« The Flash Adds Seven Years to your Age | Main | The Lens is Not More Important Than the Camera »

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


I consider myself an intermediate photographer. I bought this book mostly because it was so highly recommended in Amazon. It's a good book for understanding basic concepts, and adopting thumb rules fo basic situtations. It's fluent and repetative, which makes it attractive for non-tech oriented photographers.
It's not a great book, though. It won't make you "Understand Exposure". That, of course, takes years of experience.

I had the pleasure to see Bryan Peterson speak and he's very entertaining, well worth hearing him talk about shooting and also about the business of shooting stock. And yes, he does look like Nick Nolte.

Maybe Bryan Peterson, but looks like Nick Nolte

When I first got interested in photography in the early 1980s, exposure was one of the first things one learned. Aperture, shutter speed, ISO (ASA at that time), and how the three worked together. Today, nobody seems to want to learn about exposure until they finally get so frustrated with what their auto-everything camera is giving them. I think people would enjoy their photography so much more if they had to start with something like the old K1000 for the first three months or so, before moving on to another model. Maybe this book will help some learn "the mystery" of exposure. It's really not that hard.

Well, it is a really good book. It lays the foundations for a practical understanding of how the exposure variables are going to affect your pictures quite well. From there it is up to you.

Yes, great book, even for the intermediate photographer; I thought I understood exposure but this book made me use exposure in a more conscious way.

Note to Bryan Peterson: Pete Turner called and said that he wants his saturation slider back and you can drop it off at Eric Meola's studio.

Yikes. I think my monitor is damaged.

Mr. Peterson strongly resembles the actor Gary Busey.

First two editions are great. I attended a workshop with him at Adorama a few years ago and he is a great teacher. Turned me on to HDR and how to do it right.

I have the older version and it is not that good book. But it is recommended by many of my key reference people like Thom.

But I guess it is hard to "understand" exposure and hence it is popular to get at least a few books.

Personally when I use digital camera if I must, just look at histogram is sometimes not enough in tricky situation. Leica M8 is a good way of implementation, as one can zoom in the highlight and the exposure chart is actually the small area you zoomed in. Hence you can expose to the highlight with easy way to visualise. No such feature for my D300. Also, the uniwb issue is quite difficult idea to grasp to deal with the RAW vs Jpeg difference. It is also supposedly to help the highlight exposure. Also, I did not like HDR even a bit. Should I get back the graduated filter?!

Once you passed the basic level and exposure is basically okish, it is hard to move one level up I find.

Mike, I know what you mean about layers. I don't get them, either. Fortunately, good work is still possible without them.

It's good to get back to basics - in music to hit the scales and etudes, in art to go back to gesture drawing and drawing from life. Amazing how much you can (re)learn from the basics.

I carried a National Geographic handbook around with me for quite a few years. You may be familiar with it: tall format, spiral bound, a grey card in the back. It had all the basics in easy to read language, plus filter indexes and pictures of pretty girls demonstrating the correct way to hold cameras. And this was when I had been working for 10 years or so.

It served to keep my ego in check, and we all have one of those!

Am surprised by that Sony strap. Looked to me like a 4/3 or iphone type guy.

It's not a strap. It's a "necklace" (I have no idea if they have a proper name) to hold a exhibitor badge or photo-show credentials on a clip. (See the guy in the middle for an example, although his is not from Sony.) Many of the manufacturers pass them out for free at the photo shows.


I still have this book, it was OK in my opinion, but the book the REALLY helped me get on my feet as a photographer was "Kodak 35mm Photography."

I have what may be the first edition (it's the one with the kid and the pigeons on the cover) and like other folks here, I thought it was okay...but if you grew up with color film, you really had to have a fairly solid grounding in speed, aperture and ASA (ISO) even to function, so I didn't learn so much from it. I think it may be more important for people who are given sometimes hundreds of options in new digital cameras that are as much computers as light-boxes, and in which the basics of the "triangle" are neglected.

Just two days ago, I bought (and have already read) a pretty interesting book called "How Photography Can Make You a Better Painter" by Michael Weymouth, and he has an interesting observation that might be relevant for some kinds of photographers. That is, put your camera on "P" rather than Auto, and bracket using the "+" and "-" exposure control. With most DSLRs, I think, this can be done automatically, so that every time you push the button, you bracket. If you rip off five shots, one stop apart, on both sides of a "recommended" exposure, you'll get the shot...at least, if the subject is somewhat static. Then, delete the ones you don't want. In digital, you haven't paid the penalty in film. In fact, Weymouth spends as much time on white-balance problems as on exposure, as he seems to consider white balance a trickier problem. Pretty interesting and easy read.

