What professional photographers set normally in a DSLR. Aperture or Shutter Speed?

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by love_kerala, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. Would like to hear from experienced and professional photographers.

    What you usually set in your DSLR?
    Aperture or Shutter Speed? Or control over both - Manual mode.

    I'm new to DSLR. From some of photography tutorials, I heard that if I control Aperture and letting the Camera to set Shutter speed, I can make some excellent photos, except certain cases.. Is this right?

    As a beginner, can I keep ISO on auto?
    Thanks in advance.
  2. The answer to all of the above is - It Depends.
    If I am trying to control depth of field - what is and isn't in focus - I will go with Aperture - and let the camera figure out the shutter speed.
    If I am trying to stop the action or create a certain motion blur then it is Shutter Speed.
    No matter what though - I do not use Auto ISO. (unless I'm on vacation) ISO controls the camera's light sensitivity and the amount of noise (Grain) that you get (or don't get) so I perfer to set that myself. If I'm in bright light, ISO goes down, Dim light ISO goes up. With the newer cameras - ISO 1600 produces great out of the camera images so noise isn't as important, but it is still there.
  3. David beat me to it! In my 'beginner and camera does everything manually' days, and using a 50mm lens (35mm on a crop sensor DSLR) I tended to set my shutter speed to 1/125th using ISO 100 film and adjust the aperture accordingly. I was pretty paranoid about camera shake and subject movement, especially when using expensive slide film. With image stabilisation, camera shake is less of an issue, but subject movement is not.
    These days, I am probably more interested in controlling depth of field, subject to the caveat of subject movement plus the fact that I tend not to shoot action scenes.
  4. I figure out what I need to illustrate first, then choose the proper settings to go with it. Do I need control of aperture to choose depth of field, or shutter for motion? Generally it's one or the other.
    That said, I use manual control only in situations that either require a long exposure time, or I don't trust the in camera meter. Even then, you are picking out what exactly you are trying to control, and finding out what you need to shoot to get that exactly.
  5. When I work, regardless of commercially or personally, I determine all of the parameters of a shot. Often, in more set conditions, I will be in manual mode and commercially be using a monitor to tweak things--just as we used Polaroid with film.
    But when shooting motion or just walking around, I will be in Av mode. That is just the start though. I will modify each setting, aperture first with my index finger, and then change the ISO to get the desired shutter speed with my thumb. In many cases where motion isn't a factor, the shutter speed doesn't matter as long as it is "fast enough" while aperture affects every shot. So Av seems to be a better place to start if I am in any mode other than Manual. But it is best to be sure you set all of your parameters, often making compromises as to what is most important.
  6. I'm no professional, merely an enthusiast. But I'll contribute anyway. The great majority of my shooting is done in Av (Aperture Priority). That is because most of my shooting involves little/no motion to control. I'll switch over to Tv (Shutter Priority) only when I want to freeze or blur motion for a desired effect.
