When photographers first encounter the phrase “f/8 and be there,” many questions cross their minds: what exactly does this phrase mean? What is its relationship with photography? Why was this phrase composed in the first place?
And their curiosity is entirely justified; after all, the term is unique. As photographers, we know that “f/8” has everything to do with the aperture of the lens. But what does the expression mean when it is associated with “being there”?
Origin of the expression ‘f/8 and Be There’
The phrase “f/8 and be there” is most often attributed to famed street photographer Arthur Fellig (also known as Weegee). The phrase was widely used during the days of film photography and is still popular today. Now the question is, why f/8 of all the different aperture values?
Here’s why: Back in the day, when lenses were being made, f/8 was often considered the best default aperture to use while shooting, as it provided sharp images with a fairly wide depth of field. In a nutshell, Weegee has given us the easiest way to capture crisp, clear and perfect photos in most situations.
Coming to the “being there” part, it signifies the dynamism of the art of photography. There may be many different possibilities in a single image or different shooting scenarios, but they will be useless if the photographer is not there to capture those unique subjects.
“Being there” is key: photographers can’t click great photos sitting in the comfort of their own home. It’s important to go out there and explore and look for interesting subjects to capture.
Weegee took the “being there” part pretty seriously. He was known for vying with the police to be the first to show up at crime scenes and disasters in New York City. He arrived at such scenes long before his rivals, and it is precisely how he earned his living and a career made famous as a crime scene photographer.
f/8 from a technical point of view
When the lens aperture is set to f/8, a photographer often finds themselves in the “sweet spot” of sharpness and depth of field, and this middle ground is well suited for almost any scenario. and shooting conditions.
Maximum sharpness in a lens is usually achieved around two to three stops from the wide aperture, and generations of photographers have used a rule of thumb of shooting between f/8 and f/11 for optimum sharpness. This range avoids the problems of aberrations found at larger apertures and diffraction found at smaller apertures.
f/8 also provides user-friendly depth of field, which helps photographers capture subjects with acceptable sharpness both closer to the camera and farther away, so even if the photographer isn’t nailing the focal plane to the desired subject, the rendered depth of field will ensure that the subject is always in focus.
The combination of an f/8 aperture and a shutter speed set to a “general purpose” speed gives the photographer much-needed flexibility when shooting. It’s also perfect for capturing footage in dynamic, high-action shooting scenarios. For example, the f/8 aperture can typically capture moving subjects when paired with fast aperture speeds of around 1/1000 of a second.
With the right general purpose camera settings, photographers can completely ignore their camera and instead “be there” and focus on the surroundings. So if a photographer finds something interesting and the aperture is set to f/8, there should be no worries in the world about adjusting the camera settings.
Application of “f/8 and Be There” in different genres
With the f/8 aperture, there are a minimum of technical details to consider and manipulate. Photographers are free to capture what they find interesting from a unique perspective. This is precisely how some photographers have captured their best shots – with a few basic camera settings and, most importantly, just being there.
Street photography is perhaps the best of all the various applications of the f/8 aperture. There are so many things in the streets; they are always in turmoil. Finding interesting subjects is easy on the street, but only if the photographer looks carefully and curiously around to find something that catches their eye. Many street photographers set the lens to f/8 and go with the flow when capturing moments on the street.
For beginners, f/8 is the perfect aperture to start with. Coupled with a photographer’s keen, inquisitive eye, the f/8 lens can help new photographers capture interesting shots early on in their photography journey. Nothing is more rewarding and motivating than capturing a sharp, blur-free image without worrying about the exposure triangle.
Different interpretations of “f/8 and Be There”
In the world of photography, everyone comes with a unique photographic vision and diverse perspectives. Just like with different eyes for the same scene, different photographers may interpret the phrase “f/8 and be there” differently.
Some interpret f/8 as “fate” (f+eight=fate). For these photographers, the fact that they are present (or absent) at a particular site and have (or miss) the opportunity to capture a stunning photo is not a mere coincidence – rather it is fate. .
For still others, “being there” means being in the present. So photographers traveling to a beautiful location or a family wedding with a camera aren’t just there to capture images – they also need to be in the moment, cherishing those precious moments with their loved ones. And “f/8 and be there” is just a nice reminder that photographers can capture compelling photos without obsessing over technicalities.
Setting the lens to an aperture of f/8 and creating some magic is the easiest way to stick with the phrase “f/8 and be there”. Not all shots will be perfect and there is no point dwelling on imperfect shots. Instead, it’s best to go with the flow, be there around, and photographers will surely find something worth capturing.
The “f/8 and be there” mantra works wonders for beginners and pros alike who are looking for the right techniques and the perfect shots. It’s a perfect reminder for photographers to let go sometimes and let f/8 take the guesswork out.
About the Author: Leigh Diprose is a full-time business owner and writer in the imaging industry with a passion for sharing knowledge. The opinions expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author. His published work has been featured by top imaging wholesalers and major imaging retailers in over 14 countries.
Picture credits: Header photo by Roy Koch Sr. and licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0