Best Photography Books
A couple of years ago I wrote about the best photography books by asking 30 professional photographers which books helped them improve both in their art and in their business.
For 2021, I wanted to dig deeper on the vast topic of photography books by asking over 600 top photographers the same two questions:
What photography books (free or paid) have helped you improve your photography, and which ones have helped you grow your business.
Each photographer kindly provided more than one book for each category, and I soon noticed that the same titles cropping up, hence the creation of this post.
For a book to have been recommended in this list, it needed to have been mentioned by at least 10 times by the 600 respondents.
The photographers I interviewed ranged from new-coming beginner to experienced pros. I wanted to ensure that this list of books on photography provided a well-rounded view on the topic.
…and if you don’t have time to read any books on photography, check out these inspirational photography quotes instead!
Table of Contents
Best Photography Books in 2021
|How to Create Stunning Digital Photography||View Price →|
|Lightroom Mastery||View Price →|
|Understanding Exposure||View Price →|
|Humans of New York||View Price →|
|Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs||View Price →|
|Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO & Exposure||View Price →|
|The Beginner's Photography Guide||View Price →|
|Annie Leibovitz: Portraits||View Price →|
|Extraordinary Everyday Photography||View Price →|
|Light, Science & Magic||View Price →|
1. Books on Photography Technique
Every photographer no matter their level can improve their photography technique.
Whether it’s camera settings, composition, lighting, posing, direction or any of the myriad other topics that come together to help us produce an engaging photograph, it’s clear that there is a lot to learn!
Here’s a selection on the best photography books on photography technique as selected by the interviewed photographers. There’s a nice mix of books for beginner, intermediate and advanced level of photographer.
[Side note: If you are a beginner or intermediate photographer, out for a shoot and can’t recall one valuable concept that you’ve read in the past, I highly recommend you to check out Snap Cards. These are 44 printable photography lessons you can carry anywhere. Check out my Photzy Snap Cards review for more insights.]
The Most Common Photography Problems and How to Solve Them
by Bryan Peterson
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn how to take control of your exposure even in the trickiest situations.
Description: Exposure Solutions is aimed at the amateur photographer who struggles in situations such as exposing high-contrast scenes to freezing action in low light, photographing a full moon, exposing subjects against a sunset sky, balancing subjects in shade with brightly lit backgrounds, and many others.
Reviewer’s Comment: “While other books on photography technique have great pics and tell you what they are and what kinds of equipment and settings were used to obtain them, this one gives specific instructions on getting tricky or difficult shots to come out properly. I love the “recipe style” approach to this book as when you are a novice, you mostly want to see how the masters have created their amazing photographs”
An Approach to Personal Expression
by Bruce Barnbaum
Buy this Photography Book If: You want a complete photography book that goes beyond the technical, delving into philosophical expression and the creative aspects of photography often avoided in other books.
Description: Described as the most readable, understandable and complete textbook on photography. With well over 100 beautiful photographic illustrations in both black-and-white and colour, as well as numerous charts, graphs, and tables, The Art of Photography is a classic book that presents the world of photography to beginner, intermediate, and advanced photographers seeking to make a personal statement through their work.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This photography book is totally different. It starts talking about the philosophy of how photography is connected personally to the photographer. Then it gives a detailed analysis of all the elements of composition with great examples and with a language that even an amateur can understand. Best of all, the author did a great job at interconnecting all the elements to help the reader understand the importance of applying a combination of elements instead of focusing on just one of two of the elements. It is like putting all the puzzles together to solve a great mystery.”
A Photographer’s Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations
by Nick fancher
Buy this Photography Book If: You want to be able to create images with minimal equipment and follow a professional photographers entire workflow from concept through to editing.
Description: Studio Anywhere is a resource for photographers to learn through behind-the-scenes photos and lighting diagrams from a range of photo shoots, from simple one-light set ups to more complex multiple light setups. The author also lets you in on the aesthetic decisions he makes in his signature photos, inspiring you to develop your own vision. He also describes his Lightroom and Photoshop workflow so you can learn how to deftly navigate post-processing.
Reviewer’s Comment: Studio Anywhere is a great book for photographers who want to improve the quality of their images without needing a ton of expensive gear or a permanent studio location. I really enjoyed the book, the author is very specific about how he lit each example picture, even including screenshots of Lightroom settings of how he color graded the pictures and fixed problems.”
Awaken Your Vision to Create Stunning Images Wherever You Are
by Brenda Tharp & Jed Manwaring
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn how to search beyond the surface to create an alluring photo wherever you are, be it a downtown street, a local park, or your own front lawn.
Description: Extraordinary Everyday Photography encourages amateur photographers to slow down, open their eyes, and respond to what they see to create compelling images. Inspiring photo examples from the authors, taken with DSLRs, compact digital cameras, and even iPhones, show that it is the photographer’s eye and creative vision, not the gear, that make a great image.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Do not expect here a technical discussion of how aperture affects DOF or how to use PS to post process your way to imaging happiness or other purely technical issues. Instead, this is a photography book about how to move from where you are to a more artistically inclined version of yourself. The book concentrates on the image – the composition and its elements. It strives to break you free of any creative restrictions you may have developed. This book isn’t very long but is dense in information.”
A Self-Training Guide to Mastering the Challenges of Taking World-Class Photographs
by Roberto Valenzuela
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to be able to walk confidently into any location, under any lighting condition, with any subject and gear, and know that you can create astonishing photographs that have a timeless impact.
Description: In Picture Perfect Practice, experienced wedding photographer Roberto Valenzuela breaks down the craft of photography into three key elements – locations, poses, and execution. and shows you how you can use them to unlock the photographic opportunities lying beneath every challenging situation. Picture Perfect Practice also includes an inspiring and helpful chapter on deliberate practice techniques, where Valenzuela describes his system for practicing and analyzing his work, which leads to constant improvement as a photographer.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Valenzuela’s book approaches the photography from a creative/artistic point of view: it teaches you how to recognize geometry in the scenes you are shooting; how to reduce the background clutter by finding “simple” structures that are effective compositional elements; why a picture needs “balance” and how you can use elements you find in the scene to achieve balance; which expressions and messages you send by taking silhouettes; which emotions do you evoke by which method of posing; how do you effectively pose a subject; etc.“
Practicing the Art of Posing for Photographers and Models
by Roberto Valenzuela
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to be able to pose your subject in a natural and compelling way to take your portrait photography from good to amazing. A must for wedding photographers and anyone who shoots people for a living.
Description: Instead of just showing page after page of poses (like most posing books on the market), Picture Perfect Posing actually breaks down the concept of posing by examining the anatomy, starting with the core foundation: the spinal chord and neck. Building from there, Roberto discusses every component of what makes poses work, as well as fail. How should the model hold her hands? Bend her elbows? Position her fingers? Should the model look toward or away from the camera, and why?
Reviewer’s Comment: “If you’re looking to learn more about posing, I can’t recommend Roberto Valenzuela’s new book enough. It’s seriously AMAZING. Heck, I even recommend this book to brides who want to know the basics on how to better carry themselves, stand, sit, ect to look more amazing and flattering in their photographs. The author gives you the TOOLS to build any pose you need. By knowing the principles behind excellent posing, you’ll be MUCH better equipped.”
How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
by Bryan Peterson
Buy This Photography Book If: You want one of the best photography books ever written on helping demystify the complex concepts of exposure in photography, to help you capture the images you want.
Description: Understanding Exposure 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 improve sharpness and contrast in images, freeze action, take the best meter readings, and explore 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 (4th) edition will clarify exposure for photographers of all levels.
