Learn to use Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes

Learn to use Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes

Close up of a camera's shutter

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All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted. 

This blog post may contain affiliate links.  I may earn a small commission for any purchases made through these links. Click here for the disclosure statement.

All photos are original to the author unless otherwise noted.

Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes are two of the main shooting modes that are available on most digital cameras

These modes allow the photographer to control the aperture or the shutter speed while the camera automatically adjusts the other setting to maintain correct exposure.

Understanding and Using these Modes in Photography

Photo by Shubham Dhage on Unsplash

Understanding and using Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes is important for photographers because these modes give them more control over the creative elements of their images.

By adjusting the aperture or shutter speed, the photographer can influence the depth of field, motion blur, and overall image exposure.

Aperture and Shutter Priority Modes can help the photographer achieve a specific look or mood or simply create more visually appealing and technically correct photographs.

In Aperture Priority mode, the photographer sets the aperture, and the camera adjusts the shutter speed to maintain correct exposure.

Aperture is a measure of the size of the opening in the different lenses, and it controls the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor.

Aperture also impacts the depth of field in the image, with a wider aperture (smaller f-number) creating a shallow depth of field and a narrow aperture (larger f-number) creating a deep depth of field.

In Shutter Priority mode, the photographer sets the shutter speed, and the camera adjusts the aperture to maintain correct exposure.

Shutter speed is a measure of the duration the camera’s sensor is exposed to light, and it controls the amount of motion blur in the image. A faster shutter speed freezes motion, while a slower shutter speed creates motion blur.

By using Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority mode, the photographer can prioritize either depth of field or motion blur in their images and let the camera handle the rest.

 This can be especially useful when the lighting changes rapidly or the photographer wants to focus on a specific aspect.

Aperture Priority mode

Photo by Alvin Lenin on Unsplash

Aperture refers to the size of the lens’s opening, which is expressed as an f-number (f-stop). A wider aperture (smaller f-number) allows more light to enter the camera, while a narrow aperture (larger f-number) allows less light to enter the camera.

In addition to controlling the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor, aperture also affects the depth of field in the image.

How Aperture Settings affect depth of field and image sharpness?

A shallow depth of field is when a small portion of the image is in focus, with the rest appearing blurry.

This is often used to isolate the subject from the background or to create a sense of depth in the image. A deep depth of field is when most of the image is in focus, with a small portion appearing blurry.

This is often used for landscape or architecture photography or images where everything in the scene needs to be sharp and focused.

How to set Aperture Priority mode on your camera? 

To set and use Aperture Priority mode on your camera, follow these steps:

    1. Set your camera to Aperture Priority mode, which is often indicated by the letter “A” or “Av” on the mode dial or in the menu.
    2. Choose your desired aperture by using the aperture control on your camera. This may be a dial, a button, or a combination of both.
    3. Set your focus point on your subject.
    4. Take the photograph by pressing the shutter button. The camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to maintain a correct exposure based on the aperture you have set.

    There are several situations where Aperture Priority mode can be useful:

    •  When you want to control the depth of field in your image. For example, if you are taking a portrait and want to blur the background, you can use a wide aperture (small f-number) to create a shallow depth of field.
    • When you are shooting in changing lighting conditions. By using Aperture Priority mode, you can set the aperture and let the camera adjust the shutter speed as needed to maintain correct exposure.
    • When you are shooting a fast-moving subject. Using a wide aperture (small f-number), you can reduce the amount of motion blur in the image by using a faster shutter speed.

    Overall, Aperture Priority mode is an excellent tool for photographers who want to control the depth of field in their images or prioritize the aperture when shooting in changing lighting conditions.

    It can be beneficial for portrait, landscape, and still-life photography, where the depth of field can be a critical element in the image’s composition.

    Shutter Priority mode

    Close up of a camera's shutter
    Photo by Wan San Yip on Unsplash

     Shutter speed is a measure of the duration the camera’s sensor is exposed to light, and it is expressed in seconds or fractions of a second.

