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58 of 60 people found the following review helpful
on September 14, 2009
I'd suggest this book for an advanced amateur photographer who is looking to really fine tune their exposure. It is definitely not for beginners -- there is not enough written about the basic mechanics of photography. I like the book's overall style, which often covers a concept in the two "facing" pages. I often only have enough time to read 5 or 6 pages --- and he gets his points across succinctly.

My major complaint is that the author starts off knocking "systems", like the Adams (and Archer) Zone System, and then proceeds to introduce his own system. He recognizes what he's doing, but justifies this by saying, "but many pros use this same method unconsciously" and "this method is based on experience and honed over years" (paraphrasing)

I feel a system is a system. It matters little to me who created it. I generally don't like these type of approaches.

The majority of the book describes the (12) different types of scenes, how to handle them, what to watch out for, and so on. There are plenty of good examples used to illustrate the point. If you distill his system down, it's basically a bunch of tips on how to handle tricky situations where the camera doesn't meter properly. Very useful.

The author clearly knows his subject material, and his tips throughout the book are useful.

The basic premise of the book is that you shouldn't trust your camera's meter because it can be fooled in a variety of situations. And he's right, but I've found the matrix metering of my Nikon D300 to be fantastic. My approach is to trust my meter, and compensate(using EC) when necessary. And use full manual when the situation demands it. By using RAW, you have a certain amount of exposure latitude that you can adjust later. If you know you are in tricky exposure territory, try bracketing for insurance.

While I won't be using his system, I did pick up plenty of useful tips throughout the book. Since it's an easy read, I'd recommend it for moderate to advanced amateurs. He tries to be camera- and editing software-agnostic during the book, so it's missing the minutiae of hands-on details that many beginners would really need.
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51 of 56 people found the following review helpful
on May 1, 2009
Freeman is one of the busiest and most versatile photographers going. He is constantly travelling the world from one assignment to the next and seems to be working simultaneously on the assignment de la semaine and on more than one book at at time: the next instructional book and probably a portfolio/thematic picture book. Either he has an outstanding team back in UK, or he is blessed with extraordinary energy. Maybe he has so much book writing time because of all the time he is in the air....

This is the most intelligent, systematic writing on photographic exposure I know of since the first two issues of Peterson's Photographic magazine in the late 1970s, when it started either as a bimonthly or a quarterly - I forget which. Those two issues carried long, detailed articles on the correct uses of reflective and incident meters in light, shade, and with gray cards. Nothing since has been as comprehensive and useful, until this book.

Freeman uses the capabilities of digital equipment as an integral part of his argument. The core of the book is his breaking the population of exposure situations into twelve categories - three groups with several types - that are easy to recognize in real shooting situations. The crux of this categorization is the histogram. He specifies what the specific characteristics are of each situation and what the most likely manipulations are that help a shooter evaluate and improve an image. I think his use of a "tonal matrix" is particularly interesting and has the potential to be useful, too, with color distribution to understand the abstract structure of an image. This section alone makes the book worth buying.

None of the other books on exposure currently in print is anywhere near so systematic. They tend to be aimed at beginning photographers and are generally presentations of pretty pictures and how the author/photographer used exposure for that image. The arrangement is generally of over/underexposing, movement, night shooting, and such topics.

I do have some concerns and wishes, though. There are a few instances where I could not quite see or understand the point of a set of illustrations and the captions. Too, I wish he would have spent a few more pages looking at exposure and specific hues/colors.

But the numbers of such instances are so few as not to threaten my judgment of the value of this book to any photographer of moderate to high sophistication. This will be a fine addition to his "Photographer's Eye" and "Color" as longstanding references. His approach is an obvious teaching method that I suspect will be taken up soon in many a class and workshop.
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21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on September 12, 2009
This book is directed at digital photographers. He explains how digital and film photography have some differences as far as exposure. He goes into how a sensor works to capture light and he defines terms used to talk about exposure.

Freeman feels that there are 12 exposure situations divided among 3 groups. He explains these well using the idea of key tones.
Then he talks about "The Zone System". As invented by Ansel Adams, the zone system was for cameras using black and white film. But Michael Freeman feels that the idea of zones is a good one and adapts it to digital, color photography building on the use of key tones.

With all this, he then goes into using the exposure that will make the photo you see in your mind. Correct exposure is the exposure that takes you where you want to go not any particular correct or incorrect method. If you see flares in your mind, he explains those. Black and white? He shows how to get the exposure you need. Freeman includes high key exposure, low key exposure, and so forth. He enjoys making low key photos and covers it as well as I've seen anywhere.

Last, he covers post-processing. Now Michael Freeman wrote a book called Mastering HDR Photography so his views on the subject surprised me. He is not sure it is always wise to try to compress an hdr scene into low dynamic range medium such as a computer monitor or a print. He does think the technology will improve though. He does offer some good tips on processing but don't buy the book to learn to process photos.

I feel this is a good book if you are serious about learning about exposure.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Way back when, the immortal Ansel Adms developed the Zone System for calculating exposure. It is a complex construction intended to place the emphasis on retaining detail in the areas deemed most important by the photographer. It required an intimate knowledge of the physics of photographic film and the nature of light. With today's digital cameras and, particularly, the RAW format, photographers have never had it better.

