get about 2m from subject) — similar look though

85 mm have to go even further than 50 mm! up to 4m however a bit of a different focal length than the above (get more of surroundings around your subject)

100 mm although this is technically a macro lens it makes for great portraits! If you get one with f/2.8 or around there you’ll get a good background blur.

**NOTE: I’ve never noticed a HUGE difference between these; they are the standard prime lenses for “portraits” but as I’ve said before, they can be used for different purposes. So many people love 85; so many love 50.


17-55 mm is thought to be a good focal range for beginners, often the mm used the most in other telephotos! Canon has a good one with f/2.8 and IS.

18-55 mm  this is the one your camera normally comes with! Utilize it!

70-200 mm starting to go into the long end of the zoom but this is useful if you like getting a bit closer shots!) good for event shooting (concerts etc

18-200 mm I use a SIGMA lens for this; I like it for more wide angle landscapes which make for great dramatic shots

24-105 mm my favorite all-purpose telephoto if I don’t need that wide angle!

10-18 mm for wide angle shots only. If you’re a newbie I wouldn’t recommend this, only because it has such a narrow and specific range. Of course, if you LOVE wide angle and it is your PASSION then go for it!

MACRO LENSES: I know this is up for debate a lot, but Tamron makes the best macro lenses, pretty much. I am not sure about specs because I don’t have one myself and don’t do a lot of macro photography; this is worth researching more!

PPS: When you go into a camera store, don’t be shy! Ask them if you can test the lens out. This is important! Sometimes they hover which can be awkward. I hate looking at cameras or lenses. I get all anxious. But if I’m going to spend money, then you bet I’m going to try it out first. Think of it like buying a 2000 dollar coat; you wouldn’t NOT try it on before buying it, right? Have this mentality when you go! Even when just looking. You do not have to commit right away, remember. I usually float into a store 4-5 times before I buy something. No pressure, my friends.

NEXT POST: will be about camera bodies and WHAT IN THE WORLD that tiny writing even means on the labels in the store. I know I’m going a little bit backwards, but that’s okay! Just keeping y’all on your toes.

Adventure: Scarborough Bluffs

Well I recently moved to Toronto to complete my masters degree, and after taking a few weeks to settle in and get used to this new hectic pace I have (hint: I’m still not used to it) I decided I needed a day off! So I transited for 2 hours to the Scarborough Bluffs, which is part of a series of cliffs that run along the edge of Lake Ontario. I went to two parks: Cathedral Bluff Park, which is the high view, and the Bluffers Park Beach, below it (but it took an hour to get to!).

I discovered several things:

a) It’s beautiful!

b) There are still like four parks over there I want to explore

c) Life without a car is weird to get used to again. I ended up walking for about 4 hours altogether! Phew!

I hope you enjoy!






















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Portraits: Nathalie

This past week I went out to Delta in BC for a photoshoot with my friend Nathalie, who wanted to take some photos in her old high school graduation dress before she donated it! I love this dress. The way it looks with sun behind it and its material! So good!

It was great to see a familiar farming landscape in an area so close to were I live! Unfortunately I don’t think that it appears much in the photographs, but I just have to say there are treasure spots in this area!

My favorite location from this day was when we just took a random road and ended up at Deltaport, a huge port where trains and trucks line up for kilometers to deposit their cargo that gets shipped out. The tide was low and we explored out on the mud a bit. The best thing about photos is exploring new areas and seeing how they can add to the person in the photographs. All elements are important! I had a bit of trouble with the placement of the sun at 4 PM, but I got to try out my new external flash and it was incredibly helpful. 🙂

















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Technique Tuesday: Shutter Speed

Since I’ve done a previous post on aperture/depth of field, I decided it was time to do one on shutter speed. As I discussed in that post, aperture and shutter speed go hand in hand when creating a photo using the manual setting.

What is Shutter Speed?

Shutter speed is how fast the shutter closes on your lens, ie: the length of time light has to get into your camera to take a photo.


Aperture: size of hole that light travels though

ISO: camera sensitivity to light

Shutter speed: length of time light has to get through aperture hole size

Think of the shutter as a set of blinds… they shut at different speeds, deciding how much time light has to hit the “film” in your camera (or in the case of digital cameras, the sensor). The longer these blinds are open, the more light; the quicker they are shut, the less light.

What Does It Look Like on my Camera?

