Photography requires both technical knowledge and artistic skill. Have you ever taken a photo and thought, ‘It just doesn’t look right?’ Despite our best attempts, sometimes we all need a little guidance, whether we’re professionals or just starting out. Photography books are a great place to find both inspiration and technical skills.
That is why we curated this list of best photography books.
Books are categorized as:
- Education books
- Business books
- Photography inspiration books
- By famous photographers
- History and Philosophy of photography
- Documentary and photojournalism
Best Photography Education Books
1. Digital Photography Complete Course
This book is packed with useful tips, tricks, and also beautiful images to take your photography skills to the next level. Learn composition, photography techniques, and photo-editing tools through tutorials, assignments, and demonstrations.
What readers are saying: Great book for a beginner or hobbyist. The sections are intuitively written in an approachable manner with full-color examples of the topics being discussed. Additionally, the book has several assignments to give you real hands-on opportunities to apply the lessons you’ve learned. I highly recommend this book. -David Alexander Arnavat
Get this book if: you are a beginner or amateur photographer who wants to learn about digital photography quickly and easily.
2. Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need To Shoot Like the Pros
Internationally acclaimed LIFE Magazine photographer, Joe McNally, teaches how to get THE shot. The book dates back several years but is still relevant today with its insightful ways of explaining photography.
What readers are saying: No words can describe how helpful and insightful this book is. It’s like your photography best friend but in book form. Even if the book was published in 2010, the concepts and tips are still very relevant and explained in such an authoritative but simple manner that amateurs and professionals can enjoy it. I would even go so far as to say that this makes a perfect coffee-table book! – Arman Mislang
Get this book if: you are looking for inspiring and useful techniques to apply to your photography.
3. The Flash Book
Intimidated by your flash? Or maybe you haven’t bought one yet, and avoid less than ideal lighting scenarios? Then this book is for you. Learn to love your flash, embrace flash photography, and create stunning photographs.
What readers are saying: Anyone looking to get started with flash photography should buy this book. It is short, to the point, easy to understand, has lots of example shots taken using inexpensive gear. – Greg, MD
Get this book if: you want to learn how to use an external flash.
4. Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Exposure
There are so many aspects that go into creating a beautiful photograph…
Readers are saying: The author does a great job of explaining these key building blocks to great photography. Start here if you are not extremely comfortable shooting in manual already. I don’t have all day to sit around reading, and with this book, I got the information needed so I could get out there with the camera quickly. – JoMac
Get this book if: You are a beginner looking to get out of automatic mode quickly.
5. The Photographer’s Eye
Photography is all about composition. That is why you can take amazing photographs even with point and shoot cameras.
The Photographer’s Eye teaches composition with advanced techniques. So, after reading this book, you will never look at a scene without thinking of composition!
Readers are saying: I really enjoyed putting the ideas in this book into practice! I’ll be buying other books by this author. – Thomas A Ginn
Get this book if: you want to learn how to improve your photography composition.
6. The Photographer’s Playbook: 307 Assignments and Ideas
One of the best ways to learn something new is to practice it as much as you can. This great book has 307 fun photography assignments to get you practicing using your camera. Sure to get your creative juices flowing! This book is also rated #1 best seller.
What readers are saying: An incredibly valuable compilation of the most original and outstanding self-assignments for photographers. Nothing like it exists on the internet. Every page of the 300+ assignments by leading photographers can lead to successful, original, exciting photographs, even when one expects to only take a few snaps. A superb resource for photographers, whether professional or amateur. – A.B. Lawver
Get this book if you feel stuck in your creativity and want to step out of your comfort zone.
7. Digital Photography Boxed Set
These are the ultimate photography book set to take any photographer to the next level. It includes all the essential photography techniques, creative tricks, and top editing tools. Scott Kelby is renowned for his photoshop skills and teaching methods.
Related Article: 40 FREE Photoshop tutorials.
Get this book if you are serious about your photography and want to learn all the techniques necessary to get you shooting professionally.
8. Eight Types Of Natural Light That Will Add Drama To Your Photographs
Every photographer knows that photography is all about capturing light. Therefore, understanding light or lack thereof is crucial to capturing great photography. That is why Anne McKinnell takes you through 8 different types of natural light.
What readers are saying: Light is serious business. I love this short, sweet, all-you-need-to-read about those mysterious photons that we call light. Photography is all about light, shadow and lack of light – and what you’re going to do about it. Great photography is in the subtleties of how much magic we can conjure with light. This book reveals everything you need to know about light to start, or renew, your photography adventure. – Holly Gordon
Get this book if: You want to learn about natural light and how it affects your photography.
