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Book Review: Mastering Exposure

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Book Review: Mastering Exposure
David Taylor

The definitive guide for photographers

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One of Keith’s Photography book reviews

Photography is about light, and if there was one area many photographers should take more care with, then it’s how much light you let into the camera.

It’s one of those basics that camera automatic systems try and do for you, but it’s probably the single best area to understand if you want to improve your photography.

A book that’s for people bitten by the photography bug, who are realising that there’s so much more than ‘Auto’.

Book details
  • Pub date: April 2016
  • ISBN-13: 9781781452059
  • Author: David Taylor
  • Price: £19.99
  • No. of pages: 176
  • Photos: Includes 200 photographs
  • Dimensions: 248 x 248mm
mastering exposure book

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Mastering Exposure – getting the light right

As someone who teaches people to take better photos, one of the key areas I try and impress on them is that if you don’t get the exposure right in your photo then at best you are making more work for yourself in post processing and at worst you’re not going to get a usable picture.

Of course with modern cameras much of this is automated, and to be fair, under ‘normal’ conditions your camera metering will often do a good job.

The difficulty comes when conditions are not quite ‘normal’, whether strong backlighting or perhaps a stunning sunset.

Under these conditions it really helps to understand the basics of how your camera records the light coming in to it and how that affects the image you’ll see.

Add to that the different effects of changing aperture or shutter speed and camera light sensitivity (ISO) and it can easily seem that there is so much to learn that you might as well stick to auto.

As a working photographer I have to know this stuff at an intuitive level, and I think I do – could I learn new things from a book I’d very happily recommend to the more advanced amateur level?

Oh and to a few supposed ‘pro’ photographers, but we won’t go into that… ;-)

Book Contents

The book starts with a concise overview of camera equipment which is general enough not to immediately date what’s there. All photos have exposure settings information and lens focal length, which I’ll assume is 35mm equivalent but I didn’t notice as stated anywhere?

  • Chapter 1 – Equipment
  • Chapter 2 – Exposure Basics
  • Chapter 3 – Controlling Exposure
  • Chapter 4 – Creative exposure
  • Chapter 5 – Practical Exposure
  • Chapter 6 – Filtration
  • Chapter 7 – Flash
  • Chapter 8 – Postproduction

RRP in the UK is £19.99

The quality of the images is generally very high and the choices give a good feel for how different aspects of exposure are important for different image subjects and conditions.

Some of the smaller images showing the effects of things like ISO setting (p53) and noise (p54) simply don’t show differences clearly enough for my liking. The fact that I needed to put on my extra strong reading glasses and  view in bright light suggests to me that the images may have looked fine as examples on the screen, but when printed, don’t quite make the impact they should.

To be fair, these are minor quibbles since the image print quality is one consistent feature I do like about the ‘Mastering’ series of books.

I was pleased to see a mention of the Zone System (p92) something that even in this digital age, is well worth taking the time to appreciate. Related to this is the useful note about ETTR (‘expose to the right’) for maximising image quality in certain conditions. It’s an exposure mode I’d love to see more direct camera support for, as well as true RAW histograms (both studiously ignored by camera makers for far too long IMHO).

There are so many different aspects of exposure in photography that I appreciate the balance between covering an area such as macro (p120) or video (p123) in enough detail to pique readers interest, but not in such detail as to lose the more general reader.

Using the book

A nice book to get a feel for the subtleties that understanding exposure can give your photography.  As well as a more solid read through, there were more than enough photos that I could skim through and stop at ones grabbing my attention. Whether you take a methodical approach or just look for ways of improving some aspects of your photography it should be of help.

Even if you use a bit of automation in your exposure settings, then learning about exposure compensation can improve things and help you move away from fully auto working.

There’s nothing wrong with just trying out aperture or shutter priority mode – the key thing is that you are starting to  think more about how your camera works and in doing that you tend to think more about the end result you are after. Thinking about the end result tends to make you think more about what you want before even picking up the camera.

As I said, much of this is intuitive for me – take time to understand some of the technical stuff, and you will find that you are thinking less about the mechanics of apertures and shutter speeds and more about creating photos.

Did I learn something new?  Yes, but that’s now an idea for an article here on the site ;-)

Book Contents Page


Book Cover

mastering exposure book

Publisher’s author info

David Taylor is an award-winning landscape and travel photographer, who was born and raised in Newcastle upon Tyne and now lives in the ancient market town of Hexham, Northumberland. He took his first photograph at the age of 14, when his parents gave him a Kodak Instamatic for Christmas, and he has been taking photographs ever since. David’s work has taken him all over the world, from the sun-kissed beaches and aqua seas of Zanzibar to the bright chill of northern Sweden in the depths of winter. But his first love remains the wild countryside and rugged coastline of his home county of Northumberland, which he has photographed extensively, and which he continues to delight in exploring. David has also written and contributed to more than twenty books about photography and photography techniques, some of which have been translated into French, Spanish and Chinese.

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