Understanding light, however, is still a skill acquired only by diligent practice and intensive study - and the truth is that a lot of people never get it.

Freeman sums the problem up early in his book, on page 16 in fact, when he says: "I cannot recommend to strongly the simple ability to look at a scene, see blocks of roughly similar brightness, know intuitively what that brightness is, and how that translates into [f-]stops. With practice, it's easy, and maybe you do this already, If not, it's time to start."

Yep - it's easy - after you've taken and analyzed thousands of shots. Most people just aren't that serious.

For those who are, Freeman offers a meticulously detailed approach to understanding and using exposure. Much to his credit in this area of relying entirely on the camera systems, he also recommends the use of traditional exposure meters (which can, in many instances, cost more than the camera being used). He writes about grey card usage, workflows, in-camera and external processing. His approach is modular and, in many cases, you can dip into the book for specific techniques.

Freeman calls the Ansel Adams Zone System antiquidated - which it is, because it was designed for film, which was far more constrained than digital sensors. Freeman than goes on to amend the Zone System into one of his own making.

He also covers use of tools like Photoshop, Lightroom and the lesser known, but very impressive, LightZone (which is based on the Adams Zone System). Finally, he also gives some coverage to HDR.

The beginning photographer will likely be lost in this book unless they are very willing to follow every word closely. The advanced photographer doesn't need this book. But for everyone in between, this is an excellent book. It can be an introductory text, a refresher course or just an introduction to techniques you haven't tried or forgotten about.

And there are lots of pretty pictures too! A worthwhile addition to an intermediate-level photographer's library.

Jerry
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on July 30, 2010
Mr Freeman's high general intelligence and photography knowledge come through in the book...however I think the general reader will struggle through the concepts of this book. I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent individual and I found myself on many occasions wondering how to apply his principles to my own photography. The gist (IMHO) on what this book accomplishes is to learn to think about every scene as brightness percentages. In other words, if the brightest part of the scene makes up 10% of the photo, then how should you compensate exposure? What if it is 70%? What if the brightest is 20% but the midtones make up 60%? In the end I felt like I needed to use a calculator to come up with the formula in order to choose my exposure. Others have commented about the wealth of information and intelligence of this book, which I do not dispute. I think his formulas and concepts are correct and relevant- I felt the need to deduct 2 stars due to the way the material was presented. After studying his images, diagrams and percentages applied to the image I could see how it worked together but found it difficult to use with my own decision making in the field. I will certainly give it another look but I would recommend you prepare yourself for something other than casual reading.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2009
There is a world of difference between getting a "correct" or even an "ideal" exposure and achieving the one exposure that is consistent with what you want to record and express as a photographer. There are plenty of books out there on how exposure affects things like depth of field, freezing or exaggerating motion, the color and quality of light, how your subject is presented, etc. etc.. As in any such book, most of the given information you probably already know. Perfect Exposure is refreshingly not another one of those.

Unlike the previous reviewer, I do not think that a good book on photography is about recipes for shooting, exact quantities, measurements, settings and parameters. Just as a good cooking book is not about lists of ingredients, temperatures, cooking times, and stuff. It is about complex and chaotic processes, about combining available and always varying ingredients to a perfect meal, and which you are always seeking to take to a higher level. That's what good cooking is about and photography is not that different.

Freeman talks about his own convictions as a seasoned photographer in the digital era and combines them to a coherent approach to how and why exposure works. If your thinking and style is compatible with Freeman's, you will start to look at what you learned before in quite a different way. As for myself, I always prefer the wisdom of the sweating cook in a messy kitchen over the polished TV celebrity chef.

Perfect Exposure is well worth the cost and should be read carefully and gratefully by any ambitious digital photographer in search of meaningful guidance.
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23 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on May 23, 2009
Nothing is more fundamental to the photographic process than the concept of exposure -- the delivery of a certain quantity of light to a sensitive medium to record an image. And while there are an infinite number of factors that influence a "proper" exposure, there are still only three physical elements that control the actual dosage of a single frame...aperture, shutter speed, and film/sensor sensitivity.

"Proper" exposure, of course, is a value judgment based on the limits of the equipment, the photographer's intentions, and final use of the resulting image. Technology has a big impact in this process since varying types of recording media behave very differently with regard to color rendition, dynamic range, and other significant factors. In addition, digital post-processing now impacts exposure as well, due partly to the manner in which digital sensors record light, and the fact that some data can be adjusted (within limits) even after the original exposure is made. There is a considerable amount of information to sort through on the way to a thorough understanding of all the considerations in the decision-making process of arriving at a "perfect exposure," some of which is very technical but crucial to the process.

So, is this book a good learning tool? Yes; the best I've seen. The author, Michael Freeman, is among the most prolific writers in the photo-book industry, and possesses a style that is exceptionally lucid, accurate, thorough, and engaging. In this guide he takes on a daunting topic and delivers a gem -- a reference that belongs on every serious photographer's shelf. For those who now only understand "exposure" to be setting their camera to "P" or the "green rectangle," this will be a real eye-opener. In a nutshell, the concept of "perfect exposure" is at the very core of the technical side of the photographic process, and developing a deep understanding of it is crucial to becoming a truly competent photographer.

