The Best Books to Read if You’re a Photographer

The Best Books to Read if You're a Photographer
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Regardless of the type of photography they do, most professional photographers will tell you that one way to get better is by learning from others.

There are many different ways to learn about photography–from reading books and blogs, and magazines all the way up to taking workshops at your local community college or university.

The best book for you will depend on what kind of photographer you want to be (or already are).

That’s why we’ve compiled this list: so that no matter where you are in your photographic journey, there is something here for you!

The Best Books to Read if You're a Photographer
The Best Books to Read if You’re a Photographer

In this article, we have compiled a list of some great books that cover various aspects of being a photographer, including tips for photographing.

Best Photgraphy Books

Best Beginner Photography Books

Complete Guide to Photography

This book is designed to teach amateur photographers the fundamentals of photography.

It will teach you all the functions of a professional camera and how to use them, and it includes sections on composition, creative techniques, and postprocessing.

Understanding Exposure By Bryan Peterson

Bryan Peterson’s “Understanding Exposure” is a #1 Amazon best-seller for photography references, and with good reason.

From composition through aperture and depth of field, Understanding Exposure both teaches the art to novices and reinvigorates the skills of pro photographers.

Along with providing problem sets to help you synthesize your knowledge, it also includes helpful analogies and illustrations.

Photoshop for Photographers: Training for Photographers to Master Digital Photography and Photo Editing By John Slavio

Beginner photographers need to be well versed in their photo equipment and software programs, as many people will expect you to have knowledge of Photoshop.

This book from the experts at Adobe is a great place for beginners with no experience with computer editing or photography to start.

Extraordinary Everyday Photography By Brenda Tharp And Jed Manwaring

This book encourages photography from new angles in the same places.

This book is written to help you bring your photography skills up a notch.

It offers tips on taking better pictures and understanding composition, lighting, shutter speed, aperture settings and more.

Better Photo Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro By Jim Miotke

This book by Jim Miotke will help you get into photography, whether with your cell phone or a DSLR.

Unlike other photography books for beginners, this one is not weighted down with technical, lengthy explanations.

Instead, it’s made up of quick tips to help photographers see an immediate difference in their images.

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50 Photo Projects – Ideas to Kickstart Your Photography By Lee Frost

Learning how to create images is a never-ending pursuit, and the best way to learn how to do it is by actually doing it.

50 Photo Projects helps you develop your skills as a photographer in an organized manner without waiting for inspiration or filling a portfolio with only standard shots.

Langford’s Basic Photography: The guide for serious photographers – Michael Langford

This helpful book has a variety of tips and principles for beginner photographers on how to capture images. The author breaks down concepts such as lighting, camera, and lens use in order to give you a better understanding of the process.

The book will take you through the entire process of being a photographer – how to edit, store, and organize your pictures; from there, it will show you how to print and present your work. It is a great starting point for photographers.

DSLR Photography for Beginners: Take 10 Times Better Pictures in 48 Hours or Less By Brian Black

Brian Black’s DSLR Photography for Beginners is a valuable resource to cover the basics of digital SLR cameras and give beginners a starting point.

The book offers a crash course on some of the topics you’d like to study more in-depth and currently holds the number one spot on Amazon’s top-rated Landscape Photography and Photography Equipment lists.

Brian is also a professional photographer with many international awards to his name. He spends much of his time traveling around the world, taking photos that are published commercially as well as working on personal projects.

The Digital Photography Book Box Set By Scott Kelby

The Scott Kelby books cover the art of photography across five volumes. The series aims to provide step-by-step instruction on getting your shots to look like pro-work and avoids long and tedious explanations in favor of clear instructions from an experienced photographer who shares his expertise throughout.

As you progress through the set, more detailed technical information is shared with clear explanations and lots of photos to show you what the end result should look like.

Best Books To Learn Photography

The Art of Photography By Bruce Barnbaum

The Art of Photography: An Approach to Creative Commercial Photography by John Barnbaum is an excellent read for any creative photographer.

While many books cover the technical aspects of photographing (composition, exposure, lighting), Barnbaum does not neglect the artistic side. He teaches readers how to tell their story through their lens rather than leaving that responsibility solely in the hands of the lab technician.

Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash By Bryan Peterson

This is an indispensable guide for every photographer. Flash photography can be a daunting task, but each chapter of Understanding Flash Photography simply breaks it down to the basics and offers useful insight about proper techniques and professional advice.

