Why shooting in Aperture Priority Mode is better than Manual Mode for Beginners?

shooting in aperture priority mode

Why shooting in aperture priority mode is better than manual mode for beginners and loved by professionals?

Aperture priority mode or Av mode is an excellent choice for beginner photographers. It is helpful for those who want to step out of the comfort of the automatic (AUTO) mode. As a beginner, you may have been lucky to capture some great shots in AUTO mode. Most folks who love photography, are usually gifted with an aesthetic sense of what and how to capture. The camera in AUTO mode can also do great wonders with perfect lighting conditions.

However, there are times you get overexposed or underexposed shots in AUTO mode. You feel you do not have full control over the camera settings and what you shoot. This leaves you with the option to explore the other modes in your camera. There are modes where you have control over some or all the settings. Rather than directly jumping to the manual mode where you have to set all the values, it is best to try some semi-automatic modes at first.

The best option for beginners moving to the manual mode is to attempt the Av mode. Av mode or Aperture priority mode is a semi-automatic mode. Unlike the manual mode, in Av mode, you only have to set one value. The camera sets the rest of the values. Interesting right? In fact, many photographers prefer the Av mode to manual mode in certain situations. Before we dive into more details, you may have questions like what is an aperture or why do we need to venture out of the AUTO mode?

A photographer should know that there are three main basic settings in the camera. These determine the exposure (how dark or light an image is ) of a photograph. They are the aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, which make the three sides of the exposure triangle.


Aperture is a tiny hole in the lens of your camera. This can be increased or decreased in size by changing the f-stop value in your camera. The bigger the hole, the more light can enter into the camera, and vice-a-versa. For example, a bigger hole and wide aperture would be f/1.8, f/4, etc from widest to wider values. It works inversely. As f-stop values reduce, you get maximum and increased light. The smaller the hole, the lesser the light that can enter the camera. A smaller aperture that allows less light would be f/16, f/22, etc from narrower to narrowest. As f-stop values increase, you get less light.

As you go from f/8, f/4 to f/1.2 the DOF (depth of field) which is how much of the image is in focus, keeps getting smaller. More bokeh or blur in the background is seen. This technique is usually popular and used in shooting portraits. As you go from f/16, f/22 and so on the entire photo is sharp, a larger area is in focus. There is no blurring or bokeh effect. This is usually used in shooting landscapes, where you want the entire subject to be in focus, crisp and sharp.

Shutter Speed

Shutter Speed is the speed at which the shutter, a flap in front of the hole in the lens closes. The higher the shutter speed, the less light it lets in. The lower the speed, the more light is let in. So 1/250, 1/200, 1/100 will send in more light in increasing order than 1/500, 1/1000, etc. The important thing to remember is faster the speed, the more chance of getting a crisp or sharp image. This is usually preferred in shots in motion, like wildlife photography or dance performances.

However, we need to keep in mind, higher shutter speed can also mean reduced lighting. To compensate, increase ISO values, or reduce f-stop values. Similarly slower shutter speeds can cause blurry images. We need to find the right balance depending on the lighting conditions and the nature of the shot.


ISO is the value that determines the camera’s sensitivity to light. The default value is usually set to 100. Change to 200, 400, 1600, and so on to increase the intensity of the light. Keep in mind that higher ISO values can tend the photos to be more grainy, so use it cautiously.

Why step out of the AUTO mode ?

Coming back to the question why do we need to venture out of the AUTO mode? Yes, you may have had the perfect lighting conditions and been lucky to capture a perfect picture in auto mode. In auto mode, the camera automatically comes up with exposure values. The three pillars of the exposure triangle, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are automatically calculated by the camera depending on the lighting conditions around.

The camera however does not know how a photographer visualizes the photograph in his mind to be, and exactly what he intends to capture. It therefore comes up with a middle ground and sets some values. Sometimes the outcome is perfect, at other times not as much.

In manual mode, you have full control of the three exposure values we mentioned and can set them as you like. However, it might be daunting for beginners to set all three values while capturing shots. This is especially true when you are in midst of a photo session or lighting conditions that are continuously changing. You may need a moment to think about and figure out what values to increase or decrease and make changes to the other accordingly. For those who want to venture out of the AUTO mode, the next best, easier and versatile mode is the semi-automatic mode.

