A device called a diaphragm usually serves as the aperture stop, and controls the aperture. The diaphragm functions much like the iris of the eye – it controls the effective diameter of the lens opening. Reducing the aperture size increases the depth of field, which describes the extent to which subject matter lying closer than or farther from the actual plane of focus appears to be in focus. In general, the smaller the aperture (the larger the number), the greater the distance from the plane of focus the subject matter may be while still appearing in focus.
The lens aperture is usually specified as an f-number, the ratio of focal length to effective aperture diameter. A lens typically has a set of marked „f-stops“ that the f-number can be set to. A lower f-number denotes a greater aperture opening which allows more light to reach the film or image sensor. The photography term „one f-stop“ refers to a factor of √2 (approx. 1.41) change in f-number, which in turn corresponds to a factor of 2 change in light intensity.
Aperture priority is a semi-automatic shooting mode used in cameras. It allows the photographer to choose an aperture setting and allow the camera to decide the shutter speed and sometimes ISO sensitivity for the correct exposure. This is sometimes referred to as Aperture Priority Auto Exposure, A mode, Av mode, or semi-auto mode.
Typical ranges of apertures used in photography are about f/2.8–f/22 or f/2–f/16, covering 6 stops, which may be divided into wide, middle, and narrow of 2 stops each, roughly (using round numbers) f/2–f/4, f/4–f/8, and f/8–f/16 or (for a slower lens) f/2.8–f/5.6, f/5.6–f/11, and f/11–f/22. These are not sharp divisions, and ranges for specific lenses vary.