Written By T. Michael Testi
Most people know of Bryan Peterson's 2004 bestselling book Understanding Exposure in which he explores in detail the relationship of aperture, shutter speed, and how to achieve successful exposures in difficult situations. In his new companion volume, Understanding Shutter Speed, he takes on one of those aspects in depth: shutter speed.
Unless working with still life, every moment offers up the movement of a subject. How that subject is captured brings the moment back to us. In every situation there will be a number of ways to capture that image. The goal of Understanding Shutter Speed is to give you the knowledge to make the best choice. The book 160 pages and is contained in five chapters.
"Shutter Speed Facts & Myths" begins by explaining that within most picture-taking situations you have six possible combinations of f-stops and shutter speeds that will result in correct exposures. This does not mean that each will take the same image, but rather will result in six quality images, each with a different look and feel to it. Also discussed is the affect of ISO on images and how it applies to action photos.
"Fast and Moderate Speeds" examines how to freeze action and how shutter speed affects what you see in an image. Here the author takes you through a number of shutter speeds from 1/100 to 1/1000 and shows you what they really mean in relation to your picture. While moving to faster stops action, slower speeds can create more artistic looks and you will see what can be done when slowing things down a bit.
"Slow Speeds" notches things down even further by exploring speeds of 1/30 to ¼ of a second and how — when used with the panning of the camera and the movement of the camera to follow the central object in the image — you can slow it down while everything else is blurred.
You will also explore the use of a tripod and how it can be used to imply motion. You will see how to paint with shutter speeds, how motion zooming can be used to bring motion to a still object, how by attaching a camera to what is moving you can get a different perspective, how to photograph ghosts and angels, as well as how to work with dusk and low light situations requiring a second or more of exposure.
"Exposure Concerns" takes on the topic of white balance (WB) and how, especially if you are shooting digital Raw, that this is not as much of a concern as it is with film since you can adjust WB in post production. Other topics are long exposures and rear curtain flash sync, the use of filters, and how you can use under exposure to get better images once you get to post production.
"Compositions" is really about order, structure, and creativity. Here the author talks about the different choices that can be made to compose an image and how each of the choices will bring out emotion in the image. Along with the choices of point of view, subject, shutter speed, and exposure comes balance and tension. These, taken together, bring emotion to the image.
I found Understanding Shutter Speed to be every bit as important of a book as Understanding Exposure, especially for those who are just getting into photography. It is a very easy read and is well laid out with outstanding images and excellent image quality within the book. The book is, like its predecessor, oversized with glossy pages that make its quality apparent.
While I don't think there is much here that is not already known for well-seasoned photographers, the techniques that are used would be beneficial to someone who is teaching a course on the subject. Each area is examined in detail, and cross comparisons are made between like exposures.
If you want to deepen your understanding of photography (especially with the topic of shutter speeds), if you are just learning photography, or are an instructor who wants a good book to use to teach the subject, then I highly recommend Understanding Shutter Speed.