It’s common to assume it’s impossible to improve photography by reading photography books. Since your job as a photographer is to have the necessary equipment and just shoot using it, the theoretical explanation of how to do it seems unnecessary. All you need is a camera, a model, and many hours of practice.
Well, it’s true that gaining all the photography skills by reading some pages of a photography book is questionable. But that doesn’t mean all the texts are useless. A good photography book does a good job to improve photography knowledge. It inspires and offers some new photoshoot ideas.
But the best photography books are even better. They do a great job of these tasks!
In this post, we’ve collected 75 best photography books that can help anyone become a great photographer and develop own photography style. For your convenience, we’ve divided all the best photobooks is several categories, 15 books each. So, any person with a camera can find something useful, no matter what the artistic tasks and the level of expertise are.
Top 3 best photography books for beginners
1. Tom Ang, How to Photograph Absolutely Everything: Successful Pictures from Your Digital Camera
Among the photography books written by professionals in this field, the creation of Tom Ang is the best for beginners. Having long years of experience, he managed to explain all the key photography concepts in an easy and engaging manner. In the book, photography genres gain a detailed description, considering their pitfalls, specifics and basics. So, it’s a rare example when you can really read and learn photography skills.
2. Brian Black, DSLR Photography for Beginners: To Take 10 Times Better Pictures in 48 Hours or Less
This book is among the bestsellers for beginner photography, and that’s not a surprise. Since most guides recommend using DSLR cameras, the novices are highly interested in enhancing their photography skills with this equipment. So, you can quickly learn how to create stunning digital photography while shooting landscapes.
3. Craig Alesse, Basic 35mm Photo Guide: For Beginning Photographers
Another awesome book to start learning beginner photography. It’s useful both for those ambitious to become a professional artist and just hobbyists with a camera. This writing also deserves a place among the best photo books because it easily explains all the complex subjects from the photography theory. You’ll learn about the shutter, aperture, depth of field, lighting and other important aspects.
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4. Jim Miotke, BetterPhoto Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro
If you like practical photography books with simple tips.
5. Joe McNally, The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters
The coffee-table format of writing with all the secrets from the author of the best photography books.
6. Andrew Faulkner & Conrad Chavez, The Adobe Photoshop CC Book
An amazing guide to starting using Photoshop and creating stunning digital photography. The text is very understandable and helps you click the right buttons in the program.
7. Scott Kelby, The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Classic CC Book
A top pick for those striving to learn Lightroom from an entry-level.
8. Bruce Fraser, Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and LightRoom
A useful guide on a shelf of the greatest photography books for beginners to learn how to sharpen photos in Adobe Photoshop like a pro.
9. Zack Arias, Photography Q&A: Real Questions, Real Answers
All the beginner photography questions are answered by professional artists.
10. 10 Scott Kelby, Digital Photography Boxed Set (Volumes 1,2,3)
Among the best photography guide for beginners ever written. It’s easy, simple, and answers all the possible questions about taking pictures.
11. Henry Carroll, Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs
The great choice among the photography books written in the simple words about complex photography subjects.
12. Rachel Devine, Beyond Snapshots: How to take that Fancy DSLR Camera Off “Auto” and Photograph Your Like Like a Pro
This guide frequently appears in the list of best photography books for family shots. Here, you’ll find the techniques behind capturing the detailed and clear family moments in manual mode.
13. Barbara London and Jim Stone, A Short Course in Photography: Film and Darkroom
Another good attempt to answer all the questions novices commonly ask.
14. Chris Gatcum, The Beginners Photography Guide
The bestselling manual describing the potential of your digital camera with useful checklists.
15. Anne-Laure Jacquart, Photo Adventures for Kids: Solving the Mysteries of Taking Great Photos
Kids are also beginners in photography, are there exist the best photo books on assisting them in learning this art. This is one of them
Top 3 composition books
1. David duChemin, The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs (Voices That Matter)
In the line of composition books, this one won our hearts. In 60 chapters, duChemin collected best photography practices for great shots. He reveals the peculiarities of balance, negative space, color contrast, mood, and dynamics. The significant part of the photography book is dedicated to composition, showing the creative power and necessary technical knowledge to rule the minds via photographs. A must read, in short!
2. Roberto Valenzuela, Picture Perfect Practice: A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs (Voices that Matter)
Among the best photography books, this sample helps in becoming confident while working with uncomfortable locations and lighting conditions. By taking wedding photographs as an example, Valenzuela discovers the peculiarities of setting the best locations, executing and setting poses for different situations. This puts it in the line of top composition books available on the market.
3. Bruce Barnbaum, The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression
Among the various composition books, this pick by Bruce BarnBaum managed to create a highly understandable guide on how to build a shot correctly. Instead of repeating obvious ideas, it has a clear structure and contains truly inspiring photographs inside. The insights are relevant for traditional shots on a film camera and stunning digital photography. It easily matches the shelf with the best classic, creative, philosophical, and inspirational books about photography ever written.
