44 Best Photography Coffee Table Books of All Time
Coffee table books showcasing photography make excellent gifts for just about any occasion. Here you'll find our favorites for 2023 in just about every genre.
Coffee table books are a great way to display photography thanks to their large size and excellent print quality.
Some of them are much more than decorative items for a living room. Their pages are filled with well-researched essays and expert commentaries.
In this article, I share with you a list of the best photography coffee table books to get in 2023.
If you’re looking for a gift for a photographer friend, an alternative to a photography magazine, or simply want to grow your art library, you’ll find plenty of options here.
I’ve included 44 of what I consider to be the best photography coffee table books, divided up into popular genres and categories.
I encourage you to click the buttons to check the most recent reviews from readers to see if they resonate with you.
Consider that some coffee table books aren’t even meant to be read – some look great just sitting on a coffee table as decoration, so the book cover is especially important.
You should also read our guide to the best books on photography.
Best Nature Photography Coffee Table Books
If you’re a nature lover, this selection of nature photography coffee table books is for you.
1: From Above: the Story of Aerial Photography
It’s been more than 150 years since photographers decided to look at the world from above to immortalize it in a unique way. In this book, you’ll find a collection of images that tell our recent history from a different perspective.
2: Light Waves. Abstract Photographs of Reflections from Lake Superior
This beautiful coffee table book consists of 122 abstract images. The photographs belong to the Light Waves series, which captures Lake Superior’s surface.
The book was released on the occasion of the Light Waves exhibition opening at the Palm Beach Photographic Centre’s museum.
In this stylish coffee table book, you’ll find an entrance to the beautiful world of ornithology. Photographer Tim Flach shot the stunning images, while ornithologist Richard O. Prum guides the narrative.
Not only did Flatch masterfully capture birds in flight in the environment, but he also made it an art form inside the studio. This is the perfect gift for someone who loves nature as much as fine art.
4: Two Worlds: Above and Below the Sea
This is one of the best photography coffee table books that unites nature with the art world. Doubilet takes a deep dive into the ocean and brings it to us in a way that connects to our world above the sea.
5: Seeing Seeds
Seeds and pods have an unsuspected beauty. Through the pages of this coffee table book, you’ll see how they can resemble jewels or modern art objects. Llewellyn follows the centuries-old tradition of botanical illustrations and takes them to the next level.
6: Overview: A New Perspective of Earth
This photography book is a publication derived from the Instagram account Daily Overview. Through its pages, we can see the rich tapestry of the earth from a new perspective.
The collection features over 200 satellite images. In it, you can find images of nature, agriculture, architecture and industry.
Best Landscape Photography Coffee Table Books
From the seaside to the mountaintop – I’m sure you’ll find some amazing coffee table books that match your interests in landscape photography here.
7: Africa: Continent of Contrast
While this is not a recent publication, it’s still one of the best photography coffee table books out there. It features photographs of the beautiful African landscape, local culture, and ceremonies. It makes a great gift for anyone who enjoys travel and landscape photography.
8: Chasing the Mountain Light: A Life Photographing Wild Places
This is an oversized coffee table book that features the work of David Neilson. He’s dedicated his life to capturing stunning mountain images and encouraging their preservation. The mere images speak volumes, but you also get to know the adventures behind them from the photographer’s own words.
9: The World at Night
This coffee table photography book covers the work of over forty photographers. You can enjoy the night sky with the most beautiful celestial events captured in over 25 countries. This makes the perfect gift for anyone interested in knowing even the darkest corners of the universe.
This beautiful photo book will transport you to beaches worldwide from the comfort of your living room. Gray Malin puts together aerial images from beaches around the world – from San Francisco to Sydney – passing through more than twenty cities.
11: Light on the Landscape: Photographs and Lessons from a Life in Photography
This is one of the best photography books you can find. On the one hand, it features work from William Neill in a collection of 128 images. On the other hand, it gathers a curated selection of essays regarding his philosophy and methodology of work.
12: Landscape Photographer of the Year: Collection 15
This coffee table book gathers the works from the prestigious photo contest of the same name. This year’s publication was curated by the award-winning photographer Charlie Waite. Through its pages, you’ll find images from all the categories – from coast to countryside to urban life to historic Britain.
- Read more: Who are the best landscape photographers?
Best Street Photography Coffee Table Books
You might find something interesting in this section if you prefer the human touch and some candid captures with regard to street photography.
