The response to my suggestion for Foto Fridays has been overwhelming (comments and emails and phone calls, oh my!). The only problem is that I feel pretty under qualified. I feel like someone who doesn’t even know how to send an email (Hi Mom!) about to lead a session on how to do WordPress-y things on your blog (Hi Heather!).

The mantra is to “write what you know”, so I will write about what (limited) knowledge I have about photography. First, a disclaimer:


Before I get completely technical, I thought I should touch on what you are actually taking a photograph of. Whenever I come across a magazine article about how to take better photos, they talk about photo composition. There are a number of things to keep in mind when composing a photo.

Maybe I should touch on one composition aspect per week, and one technical aspect (This is assuming this is not the only Foto Friday that I do). Does that sound like a good idea? Let me know.

Composition: It’s all about the background.

We had family come to visit in July. They were gracious enough to offer to watch all three kids so that Matthew and I could have a hot date night. Since he and I were all gussied up I asked my sister Dayna to take a few photos of us next to a nice tree in our backyard. She snapped away and then handed me the camera to see if I was happy with them. Here’s one that made me smile, but there was a bit of an issue with it.

Attack of the jungle gym!

There is a primary-coloured jungle gym growing out of my back! Send help!

Totally not Dayna’s fault. She just took the photo I asked her to. I pulled Matthew over to a different location and handed the camera back to Dayna. Isn’t the background much less distracting (except for the branch growing out of Matthew’s head)?


Though my bare back may be even more distracting. I almost look naked here, thanks to that halter back. I assure you I was not naked. I do not pose for those types of photos. You should all be thankful for that. I know I am.

I am constantly stopping to toss useless pieces of plastic crap toys off of the lawn when I am outside with the kids and taking photos. Matthew likes to mock me endlessly tease me about it being “all about the background”. While it may not be all about the background (um, there’s the actual subject of the photo), the background can detract from the photo subject.

So what do you do if you have a photo that you like but there’s something growing out of your head? Or a jungle gym is about to pounce?

Do some editing.

Picasa is a FREE editing tool provided by Google. You can download it for FREE and do some great editing like changing from colour to black and white/sepia, etc. You can use it to remove red eye, to crop photos and so! much! more! And it’s FREE! Did I mention that it was FREE?

Take the first photo above. I wanted to use it in a post, so I cropped it and made it black and white. Like so.


Much better, in my humble opinion.

OK. Let’s get technical!

Aperture isn’t as confusing as it sounds. Really.

When I tried to wade my way through my photography book, the terminology about aperture made my head swirl. To a logical accounting brain, it seemed to make no sense whatsoever. Here is the technical low down, with the English translation directly afterwards.

The lens aperture is the size of the lens opening. The aperture determines the amount or intensity of light that hits the sensor. Aperture is shown as f-stop numbers (i.e. f/2.8, f/4, f/5.8, etcetera, etcetera).

Smaller f-stop numbers mean that the lens has a larger opening and that more light hits the sensor. Because THAT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.

Larger f-stop numbers means that the lens has a smaller opening and that less light hits the sensor. Because THAT ALSO MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.

Aperture affects depth of field. WHAT ON EARTH is depth of field, you ask? Depth of field is basically the zone of focus around your subject. Still not making sense? I’m not surprised.


I have a Canon, and not a Nikon (or any other brand). I tried to Google pictures of the Nikon, but couldn’t find pictures that showed the views of the controls. I will use my Canon as the example and hope it’s the same for the rest of you suckers.

Turn the Mode Dial on your camera to Av mode. While in the Av mode, you set the aperture using the Main Dial on the top right, and the camera does the rest of the settings for you. That’s why we’re using Av and not the fully Manual mode; because we have not covered the rest yet.

It is really, really simple. I PROMISE.

A small aperture (f-stop number) means that a smaller portion of your photo will be in focus with the rest of it being blurry (for closer subjects, like kids or flowers, etc).

Here is a photo of our wild flowers using a smaller f-stop number of 7.1.


Notice how the flower is in focus, but the background is blurry?

I then bumped the f-stop number up to f/16.


See how the other flowers are less blurry?

Our final f-stop. I set it to f/40.


You can see the other flowers!

