Are you on Aperture priority?

Most of the people I come across in the field seem to be using Aperture priority.

So is that an issue?

No not really, not unless you do not know why you are on Aperture Priority. A lot of people end up being on Aperture priority not because they want to control the DoF, no, they end up being on Aperture priority and setting up a maximum aperture value always, because they are using this mode because

  1. Someone said so
  2. Want the DoF as shallow as possible always
  3. Want a fast shutter speed, always

Take a look at the following image.
Aperture Wide Open - Out of focus Tail

I was on a wide open aperture and since the bird was very close I ended up blurring the birds backside. Not what I wanted,  I made a mistake. A mistake that can be very easily corrected in the field by stopping down on the aperture a little. Using an aperture of around f/8 or f/11 would have saved the day for me. Remember, bigger the aperture number, bigger the DoF in general.

Whats surprising is, a lot of people are just ignorant to this and are stuck with Aperture priority without any logical reason. I mean its fine using it as long as you know how to control it and when to use what aperture. Do not use it just because the guy sitting besides you does so. Here is a simple guide for what apertures do to the Depth of Focus in a photograph. Save the Image in your mobile if need be for handy reference


Here are a few typical scenarios that you will find yourselves in, lets see what you make of them

Scenario 1 : You are shooting a Portrait image of a friend of yours, or maybe of a tiger where you will have just the face in the image. It is a front-lit subject so exposure is not a big problem. How will you click? What Mode will you use? and most importantly ‘WHY’ did you chose the mode. As far as the aperture is concerned a very close subject with significant depth and a very wide aperture will result in part of the face going out of focus.

Scenario 2 : You are shooting a tiger walking down the road and you want to ensure that the head and tail both are in focus. Will it matter if you are on f/4 or f/11?  Remember, the tiger is almost 6 foot in length even if we ignore the tail so at f/4 there is a high possibility that the tigers face will be in focus (Assuming the focus point is on the face) and the back part of the body will be out-of focus

Now I know that these questions can have many answers with no perfect answer but all that I am attempting here is to try and get you thinking. Go out there and play with the aperture. Try out the same shots with different aperture values and see how it really affects your final output. Don’t just use it as an Auto Mode!!

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  1. Prasanna R July 24, 2017 at 6:32 am #

    As usual simple and informative! Waiting for your views on focus points and auto focus modes.

    • July 26, 2017 at 7:16 am #

      Prasanna, thanks 🙂

      I’ll cover focus points in a blog post very soon. Working on that one.

      AF modes will follow.

  2. KRISHNAN SUBRAMANIAN July 26, 2017 at 7:13 am #

    thanks .Very good and informative. Pl also let us know on the use of shutter priority as I use shutter priority sometimes.

    • July 26, 2017 at 7:16 am #

      I will cover shutter priority as I think most creative shots come out of shutter priority 🙂
      Having said that, I would love to hear your views on when do you go for shutter priority?

  3. Ravindra Ramarao July 27, 2017 at 4:42 am #

    Hi Rahul,
    I agree with you entirely when you say that aperture priority has to be used with discretion and with the knowledge of what result you want. And when used for Wild Life Photography, your example of the tiger is most pertinent. I am a regular with a Bangalore based outfit who are considered to be leaders in Wild Life Photography tours – all their skippers consistently advocate the use of aperture priority. Why this dichotomy between that view and yours ?
    Ravindra Ramarao

    • July 27, 2017 at 5:47 am #

      Ahh, so what I am trying to tell people here is to use Aperture Priority the way it is supposed to be used; no point using it and not changing the aperture value. I’m sure there is no dichotomy here. Let me explain :
      When it comes to aperture vs shutter priority I myself go to the shutter priority only incase of slow shutters like when panning.

      When I need fast shutter speed I just open up the aperture and bump up the ISO. Now that’s just my way if doing it 🙂
      The reason why I haven’t covered slow shutters in this blog is because I wanted to keep it focussed an simple.

      Creative use of slow shutters will come soon in another blog.

      Hope that helps 🙂

  4. anilk July 28, 2017 at 6:23 am #

    I love BIF shots and use the widest aperture possible with 400 DO II canon lens i.e, F4. supposing i use F8 … Theoretically will there be any difference in focus acquisition and tracking Speeds ??? Some how When I use F8 i feel they tend to get slower..

    • July 28, 2017 at 7:05 am #

      Hi Anil,
      Here is what happens
      1. When you change from f/4 to f/8 to increase the DoF, the size of the hole through which light comes in (aperture) is reducing which means to obtain the same exposure as earlier, the shutter speed will go slower. To counter that you will need to turn to the ISO and increase that if the shutter speed is too slow

      2. Focus always happens on the widest aperture so f/4 or f/8 wont matter. Check my blog What is a fast lens and I hope that helps you.

      Thanks for the comment and I hope I answered your queries 🙂

  5. Pooja August 23, 2017 at 2:28 pm #

    Very nicely explained. Thanks for the article.
    And as you mentioned Aperture Priority should be selected based on the subject to be clicked and the surroundings.

    At the same time can ones priority also be included in the deciding factor whether to use Av and what value ?
    Reason.. my preference is always to click things with very shallow DoF so that my subject stands out among the whole background (when its tiny, like small rose bud and not using Macro).

    • August 25, 2017 at 6:36 am #


      Ones priority is all that matters after a point 🙂 . As long as you know the outcome of your choices its all good.


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