This lesson explains how to shoot landscapes and portraits using Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority mode on DSLR cameras. For a guide on using modes for Landscapes, see this lesson. For the basics on those modes, see  my previous lesson. All of these photos below could have been shot on either photo for the same effect. The choice between the two modes is more important if you are walking around, the subject is moving or the lighting is changing quickly.

I did a cover shot for University of Cape Town’s rugby fan guide shoot. For this shot, I went for two extremes of large and small Depth of Field. Portrait A and B were shot at with Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 24mm, ISO-200.

Portrait A

Portrait A (1/100, f11)

For Portrait A, I tried 1/50 f/16 which was too blurry, so I went to 1/100 f/11 to get his hands and face sharper. As the slightly slow Shutter speed was important to me and Aperture could be f/4 to f/22 and I wouldn’t mind, therefore Shutter Priority would be a good choice for this situation. The focus was on the modle, but a lot of the background was in focus at f/11 (a narrow aperture value), though this was not intentional, but the shot below has the opposite effect.

Portrait B

Portrait B (1/2500, f/2.8)

Next, I shot Portrait B above with a blurred background for dramatic effect. To achieve this, I shot a wide Aperture value of f/2.8.  The shutter speed was short at 1/2500, but I didn’t mind if the Shutter speed was anywhere from 1/200 to 1/4000, therefore Aperture Priority would be a good mode for this sitation.

Portrait C (1/200, f11)

Portrait C (1/200, f11)

For Portrait C above, I used a Nikon 85mm f/1.8 at ISO-200. I was using flash with a softbox for controlled lighting and sufficent power to use a narrowe aperture. I wanted to have all the details in the photo equally in focus, so I chose a narrow aperture of f/11. Being indoors and with a narrow aperture, the camera probably would have set a slow shutter speed to get in ambient light (1/15 or 1/60). But since I didn’t want window or room lighting interfering, I shot in Manual at 1/200, which is a relatively short shutter speed (and the shortest for the camera in terms of flash sync speed).

Portrait D

Portrait D (1/200, f1.6)

Portrait D was done on a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens at ISO-200, which has a very wide aperture for low light photos and for blurring the background. I wanted to have a dreamy background, so I shot at f/1.6 (a third of a stop up from f/1.4, to achieve higher image quality due to lens design). I decided to shoot in Manual at 1/200 to keep the brightness constant. I could have shot in Aperture Priority (at f/1.6). But the backlit model in shade with shadows and highlights are all over the background might confuse the camera, so I would have to use AE lock or EV compensation get the right brightness.

The 1/200 shutter speed was more than satisfactory for handheld shooting. If there was less light available, I wouldn’t have dropped the shutter speed to 1/100, but I could keep shooting around 1/200 if I raised the ISO manually. Or on Auto ISO, but that is still at risk of confusing lighting situations.

Portrait E

Portrait E (1/250, f2.8)

Portrait E was shot on a Sigma 24-70mm f/2.8 lens at 62mm,f/2.8 and ISO-100.  I wanted to blur the background with the lens’s widest aperture of f/2.8. Aperture Priority would have been fine for this shot, provided that the difficult situation of backlit subject is controlled by increased EV compensation, or Spot Metering (to light the shadowed models correctly). Shooting at a low ISO for sharpness, I would watch my shutter speed didn’t become blurry for handheld shots.  For example, if my shutter speed was 1/125 (only just usable at 62mm), then I could have doubled my sensitivity from ISO-100 to a brighter ISO-200. Immeditately, the camera would have halved the shutter speed from a slow 1/125 to a fast 1/250. But being in Aperture Priority, the Aperture would remain set at f/2.8 while the ISO is moved around.

If I am not rushed (such an event or sport), I do like to shoot in Manual for more control, then not have use EV or Spot Metering. I have been shooting 3 years currently, so I have a good idea of how to balance Shutter Speed, Aperture and ISO at once. What effect they each give at high values. And how much to raise the one if I decrease one or more of the others.

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