Av stands for “Aperture Priority Mode”
Ever want to take a picture of someone and have the background appear “blurred” (like above)? Or maybe a landscape shot where everything is rendered in sharp detail from colorful flowers in the foreground to snowcapped mountains in the back?
In either case, the Av setting on your camera (or often just A) will be your new best friend.
Av is a “priority” setting that lets you specify aperture and direct the camera to determine an appropriate shutter speed and ISO for correct exposure when you take a shot. Choose Aperture Priority Mode (Av) when you want to control the depth of field of your next shot.
What to use Av mode for
The Av setting is most useful in situations when you know that you want a shallow or deep depth of field. If you’re shooting a portrait, you’ll often want a shallow depth of field (to isolate and bring attention to your subject’s face) so open up to f/4 or something similar (small f number).
For landscapes, you’ll often want a deep depth of field (to get everything from those flowers to the peaks in sharp detail) so stop down to f/22 or something simliar (big f number).
Apertures are properly notated by an f in front of a number (i.e. f/8), although sometimes they’ll appear on your camera display as just a number and can be confused with shutter speed if you don’t know their typical range (see below) or where in the readout they appear.
If you’re having trouble remembering how the aperture numbers relate to depth of field, just try to remember that small number = shallow depth of field. Big number = deep depth of field. Think your way through it a few times and experiment by taking photographs of the same scene shot with different apertures, and it’ll sink in!
Here’s a list of full stop aperture numbers (you’ll hear them called f/stops) that will result in shallow to deep depth of field (note: cameras often have intermediate stops in between these numbers). It is also the case that there are bigger and smaller apertures (i.e. f/64) than listed below but this range covers the majority of SLR/DSLR lenses.
SHALLOW DEPTH OF FIELD f/1.4 f/2 f/2.8 f/4 f/5.6 f/8 f/11 f/16 /f/22 f/32 DEEP DEPTH OF FIELD
Need a more thorough review on what exactly apertures are, and how they relate to other photography concepts? Sometimes it helps to start with the big picture. Check out this popular book by Bryan Peterson on understanding exposure from Amazon:
Now that you’ve mastered Av mode, check out What’s the Tv camera setting for?