Aperture Priority vs. Shutter Priority vs. Manual

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by jer446, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. jer446 macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 28, 2004
    #1
    So I am going to get my first SLR soon- I will be going on a 10 day trip to Israel and am really excited to finally get great pictures..

    I have been reading a lot about shooting in manual because before now, I knew nothing but auto. My question is, when people are on vacation or just casually shooting, but I still want to have some control, what is the best mode to shoot in?

    In the beginning, should I start in just Aperture Priority, and then as I get more comfortable, switch to full manual? Or should I shoot in just full manual from the beginning? What do most people do?

    Also, I think the biggest draw to an SLR for me was the depth of field. For some reason, I just love the way the blurred background looks when taking pictures of people and subjects. I immediately can tell when a picture was taken with an slr- This is why i am more inclined to just shoot in aperture priority, that way I can adjust the aperture size to get the background more blurry. Am I correct with my assumption? (I know there is more to it than that, with shutter speed, ISO etc. but I feel like I should take baby steps?)

    Thanks!
     
  2. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #2
    Leave it in Auto for your general "snap shots". The computer is good enough to give you good enough vacation snaps. Also, if happen upon a once-in-trip situation since the camera is already on Auto at least you will get something usable immediately. Then if you have time you can be more creative with the other settings.

    Switch to Aperture or Shutter priority when you think the photo has potential to be better than a "snap". You have virtually as much control with Av and Tv as you do on manual, and you are making the computer do much of the donkey-work (exposure control). If you are hand-holding, you may want to favour Tv as you need to watch you don't ruin a good shot with camera-shake due to a too slow shutter-speed. You can still monitor the F/stops in Tv to get the depth of field you want.

    Use Manual when the computer won't let you push the shutter or the aperture to the values you want. You're probably going to need a tripod at this point. If you don't have a tripod, or haven't rigged up a suitable support and using a cable release you are probably not going to need Manual.

    Going full Manual should be reserved for when you at home and still learning how to pull the full potential out of the camera. On an important trip like this, if you aren't already fully comfortable in Manual mode (to the point that you are using the camera as a spot-meter in the shadows, eyeballing the exposure and setting the values without the camera meter, etc etc,) Manual is to be avoided. imho of course.

    And, no.... you can't tell by looking at the depth of field of a photo whether it was taken by an SLR camera or not. If you would like to debate this, then I suggest we put some money on it.

    Learn by looking, and understanding, photos. Don't fall for the technology trap. I can show you photos made by a 100 year old leather and wood box using a pin-hole instead of lense that will blow you away.

    Before taking a photo ask yourself "why" you are taking the photo - and then answer it. The question can be very difficult and full of metaphor. Or it can be as simple as "To show the folks back home how white the sand is." If it's the latter, then show the sand, make it white, shoot it in the sun and not the shade.

    Have a great trip. If you get a chance, walk the beach immediately north of Caesaria (or whatever it's called now). All those little square pebbles are mosaic stones from the Roman era buildings. I still get a chill up my spine when I think of it.
     
  3. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2007
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    #3
    I assume you mean "digital" SLR, not film SLR?

    I 100% agree with snberk103, you are on a learning curve and that is NOT for a vacation! Go auto.

    If you have time, go to the library and take out a book on photography to read on the plane trip.

    Welcome to the hobby.
    (do a search here on photography books, countless threads)
     
  4. durhamj macrumors member

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2008
    #4
    For casual walk around vacation, A-priority. Assuming you are trying to capture scenery, but watch the shutter speed the camera has chosen. Be willing to change ISO as the lighting changes. But if you want to capture people (or whatever) in action then S-priority.

    Also, soon as you get the camera, experiment and verify that the built in exposure metering works as you expect.
    With my camera I have to reduce the exposure by .75 to 1.00 stops for full sun pictures; for open shade pictures no adjustment needed. For indoor flash +.3 to +.5 stops.
     
  5. fcortese macrumors demi-god

    fcortese

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    Apr 3, 2010
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    #5
    +1, agree. If you have a "program" mode, this is similar to auto, you may want to use that; I use it when walking around when I want to get a quick picture as something flies into view. When you get to a static situation, building, landscape, etc you can play with aperture priority setting. If there is rapid movement you can go with shutter speed the quicker, 1/500 or quicker, the better to freeze motion; the slower (less than 1 sec) the better to get blurring or milky look (in the case of waterfalls or flowing water), but you will need a tripod or place your camera on a wall or stationary object.
     