Reviewer’s Comment: “While other books on photography technique have great pics and tell you what they are and what kinds of equipment and settings were used to obtain them, this one gives specific instructions on getting tricky or difficult shots to come out properly. I love the “recipe style” approach to this book as when you are a novice, you mostly want to see how the masters have created their amazing photographs”
An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
by Steven Biver
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn how to light the most difficult subjects, such as surfaces, metal, glass, liquids, extremes (black-on-black and white-on-white), and portraits.
Description: Light Science and Magic provides you with a comprehensive theory of the nature and principles of light, with examples and instructions for practical application. As well as all the original helpful diagrams and step-by-step guides, this new edition of Light Science and Magic includes an all new chapter entitled “Setting Up Your New Studio”, a re-vamped and expanded chapter on “Making Portraits”, a new appendix of reliable photo gear sources, updated information about advances in flash equipment, LED panels and fluorescent lights, and over 100 new photographs and informational sidebars.
Reviewer’s Comment: “The authors have written a truly essential reference for product in particular and an outstanding educational text for all other forms of photographer. You don’t need to have a background in studio photography or a knowledge of lighting equipment to understand and benefit from this book. You need to have only a good understanding of exposure and camera operation. Information on basic lighting equipment is found in the appendices for those who are unfamiliar with studio equipment.”
How They Interact and Affect Each Other
by Al Judge
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to master what most photographers take years to learn, only in a few hours – the 3 components of the exposure triangle.
Description: Do your eyes glaze over when people use terms like ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, and Exposure? Are you excited about photography but confused by all the technical jargon? Do you wonder how professional photographers get such great shots? Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO, and Exposure will painlessly provide help and insight with all these topics and more in just a few hours of your time. This book builds a solid foundation of photographic knowledge with easy-to-follow discussions of what you need to know in order to create better images with confidence.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I have read a couple of this author’s other photography books and they are all the best of the best. This book has taught me more than the college-level photography course I took over a year ago. This book should be the textbook for those courses. I was still unclear about many aspects of photography until I found this book. I think that is the best way to judge a book, not just by how you interpret the information, but how you can relay that information to someone else. You can go through and read all of the reviews you want, or you can just buy the book and start taking better pictures right away.”
60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs
by David duChemin
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn 60 solid concepts to help you create stronger photographs.
Description: In The Visual Toolbox, world-renowned photographer and film-maker David duChemin helps you master topics such as balance, using negative space, exploring color contrast, waiting for the moment, learning to incorporate mood and motion, and much more. The book is a kind of curriculum for learning not just how to use a camera, but how to make stronger photographs. You’ll discover both the technical side of the craft but more importantly, composition, the creative process, and the principles that have always been responsible for making great photographs. The Visual Toolbox features action-oriented micro-chapters designed to improve your photography immediately, explanations of 60 concepts with an assignment for nearly every chapter
Reviewer’s Comment: “This photography book is more helpful than most of the online photography workshops I’ve taken, and for a FRACTION of the price. If I were to teach a photography class, I would make all my students buy this book and we’d use it as a text. The best thing about it, is that it works at any experience level. I used it when I was still learning the exposure triangle and just starting to shoot in manual mode. And now that I’ve been comfortable in manual for a year, I still find this book really inspiring and challenging. The book gives me the direction and confidence to grow in my craft.”
The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro
by Jim Miotke
Buy This Photography Book If: You are a beginner who doesn’t have time to read a whole book, but instead wants simple tips and tricks to improve your photos right away, no matter what camera you’re using.
Description: If you can press a button, you can take great pictures. It’s as simple as that. Learn to compose knockout shots and make the most of indoor and outdoor light. BetterPhoto Basics teaches you tips and tricks to photograph twenty popular subjects, from sunsets and flowers to a family portrait. Those who want to go further get tips on controlling exposure and the secrets behind ten advanced creative techniques. And everyone will appreciate the author’s breakdown of easy fixes to make in Photoshop. No matter what your level of experience, you’ll be amazed how easy it is to start taking photos like the pros.
Reviewer’s Comment: “The author is the founder of popular online photography school BetterPhoto.com and really knows what photographers want to learn about the most. Unlike many other beginner photography books, the author doesn’t spend page after page on techniques or explanations, instead keeping his descriptions short and to the point. For a beginner, this is the photography book I would recommend to get you started. If you already have a good grasp of the basics, this is probably not the book for you.”
From Snapshots to Great Shots (Using Flash and Natural Light for Portrait, Still Life, Action, and Product Photography)
by Syl Arena
Buy This Photography Book If: You are a beginner, intermediate or advanced level photographer who wants to better understand light and how it can be used to create powerful images.
Description: There’s something for all level of photographer in Lighting for Digital Photography by bestselling author Syl Arena. Learn how to use light modifiers that make light bigger and softer, such as umbrellas, softboxes, beauty dishes, and diffusion panels; understand how to control and shape the light itself with flags, grids, snoots, and the zoom function on your flash; appreciate the colour temperature of light (whether that’s the sun, a light bulb, or a flash), and how to influence it with white balance settings on your camera and colored gels on your flash; and learn how to take great pictures across many different genres, from product and still life images, to simple (and not so simple) portraits and group shots.
Reviewer’s Comment: “There are countless books written on the subject of photographic lighting providing varying degrees of useful and practical advice. What makes this one of the best photography books on lighting is that it is a true tutorial, by which I mean it provides a complete learning journey from foundation concepts to detailed step by step instruction and explanations of how each image was accomplished. The author goes to great length and in great detail to provide specific examples and explanations on each topic that he covers in this book in a manner that will be clear to any reader regardless of their skill/knowledge level at the time of reading.”
The Secrets to Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits
by Peter Hurley
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn all the tricks of the trade to create world-class headshots. Essential reading for all level of portrait photographer.
Description: Here’s your chance to learn exactly how to create the Peter Hurley headshot style that’s so in demand today. If you’re not adding headshots to what you offer as a professional photographer, you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. The Headshot will teach you how to get authentic expressions and incredible flattering positioning that will make your clients look better than they have ever looked in any photo. Learn how to get genuine smiles and show the true personality of your subject. The author reveals all his tricks of the trade, from his trademark lighting look, to how to create good-looking backgrounds on location, to positioning tricks and much more.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I loved the conversational tone of this book which helps you understand exactly how you should talk to your clients, whatever their social stature. Peter Hurley is one of the world’s best headshot photographers, and in this book he reveals exactly how he has become so in demand. Even if you don’t have the fancy camera gear and lighting setup that he does, you’ll be able to use the tips to improve your portrait photography immediately – it’s little tips and tricks like pushing your chin forward, squinting the eyes – things that you can tell your client straight away. Highly recommended!”
by Christopher Grey
Buy This Photography Book If: You are an experienced portrait or wedding photographer wanting to improve your offcamera lighting technique.
Description: With over 50,000 copies in print, the Master Lighting Guide walks you through studio portrait lighting from start to finish to help breakdown dramatic off camera lighting techniques. Dozens of image sequences and before/after pairings show you precisely how each change of light position and modifier affects the look of the lighting on the subject. From classic portrait lighting patterns to unexpected but powerful looks, the author teaches you everything you need to know to control light effectively. Armed with these powerful skills, you’ll be able to create portraits that are more flattering, more marketable, and more creative.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I wish I had found this book in my first year of photography at college. Christopher Grey really knows his stuff. He has diagrams along with his photographs to explain each type of lighting situation. I actually learned quite a bit about different lighting accessories used for various lighting like hairlights, and different ways to show separation from the background. This is definitely a great book to have around to review a few pointers before a shoot.”
An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash
By Joe McNally
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn all that’s possible with flashes from one of the masters of photography.
