Understanding Aperture Priority Mode on Digital Cameras

Semi-manual modes, such as aperture priority mode, allow the photographer to retain control of some settings on the camera while letting the camera determine other settings. In the case of aperture priority mode, the photographer will set the desired aperture and the camera will automatically adjust shutter speed, white balance and ISO to create a well-balanced shot. Semi-manual modes are a great progression from full automatic modes, as photographers can begin to experiment with a one particular setting and a single creative element.

How to Use Aperture Priority Mode

Most digital cameras are designed to switch between automatic and semi-manual modes by simply turning the dial on top of the camera. Aperture priority mode is usually indicated on the dial as A or AV. Once in aperture priority mode, the photographer can move the aperture (f/stop) to the desired setting.

Why to Use Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture priority mode gives the photographer full creative freedom over the shot's depth of field. By taking advantage of the semi-manual mode, the photographer is able to focus on experimenting with different aperture settings and varying depths of field without the need to constantly and manually adjust the camera's other settings. Intermediate photographers can use aperture priority mode to gain knowledge and more creative control over their shots.

When to Use Aperture Priority Mode

Aperture priority mode is best suited for stationary objects where the photographer desires to control the depth of field. Choosing a large aperture (small f/stop number) allows more light to hit the camera's sensor. The camera compensates with a faster shutter speed and the result is a shot with a focused foreground and blurry background, or shallow depth of field. A small aperture (larger f/stop number) allows less light into the camera's sensor and the camera adjusts by selecting a slower shutter speed. The result is a picture with the foreground and background elements in focus, or a large depth of field.

Tips for Using Aperture Priority Mode

Experimenting with aperture priority mode is a great way for the intermediate photographer to gain a better understanding of photography and depth of field. In aperture priority mode, the photographer should remember that as he adjusts the aperture setting, the camera will make automatic adjustments to the shutter speed. Small apertures with slower shutter speeds will most likely require a tripod for best results. Photography experts generally recommend tripods for shutter speeds longer than 1/60.

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