Whats better? Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority?

What is it that you end up using more? Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority?

When one starts photography, the answer is very simple. 

  • If I want to freeze or depict motion, I will use Shutter Priority.
  • If I think controlling DOF is more important, I will use Aperture Priority.

When one has been clicking for a few years and is comfortable with the nuances of the camera, the answer becomes slightly hazy.

Aperture priority helps in controlling the aperture to get those clean backgrounds for portraits, the deep DOF needed for the landscapes and the ability to control how much the DOF should be for getting the entire subject in focus..

A lot of photographers these days prefer to go the Aperture priority route even when they want to control the shutter, because truth be told, you could control the shutter indirectly by changing the Aperture as well right?

For e.g. assume you are shooting a fast moving car and want the car to be frozen in motion. You can achieve it in two ways

  1. Put your camera in Shutter Priority and change it to a fast shutter speed, say 1/4000
  2. Let your camera be in Av mode, open up the aperture to the max value. That will give you the fastest shutter speed under those settings. If that is not enough, just bump up the ISO. 

There is one more un-documented logic behind going for the Aperture priority and this in particular is a very convincing reason for me

Assume that the camera has decided the exposure value for a particular scene is X amount of light.

Now, lets say we are in shutter priority and choose a shutter speed of 1/500 and camera gave f/8. The subject came blur so we decided to increase the shutter speed to 1/2000. Now the camera will change the aperture to allow more light in a shorter time and will give us f/4. 

Please note that the camera tries to achieve ‘X’ amount of light by changing the aperture values. When the aperture value changes the feel of your image changes (because of DoF changing). When you use Tv/S mode you are actually letting the camera change the appearance of them image without you having any control. 

So my suggestion for everyone is that give Aperture Priority Mode a go, try to use it to control the shutter speed (by changing ISO) when needed and let me know how it works for you.

Should you never use the Shutter Priority mode?

Well, not just for the want of faster shutter speeds. Incase you are planning to shoot images at very low shutter speeds, for e.g.  panning..in such cases you can actually more or less ignore the aperture value because you are actually depicting motion and in such cases it is better to use the Tv/S mode. For e.g. the shot below was clicked in Tv/S mode.


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  1. Kintoo May 22, 2017 at 7:20 am #

    It’s quite helpful sir.
    Thank you very much Rahul Sir.

  2. Harshvardhan Malagi May 22, 2017 at 7:47 am #

    Hello sir,
    In my last trip I used Tv mode, kept f5.6 and auto ISO. I used these settings to get sharp images… i am happy with results but not satisfied… I used Av also but in low light it was difficult to get sharp images with 500mm… help me out

    • rahul.sachdev@gmail.com May 22, 2017 at 7:54 am #

      Hi Harshvardhan. The Av/Aperture priority mode is used to control the aperture by default right? Now when you are clicking in low light, it is necessary that you actually also keep an eye out for the shutter speed. I am suspecting that all the low-light images that did not come sharp will have very low shutter speeds. So what you need to do is
      – Control Aperture to get the correct DoF
      – Control ISO to ensure that the shutter speed is not too low.

      Please note that the ISO need not be changed in every shot but in general whenever the light conditions change.

      Hope this helps

  3. Suresh C Sharma May 22, 2017 at 7:54 am #

    informative. thanks for sharing.

  4. Piyush Tripathi May 23, 2017 at 11:51 am #

    Thanks Rahul !! This explains a lot .

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