When to Use Aperture Priority
Today I am talking about those times when manual exposure is not just difficult but almost impossible to manage. It is times like these I use aperture priority mode. Why? It’s all in the podcast episode! (But you can read instead if you prefer…)
First of all – some exciting news!
It has been far too long between episodes so first of all I want to apologise for the big gap. However, there is a very good reason and it is because I have been furiously working away on a really awesome course I will be releasing this month! It is a masterclass in manual exposure. A masterclass in metering the light. The course will be mainly audio like the podcasts but there will be one big difference. With the podcast you can listen on the go and the podcast will stay that way. I love that you can learn photography whilst going about your day to day life. I know how busy you are and being able to fit this into your life is vital because it means you are more likely to continue pursuing it.
The audio masterclass course is different though.
When you listen to a masterclass session you will only be focusing on that and nothing else. You will also need your camera because these sessions are practical. I WISH they had existed when I was learning. I am basically taking you to a level of understanding that took me YEARS to get to. No exaggeration.
I am really excited about this (can you tell?). There is honestly nothing out there like it. You will find a zillion photography video courses and ebook courses online but I wanted to create something for you that would be as close to having a tutor with you whilst you are practicing as possible. The power of having someone coach you straight into your ears can’t really be overemphasised. You can actually be out and about doing these exercises along with me without having the distraction of having to watch or read something first. I will talk you through every task in great detail as if I was right there with you. You can pause and rewind as many times as you like and just take it at your own pace.
I will be releasing the audio course this month to my email list first before anyone else.
There will be a special introductory price for you guys if you are on that list and it will be a bargain, believe me! So if you are not on my email list then make sure you get yourself there. It’s a great place to be anyway because I only ever send you valuable and helpful photography lessons and tips and I never spam you with rubbish. If you already receive emails from me then that means you are already on my email list and you don’t need to do anything. If you haven’t subscribed to my email list then you can do that by clicking right here. Once you are on there you will be among the first to hear the details of the audio masterclass and you will get access to the special introductory price.
Ok let’s talk about Aperture Priority!
In episode 19 which was way too long ago I asked if you were a meterholic. I asked if you were metering like crazy every time you were in manual mode and I hopefully helped you to understand that you don’t need to do that.
However, I talked about situations when you might find manual really hard to work with. The situations I was referring to were those in which the light is changing ALL THE TIME!
When the light is changing all the time or you are having to move into different light all the time then manual exposure can be pretty exhausting. If you are having to work quickly in conditions like that then manual exposure can be almost impossible!
You don’t want to be missing crucial moments because you are constantly having to change up your settings.
I’d say 90% of the time I am working in full manual mode. You know how I feel about this by now. I truly think you can never reach a deep understanding of photography and your camera without understanding how to take manual control.
But the other 10% of the time I am in Aperture Priority mode. I personally don’t use any other shooting modes but that has more to do with what I prefer to shoot. On my Nikon, Aperture Priority is the ‘A’ setting. On Canons it is the ‘Av’ setting. It will be something similar for you.
Now I am going to be honest here, if I was a wedding photographer I would probably use this setting a lot more! I am lucky in that I can choose a location and I can direct my clients into good light and get them to stay there.
A wedding photographer doesn’t have that luxury. A wedding photographer has to work with what they are given. Yes, when they are doing the posed shots they can take a little more time and direct their subjects into good light but what about the rest of the time?
For example, maybe the wedding starts in a church and they are taking candid photographs of the guests. Some are bathed in beautiful light from a nearby window and some might be far away from a window and lit by candlelight! After the ceremony the photographer might be going from indoors to outdoors and back again. Whilst outdoors some of the action might take place in the sun and some might take place in the shade but this action might happen within the space of a few seconds! When indoors it is the same situation. Some action might happen by a window and two seconds later something worth shooting happens in a dark corner of the room. Some die-hards will still insist on being in manual mode throughout a wedding but lots of wedding photographers do shoot weddings in Aperture Priority mode. If not the whole day, then at least parts of it.
So what happens in aperture priority mode?
It is semi-automatic. When you switch to Aperture Priority you manually set your aperture. Your camera will then select the shutter speed to match it depending on the light being reflected from your scene. You still need to select your ISO setting and white balance setting when you are in Aperture Priority mode. Every time the light from your scene changes – your shutter speed will automatically change to suit but your aperture will remain the same unless you physically change it.
Let me give you an example of a time I switched my camera over to Aperture Priority. Last year I was on holiday in Turkey with my husband, Johnny, and our two kids, Carla and Joe. Carla was 4 at the time and loved the kids club. She was in a show one evening dressed as an angel and, of course, I wanted to grab some shots. She was parading around a big amphitheatre with the other kids and it was adorable! Now it was early evening and the sun hadn’t set yet so half the stage was bathed in evening sunlight and half in shadow. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, there were also different coloured lights shining down on various parts of it. It was an exposure nightmare and the kids were moving quite fast in and out of all the different light.
If I was in manual mode I would have spent 80% of the time trying to expose. And by the time I had – Carla would have already moved into different light which would require a different exposure!
I just wanted to capture as many images as possible without missing any of the action. However I definitely wanted control of my aperture so that I could control my depth of field. I quickly switched over to Aperture Priority mode and I just got shooting!
So why didn’t I just use full Auto?
In full auto mode your camera will not allow your ISO to get very high at all. Instead, if your camera thinks light is getting low, it will just pop your flash and nuke everything in front of you with bright, white light. I can’t begin to tell you how much I dislike the light that comes from that flash but that is for another day. Also – how does your camera know how much depth of field you want in your image?
Let’s use my example with Carla in the show on holiday. I was in the audience and she was on the stage. In full auto my camera would have fired the flash whenever she was in low light. But the light from the flash wouldn’t even have reached her! It just would have blinded the people in front of me and the scene I was trying to capture on the stage would probably still be dark. Also my camera in auto might have selected f/5.6 when actually what I wanted was a wide aperture so that I could focus on Carla and blur out the busy foreground of audience heads!
Choosing aperture priority mode allowed me to do that. So I chose an aperture of f/1.4 and I allowed my camera to choose the best shutter speed depending on the light she was bathed in at the time. And the shutter speed changed – A LOT! If I had to manually change the shutter speed myself then I would have had a nightmare taking those photographs!
That sounds great doesn’t it? Much easier than manual mode! But is it as straightforward as that?
There are some things you have to watch out for and some buttons you have to acquaint yourself with if you want to use Aperture Priority mode well.
But not to worry – I am going tell you what they all are! In the next episode (which is tomorrow!) I will tell you everything you need to know in order to get the most out of Aperture Priority mode.
And don’t forget to get yourself added to my VIP list if you want to be first to know about this manual exposure masterclass launching this month. Only those on my email list will get access to the special introductory (bargain!) price.
I hope you will join me tomorrow!