    I don't think I've ever used AutoISO, even as a DSLR beginner. The rule of thumb is to keep ISO as low as possible for the given conditions. Have you heard of the rule about focal length and shutter speed when shooting handheld? That is, to achieve a sharp image at xx mm focal length you need a shutter speed faster than 1/xx seconds (e.g. if you are shooting at 85mm and your shutter speed is longer than 1/85sec. you are at risk of a blurry image). I bring this up because you can use this when in Av mode to decide the necessary ISO. After selecting the aperture you want, depress the shutter button half way so that the camera does it's metering. Now look at the shutter speed the camera selected. Compare this to your focal length. If the shutter speed is slower than 1/focal length then increase your ISO and meter again. Repeat until the camera selects a shutter speed that is faster than 1/focal length.
    Happy shooting!
  7. David is correct -- it depends. For example, I've been shooting a lot of figure skating lately. For competitions and recitals -- where the rink is evenly lit all the way across -- I set the exposure on full manual because I know it's going to be the same everywhere on the ice and I don't want to worry about the camera changing the exposure as the brightness of what might be in the background or costumes, etc. changes from shot to shot. But when shooting "theater on ice" shows with spotslights, colored lights etc. where the skaters are moving from one lighting situations to the next in a fraction of a second, I shoot on aperture priority and let the shutter speed fall where it may. I never ever use automotic ISO -- that's just one more variable the camera would be deciding on instead of me.
  8. I'm and amateur and I use the camera mostly for travel and social occasions. The main setting I control is ISO. Depending on the light level I choose what I know is the appropriate ISO for the scene. Then I leave the camera in P mode and use the main control dial to shift aperture to control depth of field, keeping an eye on the shutter speed not getting too low (which I don't expect to - because I already set the right ISO :))
    Is it easy? Not really. In reality with digital photography (as opposed to film) you have contol on three parameters at the same time: ISO, aperture and speed. DSLR cameras controls are slightly anarchic in this respect, because they inherit the film design where you really only needed to control two parameters (iso wasn't really an option). However, the Av/Tv and full manual modes are still useful because they allow you to fix one of the coordinates in the space, I wouldn't ditch auto-iso either because of the same considerations. Too bad my camera doesn't allow it in the "creative" modes...
  9. Funny, I remember having control of those three with my film cameras....
  10. I'm more concerned about shutter speed than aperture so I use either Nikon's Flexible Program mode and bias it as needed, or shutter priority mode. I've very rarely used aperture priority mode with any camera system over the past 30 years.
    And, with digital, I occasionally use auto ISO when I prefer to manually set the shutter speed and aperture for specific situations. An example would be indoor school sports such as basketball, where uneven lighting can vary a stop or more between lights. I'd set the shutter speed fast enough to freeze action, set the aperture wide open or nearly so, and let the auto ISO compensate for the differences between pools of light and shadow.
  11. Manual is good when you want a consistent bunch of pics in a situation where the main subject (e.g. a person) isn't changing but the amount of bright backgroud is changing as I reframe to get different compositions.
  12. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What you usually set in your DSLR?​
    Manual Mode – but what I do you should not follow - blindly.
    I also use the other modes, too – just usually: I use Manual Mode.
    Using Manual Mode does not make one a better Photographer – knowing why to use a particular Mode is a very sound basis.
    Aperture or Shutter Speed? Or control over both - Manual mode.
    Do not make the mistake of assuming there is NO control over both, when one is using Shutter Speed Priority or Aperture Priority.
    In both Shutter Priority and Aperture Priority Modes, the other exposure factor can still be controlled by a dial or a button or some manner.