What is Aperture Priority mode?

 Aperture priority mode is one such semi-automatic mode. In this mode, you can change and have control of the aperture value. You could only choose to set the aperture value, the rest of the values are automatically determined and set by the camera.

The other choice you can opt for is to set the ISO along with the aperture, and the camera automatically calculates the shutter speed. Isn’t that cool? This really helps when the lighting conditions are changing and you are shooting both outdoors and indoors. You do not have to keep setting the values by turning the camera knobs and just focus on shooting. The best professional photographers also use this setting especially in wedding photography etc.

How to set the camera to Av or Aperture Priority mode?

Setting the camera to Av or Aperture mode is very simple. Turn the knob till you see the Av or A option (depends on the camera). If you prefer shallow depth of field, choose lower f -stop values (works as inverse values) like f/1.5, f/3, the smaller the f-number, the wider the aperture. The blurring and depth of field also increase.

The other option is to choose higher f-stop values like f/16, f/22, etc for smaller or narrow aperture and deeper depth of field. The sharpness and depth of field increases as the f-stop value increases. From the display, you can choose to set the ISO value or even set it to AUTO. The shutter speed and ISO will be automatically set by the camera while shooting.

What are some of the things to keep in mind in the Aperture priority mode?

With aperture values like f/22 and higher f- stop values and so on, the shutter speed may change to 1/100 or below to increase light. This can cause a blur or handshake, especially when shooting handheld and without a tripod. The solution is to ensure shutter speed does not fall below 1/100 th of a second. There is a setting in the newer cameras to set the lowest value of the shutter speed or minimum shutter speed. The other option is to increase ISO or set ISO to AUTO. You can also change the f-stop value to a lower value.

If you feel the photos could have been a shade lighter or darker, check the exposure composition button, the triangle should hover around the 0 mark. You can even move the triangle pointer up for getting a lighter picture or turn it down to get it a shade darker. Some photographers prefer a few stops lower so the picture is not overblown.

There is also another popular semiautomatic mode called shutter priority mode. In that mode, you set the shutter speed and the rest of the settings are set by the camera. I will follow that in another post. If you are interested, here is a comparison of the two semi-auto shooting modes and when to use the two settings.

Hope this post on Aperture priority mode shooting helps you in moving away from the AUTO mode and experiment with your photographic skills.Thanks for reading!

shooting in aperture priority mode

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  • Reply
    Jessica Martin
    January 9, 2021 at 12:36 am

    As a photographer myself, I agree with everything in this post. When I was first starting out the advice given to me (before I stumbled upon blogs) was to get out of auto mode. I did start off with aperture priority actually. Now I shoot in full manual. All the photography terms and settings can sound overwhelming at first, but the more a beginner practices, the better they will get.

    • Reply
      January 9, 2021 at 11:39 pm

      Thank you so much Jessica for your feedback! Wonderful to hear from a professional photographer like yourself. Yes, indeed Aperture priority mode is really great for beginners. This was also the first thing I learned in a basic Photography class that I took a couple of years ago. It’s a breeze to step into the Manual mode after some practice. As you rightly mention, it may sound overwhelming at first with all the photography related terminologies but it only gets easier with more practice.

  • Reply
    Di Hickman
    January 11, 2021 at 1:59 am

    It was shooting more video that made me step out of auto mode on my DSLR. Was it scary? Yes! But it was so worth it!

    • Reply
      January 11, 2021 at 3:50 pm

      That’s wonderful Di, great to hear that. Thank you for the comments!

  • Reply
    January 11, 2021 at 4:38 am

    Wow what wonderful information as always! If only my IPad did all that…lol

    • Reply
      January 11, 2021 at 3:53 pm

      Thank you, Diane! You could try the Portrait option on the iPad camera to achieve that and change the f values there to get the desired blur in the background.

  • Reply
    Nisha Sharma
    January 11, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    It has inspired me to get out of my comfort zone of auto modes and shoot in av mode. Gotta try it

    • Reply
      January 11, 2021 at 3:54 pm

      That’s great Nisha, do give it a try. You will love it! Thank you for stopping by.

