Book Review: Exposure Photo Workshop

(This is a re-post from my earlier blog, Voyages Around My Camera)

Wiley Publishing has produced a photo workshop series for a few years now, featuring books covering areas such as portraiture, infra-red and HDR photography. They have not stinted on the covering the essential skills, producing books on composition, lighting and exposure as well. A recent new release is the second edition of the Exposure Photo Workshop book by Jeff Wignall, the author of the bestselling, The Joy of Photography and The New Joy of Digital Photography, as well as many other books.

So why learn about exposure when your camera has a series of automatic settings? Understanding the basics of exposure–the interrelationship between ISO, shutter speed  and aperture–are the beginnings of moving your photography out of snap-shooting and into the realm of self-expression.  As Wignall explains it in the first chapter: The Art of Exposure: “Mastering creative exposure is about developing your ability to see your subject in terms of a finished image and to extract your image from the world around you.” In other words, learning to control exposure will help you create not just the photograph you see, but the photograph you imagine. Wignall explains what good exposure is, how it affects mood and gives initial tips on overcoming the difficulty of processing the final image to satisfy your own vision of what it should be.

In chapter 2, Exposure Controls: A Primer, Wignall guides the beginning photographer through understanding the various types of camera and the basics of exposure. He gives an overview of all the issues that will be dealt with in the following chapters.

In Measuring the Light you learn about the cameras through-the lens (TTL) metering, handheld meters and then discussing how meters are fooled and how to compensate for unusual situations. This chapter ends with an overview of the Zone System and how to evaluate a range of tones to decide correct exposures. The next two chapters deal with the relationship between lens aperture and depth of field, and then shutter speed and subject motion. Understanding these elements go a long way in helping you make the image you want.

By chapter 6 (page 146 – you are now about half-way through the book), you are encouraged to take all that you have learned and begin using camera modes that require you to think more about how your image will look. Wignall explains how auto and program modes work and then guides you into taking your camera off out of Automatic or Program mode and using the aperture preferred, shutter preferred, fully manual and then the various scene modes.

Most photographs are taken in natural daylight, and chapter 7 takes you into this realm. ‘Daylight’ is not as simple as it seems–light changes throughout the day and throughout the year, and this chapter helps you to understand white balance and how it affects the final image, and how it can be manipulated to help you achieve the effects you want.

Perhaps the most important chapter in the book, The Easy Way Out: Simplifying Diffiicult Situations covers lighting situations that challenge your camera meter. Sometimes your camera light meter can be  ‘fooled’ and this chapter shows how to compensate for these situations. It covers the use of  high dynamic range imaging ( HDRI), a technique in which an image sequence  is used to master high contrast. The use of  dramatic silhouettes, histograms (a display of the tone distribution) and the benefits of RAW format are also presented as methods to deal with high contrast conditions.

No book on exposure would be complete without entering the exciting world of night photography, using existing light (Chapter 9) and recording images when the light is influenced by a variety of weather phenomena (Chapter 10). These are conditions that can be challenging, but they often give the best lighting for truly dramatic photographs.

The closing chapter is devoted to the use of flash. Used without thought, flash can ruin a photograph , creating harsh light and deep shadows. Wignall guides you through use of the built-in camera flash, accessory flashes and how use of them, as well as introducing the use of multiple wireless flashes.

Each chapter in Exposure Photo Workshop ends with a simple assignment to help you understand and exercise an element of exposure. When you have completed the assignment you are invited to upload your images to  www.pwasssignments.com, an online community that allows you to get feedback, ask questions and comment on other photographs. Throughout the book, tips, cautions and inspirational ideas are hi-lighted, as well as  ‘x-ref’ notes that connect you to other parts of the book for more detailed information. The book is full of inspirational photographic examples and comparisons, with each photograph well captioned. To round out the book, it has a glossary of essential photographic terms and an extensive index.

Exposure Photo Workshop is packed with useful information and informative color photographs. Jeff Wignall’s style of writing is conversational and easy to read. Considering all the information this book provides, I would recommend it to beginners who want to better understand how exposure works and how to manipulate it to achieve the results you want. I would also recommend this book to intermediate photographers that want to firm up their knowledge of exposure. This is not a book for advanced amateurs or professionals, as the exposure techniques do not include studio lighting and advanced multi-flash shooting. However, I will soon be reviewing another book that has more on these elements of photography.

N.B. Disclosure: My copy of the book was provided free of charge by the Senior Publicist – Technology, John Wiley & Sons, Inc. As a green blogger, I recommend that all books be obtained through your local library first prior to consideration for purchase. Please see my disclaimer in the sidebar.

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