Photography Books You Should Read
I know that reading books may not be as fashionable as it was, but I want to introduce to some photography books you should read. These are books that have helped me along the way at some point. So, I am happy to recommend them to you to try and see if they can help you too. Many of them can be borrowed from a library so you don’t necessarily have to buy them. I have made good use of our library, ordering in books that I wanted to read but couldn’t really afford to buy at the time. So, if you’re worried about costs, search your local library catalogue first.
If you are still relatively new to photography or want some inspiration for some creative ideas to try then I would suggest “The Complete Digital Photo Manual – Your #1 Guide for Better Photography (in association with Digital Photo Magazine)”. This large book covers aspects of technique for taking photos and editing them. Much of the content will be too simple for very experienced photographers, but there is good inspiration there if you are looking for a new project to try. For beginners to intermediate photographers this book is very helpful. It will help you get to grips with all sorts of ideas and techniques. It can be a good “go-to” reference book when starting out.
Portrait Photography & Wedding Photography
Lindsay Adler’s “The Photographer’s Guide to Posing – Techniques to Flatter Everyone” is a good place to start if you want to improve your portrait photography. This is a very accessible book that is easy to read. If you are new to portraits then it will help you put good habits in place right away. For those who already have some experience it can help you see where you might improve and how to escape some of the common pitfalls. There are chapters with guidance on how to photograph men, women, couples and families. If you want to get started in outdoor family photo sessions then Jennifer George’s “The Digital Photographer’s Guide to Natural-Light Family Portraits” will give you ideas for the whole process of how to relate to your client as well as taking the photos themselves. Although it is largely related to the American market, there are useful tips for anyone starting out as a portrait photographer.
For those with more experience looking to hone their skills in portrait photography and weddings I would suggest Roberto Valenzuela’s “Picture Perfect Posing – Practising the Art of Posing for Photographers & Models”. This book is an excellent resource for intermediate to professional photographers. It breaks down the aspects of posing, helping you to understand the effect of various body positions. It doesn’t just give you a list of poses to try as some books and apps do. This book will help you understand how to create a mood within your people photos. Roberto looks at the psychological impact of different poses, enabling you to easily change the mood. Whether you are a portrait or wedding photographer, there is plenty to learn here. It is a resource that you will want to keep coming back to as you refine your technique. This book goes into more detail than Adler’s whilst also taking a slightly different approach. There are chapters addressing various aspects of portrait and wedding photography. Highly recommended.
Photography Books on Composition
The next category of photography books that I want to highlight is books that deal with composition. No matter what camera gear you have or where you are taking a photo, composition is absolutely key. No amount of fancy equipment can make up for a lack of understanding composition. Yes, you may hear some people speak about “rules”, but that is not really the point. “Rules” of composition should be thought of as tools to help you create. You don’t use the same tool for every job. You choose the right tool to help you with a particular need. Whatever level of photographer you are you will benefit from spending time improving your understanding of aspects of composition. It will help you to get the shots you want more reliably and more quickly in any genre.
So, my recommendations for photography books about composition are Tony Worobiec’s “The Complete Guide to Photographic Composition”, “Mastering Composition – The Definitive Guide for Photographers” by Richard Garvey-Williams and “The Photographer’s Eye – Composition & Design for Better Digital Photos” by Michael Freeman. These books cover similar ground so you may find you only want to read one. Personally I find it useful to read a selection of books on the same subjects as then I can compare people’s ideas. Nobody is a complete expert on anything so it is worth getting a breadth of learning and weighing up one person’s opinions against another.
If you are thinking about becoming a professional photographer then I would strongly suggest that you read up on the subject before you begin. There is so much more to being a professional than having a love for photography. Yes, you should enjoy taking photos and have a talent for it, but there are many other things to consider as well. To make sure that you are going into it with your eyes open, read some books on photography business. For example, you can learn a lot from “Setting up a Successful Photography Business – How to be a Professional Photographer” by Lisa Pritchard. This will help you to think about marketing, sales and more. You might also like to read “Photography Business Secrets – The Savvy Photographer’s Guide to Sales, Marketing & more” by Lara White. She has her own take on running a photography business and it is well worth comparing their ideas and looking at the common ground. Finally, make sure you understand Social Media Marketing. This is vital for photographers nowadays. If you are in any doubts you should read “Social Media Marketing for Photographers” by Jack Hollingsworth.
Further Reading Suggestions
To finish this reading list, I would like to suggest a few photography books that I have found interesting and inspiring for various reasons. Firstly, I am a big fan of Joe McNally. He is an outstanding photographer who has worked extremely hard to get where he is today. I really enjoyed reading his book “The Moment it Clicks – Photography secrets from one of the world’s top shooters” by Joe McNally. You get to see some great photos and are given an insight into the story that goes with it. It reminds us that things are rarely as effortless and easy as the final image might suggest!
Next, I would recommend expanding your horizons with “Why it Does Not Have to be In Focus – Modern Photography Explained” by Jackie Higgins. This book surveys a wide variety of modern artistic approaches to photography. You most likely won’t like all of them – I didn’t! But, you will find it challenges your thinking and offers inspiration to take you outside your comfort zone. It is particularly useful for those whose photography is more consciously artistic. The strongly contrasty image you see here was part of a series of high contrast images inspired in part through reading this book. The image is entitled “Sunlight glimmers on ripples like falling stars.”
Finally, if you want to understand more about the history of photography and get a grasp of the detail behind the theory then read “Reframing Photography – Theory & Practice” by Rebekah Modrak. This is not easy reading. It is aimed more at degree students so can be a bit dry. But, if you want to deepen your understanding then it is well worth exploring.
So, that is a selection of photography books that I have read and suggest that at some stage in your photography journey would be worth you reading too. Clearly you should try to pick the appropriate book for your level of technique and experience. Do also read other people’s reviews before buying to get a fuller idea of what you would be getting.
© Joe Lenton, April 2016 – updated April 2019