What makes this book stand out? Elegance of style, organization, content, and supporting illustrations. Starting with a basic decision flow, the author carefully explains the steps and the technical terms, always placing them in the context of a day-to-day professional shooting environment. He then expands the flow discussion while elaborating on additional factors right on through to describing 12 types of exposure situations that cover the vast majority of lighting circumstances with recommendations for determining the proper exposure for each. The descriptive text is excellent, the supporting illustrations superb, and all of it is wrapped up in a beautiful, high-quality imprint.

Don't expect this handsome reference to be a quick read; you'll need to really study the material to convert it to useful personal knowledge, but the exercise will be eminently worthwhile.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on June 3, 2009
I can't emphasize how much Freeman's in-depth approach to understanding exposure will help you gain real knowledge. He uses an analytic method to divide all common shooting situations into a dozen different types, and then shows you how exposure should be approached for each of these types. Once you've mastered this comprehensive list, you'll feel confident in your ability to come back with the perfect exposure, every time. Other books on this topic are too basic, and assume you know nothing. This book assumes you want to start with the basics, and then learn a great deal. Recommended.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on January 7, 2011
Upon reading the book for a second time, I've started to understand what Freeman's getting at. Nothing seems to be spelt out clearly and the entire gist of the book seems muddled . There is a section in the book he has named "The Twelve". Apparently these are the twelve shooting situations that photographers will face. He describes the situations but never really how to go about exposing correctly. He does mention that you need to determine the best exposure method for your camera, etc. but never really where to meter.

Someone else mentioned he talks about keytones but doesn't explain this until page 55. So, in effect, the author starts rambling about keytones from the start and insists on ensuring they're at a certain brightness, and doesn't explain the term until later on.

There are graphics throughout that have arrows or a number and percentage but there's no real information on what they mean.

A lot of the time, there'll be one or two examples of a photo - one usually at a different exposure. On occasions he mentions his final choice but not all. And when he does, rarely does he give an indication of why that was chosen.

The other problem is there's a glossary that seems to have been cut and pasted into the final edit. Nothing really throughout the book is in the glossary and the terms in the glossary seem to have no entires in the book. It just some generic glossary copied form somewhere.

It does go deeper into the exposure than the "Basic-Digital-SLR-concept"-type books but you need to read the book through twice.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 19, 2010
i have read mr. freeman's "the photographer's eye" and thought it was very good, so i didn't hesitate to pickup "perfect exposure" when i saw it on the shelf. i had read some complaints about the writing in "the photographer's eye", so when i saw similar concerns echoed about "perfect exposure" i didn't think it would be any worse. i could see how some people might have a bit of trouble with "eye..." (it's not always clearly written), but personally i found i had no trouble following it if i took it slow at times, and maybe re-read a section here and there. while not perfect i thought it provided a lot of valuable information, so it was worth the effort.

unfortunately "perfect exposure" takes some of the writing and editorial issues of "eye..." and magnifies them tenfold. some things that immediately come to mind:

- sometimes the text refers to images or charts that aren't on the same page - when *other* charts are on the same page - and the author doesn't indicate which chart he's talking about. (this is even confusing trying to complain about)
- sometimes the author talks about a set of images, but the images aren't labeled in a way that makes it clear which is which.
- the "decision flow" charts are, honestly, ridiculous. it's a "flow" chart, yet he puts things that happen in sequential order right next to one another indicating that they occur concurrently, because they happen around the same time. in other words the "flow" is missing from the flow chart.
- some terms are defined well after they've been referred to repeatedly in the text. (for example, "key tone" is used immediately and constantly in the book, but isn't defined until fifty pages have passed!)
- this is not a personal attack on the author by any means, but he seems to have trouble presenting material in a logical, concise manner. did you ever have a professor who you knew was extremely intelligent, but couldn't manage to teach you anything because they just couldn't *teach*? this is how the author comes off here. unfortunately nobody is helping him out...where is the editor?

all of these issues add up to a book that's extremely disjointed and difficult to follow. this is ironic, since the author tries to lay everything out in such an organized manner. (how on earth does a flow chart seem to make things *more* complicated?) at the end of the day i feel like the publisher/editor really dropped the ball here. either they didn't understand the material and were therefore unable to edit it into an understandable, logical format, or they just didn't make the effort. either way it doesn't do the author's work justice, and that's a shame. i actually think it makes the subject more difficult than it truly is.

since i've complained about this book for several paragraphs you may be wondering why i've given it three stars instead of one. truth be told a lot of great information is contained here - it's just buried in an editorial mess. i find that as i read and re-read parts of the book, things start to click. not when i'm reading, but at random times - driving down the road, "oh, that's what he's trying to say!" if you're willing to hash it out and do the work, there's a lot to learn here. that may be biting off more than some people are willing to chew.

oh, one last thing: if you're a beginning photographer, don't even think about it.
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