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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Photography: Taking It Up A Notch

Despite doing a lot of photography since 2005, I've never had any formal photography training. I've never taken a class, and the books that I've read have never stuck with me enough so that I felt like I really understood my camera and how it works. I've taken a lot of great photographs over the years, but they have all been taken with some or all of my camera's settings on auto. I've always known that I could take my photography to the next level if I learned to really utilize my camera's manual functions, and I've finally found a tool that is helping me to do just that.


At Powell's Books in Portland last year I picked up a copy of Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, and I was intrigued. I should have bought it right then, but I thought it might be just like other photography books I've picked up over the years: not really all that helpful. However, it stayed in the back of my mind until a couple of weeks ago when I finally bought it. It's probably the best investment in my photography I've made to date. After reading just the first chapter, I was comfortably shooting with my camera on manual for the first time.


It's possible to take great advantage of light and composition with your camera on auto, but using your manual settings gives you far more creative control over your images. I had always more or less understood shutter speed, but after reading the chapter in this book about aperture I was ready to go out in the field and experiment with getting correct exposures while manually setting aperture. One of things I learned is demonstrated in these two images. For the above photo, I isolated the grass by intentionally making the background fuzzy. In the photo below, by adjusting the aperture, I was able to get everything from the foreground to the distant background in focus.


I am now confidently shooting with all of my camera's settings on manual, and plan to leave my camera in manual mode most if not all the time. I look forward to exploring my new found understanding of photography and making more creative images while having full control of my exposure settings. I will as always continue to post photos here on my blog as I learn more and continue experimenting!

This book is far more understandable than other photography books I've read, as Peterson's great analogies of how the camera works and what the different settings mean are memorable. They stick with me in the field in a way that other photography advice I've read has not. I highly recommend this book to all you photographers out there that want to improve your own photos! Click the link below to read more about this fantastic book, and if you purchase through this link you'll also be helping to support this blog.

6 comments:

Lois Evensen said...

Nice images. We, too, have many photo books around here. My Honey consumes them and does a beautiful job with his many cameras. I should spend more time with them, too, and improve on the great images that my cameras take.

DaveOnFidalgo said...

I thought it was just me. I am a reasonably intelligent person. I have two degrees from major universities. Yet I find much of the terminology of photography baffling. When I look up the words, read manuals or check tutorials, more arcane terminology is used to explain them. I'll be taking a look at this book. Thanks.

Warren Baker said...

I did the same thing recently Monika :-) It does make make a big difference, especially with butterlfies :-)

Monika said...

Lois - It's worth the effort!

Dave - I know! I was frustrated by my seeming inability to understand photography. It's nice to have someone finally explain it in terms I understand. Let me know how you like the book!

Warren - I can imagine it's excellent knowledge for all types of macros. I can't wait for the butterflies and flowers to be out here....soon!

Katie Jones said...

Bryan Peterson is AMAZING! I've learned some cool tricks from him too (ask me about photographing feathers sometime. You'll be amazed!). He's certainly one photographer I sit up and pay attention to.

Photo Books said...

These photo books are becoming more and more popular. Alternative option to scrap-booking!