Customer Reviews: Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
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VINE VOICEon August 11, 2010
Understanding exposure third edition. Although it could be called understanding your camera

This is a fairly complete overhaul of the second edition. It covers all of the things covered in the second edition and additionally Author Bryan Peterson covers HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography.

One of the sections I enjoyed the most is Peterson's photographic triangle. aperture, shutter speed and iso. All three are of equal importance in the photo tough I sometimes forget about the effects of different iso's so this section brought that to life for me. Some of the other subjects that were interesting to me was his explanation of white balance and how it's over rated "It's my opinion that, next to the histogram, the white balance is one of the most overrated controls on the digital camera". Another section I liked was one entitled "The sky brothers" Here Peterson talks about difficult light and contracts situations that meters have difficulty with. Peterson moves the light meeter to one area or another to get a reading that's not so effected by bad light or contrast including the always difficult photos of snow.

Peterson also covers in detail all of the camera settings and discussed the advantages of one setting over another, aperture priority versus shutter priority etc. One of the things he covers in detail is the usage of automatic settings and how they can hinder photographic creativity. Including Exposure Peterson covers all aspects of photography, lighting, DOF, sports settings, portrait settings, landscape, night and low light photography. Paterson does a great job of describing who each of the settings work together and effect each other.

Peterson really encourages the reader to think outside of the box (or view finder) to understand and use all of the creative features of the camera and your imagination.

The book is a good mix of photos and descriptive writing that gives the reader the camera setting information but the thought process in deciding what settings to use.

Peterson's writing style while describing the subject matter and the settings used on the camera really bring the reader into the idea behind the photo.

The appeal of this book is really for the novice to intermediate photographer. I can't think of any one subject about photography that Peterson doesn't present and explanation about.

Beautiful photography, nice writing style, detailed but concise explanations makes this one a keeper. If you like the second edition you'll find the third edition invaluable.
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on October 13, 2010
This third edition of "Understanding Exposure" by Bryan Peterson is brilliant! In the first 30 pages, I've gotten more information on how to use my camera settings to take creative photographs than the dozens of books I've read, or all the courses and seminars I've taken. And all for less than $20!

Some reviews have suggested that this book is only for the very basic beginner. I beg to differ. I have been counseled by and shadowed many professionals who've been in the industry a number of years, (never mind all the money spent on books, videos, seminars, clinics and courses). After spending any time with the pros, I was always certain that the only way to get the best photos was to get a bigger bank account to be able to purchase the best, most up-to-date gadgets, special lights, expensive strobes (in multiples), and super expensive/fancy lenses. Oh... let's not forget the assistants that you'll also have to hire to hold some of the gadgets. And yet, most of their photos looked so homogenized and truly a product of all the photographic "stuff" rather than the camera. I kept thinking that maybe I was just not getting it. I was almost convinced that obviously, all the creative photos are just good quality, basic photos which have been processed, and re-processed in one or more editing software programs such as Photoshop (another one of the "must have" gadgets). NO!! Bryan Peterson explains how to really use the camera to get that creative shot. After all, capturing a photo, is really nothing more than capturing and manipulating light. He makes it simple enough for the beginner to understand, and yet, without being condescending, can teach (or remind) the pros of the all-too-frequently overlooked simplicity of how to use only the camera, considering ISO, aperture and shutter speed to work in harmony to get a 'one of a kind' photo.

One of the statements I have heard all too often from professional photographers is that the on-camera flash is useless. Interestingly, I have found it to be a godsend in many photographic situations, and then get accalades from the same professionals about the quality of the lighting. Hmmm... Anyway, Bryan Peterson shares information on what I've already discovered; the on-camera flash is another great tool that already comes with your camera.

I will, in all fairness, confess that I have a DSLR, so I can't deny or confirm the book's subtitle of "how to shoot great photographs with any camera" and how it relates to the 'point and shoot' cameras.
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on August 24, 2010
This book was awesome...I believe the author took the criticism of his other books and updated the book based on them...When researching to buy this book I looked at the reviews of the other editions and some of the comments were "I wish he would put what type of lens he uses or exposure he used in the photos." Well, he does that in this edition. Another person said that they wished he would put photos to show what he means and he puts two photos (sometimes 3) of first the auto or what beginning photographers would do and then show an example of the same picture with the exposure changed based on what he is trying to teach you (did that make any sense?!?). How about a before and after type of photos (maybe that makes more sense). His style of writing is not textbook style. I think he tries to make it fun and entertaining and that sometimes makes people think he is condescending to the reader, but I don't think that is his intention and I enjoy that sense I'm definitely not trying to read textbook style reading (I did enough of that in college).
I say this is for beginning photographers and not for intermediate or professional because I believe he is very brief and dumbs down what he is trying to teach to relate to those of us who know absolutely nothing about cameras or the intricate of how cameras work. He will use things like "The Sky Brothers" or "Mr. Green Jeans," which will feel like kid stuff for a pro or semi-pro person, but for me the beginner a welcomed help. After reading this book I feel like I can go out and take photos on manual and not be intimidated about getting the wrong exposure.