    I'm new to DSLR. From some of photography tutorials, I heard that if I control Aperture and letting the Camera to set Shutter speed, I can make some excellent photos, except certain cases.. Is this right?
    If you are using Aperture Priority, it is important to be aware of the Shutter Speed the camera is choosing for you. One common error is too slow a shutter speed to adequately arrest the motion of a subject or the steadiness of the Photographer’s hand.

    As a beginner, can I keep ISO on auto?​
    Sure you can.
    Do not stress about conforming to “rules” – but continue to work out and ask why it all happens.
    Auto ISO will allow you to concentrate on other matters, such as seeing the way the light falls and your composition – if you want to concentrate on those matters fine – then when you are comfortable start thinking about setting the ISO to best suit the shooting conditions – and don’t worry about the mistakes, just work out or ask why the mistakes happened.
  13. Funny, I remember having control of those three with my film cameras....​

    Do tell more :) I do remember swapping films mid-roll sometimes, but I've never tried overwriting the film ISO (as opposed to using exposure compensation). Curious what other people were doing?
  14. If there were one "correct" answer, then the other options wouldn't exist. Decide what works best for you. Personally, I shoot in aperture priority, even when shooting action, but I keep an eye on what shutter speeds the camera is choosing.
  15. Ex. professional, and I most often set my DSLR to Aperture Priority Auto and keep an eye on shutter speed.
  16. Good heavens! These are really reasonable answers.
    Don't fall into the trap of not using the tools the camera has available (aka "I only shoot manually" school). What is appropriate depends very largely, as nearly everyone has said, on what you need and what you are trying to do.
    Even fully automatic (often a green rectangle) has its uses, and many people leave the camera on the not-quite-so-automatic "P" setting at a moderate ISO while strolling about, in case something happens quickly, changing to some other mode for more deliberate shooting.
  17. Kerala,
    You have received some excellent suggestions above. As others have said, the auto ISO is perhaps the setting you should be disabling first. The rest comes down to your type of photography and lighting available. Under controlled lighting settings might remain constant rather a lot. This might also be the case in bright daylight.
  18. Not a professional, but definitely some opinions. If it is a photo of a bird at our feeders, or flowers then DOF is
    important and I I set aperture and ISO and usually let the camera figure out shutter speed. On the other hand when
    we are at a race track I tend to set shutter speeds and let the camera handle both ISO and aperture, as the concern is
    either freezing or intentionally blurring motion. But even then you end up with situations here you have to think a little
    more and manage some kind of compromise - recently I was getting parts of cars out of focus as they went by on a
    nqrrow track. That was solved with a tweak of aperture to increase DOF and dealing with shooting at a slower shutter
    speed, plus some use of higher ISO. So, it is more "situational" than a hard and fast rule.
  19. Even ISO can be left on auto. Some cameras allow you to set maximum ISO speeds in Auto. That way you have the flexibility to let ISO's vary automatically yet you can set a ceiling to prevent the selection to go too high where noise becomes more visible.
    But what do I know? I'm not a professional. :)
  20. Mine is always set on Av - nature of the type of photography I normally do - lots with a tripod. However, I always aware of what I'm shooting and will use manual mode when and if. I rarely use shutter speed priority- if I'm worried about shutter speed I just open up the aperture as wide as possible and take the fastest speed I can get. I've had my dslr for about 5 years and couldn't tell you whether it has an Auto ISO feature.
  21. Basically, I like to control the camera...not let the camera control me...so I use manual. I first set ISO
    then use the camera manually. Don't use your DSLR like a P&S.

    There is nothing wrong with using one of the multitude of automatic settings and I sometimes use
    aperture priority, but if I am not rushed, I see no need to use an auto setting.

    I do think all new to photography should start out using manual and lean how it all works. Then when
    you understand expose, aperture, shutter speeds etc., consider trying an auto setting.

    I have about 18,000 photos I have taken with my 40D. I have yet to set the camera on the "flower"
    setting, "landscape" setting, "portrait" setting or any other of these "Basic Zone Settings". They are
    unnecessary and a complicated method to trying to make something simple.

    Back to answering your question...I start with manual, and occasionally an auto exposure setting.
    Program may be useful. But I never uses these idiotic "Basic Zone Settings" designed to make
    photography simpler.
  22. I don't think using any of the lesser modes is "letting the camera control me." If I want to take a photo in manual, I'll usually choose an aperture and then just follow the camera's meter until it gives me a shutter speed that it deems as perfectly exposed. How is that any different from using aperture priority mode and letting the camera adjust the shutter speed for me, since I was just going to adjust it to where it tells me anyway? Or, if I'm at a festival for example, I can use program auto, and use the dial to adjust to the shutter/aperture combo that I deem most useful, so that I am more quickly able to capture photos. Or, if I were taking a photo of my car when I'm putting it up for sale, I can just use landscape mode, since I know it will choose a deep depth of field and saturate the greens and blues to make the photo pop. Every setting on my camera is a tool, and it is no more correct or incorrect to use it, given it is giving me the results that I want. I think it's very useful for beginners to use the scene settings, because they can then come home, look at the EXIF data, and see what kinds of settings work for a particular situation.
  23. Do tell more :) I do remember swapping films mid-roll sometimes, but I've never tried overwriting the film ISO (as opposed to using exposure compensation). Curious what other people were doing?​
    I would consider making the choice of what type of film to load the same as choosing your ISO (since, you know, that is part of your choice in films). Never really did much in the push/pull except with some 1600 B&W films (golf ball grain for the win!).
  24. I would consider making the choice of what type of film to load the same as choosing your ISO (since, you know, that is part of your choice in films). Never really did much in the push/pull except with some 1600 B&W films (golf ball grain for the win!).​
    Naah, I was too afraid of the golf ball grain! In fact I used to carry labelled film canisters and write on them the last frame taken on each film. My folks would then wonder why I spent ten minutes taking pictures with the lens cap on whenever we went indoors... such were the days :lol:
  25. Not a pro, but I use aperture priority when shooting quickly or in changing light and manual mode when I want to find tune
    my exposures,

    I avoid shutter priority mode because shot to shot variations in the aperture are usually more noticeable to me than
    variations in shutter speed.