    A faster shutter speed allows less light to reach the sensor, while a slower shutter speed allows more light to reach the sensor.

    In addition to controlling the amount of light that reaches the sensor, shutter speed also affects the motion blur in the image.

    How do Shutter Speed Settings affect motion blur and exposure?

    A fast shutter speed freezes motion, while a slow shutter speed creates motion blur. A fast shutter speed is often used for sports or action photography, where the goal is to freeze the subject’s motion.

    A slow shutter speed is often used for creative effects, such as creating a sense of movement or motion in the image.

    How to set Shutter Priority mode on your camera?

    To set and use Shutter Priority mode on your camera, follow these steps:

    1. Set your camera to Shutter Priority mode, often indicated by the letter “S” or “Tv” on the mode dial or in the menu.
    2. Choose your desired shutter speed by using the shutter speed control on your camera. This may be a dial, a button, or a combination of both.
    3. Set your focus point on your subject.
    4. Take the photograph by pressing the shutter button. The camera will automatically adjust the aperture to maintain a correct exposure based on your chosen shutter speed.

    There are several situations where Shutter Priority mode can be useful:

    • When you want to control the motion blur in your image. For example, if you are shooting a fast-moving subject and want to freeze the motion, you can use a fast shutter speed. On the other hand, if you want to create motion blur, you can use a slow shutter speed.
    • When you are shooting in low light conditions. Using a slower shutter speed allows more light to reach the camera’s sensor, which can help improve the image’s exposure.
    • When you are shooting a subject that is moving in a predictable way. By using Shutter Priority mode, you can set the shutter speed and let the camera adjust the aperture as needed to maintain correct exposure.

    Overall, the Shutter Priority mode is an excellent tool for photographers who want to control the motion blur in their images or prioritize the shutter speed when shooting in low light conditions or when working with moving subjects.

    It can be especially useful for sports, action, and low-light photography, where the shutter speed is crucial in capturing the right moment or achieving the desired effect.

    Combining Aperture and Shutter Priority modes

    Camera dial for changing image settings to aperture priority and shutter priority modes
    Photo by Math on Unsplash

    Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes can be used together to achieve the desired result in your images.

    Understanding how aperture and shutter speed work together allows you to adjust these settings to create the look and feel you want in your photographs.

    Tips for balancing aperture and shutter speed to get the best image

    To use both Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes together, consider the following tips:

    • Determine which element you want to prioritize in your image. For example, do you want to control the depth of field or the motion blur? Then, choose the appropriate shooting mode based on your desired result.
    • Consider the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. Aperture and shutter speed work together to determine the exposure of the image. As you adjust one setting, you will need to change the other to maintain correct exposure.
    • Experiment with different combinations of aperture and shutter speed. Try using various combinations of these settings to see how they affect the look and feel of your images.
    • Pay attention to the ISO settings on your camera. ISO is a measure of the sensitivity of the camera’s sensor to light, and it can be adjusted to compensate for changes in aperture and shutter speed. Increasing the ISO can help brighten the image when shooting in low light conditions, but it can also introduce noise.

    By combining Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes, you can have more control over the creative elements of your images. By understanding how the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) works together, you can create the look and feel you want in your photographs.

    Conclusion

    Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes are essential tools for photographers to have in their toolkit because they allow for more control over the final image

    In Aperture Priority mode, the photographer can control the depth of field by adjusting the aperture, while the camera will automatically adjust the shutter speed to expose the image correctly.

    In Shutter Priority mode, the photographer can control the amount of motion blur in the image by adjusting the shutter speed, while the camera will automatically adjust the aperture to expose the image correctly.

    Using these modes can help photographers better achieve their creative vision for an image, whether it’s a shallow depth of field for a portrait or a fast shutter speed to freeze action.

    It’s important to experiment and practice with these modes to gain a deeper understanding of how they work and how to use them effectively.

    Overall, understanding and using the Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority modes can significantly improve your photography skills and help you to create more dynamic and visually striking images.