Why Aperture Priority for DSL photography…

Waterrock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway, Bob Grytten photo
Waterrock Knob, Blue Ridge Parkway, Bob Grytten photo

About the Camera …







How to set the Camera?!!!!

I treat the camera as a tool to gather information about where we are or have been so we can discuss, share, or archive.

Automatic: First off, if set on automatic, the camera will arbitrarily set the Depth of field, one of the most important camera settings we have.  I want to know how much will be in focus and how much is soft focus! Period! This is not the place for Arbitary…

So What to set?

Manual: If I go totally manual, that means I’m going to practice with my camera at least three times a week. Plus I have to set two controls . Unless fighting with my camera is my thing and of course that’s OK – but the aperture will have to be set, then shutter speed or vice versa.

Program: If I set on “P” for Program, the camera will select the fastest shutter speed for the conditions – and that is good for best chance of sharpness. But the trade off, will be Aperture as that too may get set where I may not want it. And unless I have a Depth of Field preview button, I will be blind in that area.  If, however, I’m working in fast moving commercial situations that may be my choice.

Aperture:  – the most important element in my view.  Aperture controls the depth-of-field.  Do I want shallow – set for that. Do I want lots of DOF – set for that. And the Shutter speed will set automatically. That is my overall preference – and the preference of the majority of professionals, for what it’s worth and amateur photographers – according to Darren Rouse’s DPS, a good online resource tool, BTW,

Frog in Florida bog         Bob Grytten Photo
Frog in Florida bog, Published, Outdoor Photographer – Bob Grytten Photo

Things can change rapidly in the field. Setting the camera on Aperture Priority allows us to change  quickly so the camera works like a tool.

The reason we use AP is for the Depth-of-Field. If set at the largest aperture or “biggest opening“ the amount of light entering the camera is the greatest, and that allows the shutter speed to also be the fastest possible.

Shutter Speed changes automatically as we change the Aperture.

Water Drop on Leaf, Bob Grytten Photo
Water Drop on Leaf, Bob Grytten Photo

SLR cameras have been designed to show us exactly what the images will look like when the aperture is opened all the way. This way when looking through the view finder, if we like what we see, we can simply release the shutter and move on to our next subject. We can then take our mind off our camera and concentrate on the most important elements of the program – Light, Composition, and getting rid of those distracting elements.

Opened all the way, the aperture also provides us with the shallowest Depth-of-Field possible, great for creating a soft background or “bokeh” for flowers.

Charleston, SC bob Grytten image
Charleston, SC Bob Grytten image

When looking through the view finder if we want more Depth-Of-Field, we simply “stop down” the aperture to decrease the size of the opening.





Cataloochee Valley - Bob Grytten photo
Cataloochee Valley – Bob Grytten photo

For landscape we work our day down to the smallest aperture which gives us the most DOF. That is also good to slow water movement as this example.

Below is a general idea of aperture settings.




f/2.8        f/4      f/5.6      f/8     f/11     f/16     f/22    f/32

Shallowest DOF     Medium (more DOF)                  Most DOF

Find the setting right for you and stick with it until it becomes second nature. Shooting what you like is always the best idea as that’s where your best work will happen. Have fun, and keep shooting. Comments invited…


Darren Rouse DSP- http://digital-photography-school.com/author/darren/.

Lens Lugger World wwwlensluggerworld.com

Blogs: lensluggers.com             bobgrytten.com

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