Description: Sketching Light follows up on the great success of The Moment It Clicks and The Hot Shoe Diaries (2 other books recommended in this list of the best books for photographers). Legendary magazine photographer Joe McNally takes us on another trip into the land of light, but this time running the gamut from small flash to big flash, and everywhere in between. No secrets are held back, and the principles he talks about apply generally to the shaping and quality of light, not just to an individual model or brand of flash.
Reviewer’s Comment: “If you are a student of light, then consider Joe McNally`s new book Sketching Light to be one of the best photography books on the subject. Sitting down with Sketching Light is like sitting down for a beer with Joe as he talks you through his favorite pix in a photo album. The conversation will wander, stories will be spun, jokes will be told, detailed insights will be shared, advice will be given, and you’ll walk away grateful for the opportunity. If you are like me who cannot attend any of Joe’s workshop then you simply grab this book and rest assured you know how he thinks while going about making those amazing photos.”
Big Light from Small Flashes
by Joe McNally
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to discover the complex lighting solutions for a ton of great images.
Description: In The Hot Shoe Diaries, Joe McNally lets you in on his uncensored thought process—often funny, sometimes serious, always fascinating—to demonstrate how he makes his pictures with small Nikon Speedlights. No matter if you shoot Nikon or not, you’ll learn from the way McNally goes from planning to execution on shoots for National Geographic, Time, Life, and Sports Illustrated.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Joe starts with the basics: gear, the fundamentals of digital photography and simple flash. He moves on to talk about one light shots. And two light shots. And lots-a-lights shots. He talks about where to put the lights and what to put between the lights and the subject. He shares a lifetime of stories. He inspires and encourages. HSD’ is for photographers of all levels – novice to expert. Plan on reading this marvellous photography book again and again. I guarantee that every time you do, you’ll pick up something new.”
Real Questions. Real Answers
by Zack Arias
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn the answers to the most popular questions from actual photographers, across all aspects of the photo industry.
Description: In Photography Q&A, commercial photographer Zack Arias answers over 100 questions that he fielded directly from the public. These are questions that range across all aspects of the photo industry: gear, marketing, street photography, vision, pricing, branding, light, models, work/life balance, technical advice, and much more. Photography Q&A answers many of the pressing questions that photographers are asking, but until now have not been addressed.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I can’t recommend this book enough… For a few bucks, you get to have “coffee” with a stellar photographer. This book is for anyone who takes their photography seriously. It really is the no-BS slap to the forehead that many of us need to get through some often confusing scenarios and situations. The questions are those that I have heard fellow photographers mutter often and Zack’s answers are backed with wisdom from the field, as well as examples in imagery.”
by Henry Carroll
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to skip the diagrams and technical jargon and fast-track your way to a better image via example.
Description: Split into five sections, Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs covers composition, exposure, light, lenses, and seeing. Images taken by master photographers serve to illustrate points and encourage readers to try out new ideas. Image examples include works by Henri Cartier- Bresson, Sebastião Salgado, Fay Godwin, and Martin Parr. It’s quick to the point with no messing around – does everything it says on the cover!
Reviewer’s Comment: “This book is for the beginner photographer who has no time or interest in learning about the technical ins and outs of photography. Using master image makers’ images and funny text as examples, the book serves as an example for you to replicate, in the hope that your photos will improve. Whilst none of the explanations go very in-depth, you’ll get the point the author is trying to make, with just enough info for you to apply the tip to your own photography.”
The Top Ten Worst Photography Lighting Situations and How to Conquer Them
by Lindsay Adler
Buy This Photography Book If: You’re a beginner or intermediate photographer who is often forced to shoot in bad light, and want to learn how to handle yourself to still produce professional quality pictures.
Description: Shooting in Sh*tty Light covers the top ten worst lighting situations you’ll inevitably encounter at some stage in your photography career, along with a variety of solutions for each. They explain which solutions are most practical and why one option might be preferable over another, examining such problems as extremely low lighting when no flash is allowed, strong backlight, and the light on an overcast day.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Even though this book is aimed towards professional wedding and portrait photographers who often have to shoot in the dreaded midday sun, or in a crappy church lobby etc., many of the tips are quite basic and can apply to any genre of photographer. The chapters include titles like direct sunlight, mixed colour temperatures, and dappled light with high contrast. There is also a handy glossary and an appendix on equipment.”
by Neil van Niekerk
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to gain confidence in using on-camera flash
Description: In On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography, you can quickly learn how to create stunning, professional images while avoiding the common pitfalls of using an on-camera flash. You’ll discover techniques for using simple accessories such as bounce cards and diffusers, as well as how to improve a lighting scenario by enhancing it rather than overwhelming it.
Reviewer’s Comment: “On-Camera flash seems to get a bit of a bad reputation, most probably because not many photographers know how to use it well. I’m a big fan of Neil van Niekerk’s Tangents site, and so buying this book was a no-brainer. I’m glad I did, as it has allowed me to gain confidence to use my flash as it was intended i.e. stuck on top of my camera! I can now use my flash in situations I wouldn’t have dreamt about before, all the while producing natural looking photos – no more deer-in-the-headlights!”
Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
by Michael Freeman
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn how to see the potential for a strong picture, then organize the graphic elements into an effective, compelling composition.
Description: Reaching 300,000+ copies worldwide, The Photographer’s Eye continues to teach photographers around the world 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.
Reviewer’s Comment: “The author approaches the subject of photography from a very thoughtful perspective. While the book covers the basic elements (lines, shapes, dynamic tension, balance, etc.) he also talks at length about more emotionally-related issues: chiaroscuro and key, the search for order, reactive thought, etc. These are the concepts that more experienced photographers (and artists) find themselves confronting once they have a solid feel for design elements and construction. This is by far the best photography book I’ve read in 10 years.”
The Journey of Photographic Vision
by David du Chemin
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn how to find and express your photographic vision, specifically where people, places, and cultures are concerned
Description: Within the Frame is full of real-world wisdom and incredible images, showing you both the how and the why of finding, chasing, and expressing your vision with a camera to your eye. Both instructional and inspirational, learn how to make better images of the places and people you love, whether they are around the world or in your own backyard. Learn how to tell stories, and the technology and tools we have at our disposal in order to tell those narratives.
Reviewer’s Comment: “When millions of photos are snapped by cameras and phones or produced via software, the author eloquently reminds us that vision, creativity, sensitivity and thought are at the core of making meaningful images. This book is a must-read, and one which you’ll return to again and again for inspiration and insight.”
2. Books on Art/Inspiration for Photographers
Here are the books recommended by photographers on the topic of photography as an art form. By this I mean books showing the work of famous photographers, which serve as inspiration to us photographers to create better photographs.
Obviously photography as art is a more subjective topic than the others in this list. This is why I made sure whichever book I recommend here as a ‘best book on photography’ was recommended at least 10 times by the interviewed photographers.
by Annie Leibovitz
Buy This Photography Book If: You are a fan of Annie Leibovitz and want to learn how she has created her iconic work over the years, and what gear she uses to do it.
Description: The celebrated photographer Annie Leibovitz provides the stories, and technical description, of how some of her most famous images came to be. Learn the stories behind the iconic images of Queen Elizabeth II, John Lennon, Puff Daddy, Kate Moss and other famous subjects of Leibovitz’s camera. Annie Leibovitz At Work is a unique behind-the-scenes insight into the photography of one of the most celebrated portrait photographers of the 21st century.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Unlike many photo/text books, this is not a how-to book. Sure, there is information on the equipment used for particular shoots, etc. That’s not at all what “At Work” is about, though. Rather than a behind-the-scenes look at the technical side of photography, “At Work” is a behind-the-scenes examination of Leibovitz’s growth as a photographer. And, while the photos are wonderful, they are not necessarily the book’s focus – instead, they illustrate the book’s stories.”
Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer
by Gregory Heisler
Buy This Photography Book If: You want some inspiration to create compelling portraits of people that go well beyond ‘ordinary’.
Description: In this first-ever showcase of his work, Gregory Heisler, one of professional photography’s most respected practitioners, shares 50 iconic portraits of celebrities, athletes, and world leaders, along with fascinating, thoughtful, often humorous stories about how the images were made. For Heisler’s fans and all lovers of photography, Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits offers not only a gorgeous collection of both black-and-white and color portraits, but an engrossing look at the rarely seen art of a master photographer at work.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This is quite simply the best photo book I’ve ever read. Learning from a behind the scenes perspective how Heisler created portrait photographs of all the major faces of our generation is the most valuable insight in my photography career. Heisler pushes himself to create portraits that tell the complete story of the individual in one single frame – something that take years of experience to truly master. An essential coffee-table book that you’ll keep coming back to again and again.”
by Ansel Adams
Buy This Photography Book If: You love the work of Ansel Adams and want to learn about the zone system which he uses to create his iconic imagery.
Description: Learn from the master of black-and-white film photography in the classic book The Negative (Ansel Adams Photography, Book 2). The early chapters are devoted to a discussion of light, film and exposure. Then there’s a detailed discussion of the zone system, chapters on natural and artificial light and at the end an extensive chapter on the darkroom and its equipment.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This is truly a great photography book, a classic that is important both historically, because it defines the zone system as no other work can, and practically, because it gives you the best combination of practice and theory available in print. It is the best book of the three books of the series by Ansel Adams. Although a lot of it may not be relevant to the digital photographers of today, it’s still a great look into the thought processes of a master photographer.”
by Vivian Maier
Buy This Photography Book If: You are interested in raw street photography of city life in the post-war golden age.
Description: Vivian Maier was a professional nanny, who from the 1950s until the 1990s took over 100,000 photographs worldwide, from France to New York City to Chicago and dozens of other countries, and yet showed the results to no one. Presented here for the first time in print, Vivian Maier: Street Photographer collects the best of her incredible, unseen body of work.
Reviewer’s Comment: “It’s incredible to think that all these photos would have never seen the light of day had it not been for the local historian John Maloof who bought a box of Maier’s negatives from a Chicago auction house. The photos are at once humourous, moving and beautiful, and owning this book feels like you’re owning a piece of history that wasn’t supposed to be seen.”
by Brandon Stanton
Buy This Photography Book If: You like seeing real people on the streets of New York.
Description: With four hundred colour photos, including exclusive portraits and all-new stories, Humans of New York is a stunning collection of images that showcases the outsized personalities of New York. Surprising and moving, printed in a beautiful full-color, hardbound edition, Humans of New York is a celebration of individuality and a tribute to the spirit of the city. A #1 New York Times bestseller and a huge hit on Amazon.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Whilst anyone can arguably pick up a camera, take some photos of interesting looking people in their city, write a few words, then get published, few can do it as well as Brandon Stanton. He seems to possess the ability to totally disarm strangers, giving us a glimpse into their hearts, making us feel that we know them. This book is an honest and sometimes very moving collection of images of real people going about their lives in one of the most fast-moving cities in the world.”
by Kristen Lubben
Buy This Photography Book If: You are interested in what processes editors use to choose the best photos from a print sheet.
Description: Available for the first time in a compact edition, the ground-breaking Magnum Contact Sheets presents a remarkable selection of contact sheets and ancillary material, revealing for the first time how the most celebrated Magnum photographers capture and edit the very best shots. Addressing key questions of photographic practice, the book illuminates the creative methods, strategies, and editing processes behind some of the world’s most iconic images.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Magnum Contact Sheets is truly a masterpiece in terms of content. The reproductions of the photographs in this book are of outstanding quality. This is an iconic book that’s now available in a smaller, more convenient size that’s much more affordable too.”
Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters
by Joe McNally
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn the same techniques that Joe McNally shares in his seminars and lectures in a book.
Description: In The Moment It Clicks, Joe McNally breaks new ground by blending the rich, stunning images and elegant layout of a coffee-table book with the invaluable training, no-nonsense insights, and photography secrets usually found only in those rare, best-of-breed educational books. It will help you understand photography and the art of making great photos at a level you never thought possible. This book is packed with those “Ah ha!” moments, clever insights that make it all come together for you.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This fantastic photography book will teach you how to have a single photo tell a whole story. Every turn of the page has a compelling photo which is the subject of the lesson. Some lessons are technical such as how-to on lighting, while others are lessons on approach, demeanor or attitude. It is a must for amateurs through to pros. Photographers of every experience, style and age will gain huge value.”
by Ansel Adams
Buy This Photography Book If: You want the full spectrum of Ansel Adams’ work in one single volume.
Description: Beautifully produced and presented in an attractive landscape trim, Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs will appeal to a general gift-book audience as well as Adams’ legions of dedicated fans and students. The photographs are arranged chronologically into five major periods, from his first photographs made in Yosemite and the High Sierra in 1916 to his work in the National Parks in the 1940s up to his last important photographs from the 1960s. An introduction and brief essays on selected images provide information about Adams’ life, document the evolution of his technique, and give voice to his artistic vision.
Reviewer’s Comment: “If you want 400 finely reproduced photographs of the oeuvre of one of the greatest black and white photographers, Ansel Adams, then you must get this book. The photographs are reproduced with the fine attention to detail, shadow and contrast that Adams would have demanded. Even though the book could have been just a little bit bigger, it is a nice size to fit on your lap without breaking your arms. This is by far the best photography book for any Adams’ enthusiast.”
by Steve McCurry
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to see evocative National Geographic style photography and don’t care about the stories behind the shots.
Description: Powerful, moving and vivid images of many kinds of people from all over the world, all taken by Magnum photographer Steve McCurry. Critically acclaimed and recognized internationally for his classic reportage, over the last 20 years he has worked for the “National Geographic” and other publications on numerous assignments: along the Afghan border, in Baghdad, Beirut and the Sahel. Portraits is a series of photos that will inspire you to get out there and shoot.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I can’t get enough of these photos and I own the book for seven years now. All the faces tell stories, the eyes of these people speak volumes. I have my favourite ones but it’s one of an Afghani boy that breaks my heart every single time I see his picture. I’m a huge fan of Steve McCurry – he is not only a photographer of people but also of souls and I don’t care how pompous it sounds – that’s the truth.”
by Cartier Bresson
Buy This Photography Book If: You want a beautiful coffee table book of a street photography legend’s finest work.
Description: The Decisive Moment is a reprint of the book that launched Cartier-Bresson to international fame, adorned with a collage cover by artist Henri Matisse, making it beautiful to behold whether open or shut. The book has influenced generations of photographers. The title defines the notion of the famous peak in which all elements in the photographic frame accumulate to form the perfect image.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This reproduction is as faithful to the original as can be, and for the asking price which some may find high, it’s actually an incredible bargain. The work of Cartier Bresson needs to be re-examined several times to really get a feel for what he was trying to capture in his imagery. This is one of those beautiful photography books that is intended to stay out of your bookshelf and on your table top, allowing you to come back to it time and time again.”
by John Maloof
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to explore the full range of work by American photographer Vivian Maier.
