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on October 26, 2004
If you are trying to learn more about how to properly use exposure (i.e. aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) this is a fantastic book to begin with. It informs for the film and digital photographer. I have been taking photos for many years, but it has only been over the past couple of years that I became more of a professional. Despite this, I still struggled to understand some of the concepts such as the difference between a good exposure and a "creatively correct exposure" and what options I had.

You learn how to expose for front-lit, back-lit, side-lit scenes, overcast skys, macro photography, motion, stationery objects, how to expose for bright scenes such as snow (grey card & 18% grey) and dark scenes such as night name it. Then Bryan Peterson tops it off with a sections on metering, special techniques and filters, and an analysis of film vs digital cameras.

Understanding Exposure not only explained the basics in a conversational manner, but is also informed me of how the pros work and how to step up my photography to a higher level.

This book has hands-on exercises that anyone can go through so that the reader has experience of all of the methods explained. Along with this, the book is FULL of color photos that show exactly what the end result could be. Where applicable, there are comparisons of before and after exposure adjustments so the reader may understand WHY they should make such changes.

Where there is a difference between adjustments for digital versus film cameras, Bryan Peterson gives you the specifics of the difference and haw to adjust for it.

It is a book every photographer should have!
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VINE VOICEon September 17, 2004
A friend loaned me the older version of this book, and I was amazed at how much help it provided. Even though the old book was based around film cameras, the fundamentals that were taught and the example pictures were very, very helpful. This book is an almost complete update, with most sections rewritten, several new subsections added with specific information for digital users, and has a slew of new example photographs.

This book is even better than the old edition, and expands on some of the topics that were only briefly touched on in the first book. One in particular that sticks out in my mind is that he explains the "don't care" apertures of F8 and F11 that he uses often. The old book mentioned it in passing, but I don't recall an explanation on why those apertures were useful. There is a short section on just that in this book and suggestions on when to use them.

Full color photos are used throughout the book, and are a great help in understanding the concepts that he talks about. Each picture has a caption with the information used to take the exposure. He shows you the same picture with different settings so you can see the effects the settings have on the exposure.

I find the book pleasant and easy to read. The tone and writing are very agreeable and easy to follow. While some aspects are technical, they are written in a manner that makes them easily understandable.

This is all about how to capture the image, not processing of the image after it is captured. There is brief mention of pushing or pulling film and the effects it can create, but in general, this is about how to get take a proper picture. If you are looking for a book on how to process the picture after you have taken it, this is not the book for you.

I can not recommend this book enough if you are interested in photography. I don't know how useful it would be for professionals, but for the person just starting out or serious amateur, I can't see how you could go wrong with this. While all of the information can be applied to SLR cameras (film or digital), the majority of it can be applied to the point and shoot cameras of either variety as well.
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VINE VOICEon November 29, 2005
This is a book that every serious photographer should own--both for information and inspiration. I've had a copy of the original version of this book (1990) in my office since it was first published and it's worn to a frazzle. That's why I'm so thrilled that it has not only stayed in print this long, but also that Peterson has updated it.

The first thing you'll notice when you read through this book is that Bryan Peterson is not just good at explaining the intricacies of good exposure in almost every conceivable situation (landscapes, close ups, portraits), but he is a world-class photographer. It's one thing to talk about manipulating depth of field or subject motion in theoretical terms, it's quite another to see the concepts demonstrated in masterful, creative and fun photographs. Bryan's photographs are fun, surprising and supremely well done. And the photos are so well chosen and so well done that even if the book was written in a language I didn't understand, I would get the points being made. His editors should be proud of that too. I also a professional photographer and author of many photo books including The NEW Joy of Digital Photography and I often look to Bryan's fine photos for their inspiration.

Getting good exposure is at the heart of making a good photograph. And you would think that with the auto-exposure systems built into both film and digital cameras that getting a good exposure would be a piece of cake. But as Peterson points out (and illustrates so nicely) there is a world of difference between getting a "good" exposure and getting the ideal "creative" exposure. Getting the ideal creative exposure requires careful consideration of how that exposure will affect things like depth of field, freezing or exaggerating motion, the color and quality of light and how your subject is presented.

