5 Tips when Using Aperture Priority Mode

September 09, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

Aperture Priority was my first step in getting to manual mode.  Some photographers only shoot in manual mode and there are times where I predominantly shoot in manual mode.  But before getting to full manual mode you need to have a good understanding of the exposure triangle.  I have a short tutorial on my youtube channel that will help you understand the exposure triangle.

Let's break down one leg of the exposure triangle and understand when to use Aperture Priority.  Aperture Priority is a semi-automatic mode with one manual control.  To be in full manual mode all of the settings need to be in manual.

Manual Chart
Triangle Leg Setting


Shutter Speed*




With some cameras, there is an option to set a minimum and a maximum shutter speed to force the camera to stay within a specified range. However, I didn't see that option until I purchased a high-end camera.  It was not a feature on my canon rebel xTi or 5Ti.

  1. Use aperture priority when first learning to get off of automatic.  Going straight from automatic to manual will be difficult at best and frustrating at worst with a disappointing result from the photoshoot.
  2. Use aperture priority when the light changes frequently.  For example, if you are walking in the city streets you will likely be walking in and out of shade and sunshine.  Even once you mastered manual mode this is a common setting to rely on to help achieve great results.
  3. Use aperture priority for portrait photos.   Many portraits are taken at a low aperture (F1.8 -  F2.4).  This provides the bokeh for the photo.  Bokeh is the term used to define creating the blurry background behind the subject.
  4. Aperture priority allows you to make quick adjustments to compensate for light changes without having to worry about the other legs of the triangle.
  5. Put your camera back in automatic after your photoshoot in aperture priority mode.  I have been a proponent of setting it back to automatic so that the camera is ready for a snapshot if you were to pick it up for an unexpected opportunity.

When is aperture priority the way to go?

  • You want some control over the exposure triangle
  • Light is going to be frequently changing
  • Portraits
  • Street Photography
  • Flowers
  • Landscape

I encourage you to try aperture priority as a stepping stone to getting to full manual mode.  And once you have mastered aperture and shutter priority modes don't be afraid to use them in the right conditions.  If you don't have time to think through all the settings for full manual mode, aperture priority is a good choice when you want to control the aperture.

You will find that only practice will make you better.  Reading this blog or watching videos is good, but make sure you take what you learned and practice in the field.


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