Description: Vivian Maier presents the most comprehensive collection and largest selection of the photographer’s work, created during the 1950s through the 1970s in New York, Chicago, and on her travels around the country, almost exclusively unpublished and including her previously unknown colour work. It features images of and excerpts from Maier’s personal artefacts, memorabilia, and audiotapes, made available for the first time. Vivian Maier draws upon recently conducted interviews with people who knew Maier, which shed new light on Maier’s photographic skill and her life.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I am obsessed with Vivian Maier’s work and story. I have the other 2 books by the same author. This is by far the best book to date. The pages are larger than any of the other volumes, and the quality of the images is much better than those in the other volumes. This is the first time that many of the images have appeared in print, especially the large number of colour prints, making this book an essential purchase if you are a fan of Vivian’s powerful imagery of everyday things.”
by Diane Arbus
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to explore the best work by Diane Arbus.
Description: Universally acknowledged as a photobook classic, Diane Arbus: An Aperture Monograph is a timeless masterpiece which remains the foundation of Diane Arbus’ international reputation. Edited and designed by Arbus’s daughter, Doon, and her friend and colleague, painter Marvin Israel, the monograph contains eighty of her most masterful photos. Arbus’ photographs penetrate the psyche with all the force of a personal encounter and, in doing so, transform the way we see the world and the people in it.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Her images I think speak more about who she is than who her subjects are, but in a way that is brutally revealing. On the surface, these photographs represent a cross-section of fringe society, with all of its inherent complexity and grit. Cross dressers, midgets, nudists, drug addicts, “dancers” and the like. But they become quite revealing about her psyche during the period she was creating this amazing body of work.”
50 Years of Beautiful
by Editors of Sports Illustrated
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to emulate tried and tested female posing for your swimwear and boudoir photography. (Related: Check out this guide to boudoir lingerie).
Description: Not merely a book crammed full of eye-candy, The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit book is an invaluable reference for any photographer who shoots women for a living. By viewing the poses used by the world’s top fashion and sports models, photographers can replicate the looks with their own clients to bring out the best in them. This anniversary edition features star athletes in swimsuits, never before seen outtakes and of course, all the iconic Sports Illustrated covers.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This sexy photography book is large in size and full of thousands of high quality images from the iconic magazine. There are lots of pictures that made the cut, plus a lot of extras and behind the scenes pictures to give the reader a more personal, in the moment feeling of being there at the shoot. The pages are thick paper and the ink quality is high. Very sharp colours and hardly any blurring throughout the book. Definitely a nice book to have on your coffee table. Since it’s Sports Illustrated, the pictures are classy and tasteful enough for any audience.”
3. Books on Creativity for Photographers
Remaining creative in your photography is a challenge, but by reading regularly, our minds can be kept freshly stocked with new ideas.
Gaining creative inspiration for our photography does not mean we are limited to only reading books on photography of course. This section highlights the books recommended by photographers that have inspired them in some way to create better photography.
Design, Color, and Composition in Photography
by Bryan Peterson
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to visualize your work, and the world, in a whole new light by developing your photographic vision.
Description: Learning to See Creatively is the definitive reference for any photographer looking for a fresh perspective on their work. Fully revised with 100 percent new photography, this best-selling guide takes a radical approach to creativity by explaining how it is not just an inherent ability but a skill that can be learned and applied. Using inventive photos from his own stunning portfolio, author and veteran photographer Bryan Peterson deconstructs creativity for all level of photographer.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This affordable photography book teaches you to answer the questions “what is it about this scene that I want to express?” and “how can I convey that feeling/idea in a photo?” – these may sound like simple questions but you really have to step away from the normal way of seeing things in order to take great photos.”
10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative
by Austin Kleon
Buy This Book If: You want to be put in touch with your artistic side and not feel guilty about borrowing to find inspiration.
Description: When Austin Kleon was asked to address college students in upstate New York, he shaped his speech around the ten things he wished someone had told him when he was starting out. The talk went viral, and its author dug deeper into his own ideas to create Steal Like an Artist. The result is inspiring, hip, original, practical, and entertaining. And filled with new truths about creativity: Nothing is original, so embrace influence, collect ideas, and remix and re-imagine to discover your own path.
Reviewer’s Comment: “The small size makes the book feel approachable, ready to provide a quick inspiration burst if need be. The author describes ten basic principles to boost your creativity. He lists them on the back cover of the book so that they’re easily referenced. It’s a small touch, but emblematic of the book’s careful construction. The book is stuffed with practical tips that you can adopt. In fact, there’s a section at the very end of the book titled “What Now?”, in which Kleon gives you a long, itemized list of things you can do right now to prime your creative pump.”
10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered
by Austin Kleon
Buy This Book If: You want to get known in your chosen photography industry.
Description: Show Your Work! is about why generosity trumps genius. It’s about getting findable, about using the network instead of wasting time “networking.” It’s not self-promotion, it’s self-discovery – let others into your process, then let them steal from you. Filled with illustrations, quotes, stories, and examples, Show Your Work! offers ten transformative rules for being open, generous, brave, productive.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This is a short book which can be read in a day, but puts forward ideas that are so good (if not somewhat common sense at times), that you’ll find yourself folding the edges of the pages to return to them again and again. I think it’s no coincidence that the book itself is small and manageable in its content – the author wants you to realise how accessible you and your work need to be.”
Creative Living Beyond Fear
by Elizabeth Gilbert
Buy This Book If: You want to spark up your creativity and discover your creative potential.
Description: Elizabeth Gilbert is no stranger in the world of inspirational and empowering writing. With previous works like Eat, Pray, Love she has set the bar high, but Elizabeth nails it again. Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear is a must-read for all photographers looking to awaken their dormant creative side. She boldly asks us to abandon our fears and embrace our curiosity. Regardless if you are looking for an inspiration for your next shoot, to enrich your daily life or just to create some amazing art, Gilbert`s Big Magic will help you uncover your creative potential as a photographer.
Reviewer`s Comment: “If you are in a creative pickle there is no better read than Elizabeth’s Big Magic. The author writes in a playful and conversational tone, but with no sugarcoating. She cuts straight to the point, creative people should accept their role in the society. There is no need to burden yourself with other things, you should write books, make art, create music, etc. Never have I ever thought about creativity in this way, I always approached it systematically, but Elizabeth encourages us to be playful and open about it. Big Magic changed my outlook on the creative process itself, thought me to enjoy it a lot more and most importantly uncovered a whole new part of me.”
and 39 Other Keys to Creativity
by Hugh MacLeod
Buy This Book If: You want to get an honest and straightforward talk about creativity and how to uncover it.
Description: Hugh MacLeod is a young and versatile writer. He covers a wide range of topics, from marketing to the meaning of life, but one may say that his expertise is talking about creativity. In his book, Ignore Everybody and 39 Other Keys to Creativity, MacLeod uses a bit cynical and witty tone to deliver powerful messages about creativity. Even though a statement like “All existing business models are wrong. Find a new one” might sound silly to someone, there is a lot of truth in it. Aspiring photographers will learn a lot from MacLeod’s 40 keys to creativity, especially if they are struggling to find their way.
Reviewer`s Comment: “This kind of book doesn’t come out that often. Reading it felt like a breeze. I am a photographer and I always look for new ways to spark my creativity and Ignore Everybody did just that for me. This brutally honest and at times funny book helped me realize a couple of things. First, nobody gets suddenly discovered, second progress is slow and painful, and my favorite thing Hugh says is that there is no miracle. There is a lot more in this book, but I will leave it for you to discover. Just know that this book is a breath of honest air compared to other books that tell you to jump and believe.”
4. Books on Business for Photographers
It’s a somewhat sad truth that being a successful professional photographer these days depends a little on photography, but a lot on business acumen.
The better you are at business, or more specifically marketing, the more successful you can be as a professional photographer. This is assuming your photography doesn’t suck, of course!