Good question. The shutter speed on your camera is most commonly the fraction, however when you scroll to change the speed and make it slower, it uses the quotation symbol to equal a whole second. When you see 1/200 or 50″, those are both indicative of shutter speeds. But what do they mean? What is the difference? I will tell you!

Shutter speed is counted in fractions of a second (faster) and whole seconds (slower). For example, if you take a photo and your shutter speed is at 1/200, that means your shutter is open for 1/200 of a second when you click that button to take the photo. If you have the shutter speed at, say, 30″, that means the shutter is open for thirty whole seconds; for lengths like that, you need a tripod! It can also be as simple as 1″, or 1 second.

The standard shutter speed is often designated at 1/60 of a second.

Fast Shutter Speeds

The faster your shutter speed is, the more your photos will be “frozen” in time. For example, with a shutter speed of 1/800 of a second (f/4, ISO 200), I got this:


You can see individual droplets frozen in the air at this speed. The faster your shutter speed, the quicker it catches movement, whether it be water, people, or anything else. The best measurement of testing is water; it’s what I like to use the most when playing around with shutter speed!

This one was taken at 1/4000 of a second (f/5.6 and ISO a crazy 6400) for the effect I wanted:



This was out in the ocean and I was standing on the beach; it was a cloudy day. Still, you can see individual droplets of water frozen in the air. I played with this for a long time, with all different shutter speeds.

REMEMBER: the shutter speed will affect the look of a photo when used in conjunction with aperture and ISO. For example, if you make your shutter speed fast (1/400), at ISO 200 and leave your aperture at something like f/14, it will be far too dark! Your aperture is too small and will not let enough light in for a shutter speed that fast; imagine it as a tiny hole in a dark little room and for a fleeting second you open a pinhole and then shut it again. The light doesn’t even make it to the back wall! So if you are increasing shutter speed (or decreasing it, for that matter) you MUST remember to compensate with your other settings. Otherwise, your photo will not work. This takes lots of practice and sometimes some guesswork; however, sometimes you get results you never expect and end up delighted with!

Slow Shutter Speed

So now you know what a fast shutter speed looks like: it freezes droplets of rain, can freeze people in the middle of physical activity or movement, and more. Slow shutter speed has the opposite effect. The slower your shutter speed, the smoother the appearance of things: water becomes a smoky glass, people become a blur of activity. People often despair when they see their photos and that people are blurry or not in perfect focus. However, slow shutter speeds can make amazing photos! It naturally adds an element of movement, activity, and liveliness to a photo; it can capture something more real and fleeting rather than simply freezing a moment in time.

Slow shutter speeds are often designated as speeds slower than 1/60 of a second. There comes a point when it is too slow and a tripod must be used. Slow shutter speeds are often used for photos of lightning storms and starry night skies in order to capture everything; however, I have yet to hunker down outside with my tripod and try this out. I can’t wait to though! And when I do you bet I’ll make a post about it.


This is not the greatest example of a slow shutter speed photograph, however I have fond memories of this moment. Walking beneath a bridge in Arequipa, Peru, at night, and we stumbled onto these young kids, just playing music and dancing with each other. I loved the way the dresses of the girls moved and tried to capture that movement; however right after I took this photo they started laughing and became embarrassed. Oops! The boy is a bit too blurry for my liking but I love the girl spinning her dress, the laughter in the background, just kids dancing for fun… The shutter speed here was 1/13 of a second (f/4, ISO 800).

I like to catch people in motion with slow shutter speeds. Here is another:



This was again taken in Peru, the night of a festival in Cusco. You can get a feeling of the emotion and movement of people in the setting, and I think the shutter speed helps with this. Not only because it shows the movement of people, but the low lighting is rich and deep, very unlike the lighting would look if I had used flash or a faster shutter speed. Half the reason I use a slow shutter speed will be for the warm lighting that I want to capture. This often means that movement is also shown, which I am okay with. (shutter speed 1/15, f/4, ISO 1600).

If photographing people moving makes you anxious, try it with water!


This photo was not too slow of a shutter speed (1/50) however it was moving fast enough to catch a blur, and I kept my f stop a smaller size (f/14).

The great thing is seeing how shutter speed, aperture, and ISO all work in concert with each other. When you change one it always means you have to tweak another to get the photo you want (usually).

