Aperture Priority Mode: Photography Friday, Week 7

Aperture Priority Mode is the favored setting of landscape photographers.  Aperture Priority Mode isn't just for landscape photography, however.  It's a great feature to use for many types of photography.  For example, Aperture Priority Mode is also often used to photograph both food and flowers.

You might be asking, What is it?  and/or Why? and/or What button do I touch?

On a Canon, you can find Aperture Priority Mode by turning your Mode Dial to Av.  On a Nikon, it's designated by the letter A.


AV

[Please excuse all the dust and dirt on my camera in the above photo.  I haven't had time to clean it since I got back from my trip.  (How embarrassing!)]

When your camera is set to Aperture Priority Mode you control the depth of field.  That means you decide how sharp you want the background area of your photo.  Do you want the whole photo to be crystal clear?  Or would a blurred background be more impactive?  

You determine this by selecting the f-stop ( f-stop = aperture width).  In Aperture Priority Mode, the camera calculates the correct shutter speed needed for the aperture you've chosen.  

Why would you want to use Aperture Priority Mode?

Well, maybe there are distracting items in the background and you don't want them to take attention away from your subject.  If that's the case, you can blur the background by choosing a wide aperture (from F/5.6 to F/1/2) and make those distracting details disappear.

Fiji
In the above photo, there was a chair and a counter with a glass on it in the background.  I wanted to focus the viewer's attention just on the Fiji water bottle.  I blurred the background to make the distracting details disappear.  I chose F/1.2 for the photo of the Fiji water bottle.

On the other hand, there are times when you want your photo to show an extensive depth of field with sharp detail.  For those times, you would want to set a narrow aperture (from F/8 to F/32). 
 


Bac2
 

In the above photo, I wanted the ocean, the pier, and the bluffs behind the pier all to appear sharp to the viewer.  I wanted you to be able to see the beauty of the scene as vividly as I did when I took the photo.  I chose to use F/16 for the beach photo.

Aperture is fun to play with.  There are times when you want a little blur to the background, but you want the viewer to still be able to discern what the background is.  Perhaps, you are striving for a little "softer" feel to your image, but you don't want to blur it out completely.

Squirrel
 

In the above photo, the squirrel is the subject.  He's nice and sharp.  A squirrel, however, is only part of the story.  This squirrel was having a snack right where a wave was about to hit him.  I wanted the ocean and waves visible, but not as sharp as the squirrel itself.  I chose F/6.3 for the squirrel photo.

Aperture Priority Mode allows you to be creative.  The actual ranges available to you are determined by the minimum and maximum aperture of your lens.  The best way to understand the different "looks" you can create with your images is by experimenting with different apertures.

How do you change your aperture?

Well, once your camera is set to Av (or A for Nikons), you then move your Main Dial to whatever aperture you want.

Main
 

Remember, a wide aperture (which lets in more light) is designated by a smaller number F-stop.  As an example, F/2.8 is wider (more open) than F/16 which is narrow and will let in less light.  Wide apertures (small number f-stops) will give you blur.  Narrow apertures (higher numbered F-stops) will give you a sharper background.  Many cameras also have a button you can press to preview the depth of field.  I'm not going into a lot of detail about it today because I've already given you a lot to digest for one day.

This weekend try experimenting with your camera in Aperture Priority Mode.  Take some photos at the lowest F-stop you can with your lens.  Then take a few at the highest F-stop and notice the difference.  Try experimenting with the mid-ranges also until you're comfortable with how aperture width affects the look of your photos.

As always, I look forward to seeing your photos.  You can share them with me, and other readers, by uploading them to Flickr.  It's easy!  Just click here.

© Twenty Four At Heart

20 Responses to “Aperture Priority Mode: Photography Friday, Week 7”

  1. Big Dot

    Good explanation! I initially found it hard to remember (understand!) how the numbering of the f-stops worked, so I simply told myself that the bigger the number, the more things would be in focus, and the smaller, the fewer. I just have that sort of brain – but it’s worked well for me. Maybe you’d like to take a look at my travel blog and see what you think: http://www.travelskite.blogspot.com.

