19 Must Read Books for Photographers

by Sarah Wilkerson

Those who know me know that I’m a bit of a bookworm. My house is a veritable library of books, from my favorite literary works (I love Nathaniel Hawthorne) to an insane collection of children’s books to books on writing, social studies, parenting, bioethics, you name it, to – of course – an overflowing accumulation of photography books. I’m asked often for my favorites, and while “favorite” seems to change from week to week (and I’m constantly seeking out new resources; I’m probably Amazon’s favorite preorder customer), here are — in no particular order — some of the books that I always come back to …

Exposure and Lighting

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoThe quintessential starting point for new photographers who wish to really begin to take charge of their DSLRs. Learn all about aperture, shutter speed, ISO, and how they work together to generate beautiful images consistent with your vision as an artist.

 

 

 

Michael Freeman’s Perfect Exposure: The Professional’s Guide to Capturing Perfect Digital Photographs19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoPurists stick with Ansel Adams’ The Negative (also an outstanding book), but I find Michael Freeman’s update and variation on the Zone System for digital photographers to be a much more enjoyable and equally enlightening read. 19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo

 

 

 

Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo Learn about the importance of light size, angles, exposures in tricky situations, and the way surfaces influence reflectivity. Primarily oriented towards photographers working in a controlled setting, but nonetheless indispensable for any photographer who is serious about mastering light.

 

 

On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoNeil van Niekerk is a master of on and off camera flash, and there’s no better resource for those who are shooting (or want to learn to shoot) with a speedlight. His explanations are nicely broken down and accompanied by beautiful photographic images (and settings) to illustrate the principles he covers. Pick up a notebook and pen before you sit down and start reading – you’re guaranteed to pick up a number of tips and some fantastic ah-ha moments. Also not to miss: Neil’s Off-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Photographers19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo. Those who work regularly with speedlights will certainly want to follow Neil’s blog (Tangents) as well.

 

Processing

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoWhen it comes to Lightroom and Photoshop, Martin Evening is my go-to expert. This book covers both beginner tips and must-have tools to much more advanced and lesser-known tools and approaches that aren’t covered in most Lightroom books. It’s a necessary resource for anyone who wants to really explore the power of Lightroom (my preferred program for everyday work).

 

Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers: A professional image editor’s guide to the creative use of Photoshop for the Macintosh and PC19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoLightroom is fantastic, but there are some things that it simply can’t do. For more complex edits or adjustments that require an extreme level of precision — or if Photoshop is simply your processing program of choice — most photographers need to learn the ins and outs of Photoshop as well. I own at least half a dozen Photoshop books, but I always come back to this one, by Martin Evening.

 

Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo This book is one of my favorites, and it’s always my first recommendation when I’m asked for suggestions from photographers working on improving their portrait work, especially for those who struggle with skin tones.

 

 

 

Professional Photoshop: The Classic Guide to Color Correction (5th Edition)19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoFor those who are ready for something considerably more intense and really want to take their understanding of digital color theory and practical application to the next level, head straight to the foremost authority on the subject: Dan Margulis. 19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoNot a light read, but very worthwhile. Want to go even further in your drive to become a master of color? Check out the equally astounding Photoshop LAB Color: The Canyon Conundrum and Other Adventures in the Most Powerful Colorspace19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo, also by Margulis.

Composition and Vision

Photographic Composition: A Visual Guide19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoA wonderful book for a quick tidbits on beginner-intermediate composition that also includes some fabulous exercises for those interested in doing a self-study course on composition or who just need a creative kick in the pants.

 

 

 

Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoLet me preface this by saying that anything by David DuChemin is well worth the read — his work, his words, his experience, and his knowledge will astound you.  This is my favorite of his many books (and is the book which introduced me to with his work), but I also recommend checking out his blog (Pixelated Image), which is always filled with beautiful imagery and words of wisdom.

 

Photojournalism, Sixth Edition: The Professionals’ Approach19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoThis – the sixth edition of a classic 19 Must Read Books for Photographers phototext utilized in photojournalism courses across the country – is a beast of a resource and well worth its hefty weight. Whether you’re interested in lifestyle photography, street photography, every day captures of your own life and family, or more traditional photojournalism, you’ll want to pick up this incredible book by a photographer and professor whose work has appeared in Newsweek, Time, Business Week, the San Francisco Examiner, and more.

 

The Photographer’s Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoA more advanced work for those who have mastered basic composition, “the aim of this book is to explain what makes a photograph great, and explore the ways that top photographers achieve this goal time and time again.”

 

 

 

The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoAnother upper level book on photographic composition and the development of personal style, plus techniques for processing and shooting both film and digital photography.

 

 

 

Why Photographs Work: 52 Great Images Who Made Them, What Makes Them Special and Why19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoThis fantastic exploratory book includes technical descriptions (equipment used) and 104 evaluations — the author’s analysis + the photographer’s perspective — of the images within. It’s fascinating to read an objective viewer’s take on a work and then supplement it with the vision and motivation that came into play from the actual shooter. Also useful: a list of nearly 100 recommended photographers – from Ansel Adams and Richard Avedon to Maggie Taylor and Ami Vitali – that you’ll want to be sure to check out!

