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Top 20 Photography Books to Improve Your Skills

Why You Should be Reading These Photography Books

I started writing this blog because I found it difficult to learn a lot from the internet. It’s hard to find good, reliable content. In the end, you find yourself staring at a glaring screen covered in ads.
Books cost money but the content is excellent and you can take it anywhere.

All of the information and photos in the books below have been written/taken by professionals. Here, they provide insight into their work – the internet just can’t compete.

Photography books help inspire and educate

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Start at the beginning.
Excellent photography requires strong foundations. These books will ensure that you know exactly how to use your camera properly.
If you struggle to do this, read these books. I assure you that the speed at which you learn will vastly increase.

Complete Digital Photography – Ben Long

This book guides you through every aspect of digital photography. From shooting, through post-production and finally printing. This will help you master the theory and technical skills required of a great photographer.
In an easy-to-understand format, it’s the complete package. There’s also a bonus chapter to help you choose the right digital camera, so it’s a great place to start before you’ve even bought one!
The Digital Photography book is a great read

Langford’s Basic Photography: The guide for serious photographers – Michael Langford

In this book, you’ll learn everything. Not only how images are formed, but also how to control what you capture. From the best camera and lens type for your work to the principles and equipment needed for great lighting.
You’ll learn how to frame the picture, measure exposure and how to edit, organize and store your digital images.
And finally, you’ll learn how to print, finish and present your photographs. On top of that, it helps you understand how to get your work noticed.
This is an excellent, all-inclusive package in my opinion.
Langford's basic Photography book is a must read

LIFE Guide to Digital Photography – Joe McNally

‘Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros’ is the subtitle of this book and pretty much sums it up.
In this book, Joe explains how best to take advantage of what your camera was designed to do. He also helps you understand when it is wise to outthink your camera and push it to its limits.
What I found really useful was the little caption under each photo. It shows you the settings it took to create each image. Knowing the f-stop, shutter speed and ISO used can really help you understand how the images were captured.
This clearly explains how to take your photography to the next level.
The guide to Digital Photography book needs to be on your list

Understanding Exposure – Bryan Peterson

With more than 350,000 copies sold, Understanding Exposure has demystified the complex concepts of exposure for countless photographers.
In his trademark easy-to-understand style, author Bryan Peterson explains the relationship between aperture and shutter speed. This includes how to achieve successful exposures in seemingly difficult situations.
With new information on white balance, flash, HDR, and more, this updated classic will inspire you to stop guessing and take control of your settings.
Use this book for better photos anytime, anywhere, with any camera.
The Understanding Exposure Photography book is a great read

Camera: A History of Photography from Daguerreotype to Digital – Todd Gustavson

I found this book particularly fascinating. It’s a history not of iconic images but, rather, of the machines that made them possible.
Major developments are discussed from the earliest wet plate cameras to the cameras NASA used on the moon.
Detailed captions provide both technical information, to satisfy enthusiasts, and glimpses into the personalities of those who created the cameras.
And there are over 350 color illustrations.
The Camera photography book is a great place to start

Composition & Technique

Once you know what you’re doing, this is the next step towards taking amazing photos. Learn what makes photos great, then how to implement that information into your own photos.
I’ve learned a lot from these books. It can be a lot of information to take in at once. But, when you’ve mastered it, your photos will improve dramatically.

The Photographer’s Eye – Michael Freeman

Michael Freeman is on this list twice and with good reason: I love the way he writes.
Design is the single most important factor in creating a successful photograph. It helps you work on your ability to see the potential for a strong picture, then organize the graphic elements into an effective, compelling composition.
This has always been one of the key skills in making photographs.
The Photographer's Eye is a great photography book for inspiration

The Photographer’s Mind – Michael Freeman

The nature of photography demands that the viewer be constantly intrigued and surprised by new imagery and different interpretations – more so than in any other art form.
The aim of this book is to answer the question “what makes a photograph great?” It explores the ways in which top photographers achieve this goal time and time again.
As you delve deeper into this subject, The Photographer’s Mind will provide you with invaluable knowledge.
Included is information on avoiding cliché; the cyclical nature of fashion, style, and mannerism; light; and even how to handle the unexpected.
The Photographer's Mind is a necessary photography book