My challenge to YOU: take your camera and play with shutter speed. First try it on the Tv setting, which is shutter speed priority; this means the camera will figure out the corresponding aperture and ISO for you to get an exposed photograph. Once you figure out that and how shutter speed works on its own, go to manual and play with it and your other settings to see what kind of photos you can make.

Good places to test shutter speeds: rivers and waterfalls, streets with cars, players at sporting events, dances, crowds, parades, and more. In the winter time, try catching snow falling and see how it is! If you are really into it, grab a tripod and set up for a starry sky, northern lights shoot, or even tracing the lights of cars on the street. Let me know how it goes!

Technique Tuesday: Black and White Photography

This Tuesday I’ll be looking at one of my favorites… black and white photography.

The general idea seems pretty straightforward: either you make the setting on your camera black and white or change it in post-processing. However, just like color photos, you should have your creative eye and mind in a black and white setting if you take a photo and plan to make that the outcome. Black and white photography is the original photography and should be taken just as seriously and not as an alternative afterthought.

I love black and white photography. Give me grainy, dirty, smudged, mid-movement black and white photography any day and I will be obsessed with it. Black and white is fun because it allows you to:

  • focus on shape, line
  • focus on composition
  • focus on expression and emotion
  • focus on lighting: shadows and highlights, silhouette
  • focus on texture
  • focus on patterns

In black and white photography, you can’t rely on soft colors or Instagram filters to tell your story. It has to be done with the shapes, the faces, the pure feeling that the photo evokes. And that, my friends, is the best part about photography. Take away all of the tools, all of the technology, and yet you still have the chance to do what photography is all about, and that is tell a story.





Below I’ve listed some tips for black and white photography. This is not my most complex Technique Tuesday, so I hope you will be able to try out some of these ASAP!

Shoot in RAW

Always shoot in RAW! It serves the same purpose as a negative for film, meaning you can go back and work on it again and again and it won’t lose quality; it’s the highest data image file you can have! Which is good for black and white, as you may need to adjust things like highlights and shadows quite a bit.

WARNING: only shoot in RAW if you have a program on your computer that can edit it! That would be the program your camera with, or any Adobe program (Photoshop, Lightroom, etc.) at least the newest versions.

Low ISO 

Be sure to shoot your photos at a low ISO, even if they are in color. As soon as they are turned black and white, grain becomes much more apparent. Here’s one I took with grain to show you the difference between a low ISO photo and a high ISO.


You can see the grain in the photo above from a higher ISO I used.

Remember what ISO is: your camera’s sensitivity to light! 200-400 is the ISO for normal daylight and counts as a lower ISO number.

Best Times of Day to Shoot

Black and white photographs actually work best on overcast days. So if you’re not getting the sun you want for dramatic colors, try out some black and white instead! Overcast works best because it stops your photos from being overexposed or too shadowed.

However, this may not work for you if you want a more dramatic lighting situation, which would still work for photogs. Sun flares in black and white can be dramatic and beautiful! However they make a more dramatic landscape (either very dark or very bright) and aren’t great for portraits or for certain types of photographs (some architecture shots or general subject-based photography).


Composition matters SO MUCH in black and white photography. The placement of people, things, and even you when it comes to taking the photo is key. This is when you really have to stretch your brain. Don’t just look at what’s happening in front of you but what makes up the scene. Is that just a door on the side of a building, or is it a minimalist rectangular shaped photo that extends to the building shape? Is that railing just a railing or a pattern to study? Look at architecture as a good starting point: watch for patterns, bold designs, straight lines, simple compositions. Once you start thinking this way, it is almost impossible to stop. I’m like this even when I don’t have my camera on me; it’s a great way to be, because then I remember what catches my eye and I go back later with a camera!



Texture: Active Skies or Minimalist

It’s important to start learning to look in tone and texture, not color, for black and white photography.

“Active skies” refers to the idea that if you are taking a black and white landscape, it doesn’t always work best with a plain sky. It’ll create a drab photo. It might look beautiful and blue in color, but in black and white it just looks like a flat space, which is not always what one wants. Active skies is a term for an exciting sky with depth, however I also mean it in terms of overall texture in your photograph.

One time this won’t apply is when you are going for a minimalist look, with bare accents and mostly shapes and light as your main tool to create a photograph; this works just fine in some cases as well, of course! There are no limits in photography, only different directions.


An active sky above adds depth to the photo.


A rather inactive sky here shows a more minimalist approach to black and white landscape photography with similar-sized subjects.

