Book Review: Understanding Exposure (4th Edition): How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, by Bryan Peterson

Understanding Exposure, 4th EditionUnderstanding Exposure (4th Edition): How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera by Bryan Peterson aptly and engagingly unlocks the mysteries of what Peterson refers to as the photographic triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) in order to capture the correct exposure for any image. Multiple shots of the same scene are provided with specific settings in order to see the differences these can make as Peterson educates the reader. I’ve needed a book like this for a long time, and am glad it’s found a home in my library, sure to be referenced time and again. (I’ve not read any of the three previous editions, so I can’t speak to the updates in this one [there has been significant progress in the world of digital photography since the third edition, so it’s probably worth the update].)

His first piece of advice is to find the manual setting (as opposed to the myriad of automatic settings) on your camera, set it, leave it there, and then throw away the manual for the camera. Of course, most people buy cameras specifically for automatic settings, and Peterson explains why that’s (basically) stupid when it’s so easy to capture the desired image with a little bit of knowledge and practice. So, for those seriously interested in photography and taking great pictures, perhaps getting a camera sans auto settings would be the best route.

A few points I particularly appreciate:

  1. A creatively correct exposure rather than just a correct exposure. Granted, this is going to be in the eye of the artist, but it helps to understand how to tweak the settings to the best among a number of potentially correct exposures.
  2. Aperture can help tell a story with depth of focus.
  3. Implied motion can be obtained through shutter speed.
  4. Light meters assume 18% light reflectance, which can really be thrown off when trying to capture an image with stark contrasts between black and white, which reflect light very differently in the same shot.

I only have one real critique: Peterson downplays white balance, stating that he leaves his “set to Sunlight 99 percent of the time when shooting in natural light” because most of what he does is outdoors (p.19). This is fine, and what I will likely find myself doing, but those looking for some advice on more indoor shooting may find the book a bit lacking, although there are still some great tips.


*I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.


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