I included the link to his previous edition because that has more reviews than this edition (as of this review) and I believe the author revised a lot of the gripe the "One Star people" are talking about. Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition)
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on January 10, 2011
Having both run a photo business and been a high school teacher (both science and photography), I tutor a lot of beginners in photography and I have been looking for a book to recommend to them. Although this book is not organized the way I would prefer, it is reasonably good and will help the beginning photographer learn some of the fundamentals. It's biggest faults are in the author's distain for any use of the histogram, saying nothing about computer processing (which is the second half of the photographer's task - just like learning the darkroom years ago), and giving such slight coverage to such topics as flash fill. I am also disturbed that the book is of only two components: words and photographs. He has ignored the usefulness of diagrams which can be such important learning tools. One example: a diagram of a series of lens apertures, labeled with f/stops below them would be such an efficient way to get the idea across. Instead he uses words, which can easily be misinterpreted.

It is OK for beginners, but I'll keep looking for something better.
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on May 4, 2013
This was an excellent book for beginners. It's also a great book for the more experienced. It is useless for a pro or advanced amateur photographer. The author gives a very easy to understand method for getting the correct "creative" exposure on any camera. He explains the three most important aspects and how to use them. They are ISO, aperture and shutter. He explains white balance. He explains the use of the flash. He tells you how to meter. He really helps get you out of using the "Auto" mode.

I already knew that a smaller aperture yields a larger depth of field and vice versa, but the author made me much more comfortable knowing which aperture to use in which situation. He explains what he calls the 'who cares' aperture settings of f/8 and f/11 and when you do want to use the and why.

It really is an excellent book for understanding exposure, which is at the heart of a good photograph.

The reason I didn't give it five stars is because there were some things that were glossed over and some things that were not as well explained as I thought they could be. Mind you, they were mostly minor.

For instance, I think he could have explained a little bit about the appropriate lens to use in different situations. He does do this a little, but I think it would have been nice if he had used different lenses in the same situation and compared the photographs as he did with white balance and F-stop. As an example, I've been having a problem shooting people moving about in an indoor venue. Going with a prime focus (not a zoom) lens with a lower F-stop would help this situation. Sure it won't cure the problem. Sometimes, you just don't have the light to do what you want, but he didn't even mention this. I think he could have had a whole section just for lenses.

It seemed that nearly all of his shots were done with a tri-pod. There was a brief explanation of what to look for in a tri-pod, but I think he could have been more in depth with that. Yes, it's not directly related to exposure, but considering his heavy use of the tri-pod, I think it would have fit into the topic.

He mentioned that he thought the histogram was highly overrated and said nothing more about it. I will have to seek that information elsewhere.

He does explain a bit about HDR photography. This stands for high dynamic range and involves combining multiple photographs of the same subject at different settings to yield a single photograph with more detail or special properties that cannot be achieved with a single photo. During this discussion, he mentioned using bracketing on the camera. I've heard of that but I have no idea what that means. I was hoping that would be something he would explain.

He explains a little about how he gets extreme depth of field for landscape shots. He says something like this, "I set my aperture to f/22, my lens to 35mm, meter on the sky to get the appropriate shutter speed. Then, in manual, I focus on my foot and shoot using that focus. It will be blurry in the viewfinder but everything from about 2 feet in front of me to infinity will be in focus after I take the photo." I like this because I had no idea that the viewfinder could be out of focus, but the picture would be in focus. I also like that he shows how to get a very high depth of field. This technique is called hyperfocus. He never mentions that term, but in theory, if you set your aperture differently or use a different lens setting, the focus would be different than his foot. You might have to focus 10 feet away. If you look up hyperfocus photography online, you will find charts and even phone apps that will tell you how far out to focus with different settings. Maybe it's not that important. I don't know because I don't have a lot of experience with this, but I think it was a missed opportunity for him to go into a little more detail. I was paraphrasing above, by the bye.

Every photo has information about how the photo was taken. I think he did a great job with this, but I do wish he would put all of the information for every photo. Every photo had the focal length, shutter speed and aperture, but he usually only included the ISO when he was discussing ISO. It would have been nice to have it on every photo. In fact, I would have liked to see what camera he used and some details about the lens, too.

As some others have mentioned, the humor was a little odd. I agree with this, but it's not so odd as to be creepy or anything and at least he tried to lighten the subject. I'm all for that.

I would like to emphasize that my complaints are minor and that the author does a great job of really getting into exposure.