To sum it up: the smaller the f-stop number for the aperture, the smaller the area that is in focus. The larger the f-stop number, the larger the area that is in focus.


At least to me.

Did it make sense to you? That is the real question.

Was any of this helpful? Did a light bulb turn on above your head? Or was this a complete waste of your (and my) time?

I think this post may have ended up being too long. Should I not bother with the composition stuff?

I need feedback, people. I need to know if this was the first of many Foto Fridays.

Or if it was the first and last Foto Friday.

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  1. Amanda September 7, 2007 8:00 am edit

    Um. You might want to reread your statement about posing for naked photos. I think you forgot the word “not”. Freudian slip? Methinks so. :)

    Oops! Fixed. Phew! :)

  2. OMSH September 7, 2007 8:49 am edit

    I also don’t like photos taking horizontally when they should be taken vertically. Like that one of you and your sweet love. Hello! A vertical, slightly off-centered to the right photo would have been loverly – just LOVERLY!

    These are great! AND what a fabulous way to make aperture MAKE SENSE.

    kudos momma!

  3. Elizabeth September 7, 2007 9:16 am edit

    He He.
    Great tips, Angella. Thanks!

  4. Leslie September 7, 2007 10:15 am edit

    Great Post!

    Keep up the Foto Fridays, I will definitly be playing with the apperture on my Canon now, I could not figure it out previously!

  5. LVGurl September 7, 2007 10:49 am edit

    Tutorial? What tutorial? I just learned to spell ETCETERA!

    I kid, I kid…

    (grabbing my camera now to fiddle with the f-stop.)

  6. Elizabeth September 7, 2007 10:54 am edit

    This was great. Not too long, and very very easy to understand. I can’t to try it all out. And I liked the composition part – leave that in! It was all really really helpful, thank you!

  7. Jennie September 7, 2007 11:14 am edit

    I really think you will potentially save my marriage. We bought this very pricey camera for our wedding (gift to each other) and I swore I’d read the manual! As soon as we got the camera! I’d be a manual-reading fool!

    But the manual is a snoozefest, so I tossed it aside and read Glamour.

    Now I have you! And I’m going to take awesome pictures and totally pretend I read the manual!

    Isn’t that what all successful marriages are built on? Lies and help from fellow bloggers?

    I thought so.

  8. Miss September 7, 2007 11:53 am edit

    You know I love this idea! I’m fiddling as I’m reading and just not seeing any blur. I’m sure I’m too stupid to figure it out or am just not reading the instructions right. Am I supposed to see the blur in my preview pane or just after I take the pic? *bangs head* I really want this to work. I’ll keep trying. Thanks though! I think you should keep it up!

    Don’t hurt yourself! :)

    You won’t see it the difference in the viewfinder, just afterwards when you look at the picture. Pick one subject and take a series of photos while changing the f-stop. You should see the difference when you play them back :)

  9. lisa March 15, 2010 9:52 am edit

    Thanks i was thinking the same thing . I am a new photographer and i really dont get the f stop thing i hope i can figure it out. I have nikkon 3000d and a 18-55 lens with 3.5 /5.6 lens auto focus lens . HELP

  10. Kami September 7, 2007 12:15 pm edit

    I love the composition stuff… I always have to crop to get the distracting background to a minimum. I just have a point and shoot though so the aperature (?) is lost on me :-)

    Your explanations made perfect sense though – you go girl!

  11. Karen September 7, 2007 1:25 pm edit

    good stuff! That lightbulb went on for me on Tuesday, and I’m loving it!

  12. Hannah September 7, 2007 2:33 pm edit

    Great tutorial! More interesting than ones I’ve read before – you talked about your life and your family as well, which made it more “real”. I’m also constantly asking people to move to different places when I take their photos, because I’m also “all about the background”.

    And I will never forget the day I found Picasa. IT ROCKS!

  13. Mel September 7, 2007 4:31 pm edit

    I loved it Ange. You totally rocked the aperture. LOL!! It now makes sense, I will have to try it out whenever I finally get home. Keep up these FOTO Fridays, I may start to take photos as good as you. Who am I kidding? Thats not going to happen. LOL!!

  14. Jen September 7, 2007 6:50 pm edit

    That made a lot of sense to me! And I LOVE Picasa!! I used it all the time until I discovered Paint Shop Pro. And the aperature? I’ve always wondered how people got the sweet blurry backgrounds – I gotta try that.

