The 25 Best Photography Books to Read in 2021
Reading can take you places you have never been before, and help you become a better photographer than you ever dreamed you’d be. Plus, reading can be the perfect reason to take a much deserved break from screen time after a long day answering emails and editing the latest images for your photography website.
From beginner guides and detailed technique handbooks to business manuals and inspirational photo collections, this curated selection of photography books will help you develop all the skills you need to become a successful photographer.
Photography books for beginners
Understanding Exposure - Bryan Peterson
Being able to comprehend how light behaves and affects your images is the most crucial, yet challenging, skill for beginners to master. This popular photography book offers a detailed explanation on how to use your camera settings to properly capture each scene. In addition to in-depth technicalities, you’ll be exposed to over a hundred photo examples that will help you understand the role each setting plays on an image exposure and the final result.
The Photographer’s Eye – Michael Freeman
As important as camera technique is, many see composition as the single most valuable element in capturing appealing pictures. That’s why a photographer with a “good eye” can shoot outstanding images with a decades-old automatic camera and an expired roll of film. This book explores the intricacies of visual language far beyond the basic photography composition rules, while illustrating each concept with incredible images.
The Art of Photography - Bruce Barnbaum
As a photographer, you should be paying as much attention to “how” you capture things as you do to “why” you want to photograph them in the first place. Through this photography book, the author describes the emotional and philosophical reasoning behind over 100 images as well as the techniques used to capture the exact sentiment he wanted to transmit to viewers.
How to Create Stunning Digital Photography - Anthony Justin Northrup
This comprehensive how-to guide takes a page out of the online photography classes’ book by integrating several hours of video and an online forum into its content. Furthermore, each chapter ends with diverse exercises for readers to put theory into practice and develop their skills as they advance through the sections. The book touches on a long-list of topics with a broad range of skills, from composition and exposure to location scouting and posting.
The Hot Shoe Diaries – Joe McNally
One of the most common mistakes across all types of photography is to ignore the value of artificial lighting. In this book, internationally acclaimed photographer Joe McNally talks about the incredible value of being able to create light and how you can use hot shoe flashes (yes, the small ones that go on top of your camera) to capture jaw-dropping pictures.
Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO & Exposure - Al Judge
The exposure triangle is the core of photography, and it plays a decisive role in how your images end up looking. Knowing how to take full control over the settings involved in the process of shooting a photo will allow you to capture your creative vision. This book’s detailed breakdown of each of these components will help you master your exposure skills and ensure that every image comes out as you intended.
The Digital Photography Book - Scott Kelby
With five published parts, this might just be the longest, most well-known, and detailed “book” in the list. Each part acts as a stand-alone book by offering practical advice to improve your photography skills. Rather than focusing on the technical side of photography, the author uses his personal experience as a tool to provide real-life examples and actionable tips.
BetterPhoto Basics - Jim Miotke
If you came into this article looking for photography tips for beginners, look no further. This book is full of simple, quick tricks that will rapidly improve your images. Additionally, you’ll find several step-by-step guides to get started in different genres, such as portraits and wildlife.
The Headshot - Peter Hurley
Just a few years ago, the only people who needed to have professional headshots taken were models and actors. However, the rise of social media (both personal and professional) has significantly broadened the demand for this type of imagery. This instructional guide will teach you how to develop a unique style and capture portrait photography images that stand out from the rest.
Light, Science & Magic - Fil Hunter, Paul Fuqua, and Steven Biver
Photography is light, and the best you understand light the more likely you’ll be to become a professional photographer. Go beyond the surface and dive into a comprehensive theory of the nature and principles of light. The numerous examples, instructions, and diagrams will help you apply this knowledge to the most challenging scenes and subjects.
Studio Anywhere - Nick Fancher
The first thing that comes to mind when you imagine certain photography careers is a huge, equipment-packed studio space. Turns out, you can get outstanding shots anywhere as long as you know how to. This book will give you all the tools you need to make the most out of every scenario in order to shoot stunning photos.
Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs - Henry Carroll
If your goal is to improve the quality of your images without diving deep into the technical side of photography, you should read this. From basic settings to the different types of camera lenses, this book focuses on hands-on tips illustrated by the work of some of the most famous photographers of all time.
