There are at least four shooting modes on cameras, fully manual, shutter priority, aperture priority plus program mode. I’m addition, some cameras aimed at beginners or amateur photographers also have fully automatic mode. But, with all that choice, the go to shooting mode for the majority of photographers who have been photographing for a longer time is aperture priority. Here’s why…
Each shooting mode on a camera has its uses, and occasionally you will have to use a different shooting mode if the situation demands that. Of course, some people like to always photograph in manual mode, and there’s nothing wrong with that, just like there’s nothing wrong with someone photographing in fully automatic, it’s the choice you make, and no one cares what you use, as long as your final outcome is as you or your clients desire.
Why Aperture Priority?
So, why do the majority of people, both professional and amateur choose to use aperture priority?
It’s simple, firstly, your aperture is responsible for two major things that affect the outcome of the image. The amount of light that reaches the sensor by opening and closing the aperture blades inside the lens, and the side effect of this, your depth of field. Your depth of field is the amount of the image in front of the lens that is in focus or out of focus depending on your artistic needs.
Secondly, the camera controls your shutter speed with it’s metering. With today’s technology, metering is almost perfect, and for the times you need to adjust exposure quickly, you can just use your exposure compensation dial. If you’re using auto-ISO, you can even set a minimum shutter speed, which the camera will try and avoid going under at all costs, until there’s but enough light available to make this impossible.
There are huge advantages to working like this, and of course the most important of all is that you can get on with your job as a photographer, using your expensive camera to it’s fullest and doing what it does best, so you can forget about settings and concentrate on the job at hand. That in itself is enough of an advantage and the reason it is such a popular mode to use.
Event, wedding, wildlife, street and a lot of landscape photographers know the power of aperture priority. You’re taking away one of the equations that could be the difference between getting the photograph and missing the photograph. You have full control of your exposure, full control of your aperture, but importantly, the camera can set the shutter speed parameter much quicker than a human.
The biggest disadvantage to photographing in aperture priority mode is not setting up the camera properly or understanding how it works. I think we’ve all seen those photographers who try aperture priority but give up because they think they don’t have full control (which they do have) or they struggle in the dark because they have the wrong ISO setting but still blame aperture priority.
In controlled environments such as product photography aperture priority may not be suitable as you may want to keep exact same settings throughout the shoot. The same goes for photographing long exposures or the moon, manual mode would be preferable.
At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter what mode you use as long as the result is what you want. No one should judge you on the shooting mode you use, and no client is ever going to ask or care about the settings you used to get the photograph.
Hopefully this article has helped you understand why so many use aperture priority, exactly why is so popular and the advantages and disadvantages of using it. Anything that can make your job easier by concentrating on the job at hand and less time thinking about settings is a good thing, and should be embraced, after all, you paid a fortune for a camera which is also a powerful computer. You wouldn’t use your head and an abacus when there’s a calculator to hand after all.
7 thoughts on “Why most professional and amateur photographers use aperture priority”
Hi Mark, well written article – and I totally agree.
As with most cameras we are stuck with that PASM dial,
that is also what made me switch from Pentax to Fujifilm – more specifically the series with dedicated shutter and iso dial. Now I can shoot again like in the old days – manual 🙂
Yes, that was also possible with the PASM dial and command wheels – but it didn’t feel the same.
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I shoot 90% aperture priority, and 10% manual, only because that suits what I do. I would happily shoot in auto if I knew the camera could get the aperture right, but I really like to control the aperture as I do vary my depth of field. Although, it was only about 4 or 5 years ago that I switched from shooting manual all my life to aperture priority.
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Love those last 2 sentences.
My own camera is an APS w/o interchangeable lenses. The lens is remarkably good (considering its overambitious zoom range), apart from having a tiny range of apertures. While aperture priority is rarely what I want to use with my camera, I appreciate this post’s thoughtful pluralism about the pros and cons. At my age, not needing to lug around and fiddle with a bunch of lenses is a big deal.
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Thank you very much 🙏
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