9. Understanding Color in Photography: Using Color, Composition, and Exposure to Create Vivid Photos
Bryan Petersen is a skilled photographer who is well-known for his composition and dramatic color-scapes. In this book, he shares some of his best-kept secrets on things like shooting in any kind of light, utilizing color to create stunning images, and various tips for flash photography.
What readers are saying: One thing is for sure, if you have been a student of Bryan through his many workshops you can tell the book evokes his personality and wisdom. Everything you need to know about color, light and using those for effective composition is discussed and explained here. Again, he stresses how important it is to get the right image in camera; not via post-processing. It’s refreshing and exciting to read this book. – Rodney Garcia
Get this book if: You want to dive deeper into the world of color and composition in photography.
10. Lightroom CC Complete Training
The photo editing program Lightroom CC has been around for a few years now, but the change has confused even the experienced photographers. This e-book walks photographers through an efficient Lightroom workflow.
What readers are saying: As a non-tech person, I especially appreciate the step-by-step instructions. The process is intuitive, and Mr. Ramelli encourages intuition-guided creativity. – John P. Roebke
Get this book if: you want to learn how to efficiently use Lightroom CC to edit your photos.
Related Article: Free Lightroom Tutorials
11. How to Create Stunning Photography
This is a hands-on training program in addition to a photography book. Complete with 14 hours of videos and assistance from professionals. This book is perfect for any photographer hoping to develop their skills and improve their images.
What readers are saying: Best $20 I’ve ever spent! What I love about it is that when you buy the book you get access to the community forum and the Facebook page which is very nice, It has loads of useful information to improve your photography. I would highly recommend the book to anyone starting out in photography, very very useful. – Nathan
Get this book if: You want to improve your photography and join like-minded others who are learning photography.
12. Understanding Exposure
This book by Bryon Peterson covers everything you need to know about exposure and how to master it.
Update:White balance, HDR, and information about flash photography have been added in the updated 3rd edition.
What readers are saying: I LOVE this book!! I am a relatively new student (18 months) to the world of digital photography. I am constantly referring to this book. It is written in such a way that it is easy for even the newest photography student to understand. What I really appreciate is that EVERY photo in the book is annotated how it was taken..aperture, shutter speed, and film speed, etc..is always explained. For a new photographer, this information proves invaluable When I come across a section that is confusing to me I bring the book to my photography teacher and with his help I fully understand what is written. I carry this book in my camera backpack as a constant reference guide. Hoping that a newer version is in the works!!! Highly recommend! -gbd-luvtocook
Get this book if: You want to understand exposure and create stunning images through that knowledge.
Best Photography Books on Photography Business
13. Best Business Practices for Photographers
John Harrington’s best selling book covers all aspects of creating a photography business that makes money, from setting your fees to attracting new clients. It is one of the few photography books that cover photography business from A-to-Z
What readers are saying: This book was like having a personal coach to prepare you for the big game. The Author helped me learn about things I didn’t know I needed to ask when stepping into the work of becoming a professional photographer. – SafetyRick
Get this book if: You want to learn how to create a successful photography business.
Related Article: Photography Pricing Guide
14. What They Didn’t Teach You in Photo School
This book dives into the knowledge needed to grow as a photography business. It contains loads of helpful tips and tricks about networking, interviewing, and creating an amazing portfolio.
What readers are saying: I feel like today we are surrounded by talented photographers, but it takes much more to be successful professionally and this book will show you how. Cut out years of learning the hard way and get the quick, practical tips in this read. This book is a must for anyone who wants to make a living in this business. Great gift idea for aspiring photographers! – Amazon Customer
Get this book if: You want to learn about how to get the jobs you want in the industry.
Photography Books for Inspiration
Who needs inspiration from photography books in the age of Insta?
Think twice before you dismiss inspirational photography books. There is something about print that speaks to your inner soul. Don’t be surprised to find yourself looking at a print longer than a digital photo.
Related Article: Best Online Photo Printing Services
15. Destinations of a Lifetime: 225 of the World’s Most Amazing Places
National Geographic’s reputation for stunning imagery and storytelling is well known. This book will take you on a journey through breathtaking locations.
What readers are saying: I bought this as a Christmas gift — and had to read it myself before giving it away. This is a lovely coffee-table book filled with gorgeous photos. Every two pages have photos and a short write-up about the location, including the best way to get there and when to go. Very readable and entertaining. It will give you the travel bug. I gave it to my sister and she loves it too. – Patricia in Florida
Get this book if: you want inspiration for your travel photography.