What Kind of Lighting to Look For

Light is one of the biggest elements in B & W photos. What adds depth and variety to these types of photos is the combination of shadows, highlights, and contrast.

Make sure to keep an eye out for varying shadows because it will add different and dynamic depths to your photos. If you see a good contrast–a white building with a black door, say–this makes for a strong photograph as well. Light is so important to keep an eye on in a photo. Go with your instincts; if it looks like a cool light dynamic against a builiding, or there’s a shadow cutting half across a person’s face to add an element of mystery and you like it, then go for it! Document it!


In color, this photo was rather flat. But with a quick change to black and white, you can see the shadows pop and add depth to the photograph.


My favorite technique: underexposure! Do this especially if you have the intention of creating a black and white image; if you don’t do this, there is a high chance of blowing out the photo’s highlights in post-processing. This means that when you play around with the image, your whiter highlights will end up becoming too bright and ruining the photo. Underexposing solves this irritating dilemma.

How to Make Black and White in Post-Processing

This is easy!

In Photoshop, you just go to the Image tab, adjustments, and then change to black and white. From there you can play with brightness, contrast, or shadows + highlights if you feel the inclination. You can also do it on your camera beforehand but it’s not recommended. In post-processing you have much more leeway if it is a color photo that has been changed afterwards.

Secret Tip

One of my favorite things is to use my polarizing filter. It helps cut reflection on objects and reduces the risk of having washed out black and white photos. A polarizing filter is meant to reduce glare (i.e.: turns water clear, skies darker, etc.) but I love to sneak it in for black and whites. This is a bit of a cost but fun to work with!

Now these are all a few quick and easy tips. Post a comment if you have any questions or other black and white ideas! My main point is: start thinking and looking in a way that breaks down what is in front of you to light and shapes. Just try it out! Now go have fun. 🙂


Technique Tuesday: Wide Angle

Today’s Technique Tuesday focuses on a certain shot type that is fun, dramatic, and creates beautiful landscape photography as well as unique portrait shots! Yes, I am talking about the (often under utilized) wide angle shot.

So what does it mean exactly when you’re chatting with someone and they say “oh, and then I brought my wide angle lens…” and you nod and smile but really wonder “what did they just say?” Let’s look into it!

What is a wide angle lens? 

A wide angle lens is a lens that has a substantially shorter focal length. This means it says something like 35 mm or 25 mm and lower (the lowest without starting a rounding edge–known as a fish eye–is 17 mm). Basically, this shorter focal length allows for a wider view of a shot: perfect for landscapes or for capturing a smaller scene in a limited amount of space.

Truth be told, wide angle lenses are some of my favorite. I bought my Sigma 18mm-200mm zoom when I was in high school. It was the second lens I bought for the sake of diversity. I was too poor for Canon so I bought a Sigma, and let me tell you… it is one of the best purchases I have ever made! I highly recommend Sigma lenses. I’ve had it for 7 years and only now it is starting to clunk a bit, mostly my fault. It has traveled all over the world with me, dealt with sandy deserts in Peru, humid socks-turned-lens-bag in Asia, and more. Unfortunately due to its age I need to start looking into new ones, if anyone has suggestions!

Why do I love it so much? It is so versatile. It really allowed me to work on my landscape photography which I love so much to do. In one move I can go from 18 mm and get an entire scape, and then I can shift and get closer and closer with a few clicks. This allows me to get different perspectives of the same scene much faster. However, the zoom feature is not my favorite part by the wide angle part… the 18 mm!


My Sigma 18-200 mm resting peacefully.

Downsides: the zoom lens means not as great of photo quality as a prime lens. You can get a smaller zoom (17-55 for example) or go for the wide angle prime lens (a lens that doesn’t zoom). They have the best quality. Any wider than 17/18 and you start to get a fish eye look.

What is a wide angle shot?

Okay so we know what people mean now when they talk about their “wide angle lens”. What about the wide angle shots? As I briefly mentioned above, those are photographs taken when the lens is at a wide angle focal length (anything 35 mm and shorter).

I like them for their dramatic look, as well as the fact that it lets you see everything. As someone from the prairies, I am happiest when I have a big open sky in front of me. The wide angle lens achieves that same feeling with ease! It’s also good for variety when taking photos of people; who wants constant close ups of their face? By the way, this is something I am still working on… 🙂


This is an example of a wide angle shot. I took this in Jasper 2 years ago. My lens was at its shortest, 18 mm for this. It allowed me to capture some of the reflection of the mountain as well as getting those in the distance, with still enough room for a sky!