This book is not just about exposure, of course, but is a great source of information on various types of lighting, close-up photography, portraits, night photography, using a tripod and, most importantly, seeing creatively.

I can't imagine making a serious study of photography and not having this book (and Peterson's classic book on "Seeing Creatively") nearby. Peterson is a gifted, funny and immensely talented teacher and photographer--more than willing to share all of his knowledge. As the author of many how-to books on photography myself, I have used Peterson's books as a constant source of information and ideas and I check my own facts against his regularly--I couldn't pay him a much higher compliment. As a photographer, I find myself looking at his pictures with great admiration and envy. His photographs are great. And by the way, "No!" I don't even know Bryan--except through his great books.

Of course, with all of those kind words said (and I meant them), you might also want to look at my book on exposure Exposure Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent--I think they make good companion pieces. The book has now been translated to Polish, Spanish and Chinese and is available as a Kindle download Exposure Photo Workshop: Develop Your Digital Photography Talent Please also see my latest book Jeff Wignall's Digital Photography Crash Course: 2 Minute Tips for Better Photos.

Jeff Wignall
Author, The Joy of Digital Photography
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on April 17, 2006
Ever want to take your fancy camera off of Auto mode and explore those other mysterious settings: M, A, S? Ever struggle with understanding how to achieve a proper exposure? Then this is the book for you! Clear, concise and filled with gorgeous photographs by the author, this is the book on exposure I wish I'd had when I first began taking pictures a couple decades ago. Peterson jumps right in teaching the reader about what he terms the "photographic triangle" - how shutter speed, aperture and ISO (film speed) relate to one another and how they can best be used to not only make a correct exposure, but a "creatively" correct exposure. So why would I give this awesome book only 4.5 stars instead of 5? Because while Peterson hammers home the concept of the photographic triangle, the sample photographs contain information about aperture and shutter speed but no mention of what ISO he used. Considering how these settings directly effect one another it was a little disappointing to not have that information made available. Hopefully he will include this information in future editions. Still, don't let that minor quibble steer you away from this highly recommended book.

One minor point worth mentioning: to get the most from this book you MUST have a SLR (single lens reflex) camera - digital or film. Today's popular point and shoot cameras have lenses that make selective depth of field nearly impossible (Peterson has a two page explanation as to why this is). While you can still get great pictures from a point and shoot, your creative options are severly limited if you want to, for example, isolate a subject against a blurry background. As the majority of this book is on not only proper exposure but using it creatively, I think quite a bit of information would be useless to those without an SLR camera.
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on March 8, 2006
OK, I'm going to have to give this a 3 just so my rating will stand out from all the 5's out there. I was let-down quite a bit by this book. I am a fairly-beginner photographer, perhaps maybe lower-intermediate. And, in all honesty, most everything in this book was kind of "blah" information. My biggest gripe is the following: the book is called "Understanding Exposre"... however, it should be called "Pointers for Exposure". Because, the best pieces of information that the author gives are not really explained (and, hence, they're not to be "understood" by the reader, but to be taken as gospel) but rather they're followed by statements such as "I learned this from my many years of photography, and trust me this works"! And that's a big problem for me-- not because I don't appreciate a great tip about exposure, but more because I was expecting to learn some valuable basics that would arm ME with the tools necessary to deduce, for a given lighting situation, how to best meter the light and determine the exposure. Instead, I've been given a laundry list of things to memorize for a given situation. Which, I guess, is great in the end-- and which is why my "REAL" rating for the book is a 4-- but just be forewarned that you will not really walk away from this book with a great UNDERSTANDING, though you may walk away with some good tips. Just my 2c.
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on August 27, 2004
Kudos to Bryan Peterson on the release of this long-awaited update to his 1990 classic, Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs. I've been recommending the original edition of this book to my DIGITAL photography students and on-line forum buddies for several years now, even though the original edition pre-dates the "digital photography" revolution. This new edition includes all the essential information from the earlier edition and brings it completely up-to-date with the inclusion of how this information is relevant to digital photography.

