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Exposure Digital Field Guide Paperback – November 2, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0470534908 ISBN-10: 0470534907 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Exposure is the number one topic that digital photographers want to know about. This full-color book fits in your camera bag and provides all the information you need on this very important aspect of digital photography.

Exposure involves combining ISO, aperture, and shutter speed in different variations to accomplish your vision of the perfect image. Exposure Digital Field Guide takes you through the complex techniques of good exposure, taking you from hobbyist to serious amateur photographer.

  • Explains how to adjust shutter speed and aperture to control the amount of light hitting the camera's light sensor
  • Teaches you how to "see the light" for the perfect exposure
  • Helps you gain confidence as you move from automatic controls into manipulating the elements of exposure for specific results
  • Packed with stunning full-color photographs to illustrate what you can achieve
  • Provides suggested settings for various shooting situations and subjects
  • Includes a tear-out color checker card to help you maintain true color
  • Fits in your camera bag for ready reference in the field

Exposure Digital Field Guide helps you master one of the most complex and intricate elements of digital photography.

Aperture and Shutter Speed Techniques

Shutter Speed:
This fighter jet was frozen in mid flight using a shutter speed of 1/2000 of a second. Even with plenty of light, I needed to boost the ISO to 640 to get the shutter speed necessary. At times you want to make sure that that you capture the action, now, granted, this is an extreme example, but the concept is the same. To catch a fast moving subject you need to use a high shutter speed and to get the correct exposure that means using the widest aperture possible and increasing the ISO if needed. Since I didn’t want a photo of a blurry fighter jet flying overhead, I used a shutter speed high enough to capture the action.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Blur the Background:
This was shot during the morning in a playground at a local park. I wanted to make the little girl stand out from the surroundings so I used an aperture that would effectively blur the background and keep the subject in sharp focus. Since the photograph was taken in the morning there was plenty of bright light. To get the shallow depth of field I used an aperture of f/5, which lets in a lot of light, so I needed to use a low ISO of 200 and a very fast shutter speed, 1/1000 of a second to make sure I got the correct exposure. Since I knew that I wanted to blur the background, I set the camera on Aperture Priority mode and set the aperture, letting the camera set the shutter speed.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Blur the Foreground:
This is one of my favorite tricks when shooting in zoos or through any type of barrier. Instead of using the aperture to blur the background, I use it to blur the items in the extreme foreground. This leopard was safely behind a chain link fence at the local zoo, but because the leopard was towards the back of the enclosure I was able to use a shallow depth of field to make the fence disappear. I shot this at 1/320 of a second using f/2.8 and ISO 200. Because I used a wide aperture, I also needed to use a high shutter speed to get the correct exposure. This worked out really well because the 1/320 of a second shutter speed kept the big cat frozen while the wide f/2.8 aperture blurred the fence.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Top Ten Exposure Tips

1. Pick the right shutter speed for the situation. One of the most common exposure problems that beginner photographers experience is blurry photographs. The cause of a blurry photo is very simple; the shutter is left open too long and either the camera moves or the subject moves. Experiment to discover the merits of different shutter speeds.

2. Pick the right aperture for the situation. The aperture is the opening in the lens that lets light through to the sensor in the camera. The aperture also controls the depth of field in the image and controls what will be in focus and what will be blurred. The larger the aperture the shallower the depth of field.

3. Pick the right exposure mode for the situation. Two key components of exposure are shutter speed and aperture. By using the correct exposure mode, you choose to determine either one or both of these settings yourself, or to let your camera adjust them for you. If you use shutter speed priority mode your camera will allow you to pick the shutter speed and it will use the built in light meter to determine the proper exposure. If you use the aperture priority mode, you pick the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed. Aperture priority mode is the correct choice when depth of field is the most important factor in your image. Of course you can always use the automatic mode, which lets the camera choose shutter speed and aperture or you can use the manual mode that lets you pick both yourself.

4. Pick the right metering mode for the situation. Your camera has a built in light meter that it uses to determine what the correct exposure for the scene should be. The light meter has a variety of settings that can help you find the best exposure. Use the full metering in situations where the whole scene is important, and use the spot metering or center weighted metering when you want to only take a small part of the scene in to consideration.

5. When in doubt, bracket your exposures. Many cameras have an automatic bracketing setting which allows you to purposely take a series of photos that purposely underexpose then correctly expose then overexpose the scene. This gives you a much better chance of getting a good exposure and is also the method used for HDR photography.