The Moment it Clicks: Photography Secrets From One of the World’s Top Shooters – Joe McNally

In this book, you’ll see Joe’s brilliant images. They perfectly illustrate different techniques (you’ll recognize many of his photos from magazine covers).
You’ll gain insight into the story of how that shot was taken, including which equipment he used (lens, f/stop, lighting, accessories, etc).
On top of this, You’ll also gain useful knowledge about the challenges that each type of project brings. This book is great if you are looking to set up a similar shot of your own.
The Moment it Clicks is a perfect photography book for secrets and tips

Creative Black and White – Harold Davis

Black-and-white photography poses unique challenges. The main point is that the contrast, lighting, and composition take on more importance when color doesn’t guide the eye.
Renowned photographer Harold Davis explains these elements. He further demonstrates the basic rules of black and white photography as well as when and how to break them.
He breaks through the complexity of this photographic medium. On top of this, he explores opportunities for black-and-white imagery, and shows how to capitalize on every one.
Creative Black and White photography book is a must read


Lighting is an intrinsic component of photography and takes years to master. This is much longer than getting to grips with, for example, the right exposure settings. This process can be sped up by learning from the pros.
Good lighting is rarely achieved by amateurs. By learning the techniques laid out in these books, you’re already separating yourself from the rest.

Speedliter’s Handbook – Syl Arena

This is a book aimed towards Canon users, but I find it very useful. Having read it, the majority of the information can be crossed over to other brands.
For those new to flash photography—or for anyone who has previously given up out of frustration—Speedliter’s Handbook is a revelation.
Whether you want to create a classical portrait, shoot an event, or simply add a little fill light to a product shot, Speedliter’s Handbook will show you how.The Speedliter's Handbook is a necessary photography book

The Hot Shoe Diaries – Joe McNally

In The Hot Shoe Diaries, Joe brings you behind the scenes to candidly share his lighting solutions for a ton of great images.
Using Nikon Speedlights, Joe lets you in on his uncensored thought process to demonstrate how he makes his pictures with these small flashes.
Whether he’s photographing a gymnast on the Great Wall, an alligator in a swamp, or a fire truck careening through Times Square, Joe uses these flashes to create great light that makes his pictures sing.
The Hot Shoe Diaries is a perfect photography book to have in your collection


It’s hard to choose a photographer, in particular, to add to this list. This is because, for every photographer I add, I will invariably leave 100 out.
I’ve mainly chosen the work of many over the work of one, with some of my favorite collections of photos ever published.
You can learn a lot by just looking at other people’s photos. This is what makes these books as important as a book on the basics.

Decade – Aemmon McCabe

This was a recent birthday present and I’ve been picking it up daily ever since.
It’s a collection of famous photos of memorable events from the past 10 years. The images are coupled with a brief description of what the photo is about.
It really helps to jog your memory and remind you of what’s going on in the world. Personally, I find it a good source of inspiration but it’s just as good a coffee table book or conversation piece.
Decade is a photography book for your shelf

The Americans – Robert Frank

A very famous collection of photos from Robert Frank shot during 1955-1956. In a nutshell, it’s an amazing collection of photos seen through one photographer’s viewfinder.
He saw the roiling racial tension, glamour and beauty and, perhaps because Frank himself was on the road, he was particularly attuned to Americans’ love for cars.
It’s a great reminder of America’s past with some fantastic photography.
The Americans is a photography book, great for inspiration

National Geographic Image Collection – National Geographic

Behind National Geographic’s worldwide reputation as a powerhouse of photography lies one of the finest, extensive, and most unique graphic resources on Earth. The National Geographic Image Collection.
It’s an archive from the earliest photographs collected in the late 19th century to the cutting-edge work of today. It includes both iconic and never-before-seen images from virtually every corner of the globe.
Every species of wildlife and amazing human achievements in exploration, adventure, science, and more are showcased and placed in historic, artistic, technical, and journalistic context.
The National Geographic Image Collection is a great photography book

Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs – Ansel Adams

Truly some of the best black and white photography I’ve ever seen.
Each of Adams’ 40 photographs presented here is accompanied by an engaging narrative. The text explores the technical and aesthetic problems presented by the subject, including reminiscences of the places and people involved.
The man is an artist.
Ansel Adam's examples is a perfect landscape photography book