Here are the best books on business for photographers as recommended by the 600+ photographers that I interviewed. By using the advice in these books, many photographers have achieved a growth in their photography business.
Easy and Inexpensive Strategies for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business
by Jay Conrad Levinson
Buy This Photography Book If: You are a young entrepreneur that is looking to learn every aspect of marketing for small businesses.
Description: This updated and expanded edition of the 1983s bestseller has become a bible for all small entrepreneurs and business owners. More than 30 years ago Levinson started to revolutionize marketing strategies for small businesses, including photographers. In this fourth iteration of Guerilla Marketing, Levinson gives us strategies for marketing on the internet, tips on how to use new technologies, and much, much more. Running a successful small business is a lot harder without reading this edition of Guerilla Marketing.
Reviewer’s Comment: “As an up-and-coming photographer, I found Levinson`s Guerilla Marketing tremendously helpful. A must-read for all the people who want to learn the basics of marketing strategies for small businesses. You will not only learn cheap ways to market your studio, shop or any type of business, but you will also understand the fundamentals of marketing. Everybody should start with the Levinson`s book if they truly want to learn the craft.”
by John Harrington
Buy This Photography Business Book If: You want to learn the secrets of having a successful photography business.
Description: Harrington’s Best Business Practices for Photographers doesn’t focus on the fundamentals of photography, selling your work or starting your business. Instead, the book gives you all the information you need to successfully interact with your clients, negotiate projects, and organize your business operations. Photography is like any other business and if you want to be successful, you will need to overcome issues that every photography business faces today. Harrington’s book does just that and helps you stay on the path to success.
Reviewer`s Comment: “The title of the book says it all. Best Business Practices for Photographers is a must-read for all struggling photographer that need advice on running their business. You will learn a lot from this versatile page-turner, like how to reach clients, nail down negotiations for deals, fulfill all your business owner duties, and much more. In this second edition of Harrington’s book a lot has been updated and expanded upon, so I definitely recommend reading this one.”
The Savvy Photographer’s Guide to Sales, Marketing, and More
by Lara White
Buy This Photography Business Book If: You want to learn all nooks and crannies of running a successful photography business.
Description: There is no doubt that Lara is well-established and highly competent to write on the topic of the photography business. She states in her book that the photography is a highly competitive business and if you want to succeed, you will need to plan out every aspect of your business. Lara uses her photography business website, Photomint.com, as a reference point for her guide. Lara`s Photography Business Secrets talks about building your brand, networking, creating a marketing plan, determining prices and a lot more. Very informative read for all photographers looking for ways to build their own business.
Reviewer`s Comment: “It takes someone from inside of the photography industry to understand how everything works. Luckily, we have Lara. She really managed to nail everything down in a way that it makes sense, even for a newcomer to the industry. Lara talks in great details about what to do and what to avoid when building your photography brand. I don’t want to spoil too much, but for me, Lara’s book was a far better lesson on running a photography business than any college course.”
Everything You Need to Know for Your Photography Business
by Sal Cincotta
Buy This Photography Business Book If: You are looking to start or improve your photography business.
Description: Cincotta’s book The Photographer`s MBA, is without a doubt one of the best books for photographers running a business. About 10% of photographer’s job is taking pictures and the other 90% is completely in the realm of business. The author acknowledges this from the start and focuses on giving valuable advice on how to build your brand, create business and marketing plans, use social media to maximum potential, and much, much more. After you finish this book, you will be able to tackle every business problem that comes your way.
Reviewer’s Comment: “When I bought this book I knew that the author was an established photographer, but I couldn’t tell if he was a great businessman. After I have finished the book, I can say with most certainty that he is. The Photographer’s MBA is a great read for both beginners and veterans of the photography business. The author talks a lot about how you can’t expect a great outcome if you don’t research the market and plan your every step. Prepare for everything and leave nothing to chance, otherwise, your business will go down sooner than you think. Certainly, a must-read for up-and-coming photographers.”
Actionable steps to plan a portrait or wedding photography business, develop a brand, launch a website, write a marketing plan & more
by Amanda Stock
Buy This Photography Business Book If: You are looking for a step-by-step advice on building a successful photography business.
Description: Start a Successful Photography Business in 34 Days is aimed at photographers who are stuggling to stay profitable in their business. Unlike other photography books, this one doesn’t focus on what lighting equipment you should have, what are the best cameras, etc. Instead, Amanda talks about a business side of photography and does that in a very easy-to-understand manner. The first part of Start a Successful Photography Business in 34 Days focuses on preparing and planning out your finances, legal obligations, branding, etc. In the second part, marketing becomes the focus of her writing. Learn how to create a 12-month marketing plan that will keep you busy all year round.
Reviewer’s Comment: “If you are planning to start a photography business like I was before this book came along, then I couldn’t recommend it more. Without a doubt it’s one of the best photography books on business that has come out in the past couple of years. The author covers a lot in this book, do`s and dont’s of running a photography business, marketing strategies, financial and legal advice, and a whole lot more. The sad reality is that there is no bulletproof plan for running a successful photography business, but the author gives a lot of tools and shares her knowledge, so you have a better chance of success. I definitely recommend Amanda`s book to everyone.”
Leverage Your Unique Strengths for a More Successful Photography Business
by Dane Sanders
Buy This Photography Business Book If: You want to learn how to build a bulletproof photography business in the 21st century.
Description: Dane Sanders is a well-known photographer and speaker that has a couple of great photography books under his belt. It is no secret that the photography business has never been more competitive and fierce. Thousands of young and tireless photographers are looking to get their chance, but Dane doesn’t worry about this. In Fast Track Photographer Dane acknowledges this situation, but also states that there is no point in looking what other people do. Instead, each photographer should focus on themselves because they are the most powerful resource they have. In this book, you will learn how to avoid mistakes other photographers make, discover your unique talents, and create a financial plan that suits your lifestyle.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Rarely do we see a work this captivating and all-encompassing. Dane`s book is so much more than about photography. He is able to reach in you and make you believe in yourself and your talents. This book has a business side of it and it is very helpful, but what got me hooked was a more personal message of being the best possible version of yourself. Know your weaknesses and work around them, always emphasize your strengths and grow them. These are just some of the many lessons Dane talks about in his book, so if you want to learn more definitely pick it up.”
Modern Marketing Techniques for the Smarter Wedding Photographer
by Mark Condon
Buy This Photography Marketing eBook If: You want to learn how to book more clients in a smart and modern way.
Description: More Brides focuses mainly on wedding photographers, but it is easily applicable to other parts of the profession. The popular ebook goes through all modern techniques for building and sustaining your client base. You will learn how to become Google`s number one search result, how to dominate social media, and most importantly how to expand your reach. Condon’s book is relatively new to the market, but it has already become one of the best books on photography marketing for wedding photographers.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Mark`s book, More Brides: Modern Marketing Techniques for the Smarter Wedding Photographer, is a hell of a book and definitely a must-read for all photographers, but especially for wedding ones. He goes over every possible way of building and sustaining a successful photography business, but does so in a light and understandable manner. Mark talks about the importance of keyword research, SEO link building, social media, referrals, and a lot, lot more. Wedding photographer or not this book is a gold mine of valuable business information.”
5. Books on Productivity for Photographers
Photography technique combined with excellent marketing skills can create a very successful photography business. However, unless you remain productive, all this will be in vain.
Productivity is an important topic particularly for anyone who is self-employed. For photographers whose work consists of a lot of editing, marketing and other deskbound work, remaining productive can often be a challenge.
Here are the best books on productivity that are the most popular amongst the photographers interviewed for this article.
Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind
by Jocelyn K. Glei
Buy This Book If: You are looking to learn more about creative productivity and how to increase it.
