Understanding exposure

Photography has been around me ever since I was a kid. Some of my dad’s black & white photographs were framed on the walls of our home, and I can still see them when I close my eyes.

As it sometimes is with parents and kids, I therefore hated any idea of photography for a very long time.

I gave up on that hate when I got a bit older. In 2006 I bought a Nikon D40. This was the time when the entire world was buying Ixuses and similar compacts, and although cameraphones were starting to be a big hit, their image quality pushed them to be mostly a funny notion.

I chose the Nikon based on reviews — and the fact that I had access to my dad’s lenses. A no brainer, at that point in life. It was small, for a DLSR anyhow, and delivered tremendous quality compared to the compacts I’d been using before that.

I used it quite a lot, and kept it comfortably on the green icon for full auto. I had no idea about the other settings, and was mostly happy with the results. Most of the time, however, it took pictures just the way I didn’t want.

I moved on and bought a Nikon D5100. It was a huge leap forwards in all aspects, and I was able to get a few good lenses to go with it – a 35mm 1.8 and a 16-85mm - and they turned out to form a good combination. With the camera was a coupon, allowing free attending a lecture on how to get the most out of it. I decided to give it a go, and listened a professional photographer for three hours describe various things about the camera, and how to use them.

However, I still couldn’t get the camera to do my bidding. I searched for a book describing how to understand the various settings better.

Every source pointed towards Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Exposure. After reading that I began to understand aperture, shutter speed and ISO – and moved on to white balance, bracketing and metering. All those things were more or less unclear to me at the time, but Peterson was able to explain them well enough at first to form a mental image of the entire process.

I started to have control over the images produced. I was able to freeze movement when I wanted to and blur it when it felt suitable, understood how to produce and control bokeh, and was finally able to shoot in low light. I kept on loaning my dad’s full-frame camera, and noted the shortcomings of my own gear.

After some contemplation I bought a D800, and have been toting it around ever since. I notice going back to that book, every once in awhile, to check out some random detail. I’d recommend it to anyone interested in understanding their camera in more detail. It does a stellar job in describing the fundamentals of photography, (almost) regardless of the camera used.

2 thoughts on “Understanding exposure

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