observed by Diane » photo journal for those who enjoy vignettes of an ordinary life

Grab the Reins to Learn Camera Exposure

I can credit one book for helping me move from a rank amateur with lots of interest in photography, yet lacking in technical skills, to an amateur who finally understands how to get the most out of her camera. This one book slapped the reins in my hands enabling me to turn my little DSLR into a real workhorse.


I’ve loved photography since I was a little girl, mesmerized by the little Brownie box camera with the leather handle my parents used. Life moved forward and I focused my creative side on writing. Photography, though still a creative outlet I loved, got left behind. That changed a few years ago.

When I finally made the decision to get serious about improving my photography skills, there were roadblocks. Where I live I don’t have the benefit of access to professional photography workshops or classes though I did take an intermediate course that helped me more with post processing than anything else. I felt a void because my goal had been to become adept at maximizing my use (and understanding) of my camera’s controls.

I tried a few online forums but got absolutely nowhere because of attitude (I should KNOW those things, don’t you know). That was the whole point: I asked those questions because I was trying to learn and decipher how to fully understand the specific details about correct exposure. Someone with less attitude recommended a book that was sure to answer my questions, so I ordered it, and voila! That book made everything perfectly clear to me.

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Cameraby Bryan Peterson was the single most significant tool that helped me better understand exposure and how to get the most out of my camera. By the time I finished the first chapter, the questions I had been asking not only were answered but he taught it in such a way that I had no more confusion about f-stops and lens opening (and determining the best exposure without it being guesswork). As I progressed through the chapters, I learned how to achieve certain effects with my camera and experimented more (while understanding what I was doing). Peterson also had suggested exercises in each chapter to encourage the reader/photographer to try out the different lessons and to expand your capabilities. With the positive reinforcement that came as a result of trying his exercises, there really was no place to go but forward! I highly recommend this book (now available as an updated version) if you wish to better understand exposure, to get the most out of your camera (whether it’s film or digital), and to improve your technical skills with any camera.

Copyright © Diane M. Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © Diane M. Schuller. All Rights Reserved.

I still use the same entry level DSLR but I know I’m getting the most out of it. I’m still hoping to get a professional level camera like so many others have, but I’m comfortable that my little camera is like a little draught horse working his haunches off for me. The only reason I’m getting so much out of my little camera is due solely to what I’ve learned in an earlier version of Understanding Exposure.

That said, photography – like any creative art form – is a lifelong learning process. I still make mistakes but at least I know what I should be doing. 🙂 We never stop learning and growing with the art.

Have you found a book that helped move you forward in any particular task or other part of your life? Or, if you are also an amateur photographer, what have you found to be the most helpful in moving your skills forward?

Diane is a lifestyle photographer serving Grande Prairie & Northern Alberta. Visit Diane Schuller Photography.

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