Aperture Priority Mode
Of the exposure modes mentioned in the previous chapter, Aperture Priority will most often be the best choice for creating portraits. Because it provides you complete control over depth of field, Aperture Priority mode allows you to control the look of your image, whether it’s a tightly framed headshot or an environmental portrait, such as this image of a parking attendant (Figure 4.1). The choice of aperture will either allow you to throw the background dramatically out of focus or render much of the frame acceptably sharp. The choice of aperture achieves more than simply a good exposure; it also becomes the means by which you begin to creatively control the look of your photograph.
Figure 4.1 A 50mm lens and the choice to place my subject off-center allowed me to include this personalized booth of a parking attendant.
Now, don’t think that you have to use a crazy-fast lens (such as an f/1.2 or f/2.8) to achieve great results and get a blurry background. Often an f-stop of f/4 or f/5.6 will be sufficient, and you might even find that having an extremely wide-open aperture gives you too little depth of field for a portrait, since you want most of the face to appear sharp.
I often shoot my portraits with a working aperture of f/4 or f/5.6 in order to get most of the face tack sharp. Though I sometimes use lenses with wider apertures for portraits, it’s often only when I’m seeking that unique look provided by such a shallow depth of field.