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4. Peter Hurley, The Headshot: The Secrets of Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits
Among the best composition books dedicated to the art of capturing portraits.
5. Michael Freeman, The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
The guide designed to improve photography skills in composition.
6. Vincent Peters, The Light between Us
The book shows how to build composition and put the light to reveal the hidden side of the human body.
7. Lewis Blackwell, The Life and Love of Trees
A truly inspirational book which simultaneously teaches to work with trees in the foreground.
8. Cristopher Bowen, Grammar of the Shot
The book contains all the necessary tools to work with visual stories and deliver wanted messages to the viewers.
9. David duChemin, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision
The great option among various composition books to not only learn the rules but also develop your own artistic style.
10. Richard Garvey-Williams, Mastering Composition: The Definite Guide for Photographers
A photography book that reveals both obvious composition principles (like the rule of thirds) and the secret knowledge behind stunning digital photography.
11. Bryan Peterson, Understanding Composition Field Guide: How to See and Photograph Images with Impact
All the elements of amazing images described in detail.
12. Nicole Woods, Photography: Complete Guide to Taking Stunning, Beautiful Pictures
In this book, you can find useful composition tips for taking beautiful images.
13. Richard l’Anson, Lonely Planet’s Guide to Travel Photography
The professional travel guide publisher teaches its composition principles to help you shoot incredible photos on journeys.
14. Freeman Patterson, Photography and the Art of Seeing: A Visual Perception Workshop for Film and Digital Photography
The book answers why training visual perception is so important for mastering composition.
15. Harald Mante, Composition and Color Design
The guide helps to master composition from the standpoint of visual design.
Top 3 books to improve photography techniques
1. Steven Biver, Light Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
All the photography guides agree that lighting is the key to taking incredible pictures. And Light Science and Magic is among the best photo books ever written on this topic. Presenting the theory and the basic principles of light, it establishes the solid background for further experiments. In other words, if you had problems with light, this book can significantly improve photography skills in this dimension.
2. Bryan Peterson, Exposure Solutions: The Most Common Photography Problems and How to Solve Them
Most composition books don’t mention the problems of high-contrast scenes – but not this one. In Exposure Solutions, Peterson created an overview of the most difficult scenes to capture. Moonlight, subjects in motion, too bright conditions – these and many other uncomfortable circumstances are explained in detail in this book.
3. Lee Frost, 50 Photo Projects – Ideas to Kickstart your Photography
This representative of the best photobooks introduces you to the world of photography in its tiniest aspects – meaning the details like shadows, design, technical challenges, and the most appropriate camera settings. For enhancing your skills and knowledge, this work is absolutely fantastic. Using the format of showing 50 inspiring photo projects, it makes you jump and run shooting with your DSLR immediately!
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4. Martin Parr, The Last Resort
The photography book gifts a pure feeling of staying in an old-fashioned seaside resort. It reveals the vacation lifestyle on the Wirral Peninsula, an urban resort close to Liverpool. The interesting technique applied in this representative of the best photography books is using a daylight flash. By using wisely, it contributes to making the colors brighter and the reality sharper.
5. National Geographic, Dawn to Dark Photographs: The Magic of Light
The globally appraised expert in landscape photography and photojournalism describes its standards of working with the light during the golden hour.
6. David D. Busch, David Busch’s Mastering Digital SLR Photography
A photography art class written in simple words.
7. Syl Arena, Speedliter’s Handbook Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites
The art of mastering Canon Speedlites explained.
8. Roberto Valenzuela, Picture Perfect Posing: Practicing the Art of Posing for Photographers and Models
The top pick on the shelf of photography books for mastering posing techniques.
9. Bryan Peterson, Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
One of the best photography books for learning how to capture images of your dreams with accurate exposure.
10. Syl Arena, Lighting for Digital Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots (Using Flash and Natural Light for Portrait, Still Life, Action, and Product Photography)
From the bestselling author of the best photography books. Reveals all the secrets of working with the light.
11. Al Judge, Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, and Exposure: How They Interact and Affect Each Other
All the needed technical knowledge behind stunning digital photography revealed.
12. Joe McNally, Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
In the book, photography nuances of working with the flashlight are presented.
13. Kristen Lubben, Magnum Contact Sheets
For those wanting to not only improve photography skills but also work with post-processing and printing techniques.
14. Robin Owen, Boudoir Lighting: Simple Techniques for Dramatic Photography
The best guide on the specific genre of boudoir photography with all the techniques described simply but in detail.
15. Bill Lemon, Nudes on Location: Posing and Lighting for Photographers
Another very specific book describing the techniques of working in the genre.
Top 3 photography books for inspiration
1. Stephen Shore, American Surfaces
Among inspirational photography books, the creation of Shore is classic. Capturing the reality of American life in the 1970s, it’s the first documentary project made in color. For beginner photography experiments, it’s among the best photo books to understand how to depict ordinary life in a chosen time and region creatively. Simply turning its pages is a meditation in essence.