13: Warhol on Basquiat
Andy Warhol is an icon of pop culture. He was a good friend of Jean-Michel Basquiat, and they collaborated on different projects. In this photography book, you’ll find previously unpublished images from Basquiat taken by Warhol in 1980s New York.
14: Women Street Photographers
This photography book is one of a kind as it shows the often overlooked female side of street photography. In this treasure trove, you’ll find the work of 100 women photographers. The images are accompanied by personal experiences sharing what’s behind each photograph.
15: Magnum Contact Sheets
Magnum Photos is a photographic cooperative mainly focused on photojournalism and documentary photography.
Some of its members are amongst the most famous photographers in the world, and between them, they’ve documented daily life as well as significant historical events.
This photography coffee table book features 139 contact sheets. It includes zoom-in details, press notes, and other priceless additions. It represents a behind-the-scenes tour of how these 69 photographers have shaped contemporary photography.
16: Waiting: People in Transit
This coffee table book takes you around the world from one bus stop to the next. The photographer Dieter Leistner has captured people at public transport stops since 1978. It’s an activity that so many of us can relate to, yet we never stop to think about how it’s something that unites the entire world.
From the countryside to the big cities, we’ve all been there. As simple as it might seem, it shows us how architecture, streetwear, and transportation have changed over time.
You probably remember Brandon Stanton from his project Humans of New York. Due to the significant interest, he decided to expand the scope and travelled the world for over a decade, capturing Humans.
The resulting images represent a portrait of a global citizen who shares the experience of being human.
Best Fashion Photography Coffee Table Books
Moving on from the streets to the runway, check out this list of fashion photography books.
18: The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion
This is one of the most compelling photography books that reflects on the role of the black body in fashion and photography. Featuring work from fifteen talented black photographers, the author aims to open up a conversation.
The book also includes interviews and stories to understand the barriers and exclusion the artists have faced. Some of the artist portfolios include Tyler Mitchel, Campbell Addy, and Nadine Ijewere. The photographs were exhibited at Aperture in 2019-2020.
19: Helmut Newton. Legacy
Helmut Newton is one of the most influential fashion photographers in history. For over five decades, his images were published in some of the most important magazines in the world.
He captured the world’s most famous models and actresses, and he did it by using a characteristic style that broke all standard practices. This book was released to accompany an international exhibition tour of Newton’s photography.
20: Bottega Veneta. Art of Collaboration
The author of this book – Tomas Maier – was the creative director of Bottega Veneta for 17 years. In 2002, he launched the project Art of Collaboration, for which he invited an artist to collaborate on each season’s collection.
Some of the participants were Peter Lindbergh, Annie Leibowitz, and Nick Knight. This fashion photography book features over 1000 images showing what went on behind the scenes of their creative collaborations.
21: Peter Lindbergh. A Different Vision on Fashion Photography
Thierry Maxime Loriot | Taschen | 2016
Peter Lindbergh is considered the father of the supermodel era thanks to his British Vogue cover photograph in 1990.
This must-have coffee table book gathers images from his career, including snaps of big names like Kate Moss, Cindy Crawford and Anna Wintour. It shows how he changed fashion photography and its way of portraying women.
The photographs are complemented by commentaries from Lindbergh’s models and collaborators.
22: Vanity Fair Portraits: A Century of Iconic Images
While it’s not one of the most recent, this is still one of the best coffee table books about fashion photography.
Vanity Fair has featured photographs from some of the most renowned artists in history. This book holds a collection of over 300 portraits captured by Edward Steichen, Annie Leibowitz, Mario Testino, and others.
Inside the pages, you’ll find artists, writers, athletes, and other icons, including the likes of Picasso, Katharine Hepburn, and Amelia Earhart.
- Read more: Who are the best portrait photographers?
23: In Vogue: An Illustrated History of the World’s Most Famous Fashion Magazine
Vogue is a trendsetter magazine both in fashion and photography. This book tells the stories that made it the magazine it is today.
The book features the works of some of the most iconic photographers who have had their work featured on the cover and inside the pages of Vogue. This includes Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon, and Irving Penn.
Adding to the beauty of the book, there are interviews, excerpts and stories from artists, writers, and the high society of the fashion and editorial world.
24: Queer Maximalism x Machine Dazzle
This volume collects images of Machine Dazzle’s queer maximalism costumes for drag performers and cabaret artists. His style goes beyond aesthetics and captures an entire philosophy.
The book was released for the Museum of Arts and Design exhibition, curated by Elissa Auther.