  6. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 1, 2008
    #6
    If you shoot with what you're most comfortable with (Auto), you'll miss fewer shots. However, there are situations (e.g. shooting landscapes and architecture) where you'll have time to experiment a bit to fine-tune your shooting and should do so. As you get more comfortable with the camera, you'll be able to use other modes with ease, but don't push yourself to use something you're unfamiliar with when you have a limited timeframe in which to get a shot. The exception to this is when you're shooting action, in which case you should use Shutter Priority/Tv mode and set it to at least 1/125 s, depending on the speed of the action, focal length, etc., to avoid motion blur.

    @ snberk103: I respectfully disagree about being able to tell from depth of field whether an SLR (or larger-sensor/film camera) was used, rather than a point-and-shoot. Because of limitations of lens aperture and sensor size in most compacts (obvious exceptions including the S95 and its ilk, though they still don't replace SLRs), using them to achieve the same shallow depth of field at a given distance and angle of view as an SLR is physically impossible (there is not, for instance, an 85mm f/1.4 equivalent on any compact camera of which I'm aware). While most people may not choose to use shallow depth of field when they shoot, making most photos therefore indistinguishable by that quality alone, the selective focus that can be achieved with it is easier to acquire with an SLR with the proper lens than it is with a compact.
     
  7. VirtualRain, Nov 22, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2010

    VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #7
    During the day I almost always shoot in A-Mode, and select an aperture (and thereby a depth of field) suitable for my subject/shot, and let the camera determine the exposure (by setting shutter speed and ISO). Even in low light this is a reasonable practice but you need a tripod to allow for suitably long shutter speeds and you will want to force ISO to as low as reasonably possible to minimize noise. I often switch to M mode only for night shots so I can better control exposure.

    To start, you can keep things simple and use a wide open aperture for minimal depth of field and f8 or f11 (depending on available light - cloudy = f8, sunny = f11) to keep everything in focus. For quick snap shots, try to remember to leave it on f4-5.6 (depending on the speed of your lens) and you should be on good settings to capture anything at a moment's notice.

    I seldom have a use for Shutter Priority mode... but I don't shoot a lot of sports.
     
  8. chrono1081 macrumors 604

    chrono1081

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    Jan 26, 2008
    Location:
    Isla Nublar
    #8
    As others have stated, if you are just learning vacation is not the time to do it, stick with auto for now.

    Also, not sure if anyone mentioned the "5000 shots" rule...but if they didn't there is an unspoken rule when learning photography that your first 5000 shots suck. Its pretty true actually lol so don't be disappointed and whatever you do don't blame the camera. With more practice comes better pictures.
     
  9. FrankieTDouglas macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2005
    #9
    Nope, you can be fooled.

    Case in point:

    http://andybloxham.com/photography/wallpaper/1024x768/009.jpg

    http://andybloxham.com/photography/wallpaper/1024x768/005.jpg
     
  10. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    Dec 1, 2008
    #10
    At macro distances, selective focus is easier to achieve, as depth of field becomes more narrow as the point of focus moves closer to the camera. At longer distances (e.g. portraits), compacts have a tougher time producing it, especially when only smaller apertures are available. I'm not saying that compacts aren't capable of producing nice results in capable hands, but cameras are tools and there are limitations to each type.
     
  11. mtbdudex macrumors 68000

    mtbdudex

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    SE Michigan
    #11
    for me it was the 10,000 shots rule.....:rolleyes: but I am getting better - slowly, and enjoy the artistic challenge in planning and taking the shots and technical challenge in PP work.
     
  12. dbla macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2010
    #12
    If I may inject my input.... I'm by no means claiming to know it all, however I've been doing photography a long time, with many mediums (4x5, medium format film, digital, etc...) I've gone to school for it (6 years for a BFA in Photography FTW!) and I have also interned in NYC with a very well respected still life product photographer...

    So here's what I'll tell you. Use Av (or AP if you're Nikon flavored) 80% of the time...this is your casual shooting mode. You want to control the DoF which is obviously controlled by the aperture, your shutter speed (assuming it's day-time and your subjects aren't race cars) will not really matter you'll be 1/125++ all of the time.