 

Looking at Photographs: 100 Pictures from the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoA classic collection of images taken between 1845 and 1969 (some well-known, some less so), this book explores the vision and story behind remarkable photographs. This is a wonderful volume for those exploring deeper levels of critique and the development of personal style, as well as a good study for anyone interested in black and white work.19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo

 

Inspiration

Humanity: A Celebration of Friendship, Family, Love & Laughter19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoThis is a book that I come back to time and again when I need a reminder of the ways that an exquisite, emotionally charged image can tell a simple (or sometimes complex) story about life and human relationships. A must-have for any photographer that wishes to capture life. 19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo

 

 

Inspire19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoClickin Moms’ first photographic compilation is chock full of gorgeous imagery by many photographers whose names you’ll recognize from the 19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoCM forums. Get inspired by a variety of styles and the artistic excellence of photographers who, like you, balance their love of photography with their busy lives as mothers/wives/sisters/friends. Want more luscious inspiration from some of your favorite CMs? Look no further than the CMpro Daily Project, a group-based personal challenge in which a number of members of CMpro have joined together to sweep out creative cobwebs, gain artistic momentum, and support each other along the way.

Tao of Photography: Seeing Beyond Seeing19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoThis book focuses on introspection and heightened awareness to bring forth your personal vision and creativity. Read just a few pages, and I guarantee that you’ll walk away feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to shoot! 19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo

 

 

A Writer’s Book of Days: A Spirited Companion and Lively Muse for the Writing Life19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo
19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoPerhaps an unexpected addition, writing books are always high on my list when it comes to developing a new personal project or kick-starting my creativity generally. Like written works, photography for me is about conveying a message or telling a story, so writing prompts are great artistic fodder. This book in particular focuses on daily exercises — an important approach in any discipline. Substitute “photographer” for “writer,” “shoot” for “write,” and “image” for “paragraph,” and get your creative momentum going!

Happy Reading!

Is your favorite photography book missing from this list? Tell us about it in the comments! We’re always looking for new sources of inspiration and information.

19 Must Read Books for Photographers photoSarah Wilkerson, Virginia
CEO | CMU Instructor
website | facebook | twitter | pinterest | instagram | mentoring | ask a pro
Duke graduate and former attorney Sarah Wilkerson joined Clickin Moms as a member photographer in 2008 and quickly became a leader in the community. In 2010, she held CM’s first forum-based workshop and spearheaded the development of CMuniversity, an online photography school that provides educational programming to over 2000 photographers each month.Together with Kendra, Sarah has led the evolution of the company’s mission, program development, and position within the greater photography community. She currently resides in Charlottesville with her Army JAG husband, three sons, one daughter, and two dogs. Sarah shoots with a Nikon D4, enjoys tilt-shift and atmospheric black and white work, and instructs CMU’s upper level composition courses (Elements of Design, Composition and Creativity, and Story and Vision). In her free time, Sarah loves research and writing and enjoys lattes, mojitos, flip flops, and reality tv.

19 Must Read Books for Photographers photo

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29 Responses to “19 Must Read Books for Photographers”

  1. Sep 26 2011 at 9:45 am #

    Awesome list!

  2. Stacey Haslem
    Sep 26 2011 at 10:34 am #

    My amazon wish list is going to grow a lot :) I love, love books. This a wonderful, comprehensive list! I really enjoyed reading your synopsis on each book letting us know why they are so great! Thank you for sharing <3

  3. Sep 26 2011 at 11:07 am #

    Thank you so much for putting this together, Sarah! I have some of those fabulous books and am always looking for more to add to my library.

  4. Sep 26 2011 at 11:22 am #

    I already own 5 of those but think I have room on my book shelves for a few more ;) Thanks Sarah.

  5. Sep 26 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Thanks for the reading list, Sarah! I'm proud to say I've gone through a few of these already but now have a bunch more to look at! THANKS!

  6. Sep 26 2011 at 11:36 am #

    Oh there are quite a few in your list that I haven't read yet… can't wait to be inspired!!

  7. Sep 26 2011 at 11:51 am #

    YES!! All the books I need in one neat and organized list. I have some of them but will have to check out a few more! :) Thanks Sarah.

  8. Jamie Rink
    Sep 26 2011 at 12:03 pm #

    Such a great list! Thanks so much Sarah!!

  9. Sep 26 2011 at 12:17 pm #

    Thank you for this!! I was just looking up photography book the other night and put a bunch on hold at my library. Now I have to add to my list!

  10. Sep 26 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    oooo! I need to read these and some I already owned. Thanks for the list Sarah!

  11. Meredith
    Sep 26 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    Great list, indeed. Thank you! I've read a handful, but just added a bunch to my library list. I wanted to add that David DuChemin is a wonderful writer as well as photographer. Such a smoothe read. AND he's coming out with a new book in Oct. Available for Amazon pre-order! Thanks, Sarah!

  12. kdokoza
    Sep 26 2011 at 8:45 pm #

    Thank you Sarah! Off to visit Amazon.com ;)

  13. Nancy Falter
    Sep 26 2011 at 9:54 pm #

    Am anxious to pick them off one by one! Thanks for the great book list!

  14. Julie E
    Sep 27 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Can't wait to check out Martin Evening. TFT! I've always wondered who was in your library.

  15. Sep 27 2011 at 10:12 am #

    This list is so appreciated! Thank you.

  16. Elle
    Sep 27 2011 at 1:15 pm #

    Thank you for putting this together, Sarah!

  17. Megan
    Oct 04 2011 at 9:55 pm #

    Wow! Great list. Now I've got a holiday wish list. Thanks!!!!

  18. Oct 21 2011 at 5:15 pm #

    AWESOME list!!! Thanks so much, Sarah!

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    i cant beleive the detail that went into these

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