Posted by: photographytuition | October 28, 2011

Aperture priority photography.

I always use A for Aperture priority, always have done and always will. Let me explain why.

Just about every lens ever made works better in terms of contrast, colour, sharpness and resolution when it is ‘stopped down’ by around 2 stops. So, a lens with a maximum aperture of f4 stopped down by one stop becomes f5.6 and stopped down by 2 stops becomes f8.

By setting the lens to f8 you are almost certainly getting the maximum quality out of that lens. At f8 you also get a good depth of field – the amount of the scene that’s in sharp focus. It’s a win win situation and a brilliant place to start.

Obviously if conditions are dull then you may need to open the aperture to f5.6 (or increase the ISO or reduce the shutter speed) but that’s the nature of photography – constantly having to make decisions/compromises.

Red Kites. Nikon D80 with Nikon 300mm f2.8. ISO 250, 1/1500 sec f5.6.

Note in the photo above how shallow the depth of field is even with the lens set at f5.6. The nearest bird is out of focus whereas the one behind is perfectly sharp. To get both birds in sharp focus I would probably have had to use f11 or f16 but if I had done that I would have had to use a slower shutter speed or use a higher ISO – both would have had a detrimental effect on the quality of the photo.

Once when I was taking someone on tuition at the Red Kite Feeding Centre (  she assumed that we would be setting the cameras for S for Shutter priority. Illogical though it sounds it’s actually better to use Aperture priority if you want a fast shutter speed.

For example if you were photographing red kites and did an exposure check and found that the fastest shutter speed for a given aperture and ISO was 1/1000 second then every shot would be at 1/1000 sec, no faster and no slower.

Now, instead of using Shutter priority you set the camera to Aperture priority and opened up the aperture as nuch as possible the camera will take every photo at the fastest available shutter speed. With the Aperture priority setting the shutter speed isn’t limited to 1/1000 sec – it will always take every photo at the fastest possible shutter speed. Some photos would be at 1/1000 sec but some will also be faster – not possible if using Shutter priority.

So, for the fastest possible shutter speed use Aperture priority!

If I haven’t explained that well or you would like to ask me questions about it please contact me on or see the website

Photography Tuition sessions are available any day of the week any month of the year. Nikon cameras and lenses are available for use, free of charge!


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