Hello! Today we are going to look at moving off Auto on your cameras and shooting in Aperture Priority mode. This means that you get to control how much of an image is in focus. This is called the depth of field. 

I know some of you will be doing this course with just your smartphone or with a point and shoot camera. If that is the case please don't worry. But take today's lesson anyway in case you decide to move to a camera with Aperture Priority options in the future. Choosing camera equipment can be really hard if you don't know what you are looking for, so this is a great look at what is possible and what you might want to be able to do in the future. 

Focusing Your Camera

Before you watch the video I want you to first make sure you can focus your cameras. By this I mean telling your camera where you want it to focus. 

When you use a camera you also need to be in control of your focal point. Now, you will all have different cameras and if you were all in the room with me I would go round and make sure you've all found the right button. I obviously can't do that here, so please promise me that if you are stuck you will either send me an email, a comment below or a message in our Facebook group? Please don't sit there wondering why it's not working for you! 

When you look through your viewfinder or on the screen (depending on what type of camera you have) and press your shutter button half-way down you will see some dots and either one or all of them will be lit up red. These dots all represent a focal point. Can you see it? It will appear a bit like this image. 

Now you need to find your button or option to change this. On most dSLR cameras you will find a button with a cross above it made up of little squares. If you press and hold this button and then turn your dial you will see the red dot move to the next focal point along. 

If you haven’t got a dSLR camera or if you have one of the smaller model dSLR cameras you made not have a button and you may have to go into your menu to see how to change the focus. It will be there somewhere! Some of you will be able to touch the screen to do it like you did on your phone. 

If you can’t find it either look it up in your manual or ask me in the Facebook Group! I don’t want you to go any further without knowing how to do this as it's so important. 

Once you’ve found it practise using it to change the focus. Take some photographs and focus on your subject. Getting the focus right in your photographs is so important. When we look at an image our eyes need something to rest on. If your focus is wrong it will feel wrong when we look at your image. 

Sometimes you want everything to be in focus. If you are taking an interiors shot, or a group portrait or a photograph of a building for example. Then you would want to select the multi-focal point option and light all the red dots up. Practise using that too. And please don't forget to take these images in good, natural light! I want you to build up on your skills and put them altogether. 

Today's Video Lesson


Before I start talking about numbers, dials and lenses let's start with thinking about depth of field. This is basically 'how much of an image is in focus.'

For example you might have a vase of flowers in focus and the rest of the room behind the flowers not in focus. All the attention of the image is on the subject - the vase of flowers. 

Look at these images below and you can see the differences in depth of each image. 

The image on the left has a shallow deep depth of field and only the basket is in focus. In the middle image the basket is in focus and the flowers are soft. And in the final image the basket and the flowers are both in focus. 

There is no right or wrong way of capturing this image but each way gives a different feel, a different emphasis and has a different number of subjects. I am personally always drawn to images that have a shallow depth of field and it's very much a part of my style. But sometimes I might be working for a client who needs or wants a deep depth of field, for a product shot for example or an interiors shoot where you need to clearly see the room and all the details in it. 


The depth of field is controlled by the aperture. The higher the number the deeper the depth of field, and the lower the number the shallower the depth of field. 

Aperture is measured in F-stops and the Aperture controls how wide the lens opens, and therefore how much light is let in. The smaller the number, the wider the aperture and the more light that is let in. 

The image was shot at F2.8

The image was shot at F5.6

The image was taken at F10


Shooting in Aperture Priority

Before we go any further with talking about Aperture Priority, I want you now to all go and turn your cameras to Aperture Priority. If you shoot Canon it will say AV on your dial. Nikon says A but please either use Google, your manual or our handy Facebook Group to find out how to set your camera onto Aperture Priority as all cameras are different. 

Once you've set your camera to Aperture Priority you will be able to turn your dial and watch the F number go up and down on your display and through your viewfinder (depending on the make and model of your camera). 

Once you've done that I want you to find something simple to photograph and then take several photographs of the same composition in different apertures, just like I've done above. 

Depending on which lens you have will depend how low your aperture will go. 

On the front or side of your lens you will find your Aperture number. If you have a kit lens it is very likely to say F3.5-5.6. This means that at some focus points you can go as low as F3.5 and at other focus points you can only go as low as F5.6.

Taking a few images like this will really help you to see what you can do with your lens and help you to think about Depth of Field. 

Remember to shout of you get stuck! When I'm teaching my London workshops this is the point where there is a lot of confusion and questions....and a queue of students with their cameras, so don't panic. It's normal to have questions! 

Good luck and enjoy. Shooting in Aperture Priority is going to give you so much more freedom and creativity. I'm really excited for you! 

Aperture Guide

I know there is a lot to think about when you are taking photographs and I keep adding things to your list, so here's a little Aperture guide for you. 

Close-up images - one person portraits - f2.8-f5.6

A small vignette where you want it all in focus - two people - f5.6

A group portrait - f8/f10 (depending on how many people!)

A landscape, building, a whole room where you want it all in focus - f16

This is a really rough and ready list and meant to help you have a starting point and get an idea of how different apertures can work for different images. This certainly doesn't mean this is always these are the right apertures to use! 

Using the Aperture to help in low light.

Controlling the aperture doesn't just help with deep of field but also with shooting in low light.

The smaller the aperture number on a lens, the more light the lens will let in and the quicker the shutter will close. 

If you are photographing indoors, for example, but not near your happy window then you will need a low aperture number to capture an image that is sharp. 

If you want to take a portrait in the early evening when the sun is going down or at an event indoors then instead of using the flash you can use a low aperture number. 

If you need to use a higher aperture number because your lens won't go down as far as 1.8, for example, or you want to get a deep depth of field then you will need to use a tripod because the larger the aperture number, the less light the lens lets in and the longer the camera will need to keep the shutter open for. The longer the shutter is open the more you will shake...or even just breathe...and your image will be blurry. 

When you are shooting in Aperture Priority mode your camera will control the shutter speed for you, so you don't need to worry about that but you do need to be aware of it, so that if you are getting blurry images then you can either put your camera on a tripod or lower your aperture number. 

There is a huge difference between depth of field blur (know as bokeh) and a blurry image due to camera shake! 

I hope you are all still with me! I know there's a lot to take in here but it is so worth practising and using the Aperture Priority mode. And please ask as many questions as you need to in the Facebook Group! xo