Description: Glei`s book, Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind, had to be included in this list of the best photography books because it teaches you how to accomplish everything you plan without wasting time or stressing yourself out. She features more than 20 creative people in her book, sharing their thoughts and knowledge on this topic. Glei`s book teaches photographers and other creative professionals how to survive this crazy pace we are living and how to expand our creativity.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Glei`s book is a great motivational read. I thoroughly enjoyed every page of it and went through it like a hot knife through butter. It is very easy to read and understand, making it a perfect audio book for running. On top of that, it has a great message and lesson on how to deal with stress. It teaches photographers to look at the bigger picture and not stress about little things. Sometimes these little things are helpful for our productivity. A must-read for all photographers who are struggling with stress!“
The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers
by Tim Ferris
Buy This Book If: You want to understand how successful individuals run their life and what drives them.
Description: Tools of Titans is certainly one of the best business books Tim Ferris has written. Ferris has a long-running podcast in which he interviews successful people from all parts of the industry. After more than 200 guests Tim decided to compile all the things he learned into one easy-to-read book, creating an instant hit and a bestseller. In Tools of Titans, he talks about what drives these people, what is the secret of their success, what are their business tactics, and much more. The book is full of life-changing lessons that are applicable to every type of business, including photography.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Sometimes this book can become a bit chaotic and hard to understand, but the key is to approach not as a manual, but as a map that will show you the way, but won’t tell you how to get there. As a young photographer, I found Tim`s book very motivating and inspiring. After reading and discovering how industry titans look at the world, and their talents and skills, I have realized where I’m at and what I need to do in order to progress. This book won’t give you a step-by-step guide to success, but it will light a path and motivate you to try harder as a photographer or in life in general.”
Grow Your Expertise, Take Bold Risks & Build an Incredible Career
by Jocelyn K Glei
Buy This Book If: You want to learn different creative business strategies from 21 incredible minds.
Description: Established author Jocelyn Glei returns once more to teach young creative people how to generate more opportunities, make bolder decisions, build valuable relationships, and much, much more. Maximize Your Potential sums up knowledge of 21 creative minds that have made a huge impact in their respective industries. If you want to bounce back up from recent failure in your photography work and spark your creativeness once more, then this book should definitely be a part of your collection. Several photographers comment on how Glei`s book is a must-read for all struggling artists.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Maximize Your Potential is not your ordinary motivational book. First of all, it offers advice from 21 very different creative people. They all have their own take on creativity and how to best use it. The second thing that makes it different, is that this book is a straight how-to guide. You will get detailed guides on strategies that you can implement right now, or try them in the future. I won’t go into details of the book so I don’t spoil too much, but as a photographer that recently struggled with the business side of the industry, I found this book a life saver. A must-read for everyone.”
The Creative’s Guide to Building a Business with Impact
by Jocelyn K. Glei
Buy This Book If: You are looking to learn all the basics of starting a fresh business in the creative industry.
Description: Jocelyn Glei comes up a lot on our list, but frankly it is well-deserved. She is one of the best authors when it comes to building up confidence in creative minds. This time she focuses more on a business side of the industry. Again she takes wisdom from many leaders of creative industry and compiles them in one easy-to-read book. Make Your Mark will teach you how to take the wheel and ride your photography business or any other start-up to success. Learn what makes a good product, how to polish it, how to inspire your team, and ultimately, how to create something meaningful.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Make Your Mark is the book that I was looking for. It has the perfect length and tone, making it fun and easy to read. In the beginning, I was skeptical about this book’s outlandish claims, but in the end, I ended up devouring it in two days. For me, it served its purpose. It taught me the basics of a start-up business and motivated me to make a move. Definitely a recommended read for all creatives in the photography industry.”
A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability
by Steve Krug
Buy This Book If: You want to create a photography website and client experience that doesn’t suck.
Description: Steve Krug is probably best known for his book Don’t Make Me Think. In it, he discusses the principles of intuitive navigation and information design in a very practical, witty, and easy-to-digest way. And even though Steve’s book focuses on Web design and development, it is easily translated to the photographer’s language. If you want to create a compelling presentation of your previous work, attract new clients, and stay productive Don’t Make Me Think will help you a great deal. Implement Steve`s lessons when maintaining your photography website and your visitors will feel less frustrated when searching for their next photographer.
Reviewer’s Comment: “It is pretty hard to connect photography and developing websites, but after my friend saw me struggle to maintain my website and do my creative work he suggested I read Don’t Make Me Think. Photographers are great at what they do, but sadly our business doesn’t consist only of taking pictures. In order to balance out the creativity and business, I started reading design and user experience books, but it wasn’t until I came along this gem that I finally realized my problem. I won’t go into details because everybody is different, but I certainly recommend this book to all photographers or anyone who relies on an online presence for their business.”
by Robin Williams
Buy This Book If: You are looking to learn the fundamentals of great design.
Description: It’s been about 20 years since we read the first edition of The Non-Designer`s Design Book. Since then much has changed and the author has made sure everything is addressed and updated in this 4th edition. This book is still very much an introduction to the fundamentals of great design, but this time she uses updated visuals, examples, and projects for you to try. Why is a design book in a list of the best photography books? Well, regardless of your background and industry, in The Non-Designer`s Design Book you will find inspiration and knowledge that can be applied to all facets of photography as a creative art.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Before I had finished this book, I had little to no knowledge about design fundamentals. As a young and self-taught photographer, I was always looking for ways to improve my skills and talents. I couldn’t have guessed that the book on design principles would help me this much. The book is an easy read and has taught me a lot about design, which in return improved my photography composition. Her techniques and principles are neatly illustrated and explained on before and after pictures.”
6. Books on Philosophy for Photographers
I thought twice about including this final topic in this list of the best books for photographers. I must admit that philosophy (particular in work) is not a topic that interested me before writing this article.
However, I chose to include a section on the best books on philosophy for photographers since the topic cropped up so often among those interviewed.
It seems that many photographers place an importance on maintaining the right frame of mind to conduct their photography work more efficiently, and no doubt, more creatively.
So here are the most popular books on philosophy that may help you as a photographer.
Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles
by Steven Pressfield
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to uncover your inner potential and free your mind from doubt.
Description: Philosophy books on creativity are usually hard to read and filled with overcomplicated words and phrases, but not The War of Art. This practical and engaging guide to succeeding in the creative industry will show you how to avoid obstacles and achieve greatness. Regardless if you are a writer, painter or photographer,The War of Art will help you break all the chains that hold you back from reaching the highest level of creativity.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This book is genius. As if the title wasn’t interesting enough, the content of the book is very impactful and straightforward. The node to Sun-Tzu`s The Art of War makes me love this book even more. The whole premise of the book is that there is a part of us that helps us achieve our goals and a part of us that prevents us from doing so. If you want to be a successful photographer you will have to overcome the suppressing side of your mind and the only way to do this is through hard work. I won’t give away any more of the book, but I highly recommend it as a way to learn things about your soul and mind that you didn’t know before.”
by Dale Carnegie
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn the art of persuasion and how to deal with clients and people in general.
Description: How to Win Friends and Influence People had to be on the list of the best photography books, simply because of how important client interactions in photography business can be. At first glance, there is not much in common between this book and photography, but if you dig a little deeper, you will realize that running a successful photography business and the art of persuasion have a lot in common. You will learn essential techniques in handling people, six ways to make people like you, twelve ways to win people to your side, etc. Essential reading for photographers who spend a lot of time with their clients, e.g. wedding photographers.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Reading this book was a delight. Some might say that learning how to manipulate and influence people is unnecessary, but if you are a young photographer on the rise, you will need all the knowledge to make it in this competitive business. I went through Dale`s book with ease, highlighting important parts along the way so I can return to them later. You will learn about honesty, criticism, emotions, and a lot, lot more. I can’t emphasize more how important this book is for photographers who are struggling with the people side of their business.”
