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Thursday, 04 April 2024


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When I first got my Nikon 35 f/1.8 DX lens years ago I shot all sorts of things (cars, cats, cereal boxes, clouds, dogs, flowers, walls, wife...) around the house wide open for a day or two. Then my wife punched me and I remembered that I mostly do landscape/nature/wildlife photography and started using it like I use any other lens by adjusting the aperture to suit the subject and my intentions. In my case, that means way more f/5.6 - f/11 than wide open.

In the case of the Nikon lens, it was cheap enough (around $200 when I got it) to justify for the experience of learning, while also providing a small/light/"normal DX" lens to use when I don't want to be weighed down.

When I bought my first mirrorless camera with an electronic shutter, the Fujifilm X-T2, I had a spurt of shooting everything at f/1.4, simply because I could with the 1/32000th of a second Shutter speed. I also wanted to separate my images from the permanently hyper-focused shots that everyone with a cell phone was taking.

Today I'm back to using the middle of the aperture ring most times, only going full aperture for a specific effect when needed, probably 10% of the time.

About 10%-15% of the time is my guess, almost always with telephotos.

a) . Sony 28 mm f2, wide open on A6700 for social occasions.
b). Sony 14 mm on a7rv at close to widest (say 2.2) for astro.
90% I use f8-f11 for landscape.

Increasingly so. Cheaper zoom lenses in the mirrorless era have much smaller maximum apertures than heretofore. For example, Canon's 100-400mm RF lens, a good budget choice for bird photographers, has a variable maximum aperture of f5.6 to f8. On the 32MP R7, f8 is about where diffraction effects start, so at 400mm it gets used at f8. And both Canon and Nikon have superzooms (24-240) that have a max aperture of f6.3 at the long end, and APS-C lenses of 18-150/140 that that have the same minimum aperture.

It might be that not many TOP readers use these lenses (though I use the RF 18-150), but I'm willing to bet that a great many users of R & Z cameras do.

I've done a fair amount of wide-open shooting, mostly with 50mm f1.4, there is a nice haze which adds mood and is flattering in portraits.

I also have modified a 50mm to give specular highlights a "bubble" effect:


I shoot my Pentax Q lenses wide open a lot, as well as a M-mount 3.2mm f2.8. But wide open on a small sensor is not like wide open on a larger format, in a small sensor you've already got plenty of DOF, and resolution is high.

I'm kind of an f8 and be there person, so almost never, except when I'm testing a lens. Even when shooting portraits I usually stop down just a little. The exception is if I'm using a sharp f4 lens for portraits, like the Nikon 24-120. Then it's wide open.

When I see a lens "tested" and almost all the shots are wide open, I sigh and move on. People say "all lenses look good at f8," but that's not true. All lenses look adequate at f8, but only some look excellent.

Often for available light portraits, either wide open or close to it. Almost never for landscape, photo-j and other work.

I have the GFX100 and use it for portraiture with the 80mm f/1.7 and the 45mm f/2.8, Both lenses are exceptionally good wide open and render very nicely.

So far, I shoot wide open no more than 8% of the time.

I used Lightroom to look this up for the 21 years of digital photos that are in my Lightroom catalog. Before that, with film, I cannot recall.

I guess it all depends what I'm shooting and which lens I'm using. I do a lot of theatre photography and I'm usually looking for at least a bit of depth of field. Just checking out my main lens, I found that I had shot 3.6% of my photos wide open. My other passion is Bird Photography and the ratio did a complete about face with 81% of my photos wide open.

when shooting w/my leica Q 90% of the time- w/everything else- only as necessary

Mostly all the time. I shoot m4/3, so wide open is actually useful, and I very often shoot in low light. The nice thing about the format is I get good light gathering ability and enough apparent sharpness in front of and behind my focused subject to be meaningfully contextual, which adds to the story of the photograph. I can isolate subjects without obliterating the background.

Probably more often than I should as I tend to make the compromise in favor of the lowest possible ISO

Wild guess: 5% of the time.

