How and when to use Aperture Priority Mode

Now that we’ve covered the Exposure Triangle and we have an understanding of what’s happening when we press the shutter, let’s talk about how we can leverage that knowledge and get some great shots.

Aperture refers to the opening in a camera lens that lets in light.  You can adjust it to be wide or narrow.  Wide openings let in more light and narrow openings let in less light.  Aperture is measured in f/stops — the smaller the f/stop number, the wider the lens is opening.

visual explanation of aperture online photography class

I love Aperture Priority for photographing people as well as photographing objects when I want that object to really stand out from the background (yes, Aperture is what can give us those gorgeous blurry background photos!)

When we put our camera in Aperture Priority mode, we are choosing the aperture (f/stop) and ISO and the camera is choosing a shutter speed that will give us an accurately exposed image.

Let’s get started!

First, if you have a nifty fifty lens, put that on your camera, or use whatever lens opens to the widest f/stop (smallest f/stop number).  The 50mm and 35mm lenses are both excellent and economical choices!

Now put your camera in Aperture Priority mode by moving the dial on the top of your camera to Av or A.

Next, make sure your ISO is set to 400 or 800 and that auto-ISO is OFF.  Check your manual if you’re not sure how to change your ISO.

Find a well-lit spot and grab something (or someone) to photograph.  Put your subject close to the light source (a window if you’re inside and a shady spot if you’re outside) and if you’re photographing a person, make sure you can see the catch lights in their eyes (a catch light is the reflection of the light source in a person’s eyes).

This is my youngest daughter Lucy, demonstrating catch light placement.  She works for lollipops.

You’ll want the light source to be behind your or to your side (not behind the subject).

With the camera in Av/A mode and the ISO at 400, change the aperture to the smallest number that your lens allows.  Do this by turning the dial near your right index finger – it’s usually right in front of the shutter button.  When you’re looking through the viewfinder at your subject and turning the dial at the same time, you’ll see the f/stop number changing with each click of the dial.   You’ll also notice that as you change the f/stop, the camera will change the shutter speed.

Now, click the shutter and take the photo!

If you have a lens that allows you to adjust your f/stop to 1.8 or 2.5, you’ll notice that the background is pretty blurry!  Remember, the smaller the f/stop, the blurrier the background.

Now play around with different f/stops and different lighting and let me know how you like the results!

Ready to dive a little deeper? I have a FREE workbook that I think will be PERFECT for you!

Lucky for you, I’ve created a 10 page guide that explains the creative modes in an easy to understand and actionable way. Download it today!

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