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  • John Patota

Use Aperture Priority Mode for Creative Control

If you have new camera, or even if you have been shooting for a while and want to learn the basics, this Blog is for you. Of course, you can just charge the battery, pop in a memory card and start taking photos, but you won’t be getting the most from your digital camera. Regardless if you have a Nikon, Canon or other fine brand, follow this blog to learn how to take your photography from good the great. We’ll cover how to preserve family moments, get into sports photography, capture your next vacation, record a beautiful sunset and much more. Camera controls, exposure, composition and editing – without getting too technical. I’ll share some settings for different situations, tell you about my favorite lenses and review camera gear. No matter if you enjoy landscapes, portraits or street photography – you have found the right place. Ok – lets dive in by talking about camera settings. New photographers tend to use Auto Mode, a lot. If they do, they are using their camera like a big, expensive smart phone and are not getting the most of the investment. The camera makes all the decisions for you in Auto Mode, taking away some of your creative ideas like blurring the background or freezing the action. I recommend switching your camera into Aperture Priority Mode. It’s easy, and gives you creative control of your images. In Aperture Priority Mode, you decide on the aperture, or how wide the lens opening will be, and the camera decides on the shutter speed. the result is that you control how much of the image is in focus. That's called Depth of Field. Once in Aperture Priority Mode, rotate the camera dial to change the aperture. Use a small number, like the 2.8 aperture I used to capture the blue jay, to get the subject in focus and the background out of focus.


Example of a Shallow Depth of Field - shot 'Wide Open"

Switch to a large number such as 16 to get the entire scene in focus. That is what I used to photograph the Payne Stewart statue at the Pinehurst Country Club. It's a good example of a large Depth of Field.


Life-size statue of Payne Stewart at the Pinehurst Country Club, Pinehurst, North Carolina. Shot 'Stopped Down"

Apertures are measured in f stops, and will depend on the lens you have mounted to the camera. In my example above, 2.8 is sometimes written as f/2.8. The lower the f stop, the more light it will let in to the camera sensor. The difference between an aperture of f/1.4 and f/2.8 is one stop. Experienced photographers say an f/2.8 lens is ‘fast” and they “shoot wide open” to get the background blurred out. That just means they set the camera to the lowest aperture number to let as much light in as possible.

Another example of using Aperture to either blur or show the background.

We will go more into apertures, f stops and exposure compensation in other posts. For now, practice using aperture priority mode. It is easy and gives you creative control. One more bit of advice, Google your camera’s make and model, and download the manual to your phone. That way you will have it with you.

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