But I have done entire three-hour studio shoots with my lens wide open when the light levels were low, like strobe modeling lamps and/or ambient window light. In a recentish one I was shooting with a Pentax 6x7 105mm f:2.4 on my Pentax 645Z via an adapter. Manual focus of course, and wide open. It's a challenge.

Any time I'm shooting indoor with ambient light I'm very likely to go wide open. But I am kind of done with purposefully shooting wide open to get those uber-bokeh-gradient kinds of shots. Younger me loved those.

I often find myself adjusting my camera's ISO to the lowest possible setting and keeping my lens wide open. This is one of the features of digital that I really like.

I've been photographing wildlife a lot lately. My 600mm lens is almost always used wide open at f/4. It has a built-in 1.4x TC that reduces aperture to f/5.6 when used. It looks like I use the TC feature a lot.

Data is from my Lightroom catalog of 9022 photos from Jan 1 through today, but doesn't include 107 iPhone photos or deleted photos.

Outside of my 12-45mm F4 OM lens which I use at f4 quite a lot its pretty close to to never

When it's dark, but I still want the picture.

2. Often

Though I have not taken many images lately.

I started using f2 & f4 help keep whatever my subject the main focus of the image, to blur out the backgrounds.

2335 of 17816 pictures were taken at 1.2: Of those I have taken in 2024 and run through Excire Foto.
This regards only the holy Olympus trinity 17, 35 and 45 mm, not my other lenses.
So, in conclusion: I use wide open very much.
But I am into Micro Four Thirds, maybe a special case.

Most of the time.

I tend to have wide open as the default and stop down as the shot requires it. I rarely stop down more than 5.6.

I find lenses fun and interesting wide open. That's where they most show off their personality.


I see in shallow "depth of field." The eye's aperture, the effect of binocular vision and (most importantly) the effect of attention, means that what sparks my visual interest is always a small part of the scene. Shooting with lots of depth of field, like on my phone, always disorients me because too much stuff is visible.


And sometimes the blur itself becomes distracting and I'll bracket.


It depends on the lens and circumstances, but in general not that often. With certain exceptions, when I do shoot wide open it's because I'm forced to in order to maintain a shutter speed, or because I really want/need OOF blur and can live with slightly less resolution, which isn't that often. One exception is when I shoot the Jupiter 8, because I love how it renders wide open, but it's still not that easy to find a good excuse, and its non-click aperture limits its usefulness, so I seldom use it anyway.

Hardly Ever. I mostly shoot outdoors so I set my aperture to f8 and ISO to 400 which covers everything. If I go indoors, I just have to raise the ISO to 2000 and shoot at f4.0-5.6.It was bit different in the days of film photography when I could not change the ISO in mid-roll so I would open it up to F1.4-2.0 on some occasions when I went, indoors. I was rarely happy with the results.

On a few occasions I did try shooting wide open using a ND filter when I was outdoors, but the results were always very disappointing. Generally I would say that the aperture is never one of my main considerations when making a photograph, since my goal was always capturing the mood or feel of the moment of what I was experiencing when I snapped the shutter, and my eyes always saw in F8, not f1.4. In the end, I think it is only a matter of personal style

19.31% (Some time ago, I wrote a short tool that computes statistics on EXIF values. I used this for an exact value, not a guess.)

It is worth noting that my everyday snapshot lens is a slow superzoom, F/3.5 to F/5.6, so maximum aperture is used more often than with my F/1.8 primes, used for low light or best optical quality.

"I shoot wide open for two reasons: 1.) It's dark. 2.) To separate the subject from the background." --Christopher Perez

Same here.

When conditions indicate. I’m usually shooting at middling apertures but almost every year I break out the old EF 135mm ƒ/2L to attend the Tucson All Souls Procession. I like to shoot candid street portraits at dusk as the procession assembles and with the low light and bustling environment I usually shoot wide open to isolate my subject. I love that lens. I bought it in 2011 for use with my Rebel 450D and 1.4x Teleconverter as a short telephoto but now on full frame its my favorite portrait lens.

