Understanding Photography Field Guide – Book Review

Over the past few years, I have given much praise to Bryan Peterson’s book, Understanding Exposure, as a practical resource for anyone looking to get more out of his or her camera.  It is, in my opinion, the best book for anyone new to DSLRs.  In the same vein, I can highly recommend Peterson’s new book, Understanding Photography Field Guide.

For my take on why this book is so great, read on.

To give an idea of the overall contents of the book, here’s a list of the included chapters:

  1. A Few Digital Basics
  2. Exposure
  3. Aperture
  4. Shutter Speed & ISO
  5. Learning to See
  6. Designing a Striking Image
  7. The Importance of Light
  8. Close-Up Photography
  9. Photographing People
  10. Unconventional Techniques
  11. Useful Tools

Peterson covers a lot of ground in just a little under 400 pages.  However, he does so effectively, addressing important photographic concepts with analogies and metaphors that make some of the more difficult concepts easier to comprehend.

Like Understanding Exposure, his new Field Guide is geared toward the novice or budding enthusiast, who still doesn’t quite have all the arrows in his or her photographic quiver.  If you are looking for advanced flash techniques (or, really, any flash techniques), keep moving along.

Peterson approaches the fundamental photographic concepts from his own artistic experience, but does so in a way that doesn’t do harm to the principles.  As previously alluded, Peterson is all about available light, and those basic concepts are taught within such parameters.  However, the basics are still the basics, and you’ll be able to apply those basic notions to any type of available or artificial lighting situation in the future.

Peterson speaks throughout the book in a warm, friendly tone.  After a few dozen pages, you feel like he’s your own personal mentor and pal, guiding you through your photographic journey.  The chapters are broken up into to small chunks, making it easily to digest in a number of short sittings.

Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide seems to be a culmination of many of his books to date, such as Understanding Exposure, Understanding Shutter Speed and Learning to See Creatively.  I see bits and pieces of each of these books in the new Field Guide, with Understanding Exposure being the core inspiration of the material.  Being a “field guide” though, it’s a physically smaller book than his other books, which makes it nice for carrying in a camera bag or backpack.

Due to the length of the new Understanding Photography, it will take a bit more commitment from the reader.  As a result, if you haven’t quite been bitten by the photography bug, but you really do want to make better photos with the camera that you’ve got, I still recommend Understanding Exposure as essential reading.

The Understanding Photography Field Guide is the book for enthusiasts who haven’t quite grasped the fundamental concepts in photography.  The good thing, however, is that after you’ve read the book, you’ll have a whole new world awaiting you on the other side of the lens.  If you have just bought your first DSLR, or will be soon, this book should serve you well.  Highly recommended reading.

At the time of this review, you can find Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide for around $16 on Amazon.com.



  1. Matt Farias says

    I have to agree, this is an excellent book jam packed with a lot of information and ideas. It does not speak to you in techno-speech as if you are reading a camera manual. In fact I have been recommending this book to a small group of woman who have been having problems understanding their camera and camera settings. I have been using some of the exercises to help explain their issues with camera settings.

    So yes I highly recommend this book for any person just starting out to a person already a 10 year veteran of photography. There is information to cover many levels.

  2. Dan says

    So would you recommend this book Over “Understanding Exposure” for a beginner? I was very active in film SLR photography back in high school and college. Went to a P&S after marriage and family. I am getting my first digital SLR for Christmas (D90) and want to get into creative aspects of nature and travel photography. I am rusty on all my skills and will need to review. Which book would you recommend?

    • says

      Dan – I think either book would serve you fine. Since you have some experience, this field guide might serve as a better refresher b/c of the layout, but again, either one would get you there.