How to know when you take a wide angle shot

If you are unsure of what constitutes a wide shot, make sure to watch your lens as you move it (if you have a zoom). You can see the little line changing focal lengths as you rotate the zoom. Try to stick in the 18-35 mm range for wide angle shots. The more you do it the more familiar it becomes until you can scroll through your photos and know by instinct ones you have taken are within that focal range.


Between the 18 and the 35 constitutes as a wide angle shot.

Examples: Landscape 

There is no doubt that wide angle lenses show off their best in landscape work. Think of dramatic National Geo landscape shots or those with a subject and a vast background behind it. Photojournalism loves wide angle shots. I’ve used some examples below to show what I like about them. All are taken with my Sigma 18-200 mm lens.


focal length: 24 mm


focal length: 18 mm


focal length: 18 mm

Examples: Portraits

This is something still new to me but I know will be lots of fun! It’s a chance to get the location into a shot with your subjects and gives a feeling of gravity. I can’t wait to make more!


Technically a portrait… focal length: 24 mm


focal length: 28 mm


focal length: 18 mm

There’s some information on wide angle lenses and shots. I hope you all go out and experiment with them now! Make sure to use the rule of thirds from a few Tuesdays ago and see how it looks. If you have any questions about the photos, tips, or more, feel free to comment!

Technique Tuesday: Depth of Field

For this week, I will be doing a general overview of depth of field: what is it? How do you change it? What does it do for photos? Once you gain an idea of how depth of field works, it can be one of the funnest things to play around with!

Depth of field can be used to greatly enhance your photos. You can make it so the focus is on something as small as an eyelash or a strand of hair, or make it so that your entire frame is in focus (this also depends on your lenses). Depth of field is one of the funnest but also trickiest parts of photography. Time to open your mind and hopefully how I explain it will make some sense!

Depth of Field

Depth of field is basically the the distance between objects in a photo that are acceptably in focus. It is controlled on your camera by the aperture.

The aperture in a camera is the hole that light enters; okay, easy so far. What you may recognize it as is the f-stop. F-stop refers to how many “stops” or levels it takes to reach a certain depth of field. These are called “stops” because at each f-stop there is a part of the mechanism that is stopping further light from entering (basically, the diameter of the hole).

Okay, so far: depth of field, or the objects in focus in a photo, are controlled by your camera’s aperture, a hole that allows light in. This hole changes size (diameter) to allow different levels of light in; each of these is called an f-stop.

So far so good, right?

These f-stops are recognizable when you go into a store and look at all the camera lenses on sale. You’ll see on the boxes the focal length (200 mm) and usually the f-stop near it: it’s the number f/1.6 or f/4.5, something like that.


these things, circled very professionally by me.


So what exactly do those f-stop numbers mean? When you are playing around with your camera on the manual setting (NOTE: as you all should be doing! There is no way to get to know your camera like manual) or aperture priority, you see these numbers scrolling past and apparently, they are supposed to mean something. Maybe you’ve ignored them for some time. Maybe they are not of much interest. Here is where it gets a bit tricky. It is very important and very interesting, but it takes some reciting over and over and practicing, over and over.

When I refer to f-stop numbers, I mean the maximum aperture of the lens, which here means not the biggest number the maximum ability of your aperture to change its diameter, which can be a small f-stop number because it’s a large diameter (stick with me here…).

  • The lower the f-stop number, the wider your aperture diameter.
  • The lower the f-stop number, the more light is entering your camera.
  • The lower the f-stop number, the shallower your depth of field (meaning you can focus on smaller things, with more being blurred).
  • The lower the f-stop number, generally the faster the lens.
  • The lower the f-stop number, the more flexibility with aperture sizes the lens has.

For example, f/1.0 is one of the most open apertures. This number means much light is entering your camera. At the same time, it means you have a shallow depth of field, so you can take photos of very specific elements or details of an object, like a leaf, or a ring:


In this instance, I was focusing on the ring. Notice how even the leaves are blurred and my background (which happens to be the window out of my bedroom) is completely blurred. This is at f/2.0 at 1/500 shutter speed, shot with a 50 mm lens with maximum f/1.4

When you are able to focus on only these types of details, conversely you must deal with more light entering (remember, the lower the f-stop the more light coming in). To compensate for this I will usually make my shutter speed faster. If you use aperture priority shooting for these types of shots you may not have to worry about it as much, however I like complete control over my photos so I usually end up adjusting both elements to get the look I want. Another thing to be aware of is your ISO, your camera’s sensitivity to light. All three of these elements play together to get the exposure you want.

