Photography

The Best Books for Learning Photography

You could fill an entire library – if not a small village – with the vast amount of photography books produced over the years.

So what are the best photography books for trying to learn the craft?

The sheer hours of dedication required in mastering photography means that you need as much help as possible and a man’s expertise is a product of how much he reads – choosing the right books will pay off enormously. 

The following list is by no means exhaustive, just a few numbers with which you are sure to be thankful for dropping the lens for a few minutes and burying your nose in their pages.

Best For Beginners:

Complete Digital Photography

by Ben Long

Detail: (5.0 / 5)
Readability: (4.5 / 5)
Interesting: (4.8 / 5)
Average: (4.8 / 5)

This encyclopedia of photographic information will teach you everything you need to know to start snapping shots without sending your head spinning. From shooting to printing to post-production, Long shares not only the key techniques you will use but also the theory behind why you are doing it.

Features:

  • Ideal foundation
  • Covers all stages of photography
  • Easy to follow descriptions and illustrations

Everything is set out in easy-to-follow English, with clear illustrations so even the complete beginner can follow. An ideal physical reference to give you a complete foundation with and something you’ll want to pick up again and again.


Best Technical Photography Book:

The Moment It Clicks: Photography secrets from one of the world’s top shooters

by Joe McNally

Detail: (5.0 / 5)
Readability: (5.0 / 5)
Interesting: (4.5 / 5)
Average: (4.8 / 5)

Once you have a bit of background you open doors to a new realm – and there is no better way to do so than by delving into the mind of the top experts in photography. McNally presents us with actual photographs he has taken and then goes through step by step exactly how each shot was taken, what techniques he used and why.

Features:

  • Step by step explanations of shooting processes
  • Identifies challenges you may face
  • Easy writing style and illustrations

He follows this with the challenges you may face – so you can go and conquer them yourself, no matter your background or situation. Most of all, the stunning images littered throughout make understanding a piece of cake.


Best for Lighting:

Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

by Fil Hunter and Steven Biver

Detail: (5.0 / 5)
Readability: (4.3 / 5)
Interesting: (4.5 / 5)
Average: (4.6 / 5)

What would photography be without light? Simple answer: a bunch of black images on rather fancy paper! Lighting is essential to us as photographers and learning how to use it properly can be the difference between a disaster and a masterpiece. Hunter and Biver explain principles, not just theories, from the point of fact rather than just what has worked for them.

Features:

  • Principles of light based on fact
  • How to use lighting properly
  • Enhance your work from any background

This work will build your foundation without over-complicating and is sure to enhance your art no matter what equipment you use and easy explanations make it accessible to any reader.


Best Post Photography Production Book:

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic

by Scott Kelby

Detail: (4.8 / 5)
Readability: (4.8 / 5)
Interesting: (4.5 / 5)
Average: (4.7 / 5)

Yes, there is more to life – and editing – than Photoshop, but for those who use it this is one of the best guides on the market. Like Light Science & Magic above, it cuts out the technical mumbo-jumbo and literally walks you through a program that is highly complex and advanced.

Features:

  • Easy to understand
  • Explores hows, whens and whys
  • Step-by-step walkthrough

Scott Kelby shares everything you need to know to become an Adobe Photoshop pro in an easy to follow way. At the same time, he cuts out the nonsense leaving only the parts of the program that will help you as a photographer. If you have Photoshop, make this your guardian angel.


Best Book About Exposure:

Understanding Exposure

by Bryan Peterson

Detail: (4.5 / 5)
Readability: (4.5 / 5)
Interesting: (5.0 / 5)
Average: (4.7 / 5)

Understanding Exposure takes you step by step through the ins and outs with clear, easy to follow illustrations. When it comes to exposure, this is another great one if you’re starting out.

Features:

  • Simple to follow with clear illustrations
  • Save hours of guesswork
  • Test your understanding with relevant exercises

Peterson looks into the importance of the ‘Photographic Triangle’ and breaks each aspect down clearly so you can cut out a guesswork. Mastering exposure can turn holiday snaps into masterpieces and this book will save you countless hours of experimentation. My favorite part is the exercises to let you practice until it becomes second nature.


Most Inspirational Photography Book:

Life is Good and Good For You in New York

by William Klein

Detail: (4.5 / 5)
Readability: (5.0 / 5)
Interesting: (5.0 / 5)
Average: (4.8 / 5)

Learning by watching some of the best can be as powerful as being taught the techniques themselves. The stunning visual power this icon in photography has is sure to get your juices going. Klein breaks the norm with a kind of ‘organised chaos’ as his models press themselves against the lens, dance around and pull faces.

Features:

  • Unique approach to photography
  • Inspiration from one of the best photographers in history
  • Iconic pictures each portraying its own emotion

By building upon the energy and ‘no-holds-barred’ approach of William Klein you can start to think outside the box and bring your ideas new life. Take a leaf from a legend in photography and dare to be different – as the best photographers are.

Whatever your goal in developing your photography skills, take some time to the read the best photography books you can find and you’ll be glad you did. Whether you’re starting out, want to explore a new area or brushing up an old one, start with one of the editions above and you’re sure to head in the right direction.


Richard Hammond

I am the founder of 9Mousai and am deeply interested in creativity and what inspires it. My main passions are writing, film and music but I have a great respect for all the arts. I'm also an animal lover and have a little cat called Winston and occasionally dabble in the odd whisky.

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