  2. Big Dot

    Good explanation! I initially found it hard to remember (understand!) how the numbering of the f-stops worked, so I simply told myself that the bigger the number, the more things would be in focus, and the smaller, the fewer. I just have that sort of brain – but it’s worked well for me. Maybe you’d like to take a look at my travel blog and see what you think: http://www.travelskite.blogspot.com.

  3. Jan

    Good explanation!
    I’ve become a huge fan of Aperture Priority Mode – the only time I set the camera to Manual Mode any more is when it decides the shutter speed should be faster or slower than I want, depending on the effect I’m going for.

  4. Jan

    Good explanation!
    I’ve become a huge fan of Aperture Priority Mode – the only time I set the camera to Manual Mode any more is when it decides the shutter speed should be faster or slower than I want, depending on the effect I’m going for.

  5. Maureen@IslandRoar

    I always get confused by the lower the number the wider the aperture and what it does. I need to play around more. Good info; thanks!

  6. Maureen@IslandRoar

    I always get confused by the lower the number the wider the aperture and what it does. I need to play around more. Good info; thanks!

  7. Pseudo

    I’ve been looking at all your Santa Barbara photos. Sigh.
    You do take gorgeous photos 24.

  8. Pseudo

    I’ve been looking at all your Santa Barbara photos. Sigh.
    You do take gorgeous photos 24.

  9. di

    Do you have to first switch from AF to MF on the side of the camera?? I tried using the AV mode and setting the F-Stop today with horrible results after reading your instructions earlier. My camera was still in AF. I seemed to get a better result when I switched to MF, then selected AV and then set the F-Stop.
    Me thinks me needs a ton of practice too at deciding what the proper F-Stop is to use for the results I want.
    Also, how do you keep track of what f-stop you used once the photo is downloaded to your photo program? I use iPhoto and nowhere in the downloaded file does it show what f-Stop I used so I have that info for future reference.
    Di

  10. di

    Do you have to first switch from AF to MF on the side of the camera?? I tried using the AV mode and setting the F-Stop today with horrible results after reading your instructions earlier. My camera was still in AF. I seemed to get a better result when I switched to MF, then selected AV and then set the F-Stop.
    Me thinks me needs a ton of practice too at deciding what the proper F-Stop is to use for the results I want.
    Also, how do you keep track of what f-stop you used once the photo is downloaded to your photo program? I use iPhoto and nowhere in the downloaded file does it show what f-Stop I used so I have that info for future reference.
    Di

  11. Jane

    I love Photography Friday’s. I’ve always wondered how fstops worked and this makes it really simple to remember. Thanks again!

  12. Jane

    I love Photography Friday’s. I’ve always wondered how fstops worked and this makes it really simple to remember. Thanks again!

  13. Twenty Four At Heart

    No, Di you do not need to go to manual focus. I will email you separately. When in Av your camera is basically still on automatic except for the aperture setting.

  14. Twenty Four At Heart

    No, Di you do not need to go to manual focus. I will email you separately. When in Av your camera is basically still on automatic except for the aperture setting.

  15. mel

    I’m loving these posts! I’ve been wondering how to do this with photos and had no idea what Av was on my camera. I don’t have a dSLR, I have a Canon S3, so they look the same and the zoom is good but not as sophisticated. I’m trying though. Once I get the hang of this camera, I might take the next leap. Thanks!

  16. mel

    I’m loving these posts! I’ve been wondering how to do this with photos and had no idea what Av was on my camera. I don’t have a dSLR, I have a Canon S3, so they look the same and the zoom is good but not as sophisticated. I’m trying though. Once I get the hang of this camera, I might take the next leap. Thanks!

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