  • Reply
    January 12, 2021 at 9:21 am

    I have been using auto mode only, and sometimes I’ve not satisfied with the outcome. This post gives me enough confidence to try other modes also. Thanks so much for sharing a wonderful post.

    • Reply
      January 12, 2021 at 2:35 pm

      Aperture priority mode is a perfect choice to start Megala. Glad to hear you will give it a try. You will absolutely be thrilled with the outcome! My pleasure to share. Thank you so much for the comments.

  • Reply
    Indya | The Small Adventurer
    January 12, 2021 at 10:44 am

    Despite owning a DSLR for years, I’m honestly such a beginner on photography that I’ve never even heard the word “aperture” before. However, I HAVE wanted to move away from auto mode for a while now, and it sounds like this might be my next step, so I’ll definitely keep this post book marked for the future!

    • Reply
      January 12, 2021 at 2:37 pm

      Wonderful to hear that Indya, you will be very happy with the results in the Av mode . Glad to hear that this is useful to you . Thank you so much for the comments!

  • Reply
    Marjie Mare
    January 13, 2021 at 1:53 am

    Now you are giving me some ideas on how to experience something new this year. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      January 13, 2021 at 2:08 am

      You are very welcome . Thank you for stopping by!

  • Reply
    January 13, 2021 at 6:20 am

    Such an informative post. I have been taking food pics for few years now, I still love to use the aperture mode.

    • Reply
      January 13, 2021 at 5:04 pm

      Thank you for your feedback Neetha! Wonderful to hear you use this option as well. I agree Aperture mode is especially great for food photography. It always brings out the best.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2021 at 7:36 am

    that’s a nice idea. It’s been very long since I used anything other than manual but aperture priority mode seams great because I think aperture is a key component

    • Reply
      January 13, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      Yes sometimes when confused or not sure of any settings for Manual mode, I choose Av mode set the f-stop, and let the camera choose the other values. Then to improvise, I use those approximate values in the manual. It kind of helps learn along the way, especially when starting out. Hope you enjoy exploring the Av mode as well. Thank you for your feedback.

  • Reply
    January 13, 2021 at 8:00 am

    Thank you for sharing this. I was actually a bit confused about it but your explanation made it easy to understand. Appreciate the tips. Will try this on our next photo shoot.

    • Reply
      January 13, 2021 at 4:55 pm

      Thank you Clarice, appreciate the wonderful feedback! So glad to hear that this post helped in understanding the concept of the Av mode. Hope you have a great time with this option in the photoshoot.

  • Reply
    Deeksha Pathak
    January 13, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    Nisha, your posts on photography tips always inspire me a lot. But after this post I am seriously thinking to buy one camera. ..

    • Reply
      January 13, 2021 at 4:51 pm

      Thank you so much for the wonderful comment Deeksha! Hope you have a wonderful time exploring it.

  • Reply
    Christy B
    January 13, 2021 at 6:37 pm

    Great tips here! There’s certainly a lot to know about photography and your guides are helpful 🙂

    • Reply
      January 13, 2021 at 11:27 pm

      Thank you Christy ! Glad to hear they are helpful.

  • Reply
    January 14, 2021 at 6:54 am

    This is a great post! I recently got a camera and have been experimenting a lot but have been unsure about how to get out of auto mode and feel comfortable. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve learned a lot!

    • Reply
      January 14, 2021 at 8:12 pm

      Thank you so much for the wonderful feedback. Hope you have fun experimenting and clicking in the Av mode . My pleasure to share.

  • Reply
    January 15, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    I have recently started photography… From what I understand is Aperture Priority is a semi-auto mode but gives manual control over your exposure in that you set the aperture and ISO limits. It helps you to shoot faster as you just set the aperture, ISO and let the camera select the shutter speed for you based on the light in the scene. This is faster compared with manual mode.

    • Reply
      January 15, 2021 at 5:01 pm

      Yes exactly right , you set the aperture and ISO and let the camera decide the shutter speed . You can also choose to set aperture of f-stop values alone as well. A great option for beginners who are hesistant to try the manual mode. Thank you for the comments !

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