I first learned that it was acceptable to use the aperture priority setting on my cameras in photojournalism school. My classmates and I were actually given assignments to only shoot in our camera’s A or AV setting, and to “resist the temptation of having full manual control”, as directed by my professor at the time. In the photographic genre of photojournalism, which entails the capturing of breaking news assignments, it makes perfect sense. Your priority is to get the photograph that tells the story, and one less setting to worry about on your camera will better your chances of doing so.
Aperture priority is a setting on your DSLR camera that allows you to choose the aperture value of your camera, while your camera chooses the shutter speed appropriate to how it detects the immediate shooting environment. The aperture setting (“F” stop) controls the depth of field within the capabilities of the lens you are using with your camera, and with most lenses ranging from F2.8-F22.
Lost yet? Don’t be. The higher the number on the lens, the more detail you will capture in your shots, which are ideal for landscape photographs. Lower numbers contain less detail in photographs, which are ideal for portrait shots where the photographer does not want background distractions. A common phrase for this is “shooting wide-open”, due to allowing as much light as possible into the lens, using a minimum aperture setting.
Once the camera dial is switched to A or AV mode, concentration can now be focused more on depth of field, light, and the sharpness of your images. Photographers who find they move around during photo shoots or assignments will be the ones to find this setting mode the most useful.
As a freelance photojournalist, a common situation that comes to mind using the aperture priority setting would be photographing protests. AV mode will allow me to quickly capture an overall scene of the event by adjusting my aperture to F8, and then immediately capture a portrait of a demonstrator by switching to F2.8 (see examples). Most events developing into a story will have a changing landscape that the photographer must be ready to capture with little to no preparation.
Although there are plenty of cases where shooting in manual mode would be the best option, professional photographers and photojournalists’ on the move will be using this setting to effectively capture the story.
In the coming weeks, the magazine staff and I look forward to sharing details on other DSLR camera settings, and the situations where they might be the most useful.
AuthorJohn Fredricks is a photographer and journalist currently based in the Los Angeles area. Lord willing, he hopes to impact his generation through a visual medium, and put the spotlight on subjects around the world. He is available for projects in any location, and looks forward to getting his boots dirty in the storytelling process. Website: www.johnfredricks.com Instagram: @_johnfredricks