LiFE – The Platinum Anniversary Collection: 70 Years of Extraordinary Photography

70 years of photography from one of the most influential publications of the 20th century.
Similar to Decade and National Geographic, LiFE presents history in photos. The book highlights the most famous, moving and beautiful pictures from the magazine’s history.
 LiFE's Platinum Anniversary Collection is a necessary photography book for any collection

Reuters: Our World Now 4 (Fourth Edition)

The fourth edition of Our World Now captures the key events from 2010 in more than 350 powerful photographs.
Organized into four sections that represent the four quarters of the year, the images cover the full range of global reporting.
Politics, commerce, conflict, the environment, natural disasters, faith and festivities, entertainment, celebrity and lifestyle are all represented.
The photos offer a fresh take on the year’s most memorable events as well as plenty of less-familiar stories.
The Our World Now is a photography book by Reuters

Post Processing

When you’ve been out taking photos all day, there are always going to be a few that require extra work. If you’re shooting in RAW, there’s going to be a lot.
Below are the best books on the three most popular post-processing software.

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book – Scott Kelby

In the latest version of the #1 best-selling book for Lightroom 3, Scott uses his same step-by-step, plain-English style and layout to make learning Lightroom easy and fun.
Scott doesn’t just show you which sliders do what. Instead, he uses three simple, yet brilliant, techniques that make it just an incredible learning tool, this book shows you how to create your own photography workflow using Lightroom.
Lightroom 3 is a great tip photography book by Adobe

Apple Pro Training Series: Aperture 3 – Dion Scoppettuolo

This Apple-certified guide to Aperture 3 starts with the basics of image management and takes you step by step through Aperture’s powerful editing, retouching, proofing, publishing, and archiving features.
It delivers comprehensive training – the equivalent of a three-day course – in one project-based book.
Aperture 3 is a perfect photography book for tips and tricks

The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book – Scott Kelby

This book does something for digital photographers that’s never been done before—it cuts through the bull and shows you exactly “how to do it.”
It’s not a bunch of theory: it doesn’t challenge you to come up with your own settings or figure it out on your own. Instead, Scott shows you, step by step, the exact techniques used by today’s cutting-edge digital photographers.
Best of all, he shows you flat-out exactly which settings to use, when to use them and why.
Adobe's Photoshop CS5 is a helpful photography book


Your Camera Manual!

Please read it.
There is so much information in there, not just irrelevant facts specific to your camera as you might think.
The day I got my first DSLR, I got out the manual and began reading. I must have read it, while playing with my camera, for two weeks.
It always frustrates me when friends don’t know how to do something on their camera because that’s holding them back – if they just knew how to work the damn things, they’d be much better photographers.
Your manual is the first photography book you should be reading
Have I missed one of your favorites? Almost certainly. Leave a comment to let us and everyone else reading this know what you think is worth reading.
If you want to get to know more about photography, check out our new post about photography facts next!

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  1. Excellent list, and well thought out – I have quite a few of these books myself. I also like “Studio Lighting” by Christopher Grey. It’s an excellent how to resource.

  2. When I got Hot Shoe Diaries I read the whole thing in 2 nights. Yet a shooter I know pooh-poohed the book entirely. He is a Canon shooter and was looking for the magic settings for his stuff. While Joe’s book is indeed a little Nikon-centric, but your statement is spot on – it’s about the Thought Process, and less about which buttons to push to get an exposure. Even top pros adjust and adapt. No one set of settings suits every image.

  3. i have never readed any of the photography based books so i want to know that from where should i start and from where can i get these books.

  4. Great list! I own several of these and never get tired of reading them!
    If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should consider Davod DuChemin’s “Photographically Speaking” and “within The Frame”…

  5. Is this some scam? I was almost going to buy the book(i really need some) . But why on earth i need to create an account?

    1. Hi Rudra, we only offer digital products. It is necessary to create an account so that you can access your purchases.

  6. Your book list really needs to be updated! Aperture was discontinued and removed from sale on April 8, 2015. Lightroom3 is ancient as is CS5.

Comments are closed.
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