    Auto ISO can be useful in fast-changing light, but it makes your camera very difficult to control. If you try to slow down the shutter speed to make the image darker, for instance, auto ISO will compensate, and your the camera will effectively undo your adjustments. Try to vary the ISO value yourself. If you need a faster shutter speed, you can boost the ISO, or you can lower the ISO when a slower speed is not going to cause problems.
  26. I sometimes use shutter priority simply because most of my pictures favor handheld sharpness over depth of field issues (and my hands are a little shaky these days), and I don't hesitate to use aperture priority if I need it. But 99% of the time, it's just in Program mode. I can get a lot more photos of opportunity that way than I could using manual exposure, just because it's faster. I can easily shift the program to favour a particular shutter speed or aperture if I need to.
    I used all manual cameras for decades, so it doesn't really hold any magical appeal for me. I mean, if I have an electric drill and I need to drill a hole, I guess I could unplug it and turn it manually. It would take a lot longer to get the hole done, though.
  27. The last fully manual camera I shot was about 50 years ago. You know the kind. The box camera where the Kodak film came with an exposure sheet. Bright sky, Overcast,, Bright sky-subject in shadow, Snowy or beach scene, etc. They had those cute little scene drawings to those who could read. Then you set the exposure, shot away, and waited a few days until the prints came back and you would see if you caught it or not. Even SLR film cameras like my Nikon or Nikormat had metering that you had to move shuter and aperture to get the exposure right. But the meter made it less manual.
    Digital manual i similar to SLR but the digital has LCD and histograms. AP is more automatic, but you still can override the exposure as you adjust the picture in the LCD or according to the histogram. Or you can move the camera into varying light to change the exposure and then lock it before you re-aim and shoot. So you still have final manual control over the final exposure setting even in the auto positions.
  28. The main job of Shutter & Aperture is to control the light getting in your DSLR sensor through the lens.It also minimize or maximize the Depth of Field (DOF) in your image ( background & foreground sharpness control ) You have to decide what effect you want in your final image. Here, manual control is important.
  29. Depending on what you wish to achieve. What I find with Nikon is that using Aperture Priority in situations where you may be taking a photo of someone and there is a bright sky or reflections off background subjects, the camera's light sensor can often be confused by the background reflections or bright sky and alters the shutter speed to something far faster than you wanted to achieve a good exposure (being a persons face).
    I typically 90% of the time use manual mode for this fact and will adjust my shutter to what the light is doing around me, assess what the raw image looks like after shooting. After a while of working in manual, you'll be able to judge straight away what settings to use to what light you have available at the time and you photos will often be more consistant, it's just a matter of practice. Just remember also any slightly overexposed or underexposed images can be adjusted in photoshop also.
    All the best.
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  30. I don't understand people who ONLY shoot in manual mode. You still have to use a meter of some sort, it's not like you can always guess exposure (besides sunny 16 which is only useful in a pinch), you still have to pick one setting to start.
    I would suggest never using Auto ISO. I was actually astounded when I noticed my 60D has auto ISO because my 20D didn't. "What a stupid idea for a camera of such level," I thought. I still do think that actually.
    Anyways, I usually use AV/Aperture Priority mode.
    I set my ISO depending on what lighting conditions are. 100 or 200 for outside, 400 or 800 for inside with decent lighting, and 1600 for darker conditions like stadiums or churches. Then I'll use AV and set my ISO to usually wide open or if I'm concerned about more depth of field, I'll use something more like f/5.6. I just always watch my shutter speed and make sure it stays somewhere above 1/80 depending on which lens and focal length I'm using.
    I'll use manual in the studio or when I'm shooting something like a landscape, metering with a handheld meter, or don't want to deal with metering a certain part of a scene when I'm on a tripod or something like that. Often though, I will use partial metering or spot metering.
    The only time I use TV/Shutter Priority is when I need a certain shutter speed to give me a certain effect, like panning along with a bird or biker. If I need a fast shutter speed, I just set max aperture since that's what needs to happen for a high shutter speed anyways. I also like to lock exposure after spot metering.
  31. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I don't understand people who ONLY shoot in manual mode. You still have to use a meter of some sort, it's not like you can always guess exposure (besides sunny 16 which is only useful in a pinch), you still have to pick one setting to start.​
    It is not clear to me what you mean by this paragraph.
    Using Manual Mode does NOT exclude using the camera’s TTL metering system.
    The commentary implies that it does.
    ? ? ?
  32. In situations where I want the maximum possible shutter speed I use aperture priority. This may seem backwards but by setting the aperture to minimum workable value, the camera will select the maximum shutter speed.
  33. James G. Dainis

