Top 10 photography books to improve your skills

A list of the best books, both printed and digital, about techniques across different genres of photography.

I think that today, more than yesterday, it is hard to find a certain culture of photography, so to speak. I see a tendency to buy the latest and priciest camera on the market before one has gone into any depth to understand what he’s getting himself into. I update this article regularly with the best photography books which every photographer who is serious about his work should consider reading. Click on the book’s name below to see its description, price and reviews.

Photography Books that I recommend:

1. Langford’s Basic Photography: The Guide for Serious Photographers

This seminal photography text, now in its 10th edition and celebrating its 50th anniversary, has been revamped, reorganized, and modernized to include the most up-to-date, need to know information for photographers. Ideal for students, beginners, and advanced users wanting to brush up on the fundamentals of photography, this book is a must have for any photographer’s bookcase. The heart of this text, however, retains the same comprehensive mix of scholarly and practical information.

The new edition has been fully updated to reflect dynamic changes in the industry. These changes include:

  • An expansion and overhaul of the information on digital cameras and digital printing.
  • An emphasis on updating photographs to include a wider range of international work.
  • Replacement of many diagrams with photos.
  • Overhaul of the analogue sections to give a more modern tone (ie exposure measurement and film and filters with some more dynamic photo illustrations).

2. Langford’s Advanced Photography (The Langford Series)

Langford’s Advanced Photography is the only advanced photography guide a serious student or aspiring professional will ever need. In this eighth edition, Efthimia Bilissi continues in the footsteps of Michael Langford by combining an unrivalled level of technical detail with a straightforward writing style while simultaneously bringing the text firmly in to the digital era.

This book covers the entire photographic process from a technical standpoint – not only detailing the ‘how’ but also explaining the ‘why’ that is so often missing from photography texts. From the workings of cameras, lenses, digital imaging sensors and software to new hot topics such as HDR imaging, digital asset management, and even running your own photography business, everything a serious photographer could need to extend their art into professional realms is covered.

The book also benefits from a full glossary, charts and inspirational full color images throughout, with summaries and projects at the end of each chapter to reinforce the theory.

3. Understanding Exposure, Fourth Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

Understanding Exposure has taught generations of photographers how to shoot the images they want by demystifying the complex concepts of exposure in photography. In this newly updated edition, veteran photographer Bryan Peterson explains the fundamentals of light, aperture, and shutter speed and how they interact with and influence one another. With an emphasis on finding the right exposure even in tricky situations, Understanding Exposure shows you how to get (or lose) sharpness and contrast in images, freeze action, and take the best meter readings, while also exploring filters, flash, and light. With all new images, as well as an expanded section on flash, tips for using colored gels, and advice on shooting star trails, this revised edition will clarify exposure for photographers of all levels.

4. Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography

Stunning Digital Photography is much more than a book; it’s a hands-on, self-paced photography class with over 12 hours of online training videos and free help from the author and other readers. That’s why award-winning author and photographer Tony Northrup’s book is the #1 photography e-book with over 100,000 readers.

This book gives you five innovations no other book offers:
1) Free video training. Watch over 12 hours of fast-paced, hands-on video tutorials integrated into the book to support and reinforce the lessons. View the videos using any web browser or by scanning QR codes with your smartphone.
2) Hands-on practices. Complete the practices at the end of every chapter to get the real world experience you need.
3) Practice quizzes. At the end of Chapters 2-13 you have the option of taking an online quiz to apply what you learned in the chapter and make sure you didn’t miss anything important.
4) Classroom support. Join an author led private community of supportive, helpful people who also want to improve their photography.
5) Free ebook with lifetime updates. When you buy the book and join the private Stunning Digital Photography readers community, you can download the ebook and copy it to your smartphone or ereader for easy reference. The ebook is regularly updated with new content and videos as new photography trends and equipment emerge, so it never becomes outdated.

In this book, beginner photographers will master:
* Using composition to take great photos with any camera
* Adjusting exposure to control the brightness of your photos
* Setting your shutter speed to freeze action or blur motion
* Controlling your aperture to blur or focus the background
* Setting your ISO for bright and dark environments
* Finding beautiful natural light for landscapes and portraits
* Using flash without the ugly effects
* Troubleshooting blurry, dark, and bad pictures
* Taking great pictures of pets
* Wildlife photography (mammals, birds, insects, fish, and more)
* Taking pictures at night, including fireworks, stars, and meteors
* Photographing sunrises, sunsets, landscapes, cityscapes, flowers, forests, waterfalls, rivers, fireworks, and more

Advanced photographers can skip forward to learn the pro’s secrets for:
* Posing men and women, with checklists
* Taking candid, casual, formal, and underwater portraits
* Using RAW files
* Using HDR to overcome lighting challenges or create art
* Macro/close-up photography
* Using diffusers, reflectors, and other light modifiers
* Remotely triggering multiple flashes for inexpensive studio lighting
* Building a permanent studio in your home
* Using studio lighting on any budget
* Shooting your first wedding
* High speed photography
* Location scouting/finding the best spots and times
* Planning shoots around the sun and moon
* Creating star trails using two techniques: long exposure and image stacking
* Light painting
* Eliminating noise
* Focus stacking for infinite depth-of-field
* Underwater photography
* Getting close to wildlife
* Using electronic shutter triggers

5. The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos

Design is the single most important factor in creating a successful photograph. The ability to see the potential for a strong picture and then organize the graphic elements into an effective, compelling composition has always been one of the key skills in making photographs.