With my 50mm equivalent (Olympus 25mm f1.2 Pro) almost always, such in this one:
or in this one:

That really is lens dependent for me. I have some that are so slow that they get used wide open fairly frequently. On the other had, I have a few that are so fast that it can be challenging to use them wide open and care must be taken to achieve the desired results; hence, they don’t get used that way with the same frequency. It might not be meaningful for me to average those together in any way.

When conditions indicate. I use a honking Canon great white for raptors that is almost never opened up past ƒ/8 (wide open is ƒ/5.6 with a teleconverter).

The lens is sharp at all apertures but even at medium range (say, 50 meters and then some) I want ƒ/8 to ensure my large and often quickly moving subject is in focus.

When photographing women of a certain age.

When I did theatrical photography, my lenses were fixed wide open at 2.8 as I needed all the light that was possible, with the films at the time.

Now I am doing architectural photography, my lenses mostly work at F11

For travel and hiking, is is highly variable from wide open down to F16.

Usually I stop down as needed to have everything in focus. The exception is a body of work I did last autumn: I bought an old Nikkor N.C 28mm f/2 pre-AI and used only this lens at fully open aperture for the project. My aim was to get rid of that clinical, photographic look and go for a style somewhere between pictorial and grungy. An 28mm lens focussed at 5m has sufficient depth of field at f/2 that everything is still recognizable, just the fine detail is gone. At this aperture, the lens delivers a sharp center with low contrast and glowing highlights, while the edges and corners are very soft.

My findings? Firstly, photography is much more fun when one doesn't care for "image quality"! Contrary to my expectation, I also got a lot of pictures that I really liked. After 3 months, I had a small body of work. The downside is that the "look" of the lens is so special that it draws the attention on itself, and can quickly wear out.

I only shoot wide open for 3 reasons:

1- It's dark. Opening the lens wide open enables me to handhold the shot and I'm not worried about shallow depth of field in the dark because you can't see enough detail in the dark to tell whether anything is sharp in those parts of the photo.

2- It's not dark , the last shots I took were in the dark, and I stupidly took the shot without checking my aperturesetting.

3- Because it's been ages since I seriously shot wide open and I want to see what things look like shot wide open again.

I used to be an "f/8 and be there" guy but a couple of years ago I swapped to being an "f/5.6 and be there guy" because I get enough depth of field at f/5.6 with the sorts of things I photograph.

5% of the time. For obvious reasons. That being an extreme dearth of light.

Depends on format and subject and lens.

According to Lightroom it's 10% of the time when using my DSLR. Two-thirds of those times are with an F4.0 wide-angle zoom lens; but, that's only 15% of the shots with that lens. For my f2.8 mid-range zoom its only 6% of the time with that lens. Generally I stay away from wide open. I almost always shoot in aperture-preferred mode and try to shoot one stop or two stops above wide-open unless I'm looking for large depth of field (which is often) or slow shutter speed, in which case higher f-stops are used as required.

I would say “often”, and though my Fuji XF primes are not the fastest they’re often open as fast as they can be. But I recently bought a GFX 50SII with the basic zoom and I’m finding I more often than not stop it down a little to a lot. I’m not a “technical” photographer (even though I’m a technical buyer) so I haven’t fully established why I do this, and I would like a faster lens for it as wide open the images in this camera “look different” in attractive ways... ~shrugs~ Anyway, I’ll let it tell me over time.

I like to photograph wildlife and birds, with occasional landscapes and other subject matter. These days, 90-95% of my photography is with a 500 mm f/5.6 prime, and I shoot it wide open 90-95% of the time. With other lenses, a little bit less often, but I usually do shoot wide open. At the same time, I rarely use a fast lens - a 20 mm f/1.8 is the fastest I have (by a significant margin - everything else is f/4.0 to f/5.6), and I rarely shoot that 20 mm lens wide open.

