Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

date Sep 17, 2008
authors Bryan Peterson
reading time 3 mins
  • Book Title: Understanding Exposure - How to shoot great photographs with a film or digital camera
  • Author: Bryan Peterson
  • Year written/published: 2004
  • Book Source: Google Books, Library
  • My Comments: being armed with a new digital camera, i have found the greatest pleasure comes in the ultimate control of the exposure for each photo we take… Bryan Peterson has been really clear in his explanation. It has been an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone with a DSLR!
  • Contents page
    1. Defining Exposure
    2. Aperture
    3. Shutter Speed
    4. Light
    5. Special Techniques and filters
    6. film vs digital

Some extracts:

heart of exposure…

aperture, shutter speed and ISO (film/digital sensor) is the heart of every exposure.

6 possible correct exposures vs one creative exposure…

That’s 6 possible correct exposures for the scene - 6 possible combinations of aperture and shutter speed that will all result in exactly the same exposure. … Clearly a picture of crashing surf taken at f/4 and 1/500 sec would capture action stopping detail of the surf as it hits the rocks; a correct exposure using f/22 at 1/15 sec would capture less action stopping detail and show the surf as a far more fluid and wispy, somewhat angelic element. The creative appraoch toward exposure will reap countless rewards if you get the habit of looking at a scene and determining of aperture and shutter speed will render the most dynamic and creative exposure for that subject.

depth of field and aperture…

… at wide open aperture of f/4, the sunflower is isolated - in effect, it’s all alone - but at f/16, due to increase in the dpeth of field, it has quite a lot of (background) company.

story-telling composition… focusing all objects from near to far…

… relies on maximum depth of field, you would first choose to set your aperture to f/22 and then align distance above your distane-setting mark on the lens. 

“who cares?” apertures..

apertures from f/8 to f/11 are often the sharpest and offer the greatest contrast in exposure. 

shutter priority…

there are 2 situations in which you should make the shutter speed your first priority: when you find the scene offers motion or action opportunities, or when you find yourself shooting in low light wihtout tripod.

freezing any moving object…

when you want to freeze any moving object, you need to consider 3 factors: the distance between you and the subject, the direction in which the subject is moving and your lens of choice.


panning is a technique photographers use in which they deliberately move the camera parallel to - and at the same speed as the action.Most often, slow shutter speeds are called for panning, i.e. form 1/60 sec. down to 1/8 sec.


3 preliminary lighting conditions - front lighting, side lighting and back-lighting. Backlight is favoured by experienced landscape shooters, as they seek out subjects that by their very nature are somewhat transparent: leaves, seed heads, dew drops, spider webs to name a few. Backlight always provides a few exposure options: you can either silhoutte the subject against the strong backlight, or meter for the light that’s usually on the opposite side of the backlight, or meter for the light that’s illuminating the somewhat transparent subject.