Camera Mode – Aperture Priority

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Digital cameras come with various modes that allow you to take more control of taking the picture. One mode which your camera may have is called Aperture Priority which is usually symbolised on the camera by an A or Av.

This mode allows you to control the aperture setting manually, but the camera will work out the suitable shutter speed to achieve, what the camera thinks, is a good exposure.

So what does controlling the aperture allow you to do, and why would you want to do it?

Aperture controls something known as Depth Of Field which is the area of the image that is in focus. The rule is that as the aperture number gets smaller, which means the hole is getting larger, there will be a smaller amount of the image in focus.

The following diagram is a fairly crude diagram which explains depth of field a little more.

Depth Of Field

The red line is the point where you are focussing the camera.

The grey area is the area of the scene in front of you that will appear to be in focus for a given aperture.

It should be noted that this is not an accurate diagram, it just demonstrates what happens when you change the aperture settings. It should also be noted that the change from in focus to out of focus is a gradual one.

So really, depth of field is the distance of that graduation from the point of focus.

Why is this useful?

Using a small depth of field is a great way to isolate the main object in the picture. Sports or wildlife photographers use this technique to blur out distracting backgrounds keeping the main focul point sharp. Using a wide aperture also allows a faster shutter speed to be used which again helps keep moving objects sharp.

Using a larger depth of field is good for landscape pictures, when you want the area close to you and the area far off in the distance to be in focus. Using a large depth of field means that you usually need to use longer shutter speeds which means that some form of support for the camera is required to keep the camera still which the shutter is open. You will rarely see a landscape photographer without a tripod.

About Author

A keen amateur photographer, Garry has been teaching people photography for over 5 years but is also always learning. Garry enjoys many types of photography but prefers Street Photography and Candid Event Photography

7 Comments

  1. Pingback: An example of depth of field · Photography Basics

  2. Thanks for the tips. In deed a great help for a biginner like me… Thanks again and have a nice weekend!

  3. Hi, it is only the aperture value that controls the depth of field. In aperture priority you shouldn’t be able to lock the shutter speed to 1/8000 as it’s the camera that is choosing the shutter speed depending on what aperture you are using.

  4. Pingback: When it all goes wrong, remember the basics | Photography Basics

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