Understanding Shutter Speed - a Book Review

Understanding Shutter Speed – a Book Review


Understanding-Shutter-Speed-ReviewThis week a package containing Bryan Peterson’s new book – Understanding Shutter Speed arrived in my letter box from Amazon.

When I first saw it listed in the new release section I was a little skeptical that a book soley focussing upon one aspect of photography (shutter speed) was a book that I’d learn much from but as Peterson is the author of one of the best books going around on the topic of Photography (Understanding Exposure – a book that one of our forum moderators reviewed here) I thought I’d buy it anyway.

I’m glad I did. I’ll tell you up front – I’m giving this book a rating of 4 out of 5 stars. But let me tell you why.

The full title of this book is Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second and I found it to be a great companion book to Peterson’s previous book.

Sections in the book cover:

  1. Shutter Speed Facts and Myths – a short section with some good introductory ideas
  2. Fast and Moderate Speeds – Peterson walks us through different speeds and how they can be useful
  3. Slow Speeds – the longest section of the book which again looks at different speeds and how they can be use. He also covers panning, ‘painting’ with shutter speed and more
  4. Exposure Concerns – he covers filters, RAW, rear curtain flash sync and other matters of exposure
  5. Composition – some excellent basic composition teaching as it pertains to shutter speed

The highlight of the book for me is in the images included in and around the teaching. They serve as great illustrations of what is being taught and left me with lots of ideas for future shoots. The pictures come with good captions which talk you through what you’re looking at – something that I valued – perhaps even more than the main teaching in the book itself!

The teaching itself is good. Perhaps not quite as in depth or as authoritative as Understanding Exposure – but a good introduction to a topic that is vital for new photographers to get their heads around if they want to get out of Auto mode and learn to creatively control their cameras.

Who is this book for?

You’ve already heard me talk about beginners and I think that this book will help less experienced photographers more than those who already have a good grasp on concepts like Shutter Speed. Having said that – I found it to be a good refresher course of sorts and did come away from the book grateful for having read it despite having learned much of it previously.

If it was a choice between Understanding Shutter Speed and Peterson’s previous Understanding Exposure I would probably invest my money with the first and broader edition – but do think that most readers would also enjoy this one.


I’m going to give this one 4 stars out of 5. It’s not a book that covers all aspects of photography but for what it sets out to do it does very well.

You can get Understanding Shutter Speed from Amazon for $16.47 at present.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • ride no evo July 18, 2008 05:40 am

    I've got this book and well as understanding exposure, and a few others. I like the style of writing used by Peterson. I recently got a D300 for my birthday, with a new camera and the jump from canon to nikon I decided to re-read most of my books with camera in hand. I would go to a local park or coffee house and play with the new camera while I read. It was a great refresher and a great way to become familiar with a new camera. I also like to page thru these books occasionally to get some ideas on what/how to shoot for a weekend

  • Ed July 13, 2008 08:50 am

    Using the shutter speed can be a great way to shoot outside photos with flash at sunset of people photos.
    You can keep changing the shutter speed to let more light in the background as the sun is setting as you keep your F stop the same set for your flash output.

    Looks like a good book to have on hand..

  • Grant July 12, 2008 01:41 pm

    I bought this book last week too and have really found it useful - so useful that I just bought another two copies to give to family members for birthdays.

    I agree that it's probably best to buy it together with his other book - together they make good little bundle of photography advice.

  • Craig Lee July 12, 2008 05:32 am

    I've read the book as well and agree with your review. It is not as comprehensive as his Understanding Exposure book, but it is thorough within it's subject. It does give some good ideas and techniques that a photographer can play around with and have some fun.

    I particularly liked the fact that this book fully embraced digital photography. Understanding Exposure was originally written during the film era and was updated with a touch of discussion about digital. In this book he discusses RAW as well as post processing to a degree, which I feel compliments his subject matter well.