    M mode is for when your camera pisses you off. When you click a picture and the little brain in there is blowing all the highlights you switch to manual and adjust exposure yourself. For this I suggest you look up some tips on metering since it's a finessed art-form all to itself.

    Full Auto (or P mode) is a joke and I wouldn't use it... You need to learn when shooting in Av (or aperture priority) to control and finesse your work with exposure compensation (adding +/- 1.0 - 3.0 stops without adjusting a shutter or aperture setting) all this does is act like a tare weight to your meter... if where you're shooting your pictures are coming out too bright, or too dark you weight your meter with EV (exposure compensation) to correct for that imbalance. I'm sure your camera manual will have a good explanation for this.

    Anyway, my argument is: Don't hamstring yourself thinking you should shoot full auto sometimes...give yourself some creative control all the time with Aperture Priority or Full Manual. LEARN your camera, every photo should be a learning experience. When (if ever) you wind up shooting 3-4$ a piece sheet film you'll thank me.

    -A
     
  13. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #13
    I agree that in a general sense one can make an educated guess, that certain photos were probably taken with an SLR. However, plunk a cheap slow zoom lense on an SLR and that f/4.5 zoom is not going to compare well with something like the Canon PowerShot D10 with an f/2.8 lense. Even with comparable lenses, an SLR used with a wide angle setting is going to show less DoF than a P&S used in telephoto mode.

    My point is that while the camera is the tool, it is still up to the photographer to use it well, and the OP can not tell with confidence what type of camera was used by looking at the photo. Only that someone used the tool at hand with skill, or not.
     
  14. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #14
    While a lot of this advice was accompanied by additional recommendations, I'm still disappointed that so many people are recommending the OP use "Auto".

    Is it really that much harder to use Aperture priority mode instead and adjust the aperture from wide open to f11 depending on the DOF you're after? Of course, no one is expecting te OP to calculate exposure (the camera can still do that just fine in Aperture mode), but how on earth can the camera be expected to use the right depth of field?
     
  15. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Joined:
    Oct 22, 2007
    Location:
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    #15
    In general, no - but when you have a new camera and are on a holiday, and you aren't entirely confident in your abilities (yet)... then I think Auto is a good place to start. I am making some assumptions here as well. I am assuming that the trip is coming shortly after getting the camera. That jer446 is not going to have access to a computer and monitor to fully check the quality of the images as they shoot. That they are going to be a little distracted by what the sights they are seeing, and that things will unfold in Israel at the same rapid pace as when I was there. I am also assuming they are using the camera with a zoom lense. And the majority of the shots are going to be handheld.

    With all of that in mind, shifting the camera to Av or Tv risks ruining a lot of shots due to camera shake. At a wider angle setting a shutter speed will be perfectly appropriate. But when zoomed in that same Aperture/Shutter combo produces a slightly fuzzy image. Which won't necessarily be apparent on the camera's viewer, and won't be discovered until the images are back home. With a new camera, a learning curve being ascended, a fabulous location, etc etc I would recommend safe and sure (for most shots) over using the trip to teach oneself about the creative possibilities of the system.

    I agree with you that, when the time is right, to shift away from Auto to something else. So, for example (this is to jer446) after you get your "memory" shot, shift out of Auto and then try to improve what the camera has already given you.
     
  16. neutrino23 macrumors 68000

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    Location:
    SF Bay area
    #16
    I agree. If you are just starting out then it is a good idea to rely on the camera to help you as much as possible. Another issue is timing. If you are on vacation and walking by something and want a picture you don't have a lot of time to think about the exposure, try different settings and so on. You want to get close to point and shoot. Maybe there is a boat coming by making a nice shot or a bird flying by. Not much time for M mode in those cases.

    The other thing is familiarity. It's one thing to imagine using some combination of shutter and aperture and ISO setting while you are sitting in your study planning the trip. It is quite another when you are on the move and there is a lot of noise and commotion.

    I suggest practicing with the P mode to see what it does and get used to the A mode so you are familiar with the operation. Take a few hundred pictures as quickly as possible.

    Have fun.
     
  17. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #17
    Auto or P mode will allow the OP to concentrate on composition, rather than on camera settings, since in fleeting situations, fiddling with knobs or forgetting to change aperture/shutter speed can easily lead to a missed or blurry shot. It would be terrible, for example, for the OP to take a bunch of interior shots at f/11 and find out after coming home that most of them were blurry due to the camera compensating with a long shutter speed. However, most of us specifically advocated using other modes when time is less of a factor or in situations where a faster shutter is required.
     