The world’s best selling book
by Paul Arden
Buy This Book If: You want an easy-to-digest guide on how to succeed in business and life in general.
Description: Learning about the secrets of success in life has never been easier thanks to Arden`s book, It`s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be. This beautifully written book has helped a number of creative minds reach their highest potential. Learn to overcome the impossible, create the unthinkable, and solve all your life problems. the author covers every part of the business, including communicating, playing your cards right, correcting mistakes, solving problems, etc. Paul`s book is meant for all the people who are looking to strike success in business, including of course us photographers.
Reviewer’s Comment: “I start every New Year with a resolution and this one was to improve my photography business. I didn’t have the knowledge myself, so I turned to reading books. After a couple of duds, I came across It`s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want to Be by Paul Arden, and I must say thank God for that. Boy did this change a lot in my mind. It’s an advertising book in its core, but the lessons in it are easily applicable to business and life situation in general. The book is super easy to read and digest, so there are no excuses to skip it!”
The Story of Success
by Malcolm Gladwell
Buy This Book If: You want to learn the secrets behind the biggest success stories of brilliant individuals.
Description: Outliers: The Story of Success is a brilliantly written book that will keep you entertained from the first page to the last one. In this book, the author shines a spotlight on the so-called outliers that are, in fact, people who are the most successful and the brightest in their area of expertise. The question he asks i: what makes them so special? What is the key ingredient? In short, he concludes that we pay too much attention to what they are really like, and no attention on where they came from, what drives them, etc. Learn what it takes to become a great musician, artist, photographer, etc.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This book is a crude awakening. This whole time we are told that hard work pays off and that we need to be smart if we are to achieve any success, but the author of Outliers has a bit different view. He writes about how important the day and age you are born into are and how your potential is limited by the factors you have no control of. Sure, in the second part of the book, Gladwell acknowledges that the only way to success is through hard work, but he also shows us how to manipulate the system that is holding us back. A truly enlightening read and frustrating at times, but definitely worth every penny.”
A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life
by Mark Manson
Buy This Book If: You want to cut out all the bullsh*t and focus your energy on things that matter.
Description: Creativity is in a lot of ways connected to our state of mind. In today’s society, people always tell themselves to stay positive and everything will work out. That’s where Manson comes in with his book The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. It is a great wake-up call for all the people who are living in false positivity. As the blunt author states, there are only so many things we can care about, so focus on what matters to you and realize your potential in the most honest way. As photographers, we sometimes need to learn to stop being entitled about our proffession. It will help us work harder and improve ourselves.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Thank you, Mark, for this book. I was one of those people that worried too much about everything until I lost the track of what I was set to accomplish. The wake-up call that came right on time in my life, helped me toss aside all the crap and focus on my true passion, photography. After reading Mark`s book I learned to pick my battles and not waste my energy on completely unnecessary things. Again, thank you Mark, and if you are a photographer like me give this book a chance. I guarantee you it will enter your best books on photography list, or at least, look badass on your book shelf!.”
Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World
by Chris Guillebeau
Buy This Book If: You want to lead an unconventional life, full of adventure and creative freedom.
Description: We are lucky that we have The Art of Non-Conformity. In his book, Guillebeau takes standard assumptions about work and life and turns them upside down. To him, conformity is the biggest enemy of creative people and if you want to be successful in your profession, you will have to abandon all that you learned throughout your life about how you should behave, both in business and in personal life. The Art of Non-Conformity will teach you and equip you with the tools that are necessary to free your mind so that you too can live a life of adventure, become self-employed, set your own rules, and much more. A perfect book for photographers and other creative minds that are trapped in the system.
Reviewer’s Comment: “When I first started to read this book it was hard to accept the idea of breaking the norm. The author despises working from 9 to 5 and that is all fine and dandy, but that’s how the business world works, isn’t it? Well, not quite – this book will show you that any work can be done in an unconventional way, so there really is no point in having all of these norms. I am a photographer that really loves the freedom and the lifestyle it brings, but lately, I was beginning to feel restrained by my regular working hours. After reading this book, I realise all the complete creative freedom I possess. It’s a bit of a wake up call to say the least”
by James Altucher
Buy This Book If: You want to learn how to adapt to ever-changing nature of business.
Description: The premise of Choose Yourself! is not that uplifting or bright. The author states that the old world has crumbled down. Everything that we thought was safe has deteriorated. Colleges, economy, government, all face this inevitable destruction. But out of this mess comes Altucher and shows us that there is still a chance for success. The photography business is not that different to any other business – learn how to take control of your photography business and emerge victorious from this situation – learn how to choose yourself.
Reviewer’s Comment: “Chose Yourself! The title says it all. I really appreciate this book, it came at a perfect moment in my life, right after I have finished reading some convoluted self-help book that left me in a complete turmoil. This light and easy-to-read masterpiece has helped me a lot. I realized how far my potential can go and I learned to connect with myself. The author showed me how to focus on my happiness, how to find my passion and a couple more things. There is no reason to skip this book, it’s only a couple hundred pages long.”
How Marketing Really Works and Why Authenticity Is the Best Marketing of All
by Seth Godin
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn how to market your services in a compelling and creative way.
Description: Seth Godin is the titan when it comes to business writing. His books have influenced thousands and thousands of people throughout the years and nothing is different with All Marketers are Liars. The premise is simple, all marketers lie to you and if they do it right, you won’t even notice. Godin speaks about the importance of telling stories, instead of focusing on features and benefits of your products. If you want to be a successful marker and a businessman you will need to master telling stories that clients want to believe. Photography is like any other business – if you want to succeed you will need to sell your services. All Marketers are Liars will teach you how to tell compelling stories that will eventually land you more of the type of client you want to work with.
Reviewer’s Comment: “This book is written in typical Godin style, quick and easy-to-digest. That doesn’t mean it’s no good, on the contrary, this book is a marketer’s gold mine. Every person who has to sell their services needs to read this book. I don’t want to sound like a marketer myself, but Godin`s book will teach you that today’s business is all about personalization, efficiency, and compelling storytelling. Sure, Godin doesn’t invent new things, but the way he lays it out is so much better than any other MBA textbook.”
Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable
by Seth Godin
Buy This Photography Book If: You want to learn what it takes to create a remarkable product or service.
Description: The legendary Seth Godin returns once again to teach his readers how to create remarkable products and turn their ideas into successful businesses. In Purple Cow, Godin talks about creating truly remarkable products and services that are desired worldwide. He pays tribute to companies like Starbucks, Apple, JetBlue, and teaches us through their stories how to market our products. This book is for anyone else who has a product to market and service to offer, particular in highly competitive markets. Wedding photographers, take note!
Reviewer’s Comment: “Thank you, Godin, for your work. As a wedding photographer and a self-employed individual, I found this book immensely interesting. I have read a couple of books by Godin, and this one is certainly one of his most actionable. In his distinctive writing style, Godin will show you what it takes to create a truly remarkable product. Use this book to spark your imagination if you are struggling to market your photography service in a saturated market place. Sell what you have to offer in a different way. It worked for me.”
I hope you enjoyed this post on the best books for photographers.
If you have any recommendations of your own, please leave them in the comments so we can all benefit.
I will be adding to this list during the course of the year, so be sure to bookmark and return to it frequently.
Disclaimer: All recommendations are impartial and based on user experience, with no bias to the products or the brand. The products in this post may contain affiliate links.