For example:

You hold your camera up and take a photo. Light from the scene goes through the glass lens and through a hole (the aperture) the size you have made it by choosing an f-stop; right behind it is the shutter curtain, which opens for a fraction of a second to allow the amount of light–determined by the aperture diameter–through. The camera’s overall sensitivity to this light is based off your camera’s ISO levels. And.. tada! Photo!

So there is lots going on despite us just paying attention to the depth of field! I wish I could do a big in depth talk about all of it but that is a bit overwhelming. Basically, just remember this: when working on your depth of field shots, you must compensate for whichever f-stop you are using (shutter speed, for example).

What about if we want a shot with everything in focus, like landscapes? For these shots you would change your f-stop to a larger number, which means less light is getting in, which means…? Right! The deeper your depth of field.


The above barn photo was taken at f/22 at 1/2000 of a second because it was a sunny day. Notice how every detail is in focus, and that is because of my chosen depth of field (f/22). If I had made it smaller, only what my camera had focused on would be in focus.


So what have I talked about so far?

SUMMARY: That the depth of field, or what is in focus in your photo, depends on the aperture diameter you choose, which is controlled by the f-stop. The smaller the f-stop number, the wider the aperture diameter (more light) and the shallower your depth of field (less in focus, small details in focus). The larger the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture diameter (less light) and the deeper your depth of field (all in focus).

So how does one figure this stuff out? This is how I did it. One day I set my camera on manual and refused to take it off. I barely even do now, unless I choose one of the priority shootings (Av, Tv) but rarely. I am comfortable with it now only because I forced myself to use it and only it. I took a lot of photos. I fiddled around with just the aperture number to see the difference it made to my photos. Then I would fiddle around with both it and shutter speed. I took lots of bad photos. LOTS. I still take many bad photos. Do not be discouraged! If the depth of field is not what you want or what you envisioned, ask yourself: why is it not working? What can I do to to change it? The fun part of photography is the playing around and testing new things. Not comfortable with your knowledge of depth of field? Force yourself to learn it by going out and taking photos with depth of field as your priority of the day.

It is easy to take photos with everything in focus. Or just what your camera decides to be in focus based on automatic settings. Try not to do that as much. Make sure you are changing the aperture number! Deal with what the camera does afterward. Understand why suddenly everything went crazy bright and how you can fix that exposure. Turn the focus to manual so you can adjust it to what you want; the smaller the detail, the harder it is for auto focus to figure out what on earth you want to do.

Read about it! Look at diagrams! Depth of field is fun because it adds a unique element. When I bought my 50 mm lens last year with its f/1.4 I fell in love. And I still want more with smaller f-stops. More! It’s especially fun for portraiture:




Wide depth of field is still fun and I love doing landscape photography, but man is it ever fun having a versatile f-stop ability on a lens! I recommend everyone try playing around with both large and small f-stops and see the results.

Hopefully that was somewhat clear and did not overload your brains. Please comment with any questions, ideas, or tidbits! 🙂


Portraits: Adrienne

Earlier this month Adrienne and I woke up at 6 AM to get to Wreck Beach by UBC for the sunrise. I can safely say we beat it. The light was gorgeous, but took lots of fast changes on my part to try and keep up with it! Going from pitch black to early morning sun in under an hour is an exercise in using your camera, that is for sure!

Anyhow, we had a lot of fun! Shooting Adri is so fun because she’s already a pro in front of the camera; she’s a crazy famous cosplayer and does photoshoots all of the time! So I decided this time around I wanted to take photos of her just as herself: no make-up, no intense outfits, just her and her beautiful face and the ocean as our background. It was very relaxing, lots of fun, and it was totally empty, except for some seagulls with attitude.











Heehee, I love this one of her laughing!











Portraits: Dan and Nyomi

So this past Sunday I was lucky enough to photograph my two friends, Dan and Nyomi. We drove out 2 hours from Vancouver to Alexandra Bridge past Hope, which is up in the mountains… and it is breathtaking! Also the bridge is just a grill with the Fraser river rushing beneath you, no big deal.