  18. jdavtz, Nov 23, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010

    jdavtz macrumors 6502a

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    #18
    I'd say, if you have more than a few seconds to take the photo you want, use Av mode and look at the shutter speed the camera has selected and make sure's it's about 2x the focal length of your lens or faster (assuming you are using a DSLR with a 1.5-1.6x crop and have "normal" steady-handedness). Leave ISO on Auto unless you specifically want to change it. If you do change it -- REMEMBER TO CHANGE IT BACK.

    If you don't have time for that, set to Auto (P mode on a Canon camera).

    I disagree with snberk103's comment that "you can't tell by looking at the depth of field of a photo whether it was taken by an SLR camera or not". Of course you can't tell with a stopped-down photo, or with macro shots, but I'd challenge anyone to reproduce this sort of depth-of-field with a non-DSLR (none of these are taken beyond 200mm, which is achievable on a lot of compact cameras, so I'm not picking really obscure examples with e.g. a 400-600mm lens which of course you can't get on a compact camera. If I was on the other computer which has my photo library I could show some 50mm examples too.):
     

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  19. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #19
    Av mode for casual shooting (to allow you to control DoF), M mode for shots that count. Are you really shooting in locations where the light is changing so fast that full manual mode doesn't at least get you in the ball park (i.e. +/- one stop)???

    Why did you pay many hundreds, if not thousands, of Dollars/Pounds/Euro/Doubloons to have the camera make decisions for you? Skip auto mode.
     
  20. jdavtz macrumors 6502a

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    Kenya
    #20
    That makes little sense to me. Why is M mode any better generally for "shots that count"?

    If the camera-chosen exposure in Av mode is out, there's always the dial to give +/- a few stops.

    Bear in mind that the light meter in M mode will give you the same readings as the light meter in Av mode, so if it was choosing an incorrect exposure in Av it will also guide you to an incorrect exposure in M.
     
  21. toxic, Nov 23, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2010

    toxic macrumors 68000

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    #21
    1. Av or A is generally used more than Tv or S, since most people want to control the f-stop first, and the shutter speed only needs to be just fast enough to combat camera shake.

    2. Av/A, Tv/S, or M doesn't matter if you understand the metering system in your camera. they will all get you to the same place, just in different ways.

    as an introduction, there are generally four modes: Evaluative/Matrix, Center-weighted average (CWA), Partial, and Spot. by default the camera will be in Evaluative or Matrix, which is basically the camera guessing what the scene looks like and spitting out what it thinks is the right exposure. it's actually pretty accurate. over time you will understand its tendencies to over/underexpose in certain situations, and how much to override it via Exposure Compensation (EC).

    I do not believe M is worth using if use any metering mode other than Spot or Partial. I think CWA is useless, though some will disagree.

    3. don't use Auto, use P. P lets you change to another equivalent exposure or correct the exposure with EC. Auto does not.

    for your trip, just stick with P and Evaluative metering. if you have time to play around, then go ahead, but that will pretty much guarantee you at least decent results.
     
  22. snberk103 macrumors 603

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    #22
    I was more quibbling with a rather sweeping statement than trying to identify which individual photos were taken with an SLR, or not. Also, don't forget that there are other formats besides SLRs and P&S. Your DoF examples could have been taken with a large format camera. Exotic, yes.... but it would have fooled most casual observers.

    Cheers
     
  23. mynewromantica macrumors regular

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    Aug 3, 2009
    #23
    If you understand Av mode, use that until you are comfortable working in manual. But ultimately manual is what you want to work up to.
     
  24. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #24
    What do you mean? In all but the most extreme situations, Aperture mode using exposure compensation would seem to be more convenient and just as effective at controlling exposure.
     
  25. Edge100 macrumors 68000

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    #25
    I could explain it, but it's been explained perfectly by Neil van Niekerk at:

    http://neilvn.com/tangents/exposure-metering/exposure-compensation/

    M mode allows you to get the exposure right and have that exposure stay absolutely constant, no matter what you do (zoom in or out, add elements to the shot, take elements away, etc). It's exactly the same reason that manual flash is generally preferable to ETTL flash; the meter can be fooled.
     

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