The most important thing to know about this book is that it is called "Understanding Exposure," not "How to use your camera," not "How to take a picture." It's all about getting the proper exposure so don't expect any detail on purchasing decisions, specific set-ups (shooting cars, shooting babies, underwater photography, etc.). There are no diagrams in this book only photos. Some of them are truly stunning and he gives loads of information to help you produce similar photos. I highly recommend this book.
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on December 30, 2010
Bryan Peterson's previous release of this title, Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition) (2004), was a best-seller and was highly-recommended among beginner photography books. This version seeks to improve upon that masterpiece and it has. I have compared both editions and listed some of the improvements in this edition, as well as the pros and cons of this book below.

- Stunning photographs used as examples with detailed explanation of how he set up the shot and the settings used.
- Pretty thorough explanation on the major facets of basic photography
- New online video access to tutorials
- Teaches you how to use the basic concepts and therefore you can apply it to any camera (film or digital, point-and-shoot or SLR, and any brand).

- I sometimes get lost on how Petersen is metering his photographs. He doesn't say explicitly if he is using evaluative (matrix), center-weighted, or spot-metering. Most of the time it seems as though he is using center-weighted, but I'm not always sure.

Improvements over the 2nd Edition:
- New information. Such as discussions on: HDR photography, diffraction when using small apertures, auto white balance, different types of flash and flash techniques.
- Online video access of tutorials for those who purchase the book. Very useful especially for those who learn by visual example.
- New photographs which are just as stunning as the previous edition. Same discussion format on how they were set up and the settings used.
- Most of photos carried-over from the previous edition are noticeably bigger in this edition.
- Better color rendition of the same photographs carried-over from the 2nd edition. More natural skin tones on some of the photographs of people in this edition.

Bryan Peterson shares a lot of the knowledge he has picked up over his many years of film and digital photography experience. I love the fact that he is teaching people how to spend some time and "get it right in camera" first, rather than shoot haphazardly and hope to fix it in software post-processing later. This "old-school" approach and emphasis on shooting in manual mode helps teach people how to use the concepts of iso, aperture, and shutter speed to get a good exposure with any camera. His other book, Bryan Peterson's Understanding Photography Field Guide: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera, is also a great book and includes some of the same material in this book. All in all, this is a great book for any beginning photographer and a good revision of his previous best-seller.
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on October 20, 2011
After looking through countless books, forums and internet videos for information on how to better understand and use my camera I came across this book.. As always (due to constantly stumbling upon books and info that either over-complicates or leaves you hanging with with only half developed thoughts and articles) I was hesitant (again) despite reading all of the excellent reviews..If you find yourself in this same position please do not hesitate to purchase this book.. It was an excellent and extremely insightful book from start to finish. The information was clearly laid out and easy to understand with tons of excellent examples to help further cement the ideas into your head. I'm not going to go into detail about each chapter because there were several reviews before this that I feel already laid them out nicely.. But, each chapter is loaded with great information and not only helpful but inspiring pictures. Also it should be said that this book isn't just limited to the absolute beginner or amateur I feel it would be more than helpful from novice to advanced (possibly helping the advanced fill some holes in their shooting technique or with the extremely helpful section on Metering)and of course Peterson is more than just some guy spewing out photo knowledge he is a teacher and a fantastic on at that. Every bit of this book was excellent and I would have gladly paid even more than I did for it..So whether you are an absolute beginner/amateur (to whom I would suggest this book as an absolute must if you plan on going anywhere with photography) or the advanced I highly recommend this book all across the board :)
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on February 24, 2011
I would rank my skills as an intermediate amateur currently. I bought this book with the expectation, in part derived from all the 5 star reviews, that it would give me a much deeper understanding of exposure. I was somewhat disappointed with this book for several reasons.

The organization and flow of the subject matter are just wrong. For example, on page 14 the author has a section named "Setting & Using Your Camera on Manual Exposure".

In this section he then states, "If you're unsure of how to set your camera to manual exposure mode, read the manual!". What, are you serious Mr. Peterson? Look at the title of your section.

He then states, "...adjust your shutter speed until the camera's light meter indicates a 'correct' exposure in your viewfinder and take the photograph. You've just made a manual correct exposure!" First off you are implicitly acknowledging your audience is one of a beginner here. They won't know what the "exposure meter" is or, MORE IMPORTANTLY, what exactly is the "correct" exposure. If you wait it comes later, rather than before, on page 23. But hold the presses folks! In looking at the diagrams, meant to represent the image of your viewfinder, they are just plain wrong. The red text in the diagrams does NOT indicate what the viewfinder is indicating in 3 of the 4 diagrams. This sort of gross error is inexcusable and will lead an amateur astray for sure.