    I vote for MORE Foto Fridays!!

  15. Kami September 7, 2007 7:10 pm edit

    Um wow, colour me a Foto Friday believer.

    My camera? Yeah, it has this aperature of which you speak.


  16. SarahD September 7, 2007 8:41 pm edit

    ‘I’m checking out your “Foto Fridays for dummies”. Thanks for the plain English.

  17. Jenn September 7, 2007 9:21 pm edit

    I just inherited a Rebel from my boyfriend and every time he has tried to explain aperature to I have only been able to stare at him blankly. Thanks for finally putting it a way I can understand!

  18. Michele September 7, 2007 10:06 pm edit

    Interesting! I actually learned a lot there! Great post!

  19. bethany actually September 7, 2007 11:16 pm edit

    Good job on your first Foto Friday! I look forward to many more. :-)

  20. anita September 7, 2007 11:57 pm edit

    ok–you rock!! thanks for making sense of things for me! Keep up Foto Fridays and by the end of the year..I might know how to work my Rebel!!

  21. Loralee September 8, 2007 1:21 am edit

    OMG! You explained how to do the fuzzy background thingy!!!! Just in time for my trip to the UK!!!! I’ve been pouring over the D70 manual all damn day trying to figure it out!


  22. kelly September 8, 2007 8:33 am edit

    I loved this tutorial. I hated our manual for our Canon and just searched the web for someone to put it into English and found it alot easier to get. I use PSP XI for photo editing. I downloaded the free trial and then just bought it cheaply online. You can do so many amazing things, from DOF, filters, textures etc…

  23. Lisa September 8, 2007 2:00 pm edit

    very interesting ~ now to put it into practice!

  24. Shannon September 8, 2007 2:57 pm edit

    Weeeeeee! The blurry background! YAY! That’s one of my favourite effects! And good job explaining it. Keep up the Foto Fridays. You have been the only one in a year to be able to explain F-stop so that I retain the information past the point that the person stops talking. Weeeeeeeeee!

  25. Ellie September 8, 2007 4:54 pm edit

    I agree…great post!! I hope this Foto Friday is the first of many. I don’t have a fancy camera (although I would LOVE to get one, one day) but it is really fascinating to see/hear about the features on your camera, and to see how your photos come to look the way they do. Thumbs up! :)

  26. Amanda Franks September 8, 2007 9:20 pm edit

    I agree that you should do more foto fridays. You are a great teacher/explainer and it is so nice when you include examples from real life. We’re hoping to get a “real” camera for Christmas so for me it’s like pre-learning!

  27. Dana September 9, 2007 11:50 am edit

    Very helpful. I think you should DEFINITELY keep doingthese. don’t disapoint your fans….also, come check out my latest entry. I am going to enter a photo contest and I have my potentialsubmisssions up there and I want readers to help me choose which ones I should enter (I can’t enter all of them).
    Thanks and I’ll be back!

  28. mommyknows September 9, 2007 1:17 pm edit

    It works for me …

  29. christy September 9, 2007 1:37 pm edit

    Good girl Ange! Way to apply what you’ve learned. Keep practicing it only gets better from here on in!

  30. Ashley September 11, 2007 11:18 am edit

    Fabulous! I’m going to be looking forward to Foto Fridays! We just got a new Canon last week and it’s all a little on the strange side to me. I’ve always had a point and shoot type of deal and even those at times seemed foreign.
    Great works, thanks and keep it comin’

  31. kashif November 6, 2010 6:32 am edit

    english cant get more simpler,,,awsome notes about apeture explanation in simple english…just learnt how to use f stop after hours and hours of googling around….great work, thanks.

  32. Kevin. December 26, 2010 5:11 pm edit

    Even if this is 3 years old, your post just enlightened me.
    Thank god I have a Canon.

  33. Joanie August 25, 2011 3:53 am edit

    Wow…4 years later and your information is STILL helping others. Thanks for that tutorial!!

  34. Julius September 2, 2011 2:50 pm edit

    That was really helpful. The technical way of explaining it seems counter-intuitive, which is why I think it’s harder for people to grasp. Your explanation works greatly!!!

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