The photo on the left was taken at f/14. Notice how the mountains and trees are at a pretty consistently sharp level of focus throughout your field of vision. This would be considered a wide depth of field. On the right, we see an example of a shallow depth of field, shot at f/2.2. The boy’s eyes are at the sharpest point of focus, but the details of the pool are not important in this case so the photographer has chosen to leave them out of our field of focus.
Pair a narrow aperture with a wide focal length for extra-stunning starbursts and sun flares.
What Is Aperture Priority Mode?
Changing your f-stop in aperture priority (Av) mode will cause your camera to automatically adjust its shutter speed to accommodate it. This is a great mode for beginners, who can use it to get a clear understanding of how aperture affects shutter speed and ISO. More advanced photographers might choose aperture priority if a certain depth of field is essential to their vision. This allows them to focus – no pun intended – on their composition while still getting a good exposure.
Switching to Manual Mode
You’ll need a solid understanding of all three aspects of the exposure triangle to move on from aperture priority to manual. You’ve probably noticed by now, there’s a lot more to it than just picking the right depth of field! Environmental and technical factors will influence your final exposure settings and in some cases, you’ll have to compromise on one or more of your settings in order to get a usable exposure. In these cases, post-processing will be your best friend.
Let’s look at a few situations where the exposure triangle will impact your aperture setting:
Problem: You want to get a super clear shot at a fast-paced sporting event, but there’s not a lot of light to be had. You’ll need a fast shutter speed, but that leaves only a sliver of time for the light to enter your camera.
Solution: Use a wide aperture to compensate for the lack of light in your exposure. Keep a close eye on your subject to make sure he doesn’t slip out of focus!
Problem: You’re shooting a night scene and your high ISO is starting to result in a lot of distracting digital noise that’s really tanking your image quality.
Solution: Lower your ISO and open up that aperture. (Also, try shooting on a tripod if possible and use a remote shutter release to allow for longer shutter speeds.) You may need to do several test shots to find the right balance between the best image quality and the right depth of field for your idea.
Problem: You’re photographing a busy highway and want to keep the shutter open long enough to get some blurred motion from the vehicles. Unfortunately, this is letting in a lot of extra light and you’re getting one overexposure after another.
Solution: Decrease the size of your aperture as much as possible. Not only will it offset the light that’s blowing out your highlights, it will allow your viewer to see more detail in the highway as it winds around in the background.
The physical distance between objects in your image (and your own physical distance from those objects) will impact where they fall in its depth of field. It may help to either back up or pull your subject forward if you don’t like what you’re seeing.
It might seem obvious, but the best way to master any photographic technique is to practice, practice, practice! Go out into shooting situations that challenge you, and work on balancing the exposure triangle while getting the right depth of field for your shot. Once you feel confident on a good starter lens, move on to others and see how they vary. Try replicating the same shot with multiple lenses.
Remember that while aperture and depth of field are two very important factors in any image capture, they only represent one third of the exposure triangle. When you’re ready to get creative with motion, there’s still a lot to learn about shutter speed that will help you get the right effect. Your ISO can impact everything in your photo from color to clarity, so don’t forget to brush up on that as well. When you know how to use these three powerful tools together, put some of your old photos side by side with your new ones to see your progress!