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When reading about photography and after moving to cameras that allow finer control, you will come across aperture size as one of the elements that you can control.

But, the numbers mentioned for aperture size (also known as f-stop), are counter intuitive. This is due to the fact that a smaller aperture number means a wider opening while a larger aperture number means a smaller opening. Thus, aperture of f/32 results in a smaller opening, allowing less light to flow through the lens as compared to a value of f/4.6. In turn, f/4.6 is smaller than f/1.4.

To help you understand this seemingly convoluted logic, try this. Consider a box that has a length of 1 inch. Width and height are not material considerations. Suppose we wish to pack needles, side-by-side in this box. The number of needles that we can place side-by-side will be determined by the opening of the needle. Thus, we will be able to place few needles that have a big opening, while we will be able to place more needles that have a small opening. Additionally, needles that have a big opening can be used to suck up water faster, while more time and effort will be needed to suck up water using needles that have small holes.

Why this example? This precise example was shared by my father to explain why needles that have a ‘bigger’ number as actually thinner and have tiny openings and needles that have a ‘smaller’ number are bigger openings.