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Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera Paperback – August 18, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 159 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

BRYAN PETERSON is a professional photographer, an internationally known instructor, and the best-selling author of Understanding Exposure, Understanding Shutter Speed, Learning to See Creatively, Understanding Digital Photography, and Beyond Portraiture. In addition, he is the founder of the online photography school The Perfect Picture School of Photography (www.ppsop.com). He lives in Chicago.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Amphoto Books; Original edition (August 18, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0817432256
  • ISBN-13: 978-0817432256
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (159 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #179,619 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Bryan Peterson is a professional photographer, internationally known instructor, and founder of www.PPSOP.com, The Perfect PIcture School of Photography. He is also the best-selling author of Understanding Exposure, Learning to See Creatively,Understanding Shutter Speed, Understanding Close-Up Photography, Understanding Digital Photography, Beyond Portraiture, and, most recently, Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide. His easy-to-understand writing and teaching style breaks down the complex and often confusing aspects of photography, translating them into what his students routinely describe as "aha" moments. In addition, he has been a commercial photographer for over 30 years, shooting annual reports for many Fortune 500 companies, and his trademark use of color and strong, graphic composition have garnered him many photographic awards, including the New York Art Director's Gold Award and honors from Communication Arts and Print magazine. He currently splits his time between Chicago and France.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I have owned many photography books over the years and Bryan Peterson's "Understanding Photography Field Guide" will be the book I pack with me from here on out.

The book is organized into the 11 chapters detailed below and each chapter is organized into smaller sections which help you seek out the specific topics you want to review.

1) A Few Digital Basics - Chapter topics range from file format and shooting in RAW to a gem of a section on white balance that explained better in 2 pages how this setting can really improve my photos than anything else I have come across in the past.

2) Exposure - Topics in this chapter include exposure explanations, the photographic triangle, creative exposures, and more. Bryan is a master at de-mystifying exposure and you will improve your photography with this chapter.

3) Aperture - This chapter does much more than just explain the effects of proper aperture settings, Bryan teaches you how aperture helps you tell the story you intend to with the photo.

4) Shutter Speed & ISO - This chapter offered one of the best explanations of how ISO effects your photos I have found since being introduced to digital photography and I find the section on "motion in low light" to be very good. Bryan also explained the relationship between apeture and shutter speeds in an easy to understand and apply in the field format.

5) Learning To See - This chapter covers a lot of ground on lenses and selecting the right lens for the right shot. Advice sections such as "shooting up" and "looking down" are helpful if you are looking for new ways to shoot but the photos included throughout the book are the best way to get new ideas for framing your shots.
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As the title indicates, this is a great book covering a range of topics on photography. If you haven't read any of Peterson's books, this is 5 stars. However, if you have read his other books - particularly Understanding Exposure, Understanding Shutter Speed, chapters of this book are almost identical, though not as deep, as those books, and you'll probably be a little disappointed if you were looking for new material. Same pictures, examples, and information - which is why I am only giving this 4 stars. It really should be a "compilation of/best of" Peterson's photo books.

It is intended as a "field guide" and if you want something to carry around, this does cover most of the important topics and techniques - though it isn't exactly pocket-sized.
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This is a fine book. But before you plunk your money down, be aware of a few caveats.

First, the book is written by an experienced professional photographer for people who have digital SLR cameras. The author strongly emphasizes manual controls, interchangeable lenses, etc. My advanced digital compact camera doesn't have an f22 or even an f16 aperture setting, nor a depth of field preview button, nor a variety of lenses and filters.

Second, if your camera - whatever kind it is - doesn't have full manual controls (aperture, shutter speed, iso setting) much of the information won't apply to you. The book cover touts how to shoot "with any camera." But there are very few references to point-and-shoot cameras - even today's sophisticated models and much of the technical data and camera settings just don't translate.

Second, the author speaks exclusively to outdoor photography using existing light. If you want help for any inside photos of children's birthday parties, family dinners, or the kids basketball games, you won't find it here. And there is precious little reference to use of flash in any setting. Some advice even works against indoor photography - like the advice to set your white balance to "cloudy" and leave it there. Try that inside and everything turns out red.

Having voiced those concerns, this is still a wonderful book. The concepts and ideas do indeed apply to all photography and any type of camera. They just need some translation for less sophisticated equipment. Peterson is obviously a superb photograper with a passion for his craft honed over many years. He is also an engaging writer with a personal and easy style which makes the reading a pleasure.
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Don't get me wrong this is a useful book, the photos are all first rate and you can actually learn a lot just thumbing through them and skimming the text. But, and its a big but, there's next to nothing for the point and shoot crowd or how to take good photos indoors and I don't think he mentions the word flash even once. So calling it a field guide is a bit of a stretch as it suggesting the tips apply equally to any camera is puffing. Great if you're into landscapes, maybe some candit shots of people you'll meet outside...but next to useless for anything indoors, or action topics like how-to for shooting sports. It also makes assumptions like you're going to run out and buy a bunch of expensive lens or aready have them. If you don't, this book is self-limiting since you're left to your own devices to make your equipment fit to take full advantage of the advice given. That is a disappointment.

The reason I still gave this book a reasonably good rating is there are many nuggets of useful advice sprinkled throughtout. This book contains not just extended text on why the Rule of Thirds is important, but several photos showing WHY and when not to follow this sage advice. That is petty much true for the other topics as well. Unlike so many photography books that have pretty pictures and what seems like the author phoned-in a paragraph of text or two simply because the published demanded it, this author takes the time to explains the WHY and the photos illustrate the points well throughout the book. He also includes many not so good photos, which illustrates why not to do something. That's what I was looking for. Shame more photography books don't take that approach because its true, you learn more from mistakes, especially when somebody experienced explains what you do wrong.
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