Choice of Aperture for a Clematis in the Garden / by Todd Henson

One day while visiting my folks I was taken by the sight of this beautiful purple clematis flowering in their garden, hanging from a black metal trellis. Thankfully I had my camera with me that day, though only a single lens, the 16-35mm f/4. I don’t often use this lens for photographing flowers, but it seemed like a good time to start.

The photos in this post show 3 different angles I tried when photographing these lovely flowers. They weren’t all that high off the ground so I used the 35mm end of the zoom to focus in on the flower without too much distracting background. Then I experimented with framing and with aperture.

I most often use the 16-35mm when I’d like a lot of depth of field. Wide angle lenses are usually good at providing this. But when photographing these clematis I was more interested in a shallow depth of field. The widest aperture of this lens is f/4 and that ended up being the aperture I used for my favorite shots of this series. I did, however, create 2 images at f/8 to show you the difference this makes.

I held the lens physically close to the subject, probably very close to the minimum focusing distance of the lens. Even with an aperture of f/8 the background is nicely blurred, but it does still have some detail. Notice the difference when I opened the aperture one more stop to f/4, its widest setting. It throws the background even more out of focus, but it also throws some of the main flower out of focus.

There’s no right or wrong in these situations. It all depends on what look you are going for. For myself, I tend to prefer the images with a shallower depth of field. Which do you prefer?