Best Portrait Photography Coffee Table Books
From kids to celebrities, we’ve all had our portraits taken. Here’s a selection of books that showcase portrait photography and the richness of this photographic genre.
25: Annie Leibovitz. The Early Years. 1970-1983
Annie Leibovitz is a renowned portrait photographer – probably one of the most famous in history. We’ve all seen her portraits of Brad Pitt, Kim Kardashian, or Queen Elizabeth II.
But before she got her characteristic style, she had a reportage approach to celebrities. During this early time period, she captured the Rolling Stones and Mohammed Ali. Then, in 1980 she captured one of her most famous photographs – the last picture of John Lennon before he was murdered.
This is what you can find inside the pages of this volume: A series of polaroids, contact sheets, and photographs from the artist’s origins.
26: Daily Bread: What Kids Eat Around the World
This original and unique art project aims to show how globalization changes our relationship with food.
Photographer Gregg Segal asked kids from many countries to keep a journal of what they eat during the week. Then, he staged a top-down portrait of the kids surrounded by the food registered in their journals.
As a result, the pages are filled with bold colors, captivating layouts, and a snapshot of what living in a multicultural world can look like.
27: Face Time: A History of the Photographic Portrait
Portraiture was one of the first photographic genres to become popular, and it’s still one of the most used today. However, it has undergone constant evolution across the decades, from its uses to its style.
The author of this publication uses famous portraits as well as almost unknown images that help him navigate this complex topic. In eight chapters, he analyses issues like identity and representation.
28: The Art of Movement
This award-winning photography book is a compendium of portraits full of energy and motion.
The authors have years of experience photographing dancers – Ory was a dancer herself. The illustrations on these pages come from a series of portraits taken of more than 70 dancers. Each one comes from a different life path but shares a passion for dance as an art form.
The pictures are complemented by texts written by dancers, choreographers, and artistic directors.
29: Women: The National Geographic Image Collection
With this book, National Geographic celebrates the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution, which granted women the right to vote.
Inside, you’ll find over 400 pages of women’s portraits from the publication’s archive, which covers over 130 years.
Divided into themed chapters, you’ll find everything from historic suffragettes to the famous Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry.
30: Film Noir Portraits
This stunning coffee table book is a must-have for all lovers of the Hollywood golden age. Specifically speaking, the publication covers the 1940s and 1950s -the film noir period.
You’ll find everything from iconic images to previously unseen pictures. Everything is compiled in a carefully curated collection that fully depicts this cinematic genre.
Best Coffee Table Books by Famous Photographers
In this section, you’ll find books where famous photographers showcase their own work.
31: Sebastião Salgado. GENESIS
After an eight-year expedition, Sebastião Salgado compiled this “love letter to the planet”. In the project GENESIS, Salgado masterfully captures the people and landscapes that have escaped the catastrophic effects of modern society.
This publication is full of black-and-white images that will take your breath away.
32: David LaChapelle – make BELIEVE
This book is the catalogue of the exhibition “make BELIEVE,” which took place at Fotografiska from September 2022 to January 2023.
This is the most comprehensive exhibition by the artist to this date, as it covers his works from 1984 to 2022. In it, you can find his renowned portraits of celebrities like Naomi Campbell and David Bowie. You’ll also find images illustrating his career-long exploration of religious themes.
33: Annie Leibovitz at Work
Annie Leibovitz | Phaidon Press | 2018
The pages of this book give the reader a behind-the-scenes tour of the artist’s career. Leibovitz addresses her work in the studio, her career as a photojournalist, and her transition from film to digital, amongst other topics.
These texts are illustrated with some of her most iconic images. It aims to offer inspiration to aspiring photographers and portrait enthusiasts.
34: Ansel Adams in the National Parks: Photographs from America’s Wild Places
This is one of the most comprehensive photography books covering Ansel Adams’ work. It includes over 200 images with the artist’s commentaries on the making of many of them.
It also contains essays from critics, journalists, and members of The Ansel Adams Trust – most notably, the text from the leading expert on Ansel Adams, Andrea G. Stillman, the book’s editor.
35: Steve McCurry: Untold. The Stories Behind the Photographs
If you’ve always been fascinated by Steve McCurry’s body of work, this is the book for you. Not only is it a collection of his most iconic images, but it’s also about the stories behind them.
You’ll learn from the artist’s own testimony about his travels and methods. In its pages, you’ll also find pictures from his private archive. Everything is complemented with journal extracts and other exciting information so you can get the whole picture.