    James G. Dainis Moderator

    My first camera was a Minolta XG-1. aperture priority. I could twist the aperture ring and watch the shutter speed move up and down in the viewfinder. Basically, I was using the aperture ring to set the shutter speed to 1/60 or faster. I still tend to do the same with my DSLR set to Av.
  34. To decide which one to choose among shutter priority and aperture priority you must have an idea on Exposure. It is the total amount of light allowed to fall on the photographic medium (film/sensor) during the process of taking photographs.
    Exposure depends on (if I say in very generic way):-
    1. Light Condition
    2. Reflecting Capacity of Subject
    3. Film Speed /ISO
    4. Shutter Speed (Higher the shutter speed less amount of light)
    5. Aperture (Higher the f/number Less amount of light)
    6. and others...
      Depth of field (DOF) depends on the Aperture setting in the lens. DOF is the distance in front and beyond the object that is in focus. Higher the f/number (i.e. f/11, f/16 etc…) is higher the DOF, i.e. you get focus in longer distance. And lower the f/number i.e. (f/4, f2.8, f/2 etc...) less DOF.
      So if your interested in setting depth of field (a general example is higher DOF in case of Nature Photography and less DOF in case of Portrait) set your camera in Av (Aperture Priority) mode to compensate the exposure value automatically by your camera.
      This can be done manually as follows:-
      In a bright sunny weather for a subject with normal reflecting capacity with ISO 100; the aperture should be f/11 and shutter speed 1/125 sec. Suppose you want to increase the DOF. As it stated earlier you should increase your f/number as you need higher depth of field in case of nature and suppose you set it as f/22. As you are in manual mode and if you change only the aperture value; less light will come and hence you will get an under exposed image. (f/11 → f/16 → f/22, light decreased by two steps). So you have to increase the amount of light by two steps. Set your shutter speed at 1/30 sec. (1/125 → 1/60 → 1/30) or change you ISO to 400. (100 → 200 → 400).
      Now question arises among Shutter speed or ISO which one you will choose. Let us reshuffle our problem as follows:-
    In a bright sunny weather you want to photograph of a nature (a filed, mountain etc.) where wild horses are running. Let us assume initially the ISO set at 100.
    Firstly you need a higher depth of filed and you set aperture as f/22 ( amount of light is 2-steps down.)
    Secondly to capture running horses you need a higher shutter speed and you set it as 1/500 sec ( amount of light is 2 steps down, 1/125 → 1/250 → 1/500)
    So light is decreased by 4 steps. You cannot change aperture or shutter speed. So now change the ISO by 4 steps and set to ISO 1600 (100 → 200 → 400 → 800 → 1600).
    Let us take easy examples:-
    Let us recap: In a bright sunny weather for a subject with normal reflecting capacity with ISO 100; the aperture should be f/11 and shutter speed 1/125 sec.
    Example 1: You want photograph a portrait where aperture you want to set as f/2.8 ( amount of light is 3 steps over, 1/11 → f/5.8 → f/4 → f/2.8). So set your shutter speed to 1/1000 sec (adjusting light amount 3 steps down, 1/100 → 1/250 → 1/500 → 1/1000). Or you can choose Aperture priority mode (Av) in your camera.. just adjust the aperture and rest of job will be handled by camera itself.
    Example 2: You want to photograph a football match (or any fast moving subject) where you need a shutter speed 1/250. (amount of light is 1 sept down.. so you can set aperture as f/8 ( 1 step over; f/11 → f/8). Or choose Shutter Priority mode (Tv) in your camera... just adjust the shutter speed and the rest of the job will be handled by camera itself.
    Hope this will help you to decide to choose among Av or Tv mode.
  35. I started using a DSLR on July 14. I was under the impression that I can learn to use Manual mode only after couple of years, My first few shots in M mode were great disasters. But after reading a lot, and trying several shots in other modes, I found manual gives the best controls.
    I still use Aperture priority and Shutter priority modes when I do not have much time to shoot, But when I find I can shoot leisurely, manual mode helps much to decide. Many times the results miserably failed with poor exposure, ( I do not delete them though), and I know I need to practice a lot. I have a confidence now that sooner or later I can decide the modes easily.

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