Understanding Exposure – Book Review

Understanding Exposure is a book by Bryan Peterson that teaches the basic elements of exposure and is now in its 3rd edition.  As was the case the prior two editions, the 3rd edition of Understanding Exposure provides the novice photographer with easy-to-read chapters and great information overall.

Peterson really breaks down the nuts and bolts of what goes into making a well-exposed image at the beginning of the book.  Then he delves a little deeper into the creative aspects of aperture and shutter speed – and how you can use these settings to make a “creatively correct” exposure.

Peterson provides several useful metaphors as he explains the components of exposure.  He generally speaks with authority while maintaining a warm and friendly tone.  The book is broken up into bite-sized chunks that can be read a page or two at a time.  This also makes it easy to go back to a specific section dealing with, say, backlight and brush up on your technique and understanding.

This is the book for first-time DSLR owners.  However, it is also a book that will help you be a better photographer with any camera.  Even compact cameras nowadays have powerful custom controls – and Peterson’s Understanding Exposure will help you get the most of those settings.

Mostly, the 3rd edition just serves as an update to the 2nd edition by addressing the technology in today’s digital cameras and adding/swapping a number of the example images.  I’m totally ok with this, as the core content of the previous editions is rock solid and truly on needed the slight update to address newer camera technology.

Near the end of the book, Peterson briefly touches on HDR photography and use of TTL fill flash.  While these sections are certainly competent introductions to these topics, I would recommend those interested in learning more about these two topics to look up Trey Ratcliff on Stuck in Customs for HDR training and Joe McNally’s books for TTL flash instruction.

In summary, if you own a camera and don’t fully grasp the effect of aperture, shutter speed and ISO, Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure would be a great book to have on your shelf.  There’s really not much left to say, but to give Understanding Exposure a high recommendation for the beginning photographer.

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition is currently available on Amazon.com for around $16.



  1. Dan says

    In over 50 years as a photographer I have purchased countless numbers of manuals on the subject. Never before have I come across a book that has been such a total waste of money.

    A book that suggests exposure settings such as, ‘Brother Blue’ and ‘Mr Green Jeans’ is waste of paper. Added to that are some of the grainiest illustrations possible.

    Save your money.

    • says

      @Dan – I have to respectfully disagree with you. To the uneducated and inexperience photographer, I think this book is a wonderful resource for doing what the title says – understanding exposure.

      As noted in my review, it’s meant for the beginner and not those with 5 (or 50) years of experience behind the lens.