My favorite camera feature

by Stacey Cox Posted on January 26, 2011

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If I could change one thing about my day-to-day life, it would be to write more down. Sure, I’m good at writing the “big things” down, like the first time my kiddos took a step or their first words. But do I sit and write down the little stories, the daily memories that express the personalities of my kids as they grow? Not as often as I’d like. I do, however, capture many of these stories with my camera.

When a writer (or a scrapbooker or a journaler) sits down to tell a story, he or she weaves together a series of words to convey their thoughts. Similarly, you can use a series of photographs to weave together a story. You probably already do this to a degree, but I’d like to add a tool to your photography toolbox that may just kick up your storytelling ability a notch or two.

This tool? Aperture. I’m sure you’ve heard of this camera setting before. Put simply, aperture is the amount of light that enters your camera through the lens when you take a photograph. It also defines how much of your shot is in focus, and how much is thrown out of focus. I love to use aperture to vary my shots and really tell a story with my camera.

I’ll use a photo shoot I did of my son last year as an example. It was my youngest son’s second birthday so, to celebrate, I dragged both of them out in the 105-degree heat and made them pose for pictures. Nice, huh?

In addition to capturing some traditional portraits, I wanted to tell a few stories of what was going on in the lives of my boys on that hot summer day in August. I wanted first to capture how my oldest was trying to help my youngest hold up two fingers to show his new age. They’d been working on it together for about a week, and I wanted to be sure and capture this memory. I wanted to focus on their hands together, and place the rest of them in the background. So, I set my aperture to 2.5 and set my focus on their hands. You can see how their hands are crisp, but my son is thrown a bit out of focus. This draws your attention to their hands.


(f/2.5)

I also wanted to be sure to capture my oldest’s obsession with Buzz Lightyear. So I had him hold Buzz straight out in front of him, set my aperture to f/1.8 and focused on Buzz.


(f/1.8)

I was sure to include my son in the shot, so I could remember which kiddo had the obsession. If I’d simply taken a picture of Buzz, years later, who knows if I would assign this memory to my oldest or youngest (especially since they now both share that obsession!)

The images that I captured on the wide aperture setting took mere moments and were only a small portion of the shots I took on that hot afternoon. But simply taking the time to grab those memories made all the difference to me, looking back on these photos six months later. I have since framed many of the photos from this afternoon, mixing in the two photos above, more “memory driven”, with these more traditional portraits, to create not just a photo gallery, but a true memory wall.


(f/4.0)


(f/4.0)


(f/4.0)


(f/4.0)

I hope this has given you some inspiration to start using your camera as a tool to capture moments of your life in pictures!

To learn more about Stacey, a natural-light photographer in the Saint Louis area, visit her site here.

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  1. conniee4 Says:

    Great article Stacey! I shoot MOST of my flower shots in Aperture Mode. I’m a HUGE fan of a Shallow DOF!!! (Only time I don’t shoot in A mode is when its windy and I need to stop movement or when i’m shooting birds!)

    Your article explains the A-mode perfect! Thanks for sharing!!!

  2. Joey Says:

    GREAT photos Stacey. It clearly explainned how if one moved the Aperture setting, it gives your photo a whole new look. I need to work on this. Great tips and article!

  3. Earl J Says:

    This is a super blog. I’m a fan of aperture mode too and your examples make it so easy (and fun) to grasp the principles that make shallow depth of field happen.

  4. AnnAbbott Says:

    Simple clear examples of how aperture works…and how I can use it too.

  5. BarbaraJ Says:

    This is great examples for all of us. I appreciate your article. It helps me big time!!!

  6. Licia2210 Says:

    I have been looking for a simple example of A. Thanks!

  7. FLmom28 Says:

    this is so helpful….is this on point-and-shoot too or just fancier cameras?

  8. Tiffany M Says:

    [sigh] Photo envy. I need a new camera (but already have too many). Great pictures and post!

  9. kniewohner Says:

    Oh thank you!! I take so many pictures, but then when I look back at each month’s shots it seems they are all from the same time of day and place. I’ll have to use some of your suggestions to change up the way I document my son’s hobbies and other childhood memories.

  10. TonetteB Says:

    WOW!!! These are AWESOME tips!!! I am a newbie and just got my 1st DSLR in Novemeber and haven’t had much time to practice with it yet! I will have to try this out! I love the BUZZ LIGHTYEAR one! Your pictures are such an inspiration! What fun! Thanks so much for all the tips! :)

  11. jennyjo.maldonado Says:

    love this idea i need to find this setting on my camera! thanks!

more about Stacey Cox

Stacey Cox is a natural-light photographer in Saint Louis, specializing in children and family photography. She and her husband have two young boys, and are hoping to add a daughter to their family through adoption in the near future. You can learn more about her work by visiting her site at www.staceycoxphotography.com.

View all articles by Stacey Cox »

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