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Introducing Aperture Priority

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Hello! Today we are going to look at dSLR cameras and shooting in Aperture Priority mode. If you have a compact camera you will be able to do some or all of these things too.

Please don't feel overwhelmed or like you can't to it. You can. It will just take time and plenty of practice. And please don't forget to ask in the Facebook group if you get stuck.

In the following lesson (link at the bottom of the page) there are videos that will help you find your settings on your camera.

If you have questions, please ask in the Facebook group!

Depth of field

Before I start talking about numbers, dials and lenses let's start with thinking about depth of field. This is basically 'how much of an image is in focus.'

For example in the image on the right the 'Hello' card is in focus but the typewriter keys are out of focus. All the attention is on the 'Hello'.

Look at these images below and you can see the differences in depth of each image.

The image on the left has a shallow deep depth of field and only the box of paper clips is in focus. In the middle image the tape is also in focus. And in the final image the notebook is also in focus, with a much deeper depth of field.

There is no right or wrong way of capturing this image but each way gives a different feel, a different emphasis and has a different number of subjects. I am personally always drawn to images that have a shallow depth of field and it's very much a part of my style. But sometimes I might be working for a client who needs or wants a deep depth of field, for a product shot for example or an interiors shoot where you need to clearly see the room and all the details in it. Or all the items in a flat lay.

Aperture

The depth of field is controlled by the aperture. The higher the number the deeper the depth of field, and the lower the number the shallower the depth of field.

Aperture is measured in F-stops and the Aperture controls how wide the lens opens, and therefore how much light is let in. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture and the more light that is let in.

Let's compare the following images:

An image taken at f3.2

An image taken at f10

The three images from above again

Shooting in aperture priority mode

Before we go any further with talking about Aperture Priority, I want you now to all go and turn your cameras to Aperture Priority. If you shoot Canon it will say AV on your dial. Nikon says A but please either use Google, your manual or our handy Facebook Group to find out how to set your camera onto Aperture Priority as all cameras are different.

Once you've set your camera to Aperture Priority you will be able to turn your dial and watch the F number go up and down on your display and through your viewfinder (depending on the make and model of your camera).

Once you've done that I want you to find something simple to photograph and then take several photographs of the same composition in different apertures, just like I've done above.

Depending on which lens you have will depend how low your aperture will go.

On the front or side of your lens you will find your Aperture number. If you have a kit lens it is very likely to say F3.5-5.6. This means that at some focus points you can go as low as F3.5 and at other focus points you can only go as low as F5.6.

Taking a few images like this will really help you to see what you can do with your lens and help you to think about Depth of Field.

Remember to shout of you get stuck! When I'm teaching my London workshops this is the point where there is a lot of confusion and questions....and a queue of students with their cameras, so don't panic. It's normal to have questions!

Good luck and enjoy. Shooting in Aperture Priority is going to give you so much more freedom and creativity. I'm really excited for you!

This is one of the lessons you'll find in our Photography Essentials course. It's a take-any-time, snackable online course that introduces you to the basic concepts and approaches for getting off "auto" mode with your camera. If you've found this lesson useful, check it out!

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