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Home arrow Photography Tips arrow Aperture or Shutter Speed?
Photography Tips For Aperture or Shutter Speed
Buy-n-Shoot.com site contributor:
Total-Image Magazine By Shelton Muller

For decades now, cameras have included automatic exposure modes for speed and convenience. At first, exposure automation was strictly aperture priority. Then, shutter priority became an option, followed by multi-mode operation, program modes, and then multi-program modes. What does it all mean? When should you use which – and how?


Once upon a time, photographers in all fields had to set their exposures manually. Whether they prioritised shutter speed or aperture depended upon what they were photographing. In automatic cameras, the same principle applies, only the camera sets it up for you. The photographer only needs to decide which of the two exposure mechanisms is the most important and upon which the photograph is most reliant. In other words, is the aperture or the shutter speed your priority?

Aperture priority

Aperture priority mode is often indicated as “A” or “Av” on your screen or on your camera’s dial. Aperture priority automation is perfect for portraits and landscapes, but there are many more uses for it.

In portraits, it’s usually best to eliminate depth of field. A wide aperture ensures that this is done, and a fully open aperture almost always guarantees a shutter speed that’s fast enough to handhold.

With landscape photography, on the other hand, photographers often prefer smaller apertures to ensure greater depth of field. For most landscapes, shutter speed is usually an irrelevant issue as the camera is often mounted on a tripod and the scene has little if any moving subject matter.

Shutter speed priority

Shutter speed priority is perhaps a greater benefit to sports and action photographers. They usually need faster shutter speeds and apertures are less important, although sometimes slow shutter speeds are preferred if movement or blur is needed to indicate movement.

P for Professional?

With every automatic mode, the photographer must be willing to allow the camera to take over to some degree. With Program mode, the photographer submits entirely to the camera. The camera’s metering system gathers all the information about the brightness of the photograph, the ISO of the film loaded and even the lens or flash attached. Then it provides what it considers the best combination of aperture and shutter speed and sets these the instant you press the shutter release button.

However, most cameras today offer more than one program option. There are program modes for portraits, for action, for still life, landscape, flash and many more. In these modes the camera is programmed for a particular style of photography and offers a more appropriate shutter speed/aperture combination. For experienced photographers, this is most certainly an overkill situation. For others, it’s heaven sent.

Auto modes have made photography so much easier. SLR cameras today are as point-and-shoot engineered as compact cameras, but with the advantage of through-the-lens viewing and metering. For these reasons the technology is welcomed. But as with all technologies, an understanding of the benefits is still required – and human input is vital. After all, cameras don’t take good pictures. People do.

Avoid relying on auto modes all the time. Photographers need to learn to judge light and to enjoy the satisfaction of complete creativity, rather than share it with technology. Be your own master over your images, remembering that choice of exposure is always yours. You can choose to agree with the camera – or not to.
 
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