I love Bryan Peterson!...

There, I said it and I don't care if the entire world knows.


I just finished reading his latest book Understanding Shutter Speed, which is the companion book (part 2) to Understanding Exposure and was blown away.

But before I get into the new book (Shutter Speed), let me talk about Understanding Exposure, as it is a must for anybody getting into photography, (any photographer really), and is the building block on which his latest book was built.

Learning photography can be a bit overwhelming with all that makes up a good picture - ISO, shutter speed, and aperture (what Bryan calls the "photographic triangle") to name just a few of the variables. It's much like learning to drive a standard shift car, not only do you have both feet and both hands going, you have to do it in the right sequences, and all while watching the road and the other cars on it. A bit overwhelming, and if it doesn't go well at first, you don't want to do it again. And if you don't have a good teacher, you'll never do very well and forever stall at stop lights.

Well, with Understanding Exposure if Bryan was teaching you how to drive, you would be doing it like Mario Andretti.

It starts with first chapter "Defining Exposure" - "what is meant by exposure" where Bryan explains exactly what an exposure is, and how for every situation there are six correct exposures, but only one creatively correct exposure.

Then he moves on to chapters on "Aperture", "Shutter Speed", "Light" and ends with "Special Techniques".

And it's not just the topics that are covered, but how they are covered. In each chapter you will find the following:

1. Thorough and thoughtful explanations of the chapter topics, presented in a way that if this were the first time you ever picked up a camera you would never feel lost or confused. It's one thing to know a lot about a subject, it's another thing to be able to share it with others and few do it as well as Bryan Peterson.
2. Each chapter is filled with Bryans stunning images, with multiple examples of the point he is trying to make. Not only does he provide you with every camera setting that was used to create the image, he tells you from where within the image he metered from. It is one thing to read a point a person is trying to make, it is another to actually see it.
3. The final piece to each chapter (I think the most important) are the exercises. For every point Bryan is trying to drive home, there are accompanying hands on exercises where you have to take your camera, the book and apply the things you just learned before moving on to the next subject/concept.

It just doesn't get any better than this book. I believe this to be one of the (if not THE) best book for learning photography I have ever read.

So when Understanding Shutter Speed came out this month I was wondering what to expect, much like when the sequel comes out for your favorite movie, you're fearful that that there is no way it can be as good as the first one, and you'll just wind up being disappointed.

When I read this in the books introduction - "All of the known techniques for capturing, conveying, and creating movement in a single still photograph are covered in this book in a simple, clear, and concise format, with examples taken from dawn to dusk, and into the dark of night..." I could not wait to read on.

And I was not disappointed, not even close.

He shows you how to take photographs in all of these different lighting situations without ever using an ISO above 400, in fact rarely above ISO 200.

Speaking of ISO, Bryan gives one the best explanations of ISO I have read, he compared it to carpenters building a house, that 400 carpenters may be able to build a house faster than 100, but 400 carpenters will also make much more noise while doing so.

One of (the many) valuable lessons he provides in this book is that "1. You will always attain the fastest possible shutter speed at any given ISO when you use the largest possible lens opening, and 2. you will be able to attain the slowest possible shutter speed at any given ISO by using the smallest possible lens opening." There is much more that goes with this statement, but you'll have to buy the book to find out what it is.

The chapters include "Shutter Speed Facts & Myths", "Fast & Moderates Speeds", "Slow Speeds" and more. And like the first book there are easy to understand explanations of the different shutter concepts, Bryans beautiful photography to reinforce those concepts, and more of those important hands on exercises meant to be the final piece of the learning puzzle.

Someone can explain to you how to drive a standard shift car, and you may fully grasp and understand what needs to be done, but until you actually get behind the wheel, you can't drive a car. Photography is no different, reading is one thing, doing is another.

I read Understanding Shutter Speed from cover to cover in one sitting (which as kinda easy as it has way more pictures than words) and then read it a second time, taking the time to stop and do the exercises.

Information is power, and with these two books Bryan Peterson will make you feel like a king.

My dog-eared copy of "Understanding Exposure"


Nikki said...

I absolutely love Understanding Exposure. I have devoured it several times and continue to go back to it again and again as a refresher. I cannot wait to get the new one. Thanks for the review!

Candace said...

Thank you for the reviews, I will buy the Exposure book today. Have you also read his book: "Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography"? I was wondering what you think of that one too.

Amanda said...

I was actually looking at this book and debated buying it. Thanks for your review!

Al said...

Wow... I cannot and will not EVER understate the fact that Understanding Exposure is by FAR my most FAVOURITE Photography resource in the history of all history... (please forgive blatant use of superlatives) I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of the Sequel.. and here in NZ we are big on Sequels - heck we film many of them here! The two Towers, return of the King... :)

Thanks for the review!

Julie M said...

Thanks, Scott. I see now that I need to get a companion for my lonely copy of Understanding Exposure.

Anonymous said...

Hi Scott, I love Bryan too! I was fortunate enough to take classes with him at his online school PPSOP and did the NYC workshop with him as well. I totally give him credit to my success as a photographer. His books (I own them all!) unlocked any mystery I had about my camera. His teaching style is AMAZING. Not only that, but he is so down to earth and willing to share his knowledge. Thanks for writing about him :)

pixzen said...

Thanks for the review. I'll have to check it out.

Macimus-X said...

"Understanding Exposure" is surely a gem in the world of photography. I have read the book thoroughly cover to cover several times, and I learned so many "basics" that enlightened my mind such as the question Bryan heard more often than any other - "Hey Bryan, what should my exposure be?" which is what I may ask Bryan personally myself. I could say that the most I learned from him is - learn to shoot in manual exposure mode- set your lens opening, focus on your subject and adjust your shutter speed until it gives you a "correct" exposure in your viewfinder, and shoot. However, given a chance to talk to him, I have several observation for him and one is this - correct exposure is a simple combination of the photographic triangle but it seems that the book didn't gives so much discussion or importance on ISO. It seems that ISO is left behind. I'm trying to get it because I know that it is an factor to really have a correct exposure.

Miguel Palaviccini said...

I absolutely agree with your statement - "I believe this to be one of the (if not THE) best book for learning photography I have ever read."

Just yesterday I went out to shoot with my cousin (and his newly acquired d3000). The goal of this shoot wasn't to get stunning images, but instead to introduce him to exposure, how to control it, and how to know what the camera is thinking. As I started explaining things to him, I saw the all too familiar look that I would give professors when they talked about a subject for the first time.

Although he was 100% confused (probably because of the rate that I gave information out), he kept asking questions to clarify as much as possible. I kept thinking ... "just wait until you open your christmas present .. it will all make sense". Needless to say, I bought this book for him over a month ago knowing that it would be the PERFECT present for a beginner. No piece of equipment is going to get him the shots that he can get after he reads this book.

One of the things that I like about this book is that it gives you BOTH recipes to take great shots AND explains the WHY. Absolutely essential for someone who wants to go out and use their creativity to get some stunning images.

I just noticed that Bryan Peterson released the third edition of this book. I wonder what he changed?

half blind said...

Just ordered a copy of Understanding Exposure and can't wait to read it. Thanks Scott!

Guest blog said...

Cool post I found here.

Calin said...

This was probably one of the first books a beginner should read besides Scott Kelby's 4 volume digital photography.