36: Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer
Heisler has photographed some of the most influential people in recent times. For example, when Rudolph Giuliani was named Man of the Year after 9/11, Heisler took the cover photo for TIME Magazine. He’s also worked with athletes and celebrities.
Each of these portraits has an interesting story – in this book, the author shares them with the reader.
Best Coffee Table Books for All Interests
Now, the ones that couldn’t be missing from the list, regardless of the category.
37: Accidentally Wes Anderson
This photo book results from a popular Instagram account called Accidentally Wes Anderson. The images come from a vast community of photographers curated by Wally Koval.
The pictures don’t feature movie sets, though. Instead, they are real-life locations that seem taken right out of a Wes Anderson film. Some of them are the Ascensor da Bica in Lisbon and the Central Fire Station in Marfa, Texas.
Wes Anderson approved all the images and wrote the foreword.
38: Japanese Interiors
If you enjoy architecture and interior photography, this is the coffee table book you’ll want to have in your own home.
It centers on Japanese interior design and showcases 28 homes. Through them, you see the evolution of the design philosophy used in the country.
Inside the pages of the book, you’ll find examples from some of the most famous architects, such as Koji Fujii and Kengo Kuma.
39: Yayoi Kusama. Festival of Life
This catalogue accompanied the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the David Zwirner Gallery. It’s by far one of the best photography books for contemporary art lovers.
The book features 65 images showcasing the artist’s famous series of paintings entitled My Eternal Soul. You’ll also find images of Kusama’s polka-dot environment, flower sculptures and two infinity-mirror rooms.
40: The Space Shuttle: A Mission-by-Mission Celebration of NASA’s Extraordinary Spaceflight Program
The Space Shuttle had its first mission in April 1981. Since then, it has done 135 more – plus five Approach and Landing tests until 2011. The pages of this book are an exploration of these missions.
They’re explained with stunning images taken by astronauts, professional photographers, and NASA photojournalists. Amongst them, you’ll find watershed moments like the first untethered space walk and the launch of the Hubble Telescope.
41: Pools from Above
In this three-year art project, Brad Walls uses aerial photography to showcase the swimming pool’s visual interest and beauty. You can see how this architectural element offers shapes, textures, and colors. As a result, they become almost abstract pieces of art when seen from above.
42: Life’s a Beach
This compilation shows images of decades of work photographing beaches around the globe. From Italy to China to Mexico, Parr’s camera shows how each nation decides to enjoy the sun and the sea.
You’ll find on sale an original, limited-edition version signed by the artist. However, you’ll also see a mini-book later released at a more affordable price. Either way, this volume is a snapshot that frames cultural habits as much as a landscape album showcasing beautiful coasts.
43: Everything She Touched: The Life of Ruth Asawa
Ruth Asawa’s life experience heavily influenced her work. This is why Marilyn Chase decided to look through the archives and find testimonies from friends, family, teachers, and critics and bind them together into a compelling volume.
This book is not just any biographical text. It’s also illustrated with 60 reproductions of her art – including the ceramic casts from the faces of her family and friends.
To round things up, you’ll also find photos, sketches, letters and other documents found in the archive.
44: Somewhere in Nostalgia
This is one of the most unusual photography books that you can find. The author invites us to approach the images without thinking of a story or looking to understand its inspiration.
Instead, Drew Wilson invites us to think about ourselves while browsing through it. The photos and writing are “there to shed light upon the shadows of our minds,” says Wilson.
What Is a Coffee Table Book in Photography?
A traditional coffee table book is a large, hardcover book. Although, a photography coffee table book may have different dimensions and can have a soft cover too.
Coffee table books provide a visual journey through art history or about an art form. They get their name because they’re usually displayed on coffee tables.
This way, they become part of the decoration, and they serve to spark conversation between people in the room.
How do I make a photography coffee table book?
To create a photography coffee table book, first choose a theme and select some high-quality, relevant JPEG images of appropriate size.
Edit the photos and design the layout using software which is usually provided by the print website.
Consider writing captions to provide context and information. Print the book using high-quality paper and binding – this is especially important for a coffee table book on photography.
What books should be on a coffee table?
The books that should be on a coffee table depend on your personal interests and preferences. However, some thought should be given to the book covers, and what complements your decor or simply looks good on a coffee table.
Some of the most popular genres of coffee table book include photography, interiors, travel and fashion, since these tend to have attractive covers.