Digital photography has brought a new, exciting aspect to design – first because the instant feedback from a digital camera allows immediate appraisal and improvement; and second because image-editing tools make it possible to alter and enhance the design after the shutter has been pressed. This has had a profound effect on the way digital photographers take pictures.

Now published in sixteen languages, The Photographer’s Eye continues to speak to photographers everywhere. Reaching 100,000 copies in print in the US alone, and 300,000+ worldwide, it shows how anyone can develop the ability to see and shoot great digital photographs. The book explores all the traditional approaches to composition and design, but crucially, it also addresses the new digital technique of shooting in the knowledge that a picture will later be edited, manipulated, or montaged to result in a final image that may be very different from the one seen in the viewfinder.

6. The Photographer’s Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos

The source of any photograph is not the camera or even the scene viewed through the viewfinder–it is the mind of the photographer: this is where an image is created before it is committed to a memory card or film. In The Photographer’s Mind, the follow-up to the international bestseller, The Photographer’s Eye, photographer and author Michael Freeman unravels the mystery behind the creation of a photograph.

The nature of photography demands that the viewer constantly be 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 what makes a photograph great, and to explore the ways that 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 on avoiding cliché, the cyclical nature of fashion, style and mannerism, light, and even how to handle the unexpected.

Michael Freeman is the author of the global bestseller, The Photographer’s Eye. Now published in sixteen languages, The Photographer’s Eye continues to speak to photographers everywhere. Reaching 100,000 copies in print in the US alone, and 300,000+ worldwide, it shows how anyone can develop the ability to see and shoot great digital photographs.

Written by the author of The Photographer’s Eye.
Provides you with invaluable knowledge on avoiding cliché, the cyclical nature of fashion, style and mannerism, light and even how to handle the unexpected.
Contains over 400 breathtaking images from real photographic assignments, with schematic illustrations of how and why the images work.

7. Creative Black and White: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques

Black-and-white photography poses unique challenges; without color to guide the eye, contrast, lighting and composition take on even more importance. Renowned photographer Harold Davis explains these elements and 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, explores opportunities for black-and-white imagery and shows how to capitalize on every one.

8. Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites

For those new to flash photography—or for anyone who has previously given up out of frustration—Speedliter’s Handbook, Second Edition, is a revelation. Follow along as photographer Syl Arena takes you on a journey that begins with an exploration of light and color, moves through a comprehensive discussion of the Canon Speedlite family and all of the accessories and equipment available to the Speedliter, and finally, explores crafting great light in one photo shoot after another. Whether you want to make a classic portrait, photograph a group, capture an important event, or create dramatic color effects in your images, Speedliter’s Handbook shows you how.

In this fully updated second edition, Syl includes all of the newest Canon gear—including the radio-enabled 600EX-RT Speedlite and ST-E3 Transmitter—to ensure that you are completely up to date on all of the components in the Speedlite system. He also includes a downloadable online supplement on the brand-new 430EX III-RT Speedlite. Plus, he covers his newest best practices and workflows so you can make the most of your Canon gear.

In this new edition, you’ll learn how to:

  • See the various properties of light itself, as well as the differences between how your camera sees versus how you see
  • Use all the buttons and dials of the entire Canon Speedlite family—from the flagship 600EX-RT and the new 430EX III-RT to vintage models like the 550EX
  • Understand the basics of on-camera flash . . . and the benefits of getting your Speedlite off the camera
  • Beautifully balance flash with the existing ambient light
  • Get amazing shots with just one Speedlite, all the way up to a dozen Speedlites
  • Use the right Speedlite mode for the job: E-TTL, Manual, Multi, and more
  • Use color gels to balance color, as well as create dramatic effects
  • Tame the sun—or any really bright light—with high-speed sync
  • Use Speedlites when photographing groups and events
  • Choose your camera’s exposure settings to capture the shot that you truly want
  • And much, much more

9. The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes

After spending more than thirty years behind the lens—working for National Geographic, Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated—Joe McNally knows about light. He knows how to talk about it, shape it, color it, control it, and direct it. Most importantly, he knows how to create it…using small hot shoe flashes.

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—often funny, sometimes serious, always fascinating—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.

10. The Complete Guide to Nature Photography: Professional Techniques for Capturing Digital Images of Nature and Wildlife

The authoritative guide for photographing nature in today’s digital world.

Infused with both a passion for nature and an abundance of technical expertise, The Complete Guide to Nature Photography guides amateur photographers through every stage of shooting landscapes, close-ups, and animal portraits in today’s digital world. Master nature photographer Sean Arbabi offers insider advice on everything from packing your gear bag to selecting sites, staying safe while working in the field, getting a perfect exposure, composing your images for maximum impact, and processing your digital images afterward.
Packed with more than 200 inspiring and instructive images, this complete course is the only book you’ll need to capture the beauty of the world around you.

If you’ve read any of the above books or wish to suggest one which is not in the list, feel free to leave a comment.

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