I’ve read dozens if not hundreds of photography books over the past 20 years. Here’s a short list of some of my favorites – books that have left a lasting impact on my work.
If you’re interested in specific gear, please see my list of recommended camera equipment.
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Vision / The Art of Photography
Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images by David duChemin
Books like this that focus on artistic vision are rare, and David duChemin does a fantastic job providing deeper understanding and inspiration you can apply to any type of photography. Highly recommended.
Camera and Lenses
The Camera by Ansel Adams
This is a very quick and generally simple read from one of the all-time masters of photography. While much of the technology it covers it out of date, most of the principles are as relevant as ever. This includes good discussion on visual compression with long lenses, depth of field, etc. Chapter 10 discusses view cameras was helped me finally understand the key camera-related factors that cause or correct image distortion. The principles are of course directly applicable to the use of tilt-shift lenses if you use them. I recommend this book if you are new to photography or use tilt-shift lenses.
If you shoot weddings and portraits, a proper understanding of how flash/strobes work. Even if you shoot entirely in natural light, understanding the principles involved will make you a dramatically better photographer. I also believe that some of my greatest insights in landscape lighting come from the work I did to learn studio and wedding lighting. While you cannot control the color and apparent size of natural light sources like the sun, blue sky, or moon – the lessons you learn from strobe photography will give you a tremendous ability to anticipate and plan for ideal lighting conditions to get better photographs.
On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography by Neil van Niekerk
This book gave me some of my biggest “ah ha!” moments when I first started shooting wedding. It gives practical advice on how to properly use bounce flash. More importantly, I believe it helped me see through some of the complexity of lighting by breaking it down to simpler elements. I recommend this book if you want to shoot better family portraits, weddings, want to better understand simple lighting concepts. By no means does it cover the full range of issues in lighting for an understanding of multiple-light scenarios, but it’s a great introduction.
Unfortunately, I gave away many other great books on the subject years ago after I became confident with lighting and no longer remember which ones would be most useful. My bias in general after reading a book like this would be to take a workshop on lighting. The 3-dimensional geometry involved generally does not lend itself well to learning with books. Video is better, but hands-on instruction is definitely best.
Color Management and Printing
Real World Color Management (2nd Edition) by Fraser, Murphy, and Bunting.
This book may be from 2005, but remains highly relevant. Sadly, lead author Bruce Fraser passed away in 2006, so the 2nd edition is probably the final edition. Chapters 1-4 build a great foundation for how human vision works and how that translates into color management on the computer. Chapter 12 dives into color management for Photoshop. Much of the rest of the book should be skipped by the casual photographer, but the important sections are very well written. Having read dozens of other books on color management, I believe it remains one of the more approachable books on the subject for the typical photographer.
The Digital Print by Jeff Schewe
Jeff Schewe is considered one of the most influential instructors in sharpening and printing. This book offers a very comprehensive and approachable workflow for printing with either Lightroom or Photoshop.
Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom by Fraser and Schewe (2nd Edition)
As the name suggests, this book takes a deep look into various methods to extract more detail from your images in Photoshop and Lightroom.