My Top 10 Favorite Photography Books of All Time

In Features by Jim Harmer17 Comments

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I have a slight addiction to photography books.  The photo above is a stack of some of the ones that I've read over the last year or so.  I'm always loooking for new tips and techniques, and there is a lot you can learn in books.

But I also have dozens of photography books that really didn't teach me anything new.  So this is a list of just my favorites.

Tony Northrup's DSLR Book

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This book is really well done.  If you're a new photographer, this book is absolutely worth the price.  It's too the point, contains all the basic information you need to get started in photography, and even includes tons of video resources you get access to.  The photos are excellent, and the content is well-written.

Tony Northrup really hit it out of the park with this book.

If you need an intro to Tony, listen to this episode of the podcast where we had him on as a guest.

Buy this book on Amazon.

 vision-and-artVision and Art: The biology of seeing

Author: Margaret S. Livingstone

This book was a recommendation from Rick Sammon, and it ended up being a good one.  It wouldn't be a good pick for a newer photographer, but if you're a more advanced photographer and want something new that you haven't heard before, then you're likely to pick up lots of new little tips by reading through this book.

One of the things that helped me in this book is to understand contrast and separation a little better, which I believe helped me to improve my compositions slightly.  Buy this book on Amazon.

designNon-Designer's Design Book

Author: Robin Williams (No, not THAT Robin Williams)

Okay, I admit it.  This book isn't about photography at all.  It's about design, but I had to include this one on the list anyway.  This was the textbook for a college course I took in design quite a few years ago and it's the only textbook I kept and have referenced again and again over the years.

The book teaches the basic principles of design.  I've found it useful in designing logos, letterhead, putting text on photos, and other things for my photography business.  For someone who isn't a graphic designer but often does small graphic design projects in Photoshop, this book really taught me a lot about how to make things look good.  Buy this book on Amazon.

photography-night-sky-bookPhotography Night Sky: A field guide for shooting after dark

Authors: Jennifer Wu and James Martin

This book was a bit too basic for my particular taste, but if you're a beginner or intermediate photographer who is looking to become competent at shooting night photography, then this book is a good starting place.

The book has gorgeous photography throughout and the descriptions of the techniques you'll need to learn were well thought out.  It's worth a read.

The real mystery, however, is why in the world they called this book “Photography Night Sky” and not “Night Sky Photography.”  That title doesn't even make sense….  Buy this Book on Amazon.com.

art-of-the-photographThe Art of the Photograph

Author: Art Wolfe

The Art of the Photograph is an excellent book for intermediate and advanced photographers who want to refine their compositions.  What I've always admired about Art Wolfe is his restricted, stripped down style.  Much of photography these days is about creating EPIC, IN YOUR FACE photography.  Art's style is much more reserved.

Looking through the book alone is enjoyable.  The book has more than 200 of Art's photos, but the text also is instructive.  If you've seen Art Wolfe's Travels to the Edge on PBS, you've already seen the style of his work.  Now you can learn a little more behind the photography itself.

Well worth the read.  Get this book on Amazon.

learn-to-see-creatively-bryan-petersonLearning to See Creatively

Author: Bryan Peterson

Many of you have probably seen or read Understanding Exposure from Bryan Peterson.  This book takes you more into the creative process of picture making with Bryan.

Bryan's style is to take simple, minimalist photos with lots of color and contrast.  He isn't the type of photographer to shoot the big wide epic landscape, but impresses with his ability to create interesting pictures anywhere.

Buy this book on Amazon.

compositionComposition (Eyewitness Art)

Author: Sarah Kent

I can't remember who it was who recommended this book to me, but it ended up being a good buy.  I learned a few compositional tips that I'd never heard of from photographers before.

This book is out of print so you can pick it up for just a dollar or two on Amazon if you live in the United States.  This book really helped me to see composition in a different way.  The book isn't necessarily a photography book, but any photographer will improve their compositions by reading this book.

