In every endeavor, there are favorite books providing insight and instruction. My hobby of photography is no different. But what are my favorites – the books I go to time and again for advice and inspiration? Here are my top five1.
1. Scott Kelby
Scott Kelby is my primary go-to author for photography. He has written numerous books about all aspects of photography, from the basics of camera operation to creating outstanding photographs in post-processing. He also runs an excellent photography training site called KelbyOne.com.
For beginners, or those wanting a refresher on just about any aspect of basic photography, I highly recommend Scott’s new book, The Digital Photography Book.
Now in its fifth edition, the “#1 best-selling digital photography book of all time” is packed with short, easy-to-digest articles about many facets of photography. Learn more about anything from what the f-stop is used for to why you should keep batteries warm.
Scott also has books providing detailed information about the two best post-processing programs available to photographers: Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. I use both of these programs, and, in fact, every photo I take goes through Lightroom.
2. David D. Busch
David Busch has also written dozens of books focused on the operation of individual cameras. I’ve looked at many camera-specific books over the past few years. There is no one better at explaining every facet of a specific camera than David Busch.
My current favorite, because it covers the camera I own, is his Nikon Z6 Guide to Digital Photography. This book covers every dial and button on the Nikon Z6.
In some cases, Busch recommends settings that may differ from the factory default. But he doesn’t leave it at that: he tells you why his setting is preferred.
I find myself going back to this book time and again. Modern cameras, especially high-end semi-pro, and professional models, have numerous buttons and menu options. Some you use every time you pick up your camera. Others may be used rarely but provide additional selectivity for certain shots.
I may know that I can do a certain thing with my camera but not remember exactly where the option is located. With Busch’s book on my Kindle reader on my iPhone, it’s only a matter of seconds to find the answer.
3. Light, Gesture and Color
I first learned of Jay Maisel, a New York-based street photographer, about four years ago. Scott Kelby did a class featuring Jay, and I was impressed with his communication style and knowledge. I was also interested in this work because he inspired me to try street photography. Maisel is one of the best in the genre, and he is my favorite source for guidance in street photography.
In Light, Gesture and Color, Maisel states that every good street photograph should have at least one of these elements. More is better. And he talks about how to achieve that goal – how to take a scene that could be an okay snapshot and make an outstanding photograph.
I’ve also found that looking for these elements in other types of photography adds positively to the photograph I make.
4. Making Photographs
But he frames his ideas toward ‘seeing’ the world around you instead of merely ‘looking’ at the world. In other words, as a photographer, you should constantly be on the lookout for scenes that present the world as you define it. Many photographers have presented this idea as ‘making photographs’ rather than ‘taking photographs.’
While I lean more toward Jay Maisel’s approach to street photography, I have learned enough of Perello’s style to incorporate some of his ideas in what I do – enough to make this book one of my favorite photography volumes.
5. Photo Therapy – Motivation and Wisdom
This is not strictly a photography book. There is not a single photograph displayed in this volume. However, Photo Therapy – Motivation and Wisdom looks more at the emotional response to photography – both the viewer’s and the photographer’s.
Author Rick Sammon, a truly accomplished photographer, states that this book will make you think – hard – about your photography.” You will think about “how using your brain, the best photo ‘accessory,’ will help you become a better photographer.”
With chapters like
- Emotional Intelligence for Photographer
- Seeing vs. Looking
- Creating Your Own Reality
- It’s Never Too Late to Be What You Might Have Been
- Light and Color Therapy
- Learning is Health
- What Does Your Photography Mean to You?
Sammon sets up an examination of how we approach our photography and why we see what we see.
I found this book extremely helpful in analyzing my own photographic style, one which has changed even in the few years I’ve been an active photographer.
Those are my five current favorite photography books. I hope one or more of them may interest you.
Do you have favorite photography books? Who are your favorite photography authors? Tell us in the comments.
- In another article, I talked about my five favorite non-photography books.