On page 46 the author describes "Story Telling" Apertures. There are two photos which look very different in terms of focus and depth of field on page 46 & 47. Yet the author's caption reads "Both photos: 2-35mm lens at 20mm, f/22 for 1/30 sec". These are clearly NOT the same so the reader is left wondering what is being conveyed here.

Often when the author is making a point about certain subject matter he will show a photograph demonstrating his intent and correct composition. It would be immensely helpful to an amateur if he showed an INcorrect version alongside so readers could compare and contrast.

Also some photos of a camera (alternate between the two brands most popular: Nikon & Canon) at the beginning of the book (say page 16), when you are talking about setting a certain functions on the camera would be very helpful in orienting beginners and illustrating what you are referring to.

The book is short on words and actual unique, insightful comments (the few are repeated often). It lacks coherence in terms of putting all aspects of "exposure" together: namely available and type of light, aperture, shutter speed and ISO. After reading more than half of this book I came away with very little more knowledge.

This book does offer some redeeming qualities. The biggest one for me was seeing the compositions, some very striking and intriguing, offering readers the perspective to be gained from knowing how to approach composing and capturing some of there own stunning photographs.

If you have your camera manual and it is written somewhat decent along with another one or two books on exposure then this book may be a worthy addition to your understanding. If you hope to use it as your sole source of understanding exposure, in my estimation, this will be difficult at best.
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I read through this hoping to get some advanced tips on exposure in difficult lighting, but there really wasn't anything earth shattering. It is good fundamental information about exposure for beginners and there were a couple useful tips about taking your exposure off the sky and one off of green foliage, but that was about it.

There was also a lot of talk about depth of field and shutter speed. Yes, I understand that they are interrelated in that changing your aperture increases depth of field and also affects exposure. The same relationship goes for shutter speed, but it turns the book into more of a general photography 'how-to' and less of a discussion about exposure. If I had read the table of contents, I would have seen that, but oh well. What would have been really great is to list every challenging scenario that deals with getting proper exposure and then listing out one or more ways to tackle it: low light indoors, candle light, mixed lighting, when to use spot, centered and matrix metering, benefits of using a separate light meter and 'how-to', high-key and low-key shots, and a 100 other possible situations that may provide a challenge in getting proper exposure.

Another couple head scratchers are the dislike of using the histogram and the promotion of using f/22. The histogram can prove to be a very useful tool if you understand and use it correctly. A common tip is to 'expose for the highlights' which the histogram helps you do by highlighting the blown out parts of your photo. 'Expose to the right' is also another good tip, which can't be followed without using a histogram. Not histogram related, but another common rule is the 'Sunny 16' rule. No mention of that either.

Regarding the aperture of f/22, his photo example was of a tree waaayyy off in the distance. For that particular photo, f/22 was probably okay, but if you are looking at capturing some nice detail up close (in the foreground), diffraction can be a real issue depending on the lens, camera sensor size and pixel density. I try to stay above f/11 and the lowest I go is f/16. If I need greater depth of field, I do focus stacking and blend them. It can vary from lens to lens and is less obvious on larger sensors, so it may not be that big of a deal with his expensive lenses and full frame camera, but I can tell an obvious difference with mine on a crop sensor. Is a book about exposure really the place for a soapbox about aperture/depth of field anyway?

The book does provide an understanding of exposure, but its not a terribly advanced book and I think the heavy discussion about depth of field and shutter speed makes this more of a general photography book than a book about exposure. There are also a couple items that I disagree on, plus it misses out on providing some actual useful information about exposure in difficult lighting. If you are not a complete beginner and looking for a more in depth look at exposure, check out Michael Freeman's Perfect Exposure: The Professional's Guide to Capturing Perfect Digital Photographs.

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on August 11, 2010
Awhile back, while reading all the positive reviews of earlier versions of this book, I saw that a new version was soon to be released, and I decided to wait for it. The book was received from Amazon yesterday on the release date!

After quickly leafing through and looking at all the great photos, I decided to start reading. A short while into the book, it occurred to me that "this is one of my favorite books"! And I was only on page 16!

I became something of a photo hobbyist many years ago with a film slr and got back into it a few months ago by buying a decent digital slr. A glance at the table of contents shows that the book covers the basics of exposure: aperture, shutter speed, iso, white balance, lighting, filters. So I'm reviewing the basics, but I think Mr. Peterson's insights would also be valuable to more advanced photographers.

I enjoy looking at the photos and trying to guess what the camera settings were. Mr. Peterson chose some gorgeous photos--by themselves they would be more than worth the price of the book--as examples of exposure principles.

I'm now on page 20, reading some great insights on ISO. Understanding Exposure, 3rd edition is a six-star book! If, when I finish reading it, I decide to subtract stars, I'll let you know. But I'd be very surprised! I'm looking forward to the read and to improving my creative skills.
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