The book is a bit dated and old, but it's still worth a read.  Buy it on Amazon.com.

anywhereStudio Anywhere

Author: Nick Fancher

I haven't actually read this book, but I'm including this one on the list because my friend Erica Kay (host of the Portrait Session podcast, which is a free weekly audio show for portrait and wedding photographers).

The book basically teaches how portrait photographers, especially portrait photographers who use flash, can get the look of shooting in a studio without actually shooting in a studio.  I wrote a blog post about creating a studio look without a studio here.

The book looks really interesting, and if Erica says it's good… it's good 😉

Buy this book on Amazon.com.

ansel-adamsAnsel Adams: 400 Photographs

Author: Ansel Adams

This one isn't a photography how-to book.  It's a traditional photo book with 400 photos from legendary landscape photographer Ansel Adams.

It's interesting to look through a book like this and see just how dramatically photography has changed in the last few decades.

Get the book on Amazon.

This One is On YOU!

I only wanted to put 9 of my favorite books into this post so that I can see some of you guys' recommendations as well.  What photography books have you read that have NEW and INTERESTING ideas in them, and not just the same old tips we hear over and over?  Leave a comment to recommend a new book for me.  Please?

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I designed up a nice pin for you 🙂

best-photography-books


About the Author

Jim Harmer

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Jim Harmer is the founder of Improve Photography, and host of the popular Improve Photography Podcast. More than a million photographers follow him on social media, and he has been listed at #35 in rankings of the most popular photographers in the world. He blogs about how to start an internet business on IncomeSchool.com..

Comments

  1. Syl Arena’s Speedliter Handbook is a great book for understanding flash. I’m a Nikon shooter and his emphasis is on shooting with Canon equipment, but 75% of the book will apply to any Camera system.

  2. These books look good. I’m an amateur photographer. I love shooting landscapes and nature. I’ll never be professional but it renews my soul trying to capture what I see.

  3. “It’s What I Do,” Lynsey Addario
    “Behind Photographs: Archiving Photographic Lessons,” Tim Mantoani
    “Photographically Speaking,” David Duchemin

    1. Best book on posing for portraiture in my opinion is Roberto Valenzuela’s ‘Picture Perfect Posing.’ He has also authored ‘Picture Perfect Practice’ which talks about learning the art of composition and I am awaiting the release of a new book in March titled ‘Picture Perfect Lighting’. The first two are available now on Amazon (best deal) and the third should be announced in about a month or so (I’m hoping).

  4. Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Photography Field Guide – great how-to guide for any camera.
    David Busch’s Sony Alpha SLT-A65 Camera Guide – helped me really understand all my camera could do and inspired shots I didn’t know I could take

  5. There are a few really great resources out there, here’s 3 that come to mind;

    Light, gesture and color, Jay Maisel
    The Hot Shoe Diaries, Joe McNally
    Within the Frame, David duchemin

  6. If you are relatively unschooled in the post processing world of Lightroom and/or Photoshop, digitalcameraworld.com has a couple of good instructionals called ‘Teach Yourself Photoshop’ and ‘Teach Yourself Lightroom’. And there’s also a great guide by Juergen Gulbins titled ‘Mastering Photoshop Layers’ that is available from rockynook.com or probably Amazon as well. All of these are in my collection and are invaluable to a student of post-processing like myself.

  7. Great suggestions. Thank you. Steichen’s Family of Man remains one of the best of all time.

  8. Thank you everyone for your suggestions. Ansel Adams : 400 Photographs is one of my favourites. I highly recommend Summit (preface by Ansel Adams), a magnificent selection of photographs by Vittorio Sella between 1879 and 1909 of mountains in the Himalayas including K2, Siniolchun (the cover shot), the Muztagh Tower and Kangchenjunga, the Caucasus Inc Elbrus and Ushba , Mt Saint Elias, the Ruwenzori and of course the European Alps.

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