Of all the things “essential” to good photography, light is paramount. In fact, “photos” is Greek for “light.” That being said, the key to understanding photography and how to take great photos is understanding how to manipulate the available light.
Your camera is equipped with two (really three– more about that later!) mechanisms that help you manipulate light. In fact, if you have a basic point-and-shoot camera, it probably does it all on its own! These two things are the camera’s aperture and shutter speed. Let’s tackle aperture first!
The aperture is a circular mechanism inside your camera that opens and closes when you take a picture. Basically, the more open the aperture, the more light will be let in when you take a picture. The more closed the aperture, the less light will be let in for your picture.
You’ll need to dig out the manual for your camera to find out how to adjust the aperture on your individual camera. Whether you use a point-and-shoot or a SLR (single-lens reflex) camera, more than likely, you should be able to adjust your aperture.
Aperture is “measured” in f-stops. It may seem backwards, but the larger the number, the smaller the opening. For example, f/32 would be a very small opening, whereas f/1.4 would be a very large opening. Too much light will result in an OVERexposed photo, washing out your image, whereas too little light will result in an UNDERexposed photo, making your picture too dark.
You can also use your aperture settings to adjust your depth-of-field.