16. The Art of Photography: A Personal Approach to Artistic Expression
Bruce Barnbaum’s classic is One of the highest selling photography books which has sold over 100,000 copies since its release in 1994. Revised in 2010, it continues to provide assistance, inspiration, and education for thousands of photographers.
What readers are saying: Bruce weaves his years of professional experience into the art and science of photography and provides an honest, articulate, no-nonsense, sincere approach to photography. I used both this book and “The Art of Photography” for my MFA. – Gene Wesley
Get this book if: you want to take your photography knowledge to the next level and get inspiration for your personal projects.
17. Humans of New York
This book is a collection of photos of people on the streets of New York City. What started as a personal photo project for Brandon Stanton turned into an inspiring and feel-good series of photos that amassed an impressive amount of followers on social media.
What readers are saying: Fantastic book. Great as a gift or for yourself (looks good on a coffee table). The stories were touching & I loved it so much I bought the second one! – Iris
Get this book if: You want a great coffee table book and are interested in people’s stories.
18. National Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary
This NewYork Times bestseller is a selection of photos from the best National Geographic photographers. As a result, the images are nothing short of breathtaking. Each page contains an image of a very rarely seen or photographed places in the world. From volcanic lightning to some of the rarest animals on the planet, this book takes you on an impressive journey of our wondrous world
What readers are saying: Great photo book with excellent photography of extraordinary places. It is inspirational to see the photos as well as to marvel at the incredible natural diversity we have on this planet. Highly recommended! – Inge
Get this book if: You want an impressive coffee table book.
19. 100 Photographs: The Most Influential Images of All Time
TIME Magazine is an award-winning publication that is also known for its amazing photography.
In this book, they have included 100 of their best images taken over the span of 175 years in business. Certainly, it will be one of the best inspirational and thought-provoking photography books you ever read.
What readers are saying: This collection is wonderful and sometimes will bring tears to your eyes. I highly recommend giving this as a gift to your photographer friends and relatives. – Travelady
Get this book if: You want a view into the history of mankind and the moments that marked us forever.
Photography books by Well-Known Photographers
20. At Work, by Annie Leibovitz
Annie Leibovitz needs no introduction in the world of photography. In this book, you get a glimpse into the award-winning photographer’s life and work. Furthermore, each photograph in the book is accompanied by a detailed explanation of how it was achieved.
What readers are saying: I have no focus whatsoever. It takes me two days to read an average magazine article. This book is a rarity. I was glued to it and read it cover to cover over two days. Annie is such an amazing photographer. This book tells her story and the stories behind her iconic images. It opened my eyes to look at things under new lights. I will be taking my own photography it new directions after reading this book. Buy it! – DCI
Get this book if You enjoy and respect the work of Annie Leibovitz and want to get to know the “behind-the-scenes” of some of her iconic photos.
21. Richard Avedon Photographs 1946-2004
This beautifully crafted book contains 125 photographs from renowned photographer Richard Avedon. From his famous fashion photographs to some of his most iconic portraits, it takes you through his life’s work.
What readers are saying: Avedon was so talented and creative. He shows sides of famous, and not famous people, usually not seen. For example, his portrait of Marylin Monroe shows how she was just an immature young woman…a young girl…not a confident beautiful movie star. – Craig
Get this book if: You want a glimpse into the work of famous photographer Richard Avedon.
22. Ansel Adams in the National Parks
Ansel Adams is world renowned for his iconic black & white landscape photography work. This book is a selection of two hundred photographs taken by the master photographer over the span of his lifetime.
Related Article: Best landscape Photographers of All Time.
What readers are saying: I first saw Ansel Adams photos in a History of Photography class in college long ago. As a kid from New York City, I was amazed at the magnificent landscapes that Adams captured with his camera. We are planning a trip to the southwest this summer, so I bought this book for inspiration in planning the trip. The photos are just beautiful! – BR Boston
Get this book if: You want one of the greatest coffee table books!
Books on History and Philosophy of Photography
23. Photography: A Critical Introduction, by Liz Wells
This acclaimed and highly respected book goes deep into the philosophy of photography. The book examines and debates the impact of photography on a social and political level.
What readers are saying: Excellent book, a new perspective on the analysis of the History of photography. – José M, Ramirez
Get this book if: You want to deepen your thoughts about photography
24. Photography: The Definitive Visual History, by Tom Ang
From the first black & white photographs to today’s modern photojournalism, this book provides a comprehensive look into the past two hundred years of photography. It comes decorated with some of the most iconic and powerful images ever created.
What readers are saying: This makes a beautiful coffee table book. I was impressed by how thoroughly it covers the history of photography- all the way up to the present. It made a wonderful gift. – Bairdsley
Get this book if: You want a complete history of photography through the centuries.
