20 Must-Reads books for any amateur (& beyond) Photographer
1. Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition):
Assuming you’ve got the camera basics down, like how to make sure there’s enough light in the room so your photo doesn’t turn out black and that blurry photographs don’t make you a great artist, this book is the perfect next step. While it may be a little more advanced than other amateur books, it takes the prize in being the best way to learn how to take more interesting shots by using light and angles to your advantage. Those boring vases or tables will take on new life if you’re able to grasp the concepts of using different vantage points and zooms. Do yourself a favor, amateur or not, this is a must buy if you’re at all serious about your photography.
2. Photography (9th Edition):
This book has published over 9 different editions in its life since the mid 70’s. It has even been heralded as the Bible of photography for amateurs. It may be a little on the pricy side (unless you can find an excellent deal), but is well worth its weight in gold when it comes to teaching you how to shoot some nice photos. It covers all of the basics and even works into some fairly advanced techniques. Don’t be fooled by the timid cover. You need this one on your bookshelves as not only a learning tool, but also as a reference point once you make it beyond amateur status. Whatever you’re wondering, it has it.
3. The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos:
Photography is very often neglected as an art form. Because it doesn’t use paint and sound to flourish, it must rely on a single image to captivate an entire idea. “The Photographer’s Eye” is fantastic in its delivery. It delves deep inside the world of art photography and gets you, the reader, engaged enough to start turning your photography into art. Photographs no longer have to be just ideas that get lost in time, they’re now works of art by themselves and Freeman shows you just how to take your art to the next level in both pre and post production.
4. The Adobe Photoshop CS4 Book for Digital Photographers:
You can’t really consider yourself a photographer until you’ve at least tried a few techniques in Photoshop. Some complain that it taints images and takes them out of their raw form. But on the contrary, Photoshop enables photographers to do exactly what they want with their photo, just like a painter. This comprehensive guide to Photoshop takes you from start to finish by showing you exactly how to do it like the pros. Don’t worry about having to thumb through all of those buffer pages like other books. This one jumps right in and doesn’t let you out until it makes sure you’ve mastered the technique. Anyone serious about Photoshop needs to give this book, any of the editions, a thorough read.
5. The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes:
Controlling the amount of light in a photo is one of the most daunting tasks any photographer can take on. Light is so essential to our perception of the world that too much or too little can completely ruin the mood. The Hot Shoe Diaries really explores the world of small flashes. With a little bit of humor, you find out that a little light can make a lot of difference.
6. A Short Course In Photography:
Every book up to now has been something that’s a “must have” or “necessity.” But what if you’re not ready to make that jump into full fledged photographer yet? This book will help you get started in the field without specializing in any one technique. The amount of knowledge out there about photography is overwhelming but if you’re just a small time photographer that wants to get started and learn some valuable tip and tricks along the way, this is the book to start with.
7. Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision:
Photography is an art form no matter what anyone tells you. But what if the picture you’re taking just aren’t “speaking” to you? Within the Frame takes you behind the boundaries of just instructional text and brings you into the world of thought. It makes you really look at your subject and setting so that you can get a better idea of what the photo means. In a truly inspiring work, you’ll not only learn technique and form, you’ll also learn why you should be taking photos the way you are. It’ll take you from snapping photos of the grass in your garden to a world of infinite possibilities.
Photography doesn’t have to be all serious. Click helps aspiring teen photographers take a better look at the world through the lens. It covers all the basics. So, if all you’ve ever done is use a disposable camera at Disney, this book is a great way to get started and get introduced to the “professional” side of things.
9. Photography: A Critical Introduction:
By now you’re probably tired of looking at how-to books. No amount of how to books can get you ready to actually look at photography you’re producing and photography through the ages. The book simply entitled “Photography” takes a look at photographs through culture and history and puts them in modern context. It challenges you to think critically about what makes a photograph “good” or “pretty” and plays Devil’s advocate when it comes time to look at the reason we shoot what we shoot. If you’re interested in the history of photography and how it plays a role in our society, this is a great place to start.
10. Photography: The Concise Guide:
This one falls more into the category of textbook than casual literature but nonetheless, it’s still an amazing guide. It is very fast paced and if you’re looking for something with a little more cushion, look elsewhere. It introduces students to the world of photography by taking it step by step. You won’t miss a beat if you pick this book up off the shelf. It covers everything from exposure, contrast, and how to take better shots. It even has a great how-to section with follow along instructions so you’re not completely left in the dark when you’re trying to put things to practice in the field.
11. Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting:
Lighting isn’t really something that you can explain in a book but in this rare exception, you can learn a whole lot. Lighting properly seems to be one of those things that eludes even the best of photographers. In this book you’ll learn to drop any preconceived notions you may have about how to light something and let them take you on a great ride through the world of light. From basic amateur lighting to professional studio lighting, this book covers it all.
12. Black and White Photography, Third Revised Edition:
Believe it or not, black and white photography is more popular than ever and may actually surpass color photography in terms of sheer popularity. And each year, new equipment is released that makes black and white photographs even better to look at. While it is kind of a niche part of photography as a whole, this comprehensive guide summarizes all of the new and great techniques, equipment, and processing materials that are new on the market. While it isn’t a buyers guide, it certainly does a great job of highlighting the things you need to produce great black and white photos and how to go about using them.
13. On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography:
I know I joke about photography at weddings and kid’s birthday parties, but in reality, it’s the types of things most people take photos of. And in these types of situations, carrying a full lighting kit around is just completely impractical. For that reason, on-camera flashes were invented to provide just the right amount of light without having to bring a truck full of equipment. This great guide shows you how to use the on-camera flash in real world situations so you don’t ruin your brother’s wedding photos or portraits!
14. The Moment It Clicks: Photography secrets from one of the world’s top shooters:
Very rarely do you get a glimpse into the mind of one of the world’s best photographers. Joe McNally may or may not be a name you hear a lot. If you haven’t heard of him, look him up and prepare to be blown away. Mr. McNally gives some of the best insider tricks that money can buy. Even if you only ever have the chance to go into the local bookstore to thumb through this, the knowledge you’ll gain in just a few minutes will be more than you could ever get while practicing in the field.
15. Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second:
While it’s one hell of a long title, this relatively short book helps you better understand the world of high speed photography. There are some images and events out there that only happen in the blink of an eye and there’s no reason you should miss them with your cell-phone camera that can barely keep in focus. Learning how to capture shots of speeding objects is key to advancing in the field of photography.
16. Criticizing Photographs: An Introduction to Understanding Images:
So, you take great photographs, right? Well, there’s no way you can for sure unless you’ve read this book that takes the number 16 spot. Taking a look at other people’s work and analyzing it critically is the best way to learn what you should be looking for in your own photography. It’s a great book for both beginners and professionals that helps you develop technique and standards in photography. You may not think you need it, but if you want to push your photography to a truly professional level, learning how to give and receive proper criticism is a fundamental skill.
17. Understanding Close-up Photography: Creative Close Encounters with or without a Macro Lens:
We’ve been talking a lot about those “fundamental skills” that every photographer must have. Well get ready to revise your list once again. Close up photography is a close second to lighting in terms of difficulty to master. Sure, anyone can push the zoom all the way in and call it close up photography. This book goes beyond the usual close up flowers and grass photographs and shows you how to do close up photography of nearly everything from animals to mountains. Macro photography of mountains? You read right. That curiosity you’re experiencing right now should be enough reason to go out and find this book!
18. Nikon D90 For Dummies:
The Nikon D90 could quite possibly be the most popular DSLR of all time. You may for that very reason, already have one. But, if you don’t, don’t fret. The D90 is very similar to other cameras in Nikon’s lineup and if you have a camera in the D series, this book should still be of some value. The For Dummies book really delivers this time around and gives you a very in-depth look at the D90 camera. It takes the camera apart, inside and out, and helps you understand what’s going on so you can ultimately take better pictures.
19. Visual Poetry: A Creative Guide for Making Engaging Digital Photographs:
The hardest challenge any photographer faces is the challenge of making a photograph interesting. While it may seem as though you could take a picture of anything and have someone in the world that finds it engaging, finding the balance between personal satisfaction and interest so that the majority of people find it captivating is hard. Visual Poetry explores the realm of really making your photos speak to the viewer. And, it may be a word of caution or praise depending on how you look at it, but there is a very minimalistic approach to the way the photographs are taken. Chris Orwig strips things down and with the bare elements, builds it all back up.
20. Vanity Fair: The Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images:
Phew! We finally reached the end of the guide and I’m sure you’re exhausted with books on how to do this and how to do that. So, let’s finish up the list with a book that is sure to inspire both amateur and professional, young and old. Vanity Fair took the liberty of compiling a book that spans over 100 years of photography between its covers. Seeing images of Marilyn Monroe and other famous personalities in fantastic lighting and settings is sure to tickle your photography nerve and get you inspired to keep taking photos. Who knows, maybe one day your photo will end up in a book like this too!