Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson

Subtitled: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

The subtitle says it all. This isn’t so much a how-to for working a camera in manual mode, but to help photographers understand more the ins and outs of doing so to get creative shots. I’ve been reading this book on and off since last December. First, I got it from the library on the recommendation of half a dozen photographer friends. Then I realized my then-camera didn’t have any way to work in manual mode, and I returned the book. When I did get a better camera, I checked it back out, and basically kept putting it on hold again until my friend Maricruz bought me my own copy for my birthday. Since then, I’ve read snippets here and there as the year went by.

There were a lot of reasons for my off-and-on reading, but two were primary. The first was that some of the information in this book is more advanced than I am as a photographer, so I found parts of it difficult to follow along. The author uses a different camera brand than mine, and there were things his (more expensive) camera could do that mine can’t. Some of those things I just skipped over, but others, I was left trying to understand the rest of the lesson. Sometimes, I simply couldn’t, and the lesson would go over my head, because I don’t have the technological knowledge to understand without something I could see or do. There were also places where the author just didn’t explain very well. For example, the first 18 pages, he kept talking about adjusting the shutter speed until you have the “correct exposure,” but didn’t explain until page 18 what he meant by “correct.” That made it very difficult** to follow all the information that came before that explanation, because it was all predicated on understanding what he meant by “correct.” I had to go back and start over again once I had a real explanation.

The second reason was related. So yes, there was some more advanced stuff in this book that went over my head, but there was also just a lot of…bad writing. The author may be a brilliant photographer, and for all I know, he’s an excellent teacher. I learned a lot from the book, and if someone asked me for a good reference book for starting in photography, I would definitely recommend this one. However, the author is NOT a good writer. The example I gave above – explaining something 18 pages after we need to understand it – is one kind of bad writing. A second involved cramming a lot of information in at the end of the book and having no conclusion to speak of. A third was the very cringy jocular tone used throughout. I don’t imagine the guy’s intention was to come off sounding misogynist, condescending, patronizing, and “aren’t I the greatest?” but it does. There was a lot of secondhand embarrassment as I read. It was truly awful, and so I could only take small dips into the book over time.

I know that makes the book sound horrid, but that’s the thing. It’s this kind of book that made me quit rating books back in my early days of book blogging. If I was rating this book on its value of information, it would be a 4.5 out of 5 stars. If I was rating it for the author’s voice, the copywriting errors, and the general ability to convey the information in a timely manner, it would be a 1-star read. In other words, I feel like the book is 100% a good book to read, but you’ll just have to put up with some garbage in order to get to the good stuff. I say that as someone who took a year to read the book, and who will now put it on my shelf and go back to it to both refer to and reread in the future as I learn more about photography. It is a great resource, and I don’t regret the read. I only wish someone else had written it.

**It didn’t help that at this point, I was still learning how to use my camera, and didn’t even know how to focus the lens in manual mode. I think I originally needed something a bit more basic than this book to start!

About Amanda

Agender empty-nester filling my time with cats, books, fitness, and photography. She/they.
This entry was posted in 2021, Adult, Prose, Visual and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Understanding Exposure, by Bryan Peterson

  1. Pingback: How to Take Awesome Photos of Cats, by Andrew Marttila | The Zen Leaf

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