There was pouring rain when we left but with a bit of optimism and good luck it lightened up to let us take photos; the sun even came out! I actually liked the bit of rain, if you look closely in some photos you can see it sprinkling in the background. It was lovely lighting and I absolutely loved the dark green trees, the fog, and this great old bridge as a backdrop! Kudos goes to Dan for his idea to visit this place. Aside from taking photos of my friends that I hope they will be able to enjoy for years to come, it was so nice to see them loosening up in front of the camera, particularly my camera shy yet very handsome friend Dan.

I hope they enjoyed it! Here are a few of the photos from that day. 🙂




















These goofs.

Technique Tuesday: Rule of Thirds

Time for Technique Tuesday! These are posts I do every other week or so with different techniques and ideas, tricks and tips that I use in my photography and want to share. This time I’m going to go over a basic move that I learned in my high school photography class (or more likely my dad at an early age) that has saved my life countless times. It is now an automatic reaction of mine to use this “rule of thirds”. Once you know how to utilize it, you will make well-balanced, visually pleasing photos. Not only that but then you get to play around with it and bend it, which is just as fun!

What is the Rule of Thirds?

The Rule of Thirds is a visual mathematic-esque rule (so I’m told). It was actually created by Renaissance painters when they wanted to add a bit more depth to their paintings. The idea is that the eye wants to roam across the screen, not just focus on the center. It splits your photo up into 9 equal parts (hence the term thirds). When you look through your viewfinder, you see the rectangular shape that your image will be framed in. What the Rule of Thirds does is cut that rectangle into 9 equal pieces, like so:

rule of thirds

The goal of your subject placement using this rule is to place it in one of the segments of thirds (the left or right vertical, the top or bottom horizontal, or the cross-section of lines).

Notice the placement of the flower in this case. It is on one side of the screen (the right column), with an unfurling petal taking up the middle column. The left column does have a distant flower in the background but it is not the focus. Your eyes are being pulled to the side and despite it not showing the entire flower, it is still somehow an acceptable looking photography, generally. Some cameras will actually allow you to have this setting on your viewfinder at all times, however I find it a bit too distracting.

These lines act as reference points for framing your photograph. Moving your subject to the vertical left or right thirds will generally help your photo work. This is also true for portraits!

ruleof thirds2

Notice how her face is nearly right at a cross section of the lines. Her other arm follows the left vertical line almost perfectly. This means our subject is well within the Rule of Thirds.

This also works in terms of your horizon line for things like landscapes:





These are two examples of my photos when I used the lower line and the higher line. When your horizon line is in the middle of your photo it tends to be flat and boring looking. By utilizing the rule of thirds and moving your horizon line either low (image one) or high (image two) it spices up the dynamics of the environment in your photo. Notice in the bottom one how my foreground subject is in the bottom third right at the cross section, fitting nicely into the Rule.

So the way to use this is to go out and take lots of photos! Play around with moving your camera and your body around your subject or your view. Kneeling or squatting may suddenly create a more interesting dynamic in terms of horizon line than standing at normal eye level. Instead of putting your subject in the middle of the camera every time, try moving them around to the sides and the top or bottom.

Once you start producing images that follow this rule and are visually nice, it’s also fun to be able to play around and break the rule of thirds. “What?!” you must be asking. “Why say all that stuff about the Magic Rule of Thirds if you don’t use it all the time?” There is a big difference in not understanding that there is math in photography and just randomly taking photos, and knowing how to set up a geometrically pleasing photo and playing around with options to test it. The Rule of Thirds does not have to be used all of the time! I find, especially in portraiture, that I will consistently ignore the Rule of Thirds and do things like stick people’s heads in the very bottom, their feet at the very top, or place them down at the bottom corner and leave the majority of the photo for the landscape or empty space. That is the fun of photography and art in general: you learn the rules, and then you break them.

But whenever I am in doubt I consistently use the Rule of Thirds, without even thinking about it! All of the photos above were not planned this way. I did not stand and think and calculate. When you do it enough and understand what is visually pleasing to you and to the general public, you will begin to understand how it works. I bet most of you do this naturally already! But now you just know what it is. It’s a fairly natural way to take photos.

I hope this helps if you are interested in pursuing or working on your own photographic journey!

PS: Never underestimate the power of a center subject, either. However, be careful with how often you do it, or how often you place your subjects in the same spaces at all. Be sure to add some variety!

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