One critical extra setting you need on aperture priority mode

Buried in your camera menus is a critical setting you might have overlooked: setting the minimum shutter speed.

What happens on aperture priority mode?

When you go off auto exposure mode (“A” or “P” modes), you start to take control of your camera settings. On aperture priority mode you decide which aperture you want and the camera picks the shutter speed and ISO. This leaves you free to concentrate on the creative effect you want from the depth of field of your image, and letting the camera worry about the actual exposure. (If you need help with all these terms, join my free online complete beginner’s photography course - details at the end of this post.)

When can it go wrong?

If you are shooting somewhere a bit darker than average, or are wanting to use a particularly small aperture, the camera will want to compensate by using a much longer shutter speed. And unless you take steps to prevent it, the camera will go ahead and leave the shutter open for whole seconds at a time if it needs to. This is the critical extra setting you need: you need to limit the minimum (longest) shutter speed available to the camera. The reason? To stop camera shake and blurred images.

Recommended critical extra setting

For day-to-day shooting I would suggest limiting your minimum (longest) shutter speed to 1/60th second when on aperture priority mode. This would change if you were using a tripod (you can use a longer shutter speed), or if you were using heavier kit (you would need a shorter shutter speed).

How to limit your shutter speed

On many cameras you can only limit your shutter speed when you also have Auto ISO mode switched on. Check your manual (search for “minimum shutter speed”) to see if this applies to you.

With Auto ISO switched on, go into the Auto ISO setting and limit the minimum available shutter speed (Canon on the left, Sony on the right):

min shutter speed.jpg
sony how to limit shutter speed.jpg

If your camera allows you to limit the shutter speed independently of Auto ISO mode, you can use this option instead. But do remember that this setting now applies across all your shooting options. So if you want to move onto Manual mode, or shutter priority, you will find your camera won’t let you select a shutter speed of slower than 1/60th.

One last thing to bear in mind: on Auto ISO mode you are telling the camera to pick the lowest possible ISO given the available light and all the other settings you have dialled in. You can limit the top ISO if you don’t want it to creep up too high - see the Canon screenshot above.

Limiting the range of the auto modes is a useful way to set boundaries for your camera without actually having to shoot on fully manual mode all the time.

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BeginnerEmma Davies