Langford’s Basic Photography - Michael Langford
First published half a century ago, the content has been examined and expanded in nine occasions. This comprehensive guide aims to provide a solid grasp of photography techniques, as well as a clear understanding of the fundamentals of the discipline. Touching up both digital and film photography, the book mixes scholarly and practical information with diagrams, charts and image examples.
Speedliter’s Handbook - Syl Arena
On-camera flash are much more than handy camera accessories. Knowing how to maximize their potential will allow you to capture scenes that you’ve never even dreamed of. This useful handbook provides a clear understanding of the properties of light and how your camera interprets them. Furthermore, you’ll be exposed to stunning images taken using flashed, and learn all about the different accessories you can use for these type of shots. While the book revolves about Canon speedlites, all knowledge is applicable to any brand’s on-camera flash.
Books about photography businesses
Best Business Practices for Photographers - John Harrington
Talent and technical skills are not enough to make money as a photographer. You’ll also need to learn how to think like a business person. This extensive guide serves as a compass that will help you navigate this uncharted territory and teach you about the challenges you might encounter along the way, from dealing with clients to learning about how to sell stock photos.
The Photographer’s MBA - Sal Cincotta
Starting a photography business is far from an easy task, but this book will make it much more manageable. It will walk you through the different steps you’ll need to follow in order to build a successful company, such as choosing the right kind of business entity best suited for you and coming up with photography marketing ideas. Furthermore, it will offer insights about your brand and online presence, and teach you all you need to know about SEO for photographers.
What They Didn’t Teach You in Photo School - Demetrius Fordham
No matter what you studied, chances are you graduated feeling like there was much more left for you to learn. This book focuses on the business-side of photography, which is rarely fully disclosed in schools. Based on the experiences of an veteran professional photographer, this guide shares valuable networking tips that will help you build a strong network, impress potential clients, and successfully reach out to brands for partnerships.
Inspirational photography books
Annie Leibovitz at Work - Annie Leibovitz
If you ever wonder about the importance of finding your photography style, think about Annie Leibovitz work. The unique look and feel of her photos have made her a living legend in the history of photography. In this book, she shares her professional journey and offers a peek into how some of her most memorable pictures were made.
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Decisive Moment - Henri Cartier-Bresson
First published in the early 1950s, many believe that this book changed photography forever. The impact of Henri Cartier-Bresson went beyond street photography, as his search for the decisive moment influenced generations of photographers. The book is a collection of the best images captured by Cartier-Bresson on his early years, handpicked by the photographer himself.
Humans of New York - Brandon Stanton
In 2010, Brandon Stanton took on the streets of New York City to photograph its pedestrians and share their stories on social media. In the years following, he built an audience of 9.5M followers and traveled to more than 20 countries to photograph their people. This book collects some of his favorite portraits, accompanied by short quotes describing each moment.
The Americans - Robert Frank
This photography book offers a look into the harsh life of post-war America, plagued by racism and consumerism but aldo full of overlooked beauty. The Americans, which posed a huge shock in society when it was published, served as an inspiration for Don't Blink, one of the most renowned photography documentaries of all times.
Magnum Contact Sheets - Kristen Lubben
Featuring 139 contact sheets by 69 members of Magnum Photos, this book offers a unique look into some of the most well-known images of all times. The book features zoom-in details, cards, and notes written by the photographers themselves or experts in the field that are sure to fuel your photography inspiration.
Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs - Ansel Adams
Ansel Adams might just be the most recognized photographer both by people inside and outside of the discipline. His landscape photography work has made its way into the walls of million of houses around the world, while his photography quotes have inspired many to follow his steps. This photographic book offers the largest available compilation from his work capturing the American landscapes, as well as brief essays of selected images that provide insight into his technique and creative vision.
100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time - TIME
In a world where we're exposed to millions of images every day, there are some photographs that leave a mark in the imaginary collective for generations to come. The vast majority of them come from photojournalism, a forever still reminder of instants that changed the world. To mark its 175th anniversary, TIME magazine published a collection of its most influential photos of all time, complete with a background story of each image. A must-see for every person, regardless of their photography knowledge.
National Geographic Image Collection - National Geographic
It’s hard to imagine talking about any kind of printed photography outlet without mentioning National Geographic. Primarily focused around wildlife and travel photography, this magazine is famously considered a powerhouse of photography. This photographic book will allow you to look at the long history of the publication, from the earliest images captured in the late 19th century to the diverse special collections shot throughout the years.
By Judit Ruiz Ricart
Editor of the Wix Photography Blog