Bryan F. Peterson Page 2

BFP: No, what I would say is that aperture is one of the two elements that have a tremendous impact on a creative exposure. The other is shutter speed, which has more to do with capturing motion. There is a phenomenal amount of motion in the world. Once you start tuning into it, you're going to want to call upon shutter speed to freeze action or imply motion. For example, say you want to blur a flowing waterfall or a speeding train. In both of these cases, shutter speed is your first concern. Keep in mind that in every single image there are seven correct exposures. Within those seven options, more than likely there is one that is truly creative, whether it gives you massive depth of field, no depth of field, freezing action, or implying motion.

JM: Is that to say there is always only one creatively correct exposure?

BFP: Oh no, usually there are two. It all depends upon what effect you are after and what is most important to you.

JM: Why do you think so many people struggle with these concepts?

BFP: They get a camera and are trained into thinking that this camera gives them the proper exposure. Also, cameras now have a confusing plethora of options when it comes to aperture. We no longer speak of whole stops; we now have third stops. Truth be told, if I shot an image at one f/stop and you shot it at a third under, it would take a high-contrast image to see the difference.

JM: Many compact digital cameras have f/8 as their largest f/number. Does this mean these cameras cannot get as extensive depth of field as cameras with f/22?

BFP: They can get more! F/8 is really the equivalent of f/32 on a larger camera.

Nikon F5, Nikkor 600mm lens, f/8 at 1/500 sec, Kodak Ektachrome E100 VS film.

JM: That's a nice advantage. Is there a downside?

BFP: Yes. On a digital point-and-shoot f/4 is more like f/11. This means that photographers are going to have a harder time isolating a subject such as a flower, causing the flower to be in sharp focus while the background goes blurry.

JM: Sometimes people talk about using a depth of field scale on the lens. I don't see this scale on my lens. Am I missing something?

BFP: You can thank the camera manufacturers for doing this disservice for you. You'll be hard-pressed to find a camera today with a depth of field scale on the lens. Some cameras now have an auto depth of field function that essentially replaces the depth of field scale. The drawback with this feature is that it does not work in the Manual exposure mode. It only works in Aperture Priority. But then, many SLRs have a depth of field preview function, which allows you to get a visual preview of what affect the aperture setting will have on depth of field.

JM: Do you only work in the Manual exposure mode?

BFP: No. In fact in the last year, after 33 years of working exclusively in the Manual exposure mode, I am beginning to embrace Aperture Priority. And, in a backdoor way, I am also able to get the shutter speed I want since I can choose the appropriate aperture for those times when I want to freeze motion. I've never used Shutter Priority. I know that some sports photographers and others may use Shutter Priority, but I don't do that, even when shooting a football game.

JM: How do you feel about relying on Program exposure modes?

BFP: It's not my job to tell someone it's wrong. But most people who shoot mainly in the Program mode feel frustrated at the lack of consistency. Until they read the first lesson (in my course) and learn how to set exposure manually, they are frustrated with their inability to duplicate consistent, creatively correct results.

JM: Have you ever missed a shot while calculating the most creatively correct exposure?

BFP: Oh, I am sure I have but I can't think of anything so memorable that, to this day, I am still lamenting the "loss" of that one shot since I didn't have the exposure set in time.

JM: When you're going for a creative, blurred motion photo, how many exposures does it take to get a good result? Do you ever get it in one take?

BFP: Sometimes you nail it in the first couple of frames but, man, is that ever rare. More often than not I shoot upward of 30-40 shots to get the one keeper. And, I have to tell you, if there is ever a time to embrace digital, this is it.

JM: To wrap it up, can you give us one common question you hear most often from students in your "Understanding Exposure" course at

BFP: Oh yeah, in fact I have been hearing it for years. And it goes like this: "Hey Bryan, what should my exposure be?" My answer is always the same, "It should be the creatively correct exposure." Then I ask them the more important question: "What is in this scene that you want to exploit--depth of field or motion?" Once they have determined the answer to this question, I am in a much better position to help them. Bottom line: Digital and film are exactly the same, just wearing different clothes. The essential principles surrounding aperture, speed, and ISO still apply and they are, in fact, fairly easy to work with, once you know a few simple tricks.