I do have the Oly 17mm f/1.2 lens and will use it wide open in the house when the light isn't great, mostly for pics of my now-toddler daughter. I find that higher ISO stuff on the EM1x can make skin look weird, so I try wider apertures. I actually instead prefer to make pics that show the detail around her, don't isolate her in the frame, e.g. this one at 1/60, f/3.5, ISO 800:


But now I see (as I make this public here) that their feet aren't in focus. Gah!

Most of the time with Leica lenses - legendary for ability to shoot and capture sharpness wide open.

With most other lenses - only when conditions require it.

Probably less than 5% of the time. Those times would be the result of poor lighting conditions. Maybe even less. I don't particularly like photos with a significant portion of the frame out of focus. There are instances where it works but not as often as you see it now. It usually makes for a rather boring composition.

I used to use f/1.4 when necessary during the film days. Mostly used f/8 or thereabouts when outdoors.

With adjustable ISO available with the digital SLR, I may open up a stop indoors, but mainly increase the ISO setting up to about 6400 maximum. With in-body stabilization, I usually don't need such a high ISO setting. So, generally the optimum aperture (MTF) value, unless I need more light-gathering ability.

If a subject screams out for narrow depth of field, I'll take one almost wide open, but try to keep a stop or two away from maximum aperture opening.

I would guess 10-20% of my photography is wide open.

F8 and be there!

Slightly less often than I shoot at ƒ/32.

With the new mirrorless lenses and behind-the-scenes magic in the cameras, I'm shooting wide-open nearly every time that I shoot under Hail Mary lighting which is a lot of the time. During the days of the DSLR and film, just a half-stop or full was needed to bring the images up in quality. But today, it's almost a moot point for most photos and I can use a lower ISO. But if the image is only going to a social media post, the aperture value is seldom a concern and in the end actual value becomes a nothingburger.

"When conditions indicate" for me. That can mean to get a look or blur a distracting background or the ambient light is low. The same can be said for when I use a small aperture. I need more DoF when the subject demands it or the ambient light is really bright and I am not using an ND filter.

Wow… a lot of interesting answers beyond the simple ones…
I always thought the the wider apertures are there if I need it, just like the smaller end of f32 or 64… you use whatever, whenever…

Almost never. Usually seeking for maximum sharpness or maximum dof.

Seldom, depending on subject and situation. Basically only when have to.

Very, very rarely. It annoys me when I focus on a pair of eyes and the nose is out of focus. Ears out? I can handle that.
I have played around with a 25mm f1.4 CCTV lens on a crop-sensor Sony. I'll shoot that wide open but only to maximize the swirly bokeh.

It depends on whether I want it to look wide open or not.
Or if there is some weird lens with interesting aberrations I want it play with. Or if it’s a slide projector lens. Leica slide projector lenses are pretty yummy looking, and I always use them wide open.

One question I have is why don’t any of the mirrorless cameras feature wide open focusing that stops down to make the exposure? Back in the film slr days you always bought the fast lens even though many of them were terrible because it was easier to focus. A button that could be programmed to momentarily open the lens wide open would suffice.

I would think that phase autofocus systems would benefit almost as much as manual focus.

Nearly always, which is to say, when conditions indicate. A tripod or image stabilization don't help with subject movement, and I'm very frequently starting with a shutter speed picked to give acceptable loss rates, and the lowest ISO that works with the lens wide open.

I'm not even seeking "maximum sharpness"; this is just to get in range of "acceptable sharpness".

Out of 700 photos that survived the initial cull from last weekend, significantly over half were shot above ISO 3200.

Depends on if it's rangefinder (tends towards wideopen) or SLR (tends toward stopped down).

This has to do with the types of content usually being photographed and the light encountered with each in hand.

I would distinguish between shooting with a lens set to its fastest aperture vs using one’s fastest lens(es).

For example, my favorite m4/3 focal length is 17 mm (~35 mm full frame). On a recent vacation, I carried 3 lenses that can shoot at 17 mm, each of which performs fairly well wide open:
1) 9-18 f/4-5.6
2) 12-35 f/2.8
3) 17 f/1.8

I prefer to use #1 in most vacation situations because I value the flexibility of being able to zoom way out in order to capture more of the environment. With such a slow zoom on an m4/3 sensor, there’s little reason to stop down, but I’m obviously not using my fastest lens.