2. Ryan McGinley, The Kids Were Alright
Another great portrait of a society made on film. Concentrated on showing emotions from the conflict of generations in American families, this project is helpful in learning to capture people’s lifestyle on the flow. And of course, it’s a representative of the most beautiful photography books and deserves your attention.
3. Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring, Extraordinary Everyday Photography
This guide on stunning digital photography is purely inspirational to start shooting urban landscapes. Picking the scenes on the street, in the park or on the main square, the authors teach their readers to look beyond the surface of things. The book is not technical, though – it’s the text that calls your artistic vision to rise.
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4. John Harrington, Best Business Practices for Photographers
The pure inspiration for those struggling to earn money in the field of stunning digital photography,
5. Benjamin Grant, Overview: A New Perspective of Earth
A book with WOW-effect of seeing the pictures of our planet from outer space.
6. William Klein, New York 1954-55
The revolutionary and parodic depiction of New York.
7. Joe McNally, The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes
The best photography guide on working with the light written in a funny and uncensored manner.
8. Nick Fancher, Studio Anywhere: A Photographer’s Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations
If you think you need a special day, time, equipment or occasion to start practicing photography, simply read this book. Your studio is really anywhere.
9. Brassai, For the Love of Paris
Paris is always a good idea. But a photography book about Paris is an even greater one.
10. National Geographic, Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places
The awesome journey through the most beautiful places in the world in photography. A double inspiration dose!
11. Brandon Stanton, Humans of New York
The atlas of the big city life and the representative of top photography books written about capturing street portraits.
12. Bryan Peterson, Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color, and Composition in Photography
This book helps to improve photography skills but cares about preserving your creative spirit in the shots.
13. Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist
The text was written to solve once and forever the dilemma between stealing and getting inspired.
14. Bryan Peterson, Beyond Portraiture: Creative People Photography
The great guide on capturing portraits in the most emotional and untypical situations.
15. Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear
The must-read for any artist (which not actually contains the technical tips like all other photography books in this list) to practice photography but take it easy.
Top 3 classic photography books
1. Henri Cartier-Bresson, The Decisive Moment
Written by the classic photography artist, this book is among the most influential ones ever written. It introduces the concept of the decisive moment or an exact second of a shot that comes as a result of long preparation and preserves the reality.
Inside the photography book, you’ll find the best photographs made by Henri-Cartier Bresson (which are the pure inspiration by themselves) along with the stories of their creation. As a lovely bonus, you’ll find artwork of Henri Matisse on the cover.
So, that’s not simply the representative of the classic photography books – it’s pure art by itself.
2. Diane Arbus, Revelations: Diane Arbus
Another book from a classic photographer. Known by her ability to introduce the new levels in both ordinary and exotic things, Diane Arbus created a photography book that contains both known and previously unpublished works. By reading the essays in the book, photography artists can understand how to build composition as an artist. For beginner photography, Revelations are can be the necessary dose of inspiration to search for the essence of captured subjects.
3. Steve McCurry, Portraits
The best photography guide on learning the style of Natural Geographic images. The book contains all the breathtaking classic portraits that won the hearts of viewers all over the world.
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4. Ansel Adams and John Szarkowski, Ansel Adams at 100
The set of best photographs from one of the most prominent figures in American photography.
5. Leah Bendavid Val, In Focus: National Geographic Greatest Photographs
Another awesome work by National Geographic collected 280 masterpieces in portrait photography.
6. Nobuyoshi Araki, Sentimental Journey
A touching representative of photography books in the erotic genre
7. Annie Leibovitz, Portraits 2005-2016
The selection of the best artworks by the contemporary photography icon Annie Leibovitz.
8. Nan Goldin, The Ballad of Sexual Dependency
Visual diary in this rating of the best photography books. It reveals the importance of including honesty in the list of basic photography skills.
9. Ed Ruscha, Twenty-six Gasoline Stations
A road movie in the photographs. One of the most influential photography books in the documentary genre.
10. Gregory Heisler, 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer
Non-ordinary portrait photography featuring celebrities, sportsmen, and politicians. In the book, photography life of an artist himself is also presented.
11. Vivan Maier, Street Photographer
The best choice among classic photography books about street photography techniques.
12. Andrew Bolton, Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
The collection of the greatest photos from the most provocative designer.
13. William Ewing, Ray K. Metzker: Light Lines
The book with awesome samples of avant-garde photography with social meaning.
14. Robert Frank, The Americans
One of the most influential books in the history of photography. Showing the different America, it revealed the way experimenting can indisclose the symbolic meaning of things.
15. Steven Pressfield, The War of Art: Break through the Blocks and WIn Your Inner Creative Battle
The classic book that helps to see your potential and learn to succeed with it in the creative industry.