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Book Review: Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson


Over the past several years, I have recommended books by Bryan Peterson many, many times, to new photographers and seasoned photographers alike. In nearly every instance in which a forum or other opportunity to suggest my “favorite” books and/or authors, Bryan is the first to come to mind, the best and most useful on my shelf by him is “Understanding Exposure.” I have often said that if I had to keep only one of the 50+ photography books on my bookshelf, it would be this book. This book, as well as other books by Bryan, can be purchased through Amazon, on my LightCentric Photography bookstore. I would be delighted if you clicked through my store to purchase.

Bryan has a way of explaining the necessary elements in a way that is understandable to the lay person. He clearly explains the important relationship of lens opening size (aperture), shutter speed and sensor sensitivity – formerly film sensitivity to light (ISO), in his “photographic triangle.” He then goes on to illustrate why understanding this triangle, and controlling each of the 3 variables are useful for creative photography.

He also explains how the camera’s light-metering system works, where to meter in an image, and how to read the result of that metering.

Bryan has a way of explaining the necessary elements in a way that is understandable to the lay person.

Bryan also explains the different focal lengths of lenses, depth of field, and again illustrates how and when to use each different focal length. Throughout the book (indeed in all of his books), he illustrates them with his own images, clearly explaining what he was trying to portray in each illustration, and how and why he used each element to achieve his goal.

This is clearly a book intended for beginning SLR/DSLR photographers. However, I have had it in my library for many years (have actually purchased several copies, because it has a way of being given away or “borrowed”) and every couple years or so I will get it out and read it again. It is a great refresher for even the most experienced shooter.

Now in its 3rd Edition, the original volume was written before the DSLR was a household item, and is geared to film shooters. Unless you are planning to shoot a film based SLR camera, or have an opportunity to acquire one of the earlier versions, I would recommend purchasing the newest edition, which has been completely updated to take modern digital photography into consideration. Most of the principals of good exposure, however, have not really changed and any edition of “Understanding Exposure” is a useful addition to your library.


One Response

  1. It’s the first book I recommend to new photographers as well. Made an impact on me when I got the first edition.

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