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Dalsgaard’s Mini Corner

Camera Settings: Aperture

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Aperture is the opening within a lense, that allows light to hit the camera’s sensor. The size of the aperture is expressed in f-numbers (called f-stops), with lower numbers being larger apertures. In combination with ISO and shutter speed, aperture size is one of the most important settings when photographing miniatures.

A large aperture opening (low f-stop) allows more light to hit the camera sensor, while a small aperture opening (high f-stop) allows less light to hit the sensor. This means that a picture shot at a high f-stop will need a longer shutter time, than the same scene at a low f-stop.

The size of the aperture also affects the depth of field of an image (the area that is sharp). A photo shot at a low f-stop will have a shallower depth of field, than one shot at higher f-stops.

Typical f-numbers (The numbers marked in bold are called full f-stops): 1.4, 1.6, 1.8, 2.0, 2.2, 2.5, 2.8, 3.2, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.6, 6.3, 7.1, 8.0, 9.0, 10, 11, 13, 14, 16, 18, 20, 22

Which f-stops your camera has is dependent on make and model and where cheaper cameras often only have full f-stops, many DSLR cameras can be set at 1/2 or 1/3 f-stop intervals.

For each full stop you increase the f-number (i.e. from f/2.0 to f/2.8), the camera will need twice as long to take the same photo and vice versa. If for example you are shooting a photo, that requires a shutter speed of 1/30 second at f/5.6, you could get the same amount of light in the image at 1/60 second by changing the f-number to f/4.0. However this would also decrease the depth of field of the final image.

When shooting miniatures we most often want all of our miniature to be in focus, which means we need to find a f-stop with a depth of field wide enough to include all of it. Depending on the miniature this can be anything between f/5.0 and f/16 (a dragon will require a larger depth of field, than a goblin). Note that depth of field also decreases the closer to the model your camera are. While all of a live-size car shot at 50 meters can be in focus at f/2.8, you might need to go as high as f/16 when shooting a mini at 0.5 meters distance.

It should also be noted that many cameras have a macro setting for shooting small object, like flowers and insects, but because the camera automatically sets the f-stop very low for macros, this setting is not good for photographing your miniatures.

The pictures below show the increasing depth of field at higher f-stops. The photos were shot with a Canon 600D/T3i DSLR camera with a 50mm lens. ISO was set at 100 and they are shown at a 1:3 pixel ratio. The Chaos marine is 5 cm closer to the camera than the orc, while the guardsman is 5 cm behind the orc. I have skipped several f-stops between photos to show the difference. Notice how the shutter speed increases with higher f-stops.



  1. Brambleten's Avatar
    Interesting stuff, I really should learn to use my camera rather than sticking it on Intelligent Auto and letting it do all the work.
  2. S_Dalsgaard's Avatar
    Never use auto! :-)
  3. Brambleten's Avatar
    It's a decent Sony bridge camera, it knows what it's doing. Enough for WIP pictures at any rate

    It's a lot nicer to use than my phone anyway.
  4. Jona's Avatar
    Very interesting. I didn't know this, and indeed often have only small segments of my miniature in focus. Thanks!
  5. S_Dalsgaard's Avatar
    Glad I could help :-)