Review: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

In my recent round-up of great photography books, I somehow missed one of my all-time favorites:

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson (Amazon link)

This is a book that every beginning photographer should have (and every experienced photographer should revisit occasionally).

And although it's titled Understanding Exposure, the book could easily be called "The Basics of Photography," because it covers far more than just exposure.

In one short book, Peterson manages to give you an introduction to everything from the fundamentals of cameras and lenses, to night photography, to tripods, to neutral density and polarizing filters, and even using flash (both on-camera and off).  

But of course, where this book really shines is in its explanations of Exposure—the foundation of all photography.

Peterson has the great teacher's ability to simplify technical concepts and put them into plain language that anyone can understand and remember.

Knowing that apertures such as f/8 or f/11 are in the middle of the aperture range is useful, albeit boringly technical, information. But when Peterson calls them "Who cares?" apertures, and explains their advantages in cases where depth-of-field doesn't matter, then suddenly the concept sticks.

His examples of shutter speed, and how we can use it to freeze or imply motion are some of the best I've seen.

I also like the fact that Peterson does not hesitate to call things as he sees them.  For example, in the section on White Balance, he writes:

"Are you confused about White Balance?  It's my opinion that next to the histogram (aka "hysteria-gram"), the White Balance setting is one of the most overrated controls on a digital camera.  I have actually seen forums on the Internet discussing white balance, and there are some very strong feelings by some about the importance of white balance in your photography.  But until someone can show me otherwise, I will continue leaving my white balance set to Daylight 99 percent of the time..."

How refreshing!

And I guarantee that if you actually take your camera in your hands and do the exercises that Peterson recommends, you'll come away with a much better understanding of exposure and no more fear of the "M" setting on your camera dial.

Highly recommended.

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson (Amazon link)