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Aperture priority, often abbreviated A or Av (for aperture value) on a camera mode dial, is a setting on some cameras that allows the user to choose a specific aperture value while the camera selects a shutter speed to match, thereby ensuring proper exposure. This is different from manual mode, where the user must decide both values, shutter priority where the user picks a shutter speed with the camera selecting an appropriate aperture, or program mode where the camera selects both.
The main purpose of using aperture-priority mode is to control the depth of field. Aperture priority is useful in landscape photography, where a narrow aperture (identified by a high number, e.g. f/16 or f/22) is necessary if objects in foreground, middle distance, and background are all to be rendered crisply, while shutter speed is often immaterial. It also finds use in portrait photography, where a wide aperture (identified by a low number, e.g. f/1.4 or f/2.8) is desired to throw the background out of focus and make it less distracting.
Another common use of aperture priority mode is to suggest how the camera should determine a shutter speed, without risking a poor exposure. In landscape photography a user would select a small aperture when photographing a waterfall, hoping to allow the water to blur through the frame. When shooting a portrait in dim lighting, the photographer might choose to open the lens to its maximum aperture in hopes of getting enough light for a good exposure.
In addition, aperture priority mode allows the photographer to force the camera to operate the lens at its optimum apertures within its aperture range for a given focal length of the lens. Commonly, lenses provide greatest resolving power with relatively medium-sized apertures.
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