If the lighting is poor, I switch to #2. The reason for the switch is to access the faster aperture, so I’m going to shoot it wide open.

If that’s still not enough light, I’ll switch to #3, which I’ll again shoot wide open since that was the motivating factor for giving up the flexibility of a zoom. But if the lighting later improves while #3 is on the camera, I’ll typically stop down quite a bit to keep more of the scene in focus.

Since I generally use a 4x5 view camera, the answer there is "never".
But in the 2000s, I had a project of photographing local blues musicians (some of whom were my friends) at a weekly jam session, at my neighborhood barbecue joint. I shot that using P3200 film in a Leica, and most of the time my exposures were wide open @ f/2.
And of course in my professional career, I used lighting to achieve an optimum f/stop (in any format, film or digital).
So my answer is "it depends".

Not a lot of options when using a Hasselblad 500CM with FP4 and a two stop red filter and late in the day,1/30 second is a bit marginal so it's 2.8 for me and that's most of the time.

I appreciate how some respondents have answered based on an approximation (or a mathematical calculation) of the actual frequency in which they shoot "wide open". I, however, am not inclined to attempt to make such a numerical guess, even with the aid of very commonly available software resources. Bravo to those who do, especially to the point of writing bespoke code to automate the process for themselves!

I like your example scale, Mike, which — to my interpretation — combines frequency of use of the maximum available aperture with openness (pun intended, guilty as accused!) to the idea of using the maximum aperture of a given lens.

Thinking of my current kit of three-year old, low-end, micro four-thirds body (Olympus) with two bundled zoom lenses (again, budget Olympus M.Zuiko 12-42mm ƒ 3.5-5.6, and M.Zuiko 40-150mm ƒ 4.0-5.6), I am quite willing to use my lenses at maximum aperture, with frequency determined not only by subject matter (primarily), but also by the aesthetic I am attempting to achieve and/or the amount of light available on my subject (which — as others have mentioned — is also frequently influenced by ISO setting or the use of an ND filter, particularly of the graduated variety).

I will say… when the conditions, I.e., my intent warrants wide open. But it is probably less than 10% of the time. Probably because I spent many years under a dark cloth looking for maximum depth of field.

Speaking of lens… why do camera manufacturers limit their zoom lens lines to what is offered? For example, I would love to have a 50 to 100 mm zoom (equivalent) or 60 to 110 or something like that. Instead we get a 24/28 to 75 or slower/bigger 28 to 105. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of creativity in zoom lens design. Is there some sort of physical/optical constraint? With computer aided design and the increasing quality of plastic materials I would speculate this could be a competitive advantage for an independent lens manufacturer.


Decades ago I was a 5.6 shooter because that was the optimum aperture for most lenses; mine were Summicrons at the time.

Now my lenses are current version Sony, with apertures of 1,4 (35 and 50mm) or 1.8 and they are excellent from fully open.

Not limited by seeking lens optimum, whatever that is, I now find myself shooting mostly almost fully open. AF helps when DOF is narrow, and that is one reason for me moving to more open aperture shooting.

I think I hardly ever do this on purpose, except to get the shutter speed that I need. I personally do not find the wide open short DOF look interesting enough to play with it a lot on purpose.

I have various slow telephoto lenses though, because faster ones are too big and expensive, that I probably shoot wide open a lot to get the shutter speed that I need.

I also shoot away on P a lot and don't always pay attention to what the camera is doing. So I'm sure I have a lot of stuff I shot wide open at ISO 3200 where I probably could have done better. But usually it works out OK anyway.

About a third of the time. I shoot m4/3rds, where I usually stop down one stop.

There's a not-so-fine line between "artsy" and "blurry-ass".

And don't get me started on fake bokeh from a telephone app.

