Monday, June 13, 2016

Understanding Exposure

4 stars

I studied photography for most of my life, my photography bio on any of my pages states that I started at the age of 13 and never looked back. I saved up all my birthday and Christmas money for two years to buy my first SLR and went on to receive a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Photography. A few years after graduating I hit a bit of a slump. Life got harder and I tried to work photography into my schedule at every opportunity, I still do, but it's difficult to play around with your camera settings and move into a deeper field of vision with your work when you only have so much time for photography. You have to go with whatever lighting handed to you during your free time and when a three year old keeps jumping in the shot, it makes producing and real body of work nearly impossible.

There is a lot of emotion in art. When you're not in the mood, it's just not going to happen. Nothing will turn out right, nothing will seem satisfying and the easiest thing to do is give up.

It's difficult for a single mom to do anything, and being enthusiastic about creativity while trying to find out who's paying the bills? Forget it. I've been uninspired and frankly uninterested in producing more mediocre bodies of work when a babysitter costs money I don't have and my child tries to run every time I turn my back for five seconds to take a shot. 

I spent so much time working on my art, so much time studying the subtle changes in contrast, lighting, and composition and it all seemed wasted for so long. I guess I needed a kick in the pants to not give up entirely and to look forward to what can become of my artwork. So I picked up this book. Not necessarily for inspiration, but to remind me of what can be done with a simple change in camera settings so I can quickly and more readily get the exposure I desire while still keeping track of a rambunctious three year old.

Understanding Exposure is a technical manual designed to help photographers get back to the basics of SLR cameras. I was hoping the book would touch a bit on basic cameras like point and shoots or iPhones, just to acknowledge them in the context of 'any camera' in the statement that this book will aid you in taking great photos with any camera, but this book is strictly a guide for photographers using professional equipment.

Art comes from all forms and in all mediums. I understand this book is directed at traditional photography equipment, so if you're like me and love to whip your phone out at every opportunity, I would say you're better off with a book about composition/lighting, or a book with a good debate about what is art and how to find your artistic vision. 

If you're looking for something to inspire you, I suppose in a way this book is inspiring in such that it gives you the building blocks to create more complex and compelling images. This is a start up lesson in all the functions of the camera. It will require a bit of study if you're unfamiliar with a camera, but everything you need is there and well defined.

I do have to disagree on one point, the author explains white balance and suggests you get the white balance correct in shot, but it can always be fixed in photoshop. There are handy fixes photoshop allows and it's a fantastic tool to give life to a photograph, but extremely incorrect white balance cannot be fixed in photoshop. The white balance always needs to be close to on point. If you fix anything in photoshop that requires an extreme change the photo will appear grainy, sometimes blurry and the work is ruined. 

Other than that, this book is a very useful tool as a reminder of how the camera works, how different settings can affect a photo in camera, and I really appreciated the flash tips, because photographing with flash is difficult and takes years of study to get it right. I prefer all natural lighting and photographing landscapes/waterscapes, not only to avoid artificial flash, but because that's where my heart lies. Still, I do occasionally do portraiture for friends and family so learning about the flash is very helpful.

Beauty comes in all forms and sometimes from the most unique places. Photographers have fought a long, hard battle to have their work recognized as true art, and believe me, if you put a camera in the hands of an artist of another medium and have a good old competition to see who turns up the better work of art, they will succeed their previous views on whether photography is a true art form. There is a lot of work put into each photo, so much that needs to be addressed before hitting that button. It's not just dumb luck and being in the right place at the right time. It takes time and study and practice and most of all it takes heart.

Understanding Exposure is a useful tool for any photographer, even if you're just brushing up on your skills. Its good to step back and have a second look at your work and the way you work. I'm going to give the book another read and make a plan for my next shoot. Now I just have to get out there and get going again...

This book was given to me for review by Blogging for Books.

About the Author of Understanding Exposure

BRYAN PETERSON is a professional photographer, an internationally known instructor, and the best-selling author of Understanding ExposureUnderstanding Shutter Speed,  Learning to See CreativelyUnderstanding Digital Photography, and Beyond Portraiture. In addition, he is the founder of the online photography school The Perfect Picture School of Photography ( He lives in Chicago.
I do have a webpage for my photography, but I never really share my work anymore as I am still revising my purpose for my art. Since I just reviewed a book on photography however, I think now is as good a time as any to share a bit. My last gallery exhibition was several years ago. I won a few awards while in college, one just after graduating, none since having the little one. I have a body of work called Fallen that I'm still working on and plan to exhibit some day when it's finished. It's just not quite there yet (says the perfectionist). So here is some of my work, some are with a DSLR, some are from my iPhone. 
I am a firm believer that art is art, no matter the format or medium used. I am a huge fan of my iPhone. The cameras have improved tremendously and it's a great outlet for creating art while out and about with my son. It's a very useful tool that can create some fantastic images. All art needs is a willing participant with a vision and a tool, no fancy, expensive equipment required.
If you want to see more of my iPhone photography, I post iPhone photos only on instagram (@chasingthewindphoto)
Though I do plan to create a collection of my iPhone works to display.

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