Peterson also gives you some invaluable tips when using natural light as well. I highly recommend this book to all photographers of any skill level or interest.

Photography: The Definitive Visual History

This book from photographer Tom Ang provides an exhaustive history of the medium. Whether you are looking to learn about photographic techniques or iconic works, this book has it all.

Picture Perfect Posing By Roberto Valenzuela

Shooting portraits can be one of the more difficult aspects of photography, and camera-friendly posing is an art form all on its own. Valenzuela Picture Perfect Posing handbook is a helpful resource for portrait photographers.

Film Is Not Dead By Jonathon Canlas

This book is an excellent resource for photographers who are interested in both 35 mm and medium format films: whether or not the film photography trend will have staying power remains to be seen, but this book’s coverage of both formats should help new photographers get started.

Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual By Henry Horenstein

The black and white photography book by author Michael Horenstein has been a staple on beginning photography course reading lists for decades.

As film cameras make a comeback, newcomers to the genre might want to consider picking up this manual about black and white photography that can be both challenging and rewarding.

The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets From One Of The World’s Top Shooters By Joe McNally

McNally dedicates a good portion of the book to explaining advanced techniques for taking great photos.

He shares valuable tips and tricks from within his industry profession, making this one of the best books to read if you want to learn photography.

McNally covers everything, including how he found success in becoming a photographer, all while sharing stories behind each photo.

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Night Photography & Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark By Lance Keimig

Nothing can compare to the wonder and magic of taking a marvelous night shot. Though technically challenging, no major skill is needed for brilliant shots if you follow author Keimig’s advice in his book.

Guide To Travel Photography By Lonely Planet

Transport yourself through some of the most breathtaking landscapes with this book. It shares useful tips, tricks, and advice from leading travel photographers to turn your snapshots into images worthy of our world’s finest destinations.

Best Theory Books in Photography

Photography Theory By James Elkins

Imagine if some of the world’s most famous art historians and theorists had a debate about photography.

Well, this book can take you there – but in animated form!

Not only is it a lively discussion around what exactly constitutes photography, but it also talks about various opinions on what that means.

Some people will define photos as an expression or a form of art, while others will say that it’s a snapshot or capturing the moment.

The Decisive Moment By Henri Cartier-Bresson

It’s not only street photographers who admire Henri Cartier Bresson for his unique style. The Decisive Moment, a book about street photography written by Bresson himself, is one of the most popular books on capturing the decisive moment in life and art–the moment that works perfectly as both.

Henri Bresson’s magical moment theory for photography states that all forms of art are created at the intersection of various elements. Incredible photographs come together at the convergence of these various interactive moments, allowing a photographer to capture them through an artistic composition process.

To achieve this goal, photographers must be discreet, fast, and attentive.

Beauty In Photography By Robert Adams

This book is composed of criticism written over ten years by Robert Adams, a photographer who has deeply considered the career and field of photography.

The tone of his writing avoids being authoritative or moralizing – it’s instead humorous and thought-provoking. In this novel, he poses many questions on whether photography can be an art form in its

On Photography By Susan Sontag

This book contains opinions of the modern era. It is one of Susan Sontag’s most well-known books. It provides an in-depth analysis of photography and explains how it influences a person’s mood, morality, and more.

This book is a must-read for someone who wants to understand how photographs are perceived and how it is changing the world. As one of the best photography books of all time, “On Photography” will make you question everything you know about the way we consume photographs.

Ways of Seeing By John Berger

One of the books most often praised for its insights on art is Art, Ways of Seeing by John Berger.

This book is based on a BBC series with the same title and explores how we look at photographs and consequently judge them (good or bad), which will also provide help in understanding more about how photos are read and critiqued.

The book is filled with many cultural references and an overview of history in Western culture.

Visual Thinking by Rudolf Arnheim

Author of multiple books on art and photography, Rudolf explains that visual thinking is based on perception. This book is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the arts.

Light and Lighting by Michael Freeman

This book teaches how to see and use light for photography. The different genres of photography that are covered in this book are scenic, architecture, macro/ close-up, wildlife, portraiture, and formal, as well as other topics such as operating studio lighting equipment.

Photographers can learn about difficult light situations like balancing direct sunlight with the dark interior of a room.

Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography by Roland Barthes

Within this book, Roland Barthes describes photography as something which affects the body as well as the mind. He values photography because it is able to depict death in a way that no other medium can and was written when he was grieving for his mother.

Although not technical or focused on contemporary media culture, Barthes emphasizes how photographs represent both meaning and context.

Roland Barthes suggests that photographs have meaning and context, which he describes through personal experience because his mother died when she was writing her memoirs in this manner.

Best Books To Build Your Photography Business

What They Didn’t Teach You In Photo School By Demetrius Fordham

Read Fordham’s What They Didn’t Teach You in Photo School if you’re looking for books on starting a photography business and making money through your images.

This volume focuses on how to make a career of it, with chapters introducing risk-taking, finances, marketing, and networking ideas. The book even covers things like copyright law, collecting royalties, and more.

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Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers by Elyse Weissberg

This book focuses on the how-to of self-promotion, geared specifically towards photographers. Weissberg’s got a lot of valuable tips for advertising your photography business in this volume.

The Photographer’s Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion By Maria Piscopo

Penned by a professional in design, this book is for any budding photographer who wants to succeed beyond just great photos. As any commercial photographer will tell you, photography isn’t about taking the shots so much as it’s about your skills and your business plan.

This book features case studies and interviews with photographers of all tiers of success to help experienced ones sharpen their skills and teach newcomers the ropes.

No Plastic Sleeves: Portfolio and Self-Promotion Guides for Photographers and Designers By Larry Volk and Danielle Currier

Award-winning freelance photographers Larry Volk and Danielle Currier offer advice on how to build a portfolio that will get you noticed.

Their book includes interviews with some of the most successful photographers in the world, as well as guidance for designing your own work and promoting yourself online.

Legal issues are common in the film and photography industry, from privacy to trademarks and copyright issues. Primarily focused on filmmaking, Bernstein’s volume is valuable for those who work in visual arts. 

Bernstein was an entertainment lawyer prior to writing his book, which has allowed him to shed light on some of the most critical challenges facing artists today with tips for protecting their own work.

Best Coffee Table Photography Books for Inspiration

In the National Parks By Ansel Adams

We’re often inundated with photo books teaching us how to do business or what techniques to use in our photography. In this book, Ansel Adams shares his black and white pictures of America’s national parks while telling a story of the beauty that is found there.

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016

For over four decades, Annie Leibovitz has captured the likeness of celebrities and statesmen for Vanity Fair, Rolling Stone, and other publications.

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016 presents portraits from her groundbreaking career in an intimate retrospective that spans cultures as diverse as Vladimir Putin’s Russia to Rihanna’s Caribbean and includes celebrities from John Lennon to Tom Hanks.

This is a beautifully photographed book with some of the most famous faces in history on each page.

Destinations of a Lifetime By National Geographic

Another stunning coffee table book, Destinations of a Lifetime, is full of exotic and remote places to visit.

This book contains images that are sure to inspire wanderlust in its readers, from the Angkor Wat temple complex in Cambodia to the Maldives’ Indian Ocean paradise.

Humans of New York By Brandon Stanton

This book showcases the stories of real people from all walks of life, as seen through Stanton’s lens.

With over three million followers on Facebook, there is no denying Brandon Stanton has become a master storyteller and photographer.

A lot can be learned just by looking at photographs in this book!

Underwater Dogs By Seth Casteel

Seth Casteel’s Underwater Dogs offers a unique perspective of dogs by photographing them with the use of underwater photography.

This creative and engaging book is sure to delight dog lovers everywhere!

Vivian Maier: The Color Work by Colin Westerbeck

Vivian Maier is a renowned twentieth-century American photographer. Her recent 150 color photographs were discovered after her death, which often takes an unusual or oblique point of view on people, landscapes, and the cityscape. 

With numerous pictures from New York City that had never been printed before, this book is one of the best photo books published in 2018.

Conclusion:

This article covers the best books for photographers. Whether you’re looking to learn a few tricks from the pros or improve your skills, photography books are a great way to stay on top of your game. To some people, books are just a source of information. But to others, books are also reservoirs for creativity and artistic inspiration.

These books are often recommended to novice and experienced photographers alike, which makes them a good choice for beginning or advancing your photography skills. Have you read any of these books? Are there any that we missed?

Tell us your thoughts and recommendations in the comments section below.

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