The best photography books challenge you to see and think in different ways, while teaching you at the same time. Though we’re firmly in the age of the internet, it’s still nice to have a book on photography at your disposal to peruse for inspiration or as a reference for a specific question you may have in the moment. Google is a wonderful tool, but a book with an index that can quickly point you to your answer really beats having to navigate through pages of semi-relevant search results.
For our list of the best photography books, we included a mix of guides for beginners, ideas and inspiration, challenges and texts on specific disciplines within photography. Have we missed one of your favourite photography books? Let us know in the comments, and we can include it in our list!
A Year With My Camera, Book 1: The ultimate photography workshop for complete beginners: Volume 1
By Emma Davies
Emma Davies’ extremely popular book is a companion to her online course. Printed in black and white, A Year With My Camera is meant to be a book that you pick up and put down, one that you write in and revisit on a regular basis. Davies’ approach is dispelling the notion that you have to learn everything about photography all at once. This book is about pacing yourself, building the foundations of understanding how your camera works and letting your creativity flourish from there. What’s more, it’s about finding your own personal style.
A Year With My Camera, Book 2: The ultimate photography workshop for complete beginners: Volume 2
By Emma Davies
Picking up where Volume 1 left off, A Year With My Camera Volume 2 assumes more confidence in your skills and understanding of how your camera works. In this book you’ll ditch your camera’s Auto mode and start exploring the ways you can work with light. Like the original, this is a book that’s not meant to sit on your shelf. It’s designed to be written in, hauled around in your camera bag and be your companion as you develop your photographic style.
52 Assignments: Street Photography
By Brian Lloyd-Duckett
This creative photography book sets the reader with 52 commissions for capturing different street photography concepts. Along the way, Lloyd-Duckett suggests ways to avoid the usual cliches in street photography by proposing new ways for composing or exposing your shots. He also suggests techniques to use for achieving certain types of looks, and provides example images to help inspire you.
52 Assignments: Nature Photography
By Ross Hoddinott and Ben Hall
The nature instalment of the popular 52 Assignments series sees Hoddinott and Hall provide a year’s worth of commissions to capture striking animal images and macro masterpieces. You’ll learn how to set up a feeding station, work from a hide and much more.
The Beginner’s Photography Guide
Published by DK
One of the best photo books for beginners, this is also an excellent reference even for established photographers. A perennial bestseller, The Beginner’s Photography Guide is great at putting concepts into layman’s terms and showing you how to master your camera with illustrated, step-by-step tutorials. There are lots of nice touches, as well, such as sample photos with camera settings to show you the effect on an image, and projects and ideas at the end of a chapter to get you using the techniques you just learned. This comprehensive guide deserves space on any photographer’s bookshelf.
Digital Photography Complete Course: Everything You Need to Know in 20 Weeks
Published by DK
An excellent guide for beginners, the Digital Photography Complete Course combines demonstrations, step-by-step tutorials and photo assignments to put your new skills to use. What’s more, the book has just recently been updated to show you how to achieve different effects using the latest cameras and lenses. You’ll learn everything from photo composition to the best camera settings for different subjects. It’s also worth noting the premium quality of the book. With a sturdy hard cover and thick pages, it’s worth every penny and more of the modest price tag.
The Photography Book
By Ian Jeffrey and Caroline Kinneberg
It goes without saying that one of the best photo books should showcase the best photographers, and that’s exactly the role that Jeffrey’s and Kinneberg’s book serves. This exquisite book is a showcase of 550 of the best images from photographers dating back to the mid-nineteenth century up to the present day. Encompassing reportage, fashion, sport, portraiture, documentary, nature and a whole host of subjects and disciplines, you’ll be impressed by the role that photography has had on every facet of our culture. Alongside the mages you’ll also find text explaining the images and, in some cases, insights from the photographer. This is a coffee table book to end all coffee table books.
Tate: The Photography Ideas Book: Inspiration and Tips Taken from Over 80 Photos
By Lorna Yabsley
This is a really fun book and a must-have for any creative photographer. Yabsley’s book is based on the ethos that there is always a new way of photographing a subject. It might be a different angle or another shade of light, but there’s never an excuse to stop exploring. On each page you’ll find a new concept with an example image and suggestions on how you can make an image that’s original and exciting. If you’re looking to breathe new life into your photography, this is the photo book for you.
The Photography Storytelling Workshop: A five-step guide to creating unforgettable photographs
By Finn Beales
If Amazon ratings were the definitive criteria for being the best photo book, Beales’ offering would win hands down. With 625 reviews and counting, The Photography Storytelling Workshop is a five-star masterpiece that takes photographers beyond the basics of beginner photography and teaches you how to tell a story with your images – and get paid for it. Beales’, an award-winning photographer and influencer, shares a five-step course on pitching, preparing, shooting, editing and delivering a photo story. Most important are the lessons on how to shape a visual story that creates intrigue and engages an audience. Beales suggests the key shots to capture from events, landscapes, portraits and other experiences, and how to edit your body of work into a concise series. If you’ve ever had ambitions to create narrative imagery, this is the best photo book you can buy.
Mastering Exposure: The Definitive Guide for Photographers
By David Taylor
Taylor’s book is aimed at more experienced photographers and is crafted to help you get creative with light. Starting with the Exposure Triangle and fundamentals, Taylor goes on show how to make creative interpretations of ‘correct’ exposures to achieve different results. The book explores the nature of light and light’s relationship to colour. Alongside some of Taylor’s own images, you’ll also see histograms for different types of exposures, the effects of different white balance settings on a scene and dynamic range. What’s more, Taylor takes the different types of exposures he shows how to make and applies them to different genres, such as landscapes and portraiture.
Lessons in Landscape: 80 Techniques for Taking Better Photographs
By Peter Watson
The bible for any budding landscape photographer, Waton’s book takes 80 tried and tested techniques and provides a masterclass on landscape photography. From composition to exposure, the book serves as a complete course on outdoor photography. Watson’s own striking images help illustrate the techniques to show you what’s possible. At less than £10 / $10, Lessons in Landscape is a steal for the amount of information packed inside.
Edited by Jeff Meyer
OK, so we said at the beginning of this guide that the best photo books are in physical form because you can have them quickly to hand, but that’s not always the case. Photography Week is an app-based photography magazine – shameless plug – edited by this writer since 2012. Because it’s an app, what’s great about Photography Week is that it’s not only always to hand, but it’s comfortably in your pocket at all times. For its modest price tag you get 52 issues a year with the latest news and reviews, plus tutorials on myriad subjects, providing a nice archive of tips and advice over the course of the year.