How to Change Aperture on Canon Cameras Easily

Feb 14, 2024 | Photography Tutorials

Have you ever wondered how photographers can blur or focus the background in their images?

The secret lies in understanding and controlling the aperture.

Aperture refers to the size of the opening in your lens that allows light into the camera.

By adjusting the aperture, you can directly impact the look of your photos.

how to adjust aperture on canon

In this beginner’s guide, you’ll learn step-by-step how to take control of the aperture using Canon cameras. Specifically, you’ll discover:

  •     What is aperture, and how it’s measured
  •     How to locate aperture controls on your Canon camera
  •     Instructions for changing aperture settings in Manual mode
  •     The creative effects of adjusting the aperture for depth of field
  •     Tips for testing different aperture settings

Learning to adjust the aperture is one of the critical skills that will take your photography to the next level.

With the help of this practical tutorial, Canon users can quickly master adjusting the aperture for more beautiful, blurry background portraits or crystal-clear landscape shots.

Let’s get started with understanding the basics of aperture first.

Scale explaining Aperture from f1.4 to f16 with additional instructions

Aperture is measured using f-stop numbers. You may have noticed these marked on your lens with values like f/2.8, f/4, f/5.6, etc. These numbers represent the size of the aperture opening in the lens.

It can be confusing initially, but the smaller the f-stop number, the larger the aperture opening. For example, f/2.8 indicates a wider aperture than f/16. Wide openings allow more light into the camera.

The aperture setting impacts two essential qualities in your images:

Depth of Field: This is the area in focus from front to back. A wider aperture (lower f-stop) creates a shallow depth of field, blurring the background. This is great for portraits. A narrower aperture (higher f-stop) keeps more of the image in focus from foreground to background, ideal for landscapes.

Exposure: More light through a wider aperture opening will create a brighter image. Adjusting the aperture is one way to control exposure ISO and shutter speed.

Now that you understand the aperture basics let’s move on to locating the aperture controls on your specific Canon camera model.

Step 2 – Set Camera to Manual Mode

Manual mode

Instructions with images for putting popular Canon models into full Manual mode

 A brief explanation of why Manual mode is required

To adjust the aperture on your Canon camera, you first need to switch the mode dial to full Manual (M) mode. This mode puts you in control of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO rather than relying on automatic settings.

Manual mode is required for aperture control because it prevents the camera from overriding your aperture adjustments. In other automatic modes, the camera may change settings like shutter speed to compensate, but you have complete control in Manual mode. 

Now, you can move on to locating the physical aperture controls on your specific Canon model without the camera fighting your adjustments.

Step 3 – Locate Aperture Controls on Your Model

Aperture Controls

Different Canon camera models have various physical buttons and dials for adjusting the aperture. Here are some of the most common aperture controls:

Av Button: Found on Canon DSLRs like the EOS Rebel series, press and hold this while turning the Main Dial to change the aperture.

Rear Control Dial: Turn this dial while holding the Av button on models like the Canon 6D to adjust the aperture.

Front Control Dial: Located under the shutter button on high-end Canon DSLRs, turn this dial to change the aperture.

Touch Screen:  Tap the aperture value on the LCD screen of touch-enabled Canons like the EOS R to adjust it via a slider.

Thumb Wheel: Found on the back of mirrorless Canons like the EOS R10, use the thumb wheel while in Manual mode to control the aperture.

Familiarize yourself with the physical controls on your particular Canon model. If you don’t have a dedicated aperture button, don’t worry – read your user manual for model-specific methods.

Now, let’s move on to adjusting the aperture setting.

Step 4 – Adjust Aperture Setting

Adjust Aperture Setting

Once you know the physical controls on your Canon camera, actually changing the aperture setting is straightforward:

  • Press and hold the AV or aperture control button. This shifts the aperture control to the Main Dial.
  • Turn the Main Dial left or right while holding the aperture button.
  • Turning left will widen the aperture, which is shown by lower f-stop numbers like f/2.8 or f/4.
  • Turning right will narrow the aperture, which is shown by higher f-stop numbers like f/8 or f/16.

On touchscreen models, tap the aperture value on the screen and slide left/right to adjust rather than using the physical buttons and dials.

The exact look of the aperture symbol and whether you turn left/right to widen vs. narrow may vary by camera model. Check your manual if needed.

Turn the dial slowly and watch the f-stop value change on your viewfinder or rear LCD panel. This will help develop an intuition for aperture adjustments.

With practice, adjusting the aperture will become second nature. Next, let’s discuss how to confirm the new setting.

Step 5 – Check Aperture Value on the Screen

Once you have turned the Main Dial or Control Wheel to adjust the aperture, you’ll want to confirm the new setting.

Check the f-stop value in your viewfinder or rear LCD screen – it should change as you adjust the aperture controls.

Widening the aperture to allow more light will show smaller f-stop numbers like f/2.8 or f/4.

Narrowing the aperture to allow less light will show more significant f-stop numbers like f/11 or f/16.

Watching the f-stop value is essential to develop an understanding of how different aperture settings impact your photographs.

It also lets you double-check that the desired setting has been applied before shooting. Get in the habit of verifying the aperture value on screen.

Now that you’ve adjusted and confirmed the aperture setting, it’s time to take some test shots.

Step 6 – Take Test Shots and Review

The best way to learn how different aperture settings impact your photos is to test them.

Once you have adjusted the aperture on your Canon camera, take some test shots at the new setting to see the results:

  • Try photographing the same subject at different apertures – wide ones like f/2.8 and narrower ones like f/8 or f/16.
  • Pay attention to how the depth of field and background blur changes based on aperture.
  • Also, look at how the exposure brightness shifts when using larger vs smaller apertures.
  • Use aperture priority (Av) mode if you want the camera to set the shutter speed automatically. Or use full Manual mode to control both aperture and shutter speed.
  • Compare the test shots on your camera’s LCD screen and zoom in to see the details.
  • Examine where the foreground and background start to blur at wider apertures.

Taking the time to shoot comparative test photos will develop your aperture skills much faster. You will start to understand the creative effects of different aperture settings intuitively.


Learning to adjust the aperture opens up a new world of creative possibilities with your Canon camera. You can now control your images’ depth of field and background blur for more professional visual storytelling.

Start by finding scenes around your home to practice adjusting the aperture – try shooting a family member against a cluttered background with a wide aperture for a softly blurred effect. Or head outside and set a narrow aperture to capture a landscape in crisp focus from front to back.

Feel free to test the extremes of wide-open and fully-closed apertures to see the diverse visual effects. With some experience, adjusting your Canon camera’s aperture will become second nature.

Remember the key steps:

  •     Use Manual mode for complete control.
  •     Locate the physical aperture buttons or dials on your model.
  •     Hold the aperture control and turn Main Dial to widen/narrow.
  •     Check f-stop values on the rear screen.
  •     Take test shots and compare aperture settings.

Now you know how to use the aperture with any Canon camera for more impactful visual storytelling.

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Stacy WItten

Stacy WItten

Owner, Writer & Photographer

Stacy Witten, owner and creative force behind LensesPro, delivers expertly crafted content with precision and professional insight. Her extensive background in writing and photography guarantees quality and trust in every review and tutorial.






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