My default: f/5.6

I do love shooting wide open when doing still life; which, unfortunately, I haven't been the last few years. With my Fujifilm x100T, I'm usually photographing people in interaction or landscape/cityscapes, so having more DOF is typically important. I did some work on a film shoot recently and there was quite low light. I didn't want too high of ISO so I needed to open up more than I would have liked. I do like moving in closed to the action around people and having to work quickly, so it was a little nerve wracking hoping I would have everything I wanted in focus. But I have ordered the new Fujifilm X100VI and I'm really looking forward to the IBIS!

Well, it would be a boring old world if we were all the same. I view aperture as a tool in the tool-kit and I use the one that makes sense given what I am trying to do at the moment. But I have no principles in making photography, other than trying to move the viewer. Most of my pictures don't, but then there are plenty of baseball batters who miss most of the time and still manage to eke out a living.

But that isn't to say it doesn't matter to me. For years one of my main objections to zoom lenses were that they tended to be slower than primes. So just by shooting with a 50/1.4, I could make pictures hand-held with two stops to play with that wouldn't be an option with a huge, slow, hunk of glass hanging off the camera. So, yeah, I care. With modern sensors' low light performance and IBIS, this matters a lot less.

Here's a shot at ISO 8000 with a Nikon 85/1.8 indoors. The camera chose f:8:


Wide open, I don't think this would have worked, given the placement of subjects in the frame.

But shallow d-o-f works for some subjects. I love that shot of the tulips posted above.

Would like to quote reverend Ian Paisley (volume to 11).

But in reality I'm not a fundamentalist, so option 4 (avoid).

When conditions indicate, but partly because my favorite lenses (Summilux 50mm, Zeiss planar 50) both get real weird wide open. So it's a specific artistic choice, not "max bokeh" or "max light" (no shade implied for either of those reasons!)

I'd be interested to know how often people are using their lenses on the other end? When we moved to digital it seemed to add a couple disadvantages to shooting closed down to f11, 16, 22. First was that unless your sensor was pristine, it was a mess! Second was some of the science around angle of light hitting the sensor at extreme angles was not handled as well as film. I confess to still operating with that hangover, even if it doesn't apply with our current cameras. I almost never see f11 or f16. Thoughts?

I also think worth noting that I am primarily a people photographer. In my SLR, then DSLR days, I was a bit wary to shoot wide open because with a focus and reframe method, you would often lose critical focus on the front eye if shooting wide open. I am now shooting Sony bodies (A1 and A93) with continuous tracking eye autofocus and that has completely changed the way I shoot. And I have absolutely zero hesitation shooting wide open for fear of that front eye being soft. I know it will be tack sharp every time. So now I can make that decision purely on what I want for the aesthetic of the shot, not fear of missfocus.

Very often. Canon EF 35/1.4L, 85/1.2L and 135/2.0L all chosen for their bokeh ; ND filters are used a lot. Otherwise I’d use lighter lenses.

In Leica's marketing, their head of Optical Design Peter Karbe features prominently and repeatedly with his opinion that his oh so well designed Summilux and Noctilux lenses and even some of the APO Summicrons shouldn't be stopped down. Not don't have to be stopped down, he says they should be used wide open all the time. This of course is marketing-speak and I have to disgree. In fact, I'm thankful he added diaphragms and f-stop rings to these lenses. I use them about 20% wide open.

Rarely; only when absolutely necessary; when a situation dictates AND I know the lens is optimized for it; when using slow lenses.

Wide open every time when you use iPhone or any other mobile phone camera. It seems that none of them have a diaphragm.

Sorry, Mike. I just saw this post. Another vote for:

"I shoot wide open for two reasons: 1.) It's dark. 2.) To separate the subject from the background." --Christopher Perez

Or in my case, I shoot wide open when my wife tells me her hair’s a mess and she doesn’t want anyone to notice it.


When I was using my DSLR there was only one lens i would consistently shoot wide open - the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens. there was always some compromise to me with the others and would only grudingly shoot the 50mm or 105mm opened up fully in low light. now on mirrorless i am happy to use the Z mount 24-120 wide open all the time.

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