Documentary and Photojournalism Books
25. Dorothea Lange: A Life Beyond Limits, by Linda Gordon
Documentary photographer Dorothea Lange is well known for her iconic photo, Migrant Mother. She has produced powerful images from historical moments in time like the Great Depression and World War II. Famous historian Linda Gordon chronicles Lange’s life and works in this book which includes over one hundred images.
What readers are saying: An important and complete biography of a person I knew too little about. I thought the author did a great job helping me understand her complexity as a person and an artist in very complex and difficult times. – Jane Wiseman
Get this book if: you are interested in seeing political and social history through the lens of one of the most prominent photographers of all time.
26. The Americans, by Robert Frank and Jack Kerouac
The book, The Americans, was first published in 1958 and was an honest look into life in America at that time. Photographer Robert Frank captured the hard times and lives of people living in difficult times. He went beneath the surface to show the realities of the times. He beautifully put the book together in a way that each photograph flows into the next, providing a strong story.
What readers are saying: As a semi-pro photographer, I am always looking for images that help me to see with a clearer eye. This book provides some of the best examples. It also recalls the America of my youth. This is the America that my parents lived, worked and dreamed in, the one that they promised would be better for me. – DZRhino
Get this book if: You want a real and unfiltered look into life in 1950’s America.
27. Vivian Maier, by John Maloof
This has to be one of the most interesting stories in the photography world. Boxes containing thousands of photographs were found in storage in Chicago that belonged to a nanny called Vivian Maier. She was probably one of the pioneers of street photography without even knowing it. She never shared her work with anyone and was not discovered until after her death when the storage unit and its contents were sold at auction.
What readers are saying: I devoured this book, and not in a thoughtless, quick-read sort of way. In a “lost-in-the-photo-for-long-minutes” sort of way. The eye Maier had was, for me, one of the most pristine of any street photographer I’ve ever had the pleasure of viewing. Of all the photography books I’ve read (and I’m counting a significant number here), this one is my #1, right behind “50 Portraits” by Gregory Heisler. If you are wavering on buying it, do yourself a favor. If you’re at all into street photography, oh my goodness don’t delay. Beautiful book, and I’m looking forward to diving into more of Maier’s work as soon as possible. She is absolutely an inspiration to get out there and get shooting. – N. Gramlich
Get the book if: You want to see some of the best street photography spanning several decades and several continents.
28. National Geographic The Photo Ark
One man’s journey to document the world’s animals in photos. He prioritizes the animals who are on the most endangered list and also animals in captivity. Partnering up with National Geographic has permitted him to continue his project and we are lucky enough to have access to a book that has hundreds of beautiful photos of these animals.
What readers are saying: After buying this book for a gift, I read every page! The animal photos, plus the artistry of the photographer are so spectacular. It seems like the animals are looking right at you from the page. I’ll be buying more for gifts and my home. The most telling photo was a species where there were only four left in the world. Photographer Joel Sartore captured two of them on film. – Chef Karen
Get the book if: You love beautiful animal photos.
29. Obama: An Intimate Portrait, by Pete Souza
Pete Souza was the official photographer that followed President Obama through his eight years in office. Capturing over two-million photographs, he has selected three hundred of the most iconic ones and has included them in this #1 best selling book.
What readers are saying: As I thumb through the pages, I realize how much of my vision of President Obama was formed by the photographs of special moments captured by Souza. To have them all in one collection is a pleasure, as he was a pleasure. Genuineness. Thoughtfulness. Compassion. Empathy. All caught on film. President Obama’s true and lasting legacy is that we, as a country, know that we can do, and have, and be better than we are today. – Tressa P.
Get the book if: You want a profound and real view into Obama’s life and his presidency.
30. Magnum Contact Sheets, by Kristen Lubben
Some of the best photographers were Magnum photographers and Kristen Lubben has curated 139 contact sheets from 69 of these photographers into a thought-provoking and powerful book that covers over 70 years of history.
What readers are saying: If you are a fan of Robert and Cornell Cape, Cartier- Bresson, Eve Arnold, Philippe Halsman this is the real deal! Did they use a 35mm lens or a 50?
Did they crop or print the entire negative? These are the actual work sheets of the Magnum photographers. Like looking over their shoulders at Le Select. Wonderful. – michael r
Get this book if: You want to see how of some of the most famous photographers of our times worked.
What Are Some of Your Favorite Photography Books?
Have you read any photography books lately? We would love to hear about the books that have made an impact on your photography, editing, or style. Please leave a comment below and we will consider adding your favorite book to this list!
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