6. Use a tripod. One of the best accessories you can have is a good tripod. This will allow you to use a longer shutter speed and still be able to keep the camera steady.

7. Use the ISO. Your camera has the ability to mimic the film speeds of the old film cameras. Changing the ISO will increase the signal from the sensor, which allows the sensor to gather more information and work in lower light. When you need to use a higher shutter speed or a smaller aperture, you can increase the ISO so that you still get a proper exposure. The down side to this is that digital noise can be introduced into your image.

8. Experiment. Go out there and experiment. With digital photography you can get instant feedback by looking at the screen on the back of the camera. If you think it would be fun to use a very slow shutter speed, go ahead and give it a shot. Remember, that these are your images and you can do it the way you want to.

9. Understand the histogram. The histogram display on your camera can give you a lot of information if you read it right. A histogram simply shows you where the tones in your image fall. The higher the peak on the right side of the histogram, the more light tones appear in your image. And the more info on the left side of the histogram, the more dark tones appear in your image. Match the histogram to what you see to make sure the camera is recording the scene to your preferences.

10. Check the highlight warning. Most cameras have a highlight warning display that will blink the areas that are overexposed and have no detail. These are really important to look for since they show which parts of your image will be pure white. There is very little that should be pure white in an image except for an actual light source that is so bright there is no detail, other than that, you want to avoid those blinkies by using a smaller aperture or higher shutter speed.


‘…cover[s] the gamut on exposure techniques, quickly explaining the basics and then moving on to describe flash techniques…' (Amateur Photographer, January 2010).
If you buy a new print edition of this book (or purchased one in the past), you can buy the Kindle edition for only $1.99 (Save 83%). Print edition purchase must be sold by Amazon. Learn more.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (November 2, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0470534907
  • ISBN-13: 978-0470534908
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #820,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Alan Hess is a San Diego-based commercial photographer specializing in concert and live-event photography. He has photographed hundreds of concerts three songs at a time. From small club shows to big arenas, Alan enjoys the fast pace of shooting on the fly, the rush of the house lights going down, and the drive to capture the "show" in the images of first three songs. 

The wide variety of bands that Alan has shot include: Billy Idol, Black Eyed Peas, Bob Weir and RatDog, Bruce Hornsby, Bullet for my Valentine, Citizen Cope, The Dead, Death Cab for Cutie, Derek Trucks Band, The Grateful Dead, Jackie Greene, John Legend, Marilyn Manson, Mickey Hart Band, Robin Williams, Slayer, The Smashing Pumpkins, Steel Pulse, Widespread Panic, and Willie Nelson.

Alan's work has been published online and in print in the following outlets:Soundspike.com Associatedcontent.com, Bruuce.com, Dead.net, Glidemagazine.com, Jambands.com, Jambase.com, MarkKaran.com, Poughkeepsie Journal, Mill Valley Herald, Otherones.net, Pauserecord.com, Philzone.com, Photoshop User, Ranch & Coast Magazine, Rat-dog.com, Ratdog.org, Relix Magazine and Vintage Guitar Magazine. His images have been used for various CDs and other promotional work.

Alan is currently the house photographer for a large concert venue in Southern California and when he isn't out shooting concerts, he is writing photography books.

He is the author of the best selling "Exposure Digital Field Guide" and "Composition Digital Field Guide", and has written two books on Sony DSLRs the "Sony Alpha A700 Digital Field Guide," and the "Sony Alpha A200 Digital Field Guide." Alan is also the Author of the iPad Fully Loaded series and theNight an dLow Light Photography Photo Workshop all for Wiley Publishing. Alan has contributed to Photoshop User magazine and is a key contributor to the Lexar.com website.