And I feel a little like a Dummy for mentioning this, but I've been working through "Photoshop CS5 All-In-One For Dummies" and, unlike most of the Dummy books, which I find offensive for the seriously lame humor, this one is actually pretty straightforward and quite clear. It's $40.


Many years ago I was told that if you don't get the exposure right, everything you do after that is trying to fix that initial mistake. Now, with digital cameras there is no real excuse not to have a perfectly exposed photograph.

But then again, you have to be able to recognize the perfectly exposed photograph.

That's a lanyard :) The picture looks like it was taken in front of the Jacob Javits Center and Sony has provided the lanyards for Photoplus Expo the last year or two. You see people walking around Manhattan with bright yellow Nikon bags full of brochures on Expo days. (They usually take their lanyards off).

I'll not besmirch this fine book, and I say that whatever helps someone helps someone... who am I to judge what allows someone to reach the eureka moment regarding exposure? That said, I don't find the triangle model particularly useful either.

When teaching, I explain "ideal exposure" as an exactly half-full glass of water. Shutter speed is the duration the faucet is on, aperture is the size of the opening of the faucet's spout (with the aperture's inverse ratio nature confusing everyone at first) and the ISO is the size of the glass (again with an inverse ratio). People understand pretty quickly that way that in order to keep the glass half-full, one needs to adjust more than one value at a time to compensate. Works pretty well, especially given that with most in-viewfinder meters, the "half-full glass" analogy makes visual sense too.

Then I blow their mind when I say that there are many times when you don't want a half-full glass...

(Just so people reading this know--Gordon's and Will's comments about the faucets and glasses both came in more or less at the same time, and both were in before either went up. --Mike the Ed.)

In defense of the triangle analogy, I don't think the point is that a change in one "side" of the triangle will proportionately change the other sides. I think it is just to enforce the fact that the three are tied together, without going too far beyond that basic concept.

Frankly, I've always thought that the easiest way to consider exposure is as a basic formula:

Aperture + Shutter Speed + ISO = Exposure

It should be clear that if you increase (in terms of light-gathering ability, not in terms of numbers) any variable on the left, you either (i) reduce one or both of the other variables on that side of the equation to compensate and keep your exposure constant, or (ii) wind up with a higher (brighter) exposure. This saves me from thinking in three dimensions or getting wet when my cup runneth over...


I'm glad to see Bryan Peterson is having continuing success with this book. I learned exposure with his original volume. When I read it the photos were already outdated. The models had big 1980's hair and the clothes were horribly out of style. However, the writing was magnificent. "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson and John Shaw's "Nature Photography Field Guide" are the two best photography books for a beginner. Writing an interesting and easy to read technical book is an unappreciated art.

I've always thought that if I ever taught an organized photography class, the first session would be the "glass of water" demo - a great illustration.

Just as a wake-up call and "digital doesn't change the laws of physics" exercise, I recently bought the new? Gossen Starlight 2 handheld light meter - incident, flash, reflective, and spot-with a ZONE mode. I've used it in Zone mode 99% of the time. Wow, what a difference, and what fun it is to pay more attention to what you are doing, exposure wise; better out-of-camera raws, also.

As an aside, being on Adarama's mailing list, I get emails about Peterson's recommendations and classes. I must admit that I've been underwhelmed by his photo solutions:( YMMV

It has always mystified me what is there to say about exposure that requires 176 pages. IMO anyone who cannot get in 3 pages 95% of what there is to know about the balance between shutter speed, aperture, and ISO has no business using a DSLR in anything other than full auto mode (aka expensive and bulky P&S to compete with the Joneses).

I agree with Boyan. I don't understand why you need a book to learn exposure. I ordered Understanding Exposure thinking i could give it to a friend who got their first dSLR as a gift. When i received it, i flipped through it to see if there was anything i could learn from it since it was so highly and universally recommended. Not only did i find that there was nothing illuminating in there for me, i also thought it wouldn't be that great for my novice friend either.

The problem is that the book takes way too long to explain this simple concept. Learning exposure from this book requires way too much time commitment and focus. I know my friend would be bored to death, and this book would be sitting on her shelf gathering dust.

In fact, the only thing i found remotely notable in that book was that i found it a bit unusual that he put glamour shots of his wife in there.

I started doing this for ugh just a little under two score ago. For the non-history peeps a little less that forty years, score=20. The term was used by honest Abe in the Gettysburg address. I have found that I will look at books that I have on exposure at least once a year. Why, because I am still looking for the near perfect exposure. It is still coming and that is okay,it gives me a challenge that I look forward too.

The comments to this entry are closed.