Who should buy this book? This is a book for those interested in photography who want to take their photography to the next level. This book is for the hobbyist who is mostly using the camera's automatic settings, but is interested in using more of the camera's manual and semi-automatic modes to get better results. The author does a superb job of teaching the fundamentals of exposure in a simple and very easy to understand manner. This is usually an intimidating topic, but Mr. Peterson teaches it using every day language and examples. In no time, the reader will understand how aperture, shutter speed, and ISO are manipulated to get the right exposure and the desired photographic results.

Beyond this, the author teaches the reader how to "approach" almost every conceivable photographic opportunity using the camera's semi-automatic modes (mostly aperture-priority). So not only does he teach the fundamentals of HOW exposure works, but he teaches WHEN to use one approach over another to achieve desired results. This alone is worth the price of the book!

This book is beautifully written and generously illustrated with over 150 original color images from the author. The images really bring the concepts to life and are a source of inspiration for the reader.

Who should not buy this book? If you are a seasoned photographer who has mastered the subject of exposure and is well versed in the use of aperture-priority, manipulation of depth of field, and metering, this book will be too basic for your learning needs.

Again, kudos to Bryan Peterson on the release of this fine book. I am among the thousands of photographers who are very appreciative to Bryan for changing the way we approach a given photo opportunity and have taken our photography to the "next level."


jim henderson (the sandman on the forums)
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on March 14, 2005
I ordered this book based on the rave reviews it gets here, and elsewhere. I was looking forward to reading it, thinking it was going to help me improve my photography, master difficult lighting etc. So, when it arrived, I eagerly unpacked it, sat down to read and ... err, is that it?

Essentially it is a very basic beginners book. Probably for beginners its fine, but once you've figured out the elements of depth of field, and the idea that metering will not provide the optimum exposure in all cases, there's not much else.

If you're new to photography, take a look. If you've read any other books, or taken a few rolls of film, look elsewhere.
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on December 29, 2005
Even though I've been informally an amateur photographer for several years, when I decided to make a living out of this profession, I needed some technical foundation in order to achive consistency and futher, inprove my skills. I tried several other books to no avail. However, this book was like fallen from heaven, so to speak. The author writes in a concise yet coherent manner. The examples are very useful and easy to replicate (unlike some other books I've read). Very thorough explanations of each of the techniques shown. The author unassuming and candid tone make this a great book to read, browse and learn from. In fact, if it was physically smaller, it would make a tremendous pocket reference to carry around. In short, if you're an absolute beginner or an intermediate looking to sharpen your skills, this book is what you are probably looking for.
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on March 29, 2006
This book is a must for anyone new to photography! Should be included with the owners manual of every new digital camera!

The proof is in the are some examples of shots I took after reading his book...I would never have imagined capturing shots like these prior to reading his book...




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on May 7, 2006
UNDERSTANDING EXPOSURE offers a solid introduction to principles for creating informed exposures. I've been taking photographs for years, but everything I've learned I picked up from experience. I thought, for the heck of it, I'd buy a book and see if I was missing something. In the end, it was worth the read, I learned a few tips, and found some inspiration to experiment.

The book, however, is not without its quirks.

On the positive side, the author does a curiously good job offering advice on formal decisions. While I don't agree with all of his judgments, I certainly applaud the effort and feel his comments are completely appropriate for the general public. Aesthetics can be tricky.

The book is filled with the authors photographs, ranging from the amazing to the sappy. I enjoyed his descriptions and explanations, telling how he took many of the shots. I just wish he left out his licensing fees. Pointing out how many thousands he made from the various shots is really crass. I already bought your book... you don't need to show-boat. Strangely, a handful of pictures are of his wife, and I found myself wincing at most of them. Particularly given his descriptions. Sadly, we're obviously not looking at the same woman.

Lastly, for all of the author's thoroughness, his explanation and discussion of ISO, in my opinion, is lacking. At the start of the book he explains that ISO is one of the three main parts to taking a correct exposure. Aperture and shutter speed get their own sections, but for ISO the author only offers a condescending "busy bee" metaphor... until 5 pages from the end of the book where he finally gives ISO a page. He explains the ISO value is the light sensitivity, but I don't remember him mentioning anywhere at what -cost- that sensitivity comes. For instance, it should say the faster the film and more light sensitive, the grainier the resulting image. There's a very grainy, low-light example in the book but grain itself isn't addressed.

How could anyone leave that out?
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