Alan a regular blog at www.alanhessphotography.com

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

56 of 57 people found the following review helpful By Angel Burns on December 18, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I am professional commercial/fine art photographer, and OH how I wish I had this little gem back when I was starting out. It's got a recipe for everything! That makes getting great shots very simple, way before needing to learn the "theory" behind the settings. My favorite part was Alan's explanations of the LOGIC, that is questions to ask yourself...the order of decisions one must consider before taking a picture. It's the kind of thing most shooters learn school-of-hard-knocks method, by years of experience. Here Alan Hess has made the mysterious digital photography world accessible to all. Chock-full of picture examples on almost every page, this guide lists the specific camera settings that created each one. Fantastic! The color checker card was a nice bonus as well. (Sold separately, a checker costs more than this book!) A really unbelievable bargain to get this much at such a reasonable price. It's going to be a great gift to all the friends I mentor in photography. Thanks, Alan!
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37 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Maile Hatfield on December 4, 2009
Format: Paperback
I'm an amateur photographer and often find the tech details of exposure fly way above my head. Mr Hess has managed to offer concise, practical tips and explanations that have helped me grasp the concept of exposure. Suddenly i'm taking better pictures, am learning how to adjust my settings on the fly, and setting up my photos for better results! My pictures are coming out better, whether i'm in bright sun or dark indoor light. I also love that this info can apply to any camera, and any level of experience- an all in one guide! I'd recommend this book to anyone - and we'd all take better pics!
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Butch Worrell on November 23, 2009
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In less than a week this book has helped me in photographing a both a concert and a wedding anniverery party. "Exposure" explains photography in such an insightful manner that I cannot feel that everyone from beginner to pro could benefit from reading this book.
If you want just one book that helps you be a better photographer than this is the one.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Nik on January 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
This book it's very easy and fast to understand. Explain very easy the basics of exposure, composing, lighting, aperture, ISO, shutter speed, metering and view of field. Also have a lot of example pics with good detail of what to do in different ambient conditions. Including portraits, sports, wildlife, night photography, Wedding photography and more.

It's an excellent teaching book for the price. It takes a beginner photographer to the next level. I recommend it to friends.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Mili de Brown on February 14, 2010
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This is the book that should've been in my less-than-amateur hands back in 2005. Clear sentences, clear explanations, clear LOGIC. Alan Hess surely knows how to communicate to the non-professional enthusiast, and gives tons of positive moral support by explaining the basics of exposure, shutter speed, aperture, and ISO in a totally chewable presentation.

If you're just starting to get your feet wet in digital photography, don't pass up on this excellent book. Mastering the concept of exposure should be a primary goal, and Alan Hess gives a pretty impressive overview of how to start thinking and deciding upon the best way to produce beautiful images. Very insightful tips too.

A great sub-title for this book would've been "Exposure Exposed!" Luv it. And, yes, this will travel alongside my camera for a long, long time.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jan M. Lorrain on March 30, 2010
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This book is small enough to carry with you for reference. It is very specific about how to handle certain situations so that you have the best presentation for your photo. This is written for the avocational photographer who is starting to use a digital camera. Those looking for a "point and shoot" only camera will not spend the time to use this guide to best advantage. Many of us "old style" photographers making the jump to digital have a learning curve and have to rethink how we handling setting up the camera for the best shot. Just becoming familiar with all the options available with digital is overwhelming. This book breaks down each facet of setting up your photo and does a good job explaining how to physically perform the function you want. There are plenty of pictures which provide a great visual presentation to go along with the writing.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ms. Valma R. Marsden on March 31, 2010
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An excellent resource: full of lots of good, clear information and useful hints with just enough technical detail to enlighten without confusing people like me for whom the technical jargon is still a bit of a mystery. The guide is structured in easy to follow chapters with links to additional information on a topic that appears elsewhere.
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இ Fuzzy Wuzzy's Summary:
ѾѾѾѾѾ Highly recommended with warm fuzzies!

Even though I purchased this book more than two years ago, this book on exposure stands the test of time in my large collection of photography books. During the past two years, I have continued to add to my collection of photography how-to books and this book is still one of my two favorite books on exposure that I read for insight, with my other favorite exposure book being Bryan Peterson's excellent book Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera.

While I have also read other photography books on exposure, I love this excellent "field guide" stuffed with useful how-to guidelines that I may need out in the field, on-location, or while traveling, and its compact 9"x6" size makes it easy to fit inside my camera bag or backpack. I have another so-called "DSLR field guide" written by a well-known photography expert, and while I also really respect this other author, his field guide spends way too much time talking about the history of photography, camera parts, CMOS versus CCD digital image sensors, and post-processing. While all of this is interesting, it really does not belong in a field guide where the reader needs to quickly look up information to help answer some specific questions that may arise while actually photographing or getting ready to photograph.

This book is nicely balanced in its coverage of a wide range of exposure topics and a multitude of scenes and shooting scenarios that you may encounter.
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