There are many settings and buttons on your camera. However when you learn to take control of your camera most likely you will fall within the MASP on a Nikon and MAvTvP on a Canon Camera setting group. These settings are familiar to most intermediate to advanced photographers and are the Manual, Aperture, Shutter and Program modes of your camera. Each of the manual or semi manual modes have their advantages and disadvantages. For this article I will discus a few of the advantages of using the Aperture priority and three things you can do today to improve your photography skills.
To make it simple enough three things you can do with aperture priority are, create that nice blurry background called bokeh, make an image that is sharp from the foreground to the background and lastly use the aperture to reduce the light on a background. Before I can dig into the cools stuff you can do in Aperture priority mode, lets take a second to understand what it is.
What is aperture priority – A/Av
On your camera mode dial there are the manual and semi manual markings to switch your camera in to different modes to control one of the three pillars of the exposure triangle. Aperture mode is a semi manual mode that allows you to make a decision on the aperture you want to use or the opening of your lens, to capture a photo. Usually you would set your ISO depending on your surroundings but if you have your camera set to automatic ISO the camera will take control of this aspect as well as the shutter speed. The aperture will remain constant throughout your shooting session however your shutter speed with be adjusted depending on what the camera technology decides, based on its light meter, is the best way to expose for the scene.
Depending on the type of lens you use you can set your aperture between f1.4 up to f22 or higher. We know that the aperture controls the amount of light that enters the lens and the potential amount of light that can hit the sensor for an exposure. There are some other aspects that the aperture controls in your finished image as well and we will get to those soon.
When to use aperture priority
Only professionals use manual all the time so because I’m not a professional I should shoot in Aperture priory. This is utter nonsense. Even pros don’t like to always shoot in manual, a person who says they do this all the time cannot be running a full time photography business. There is just no way you can manually adjust day in and day out for all situations. Aperture priority makes things a little bit easier because it allows the camera to make some decisions that you don’t have to based on its meter reading.
When ever you just want to control the look of the fore and background you would choose to shoot in Aperture priority. This will tell the camera leave the aperture at a specific opening but you can control the shutter speed to give me a sensible exposure. For this to work each and every time however there is one thing you may have to change in your camera. Its often overlooked by even the professionals. We have a habit of leaving our ISO set to a particular sensitivity. This will limit the camera capabilities in that that if it runs into a difficult situation it will drop the shutter speed too low to hand hold and shoot. However if you turn on Automatic ISO while in aperture priority you can shoot and not worry about that slow shutter issue.
Here are three things you can do with aperture priority and is good to know how and when to use them.
As mentioned above the aperture controls the look of your background this means you can get that blurry background folks are all raging about. By the way that technique of a blurry background is called Bokeh from the Japanese meaning…blurry. When you set your aperture at a wide or fast setting such as f2.8 or below you are effectively allowing more light to enter into the camera but at the same time it has the effect of blurring the background of your subject, once their is distance between the two. This is the go to method for portrait photographers as it allows the photographer to separate their subject from the background. The person will appear sharp and in focus in the camera while the background appears blurry hence separating them both from each other.
Show full depth of field
Another option besides blurring the background is to ensure that the entire foreground and background is in full focus. Unlike portrait photographers, landscape and seascape photographers use this when capturing their images. By using a smaller aperture such as f11 or higher you effectively ensure that more of the foreground and background are in sharp focus. There is a technique involving hyperfocal distancing that landscape photographers use to get this effect of focus all the way through. Smaller apertures can be used in many other genres of photography including architectural, product photography because image sharpness from front to back is most important.
Having a dark background may seem simple enough however it can be very difficult when in a well lit area. Sometimes you may not have control over a light switch or you may be outdoors but want a darker background with out having to edit in photoshop. The aperture of your lens can help in the matter. Besides blurring or showing the fore and background of an images the aperture can increase or reduce the amount of light entering and hitting the camera sensor. Its this technique that is used to create a dark background in virtually any environment. Although shutter can do this exact trick you may have other plans for your shutter speed hence knowing how to do this technique will be useful.
Reducing the aperture to beyond f16 can severely affect the amount of light however when using flash you can use a short duration burst of light to have light on your subject but have not light on your background. Its not a technique that is used often as many persons would not know of it or would prefer to shoot in studio with a black background. However when you are a beginner with basic gear and limited equipment you have to find ways to hack the image.
The next time you consider using aperture priority only for portraits to blur the background, know that there are many more things you can do with just shooting portraits. These techniques are well worth the try and as usual the best way to learn photography is to shoot every day and try new things until it makes sense or it becomes as easy as drinking water.