The 10 Best Photography Books

Updated March 17, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

The Art of Photography
Photography Demystified
On Photography
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. If you know a shutterbug, or someone who simply appreciates great images, check out our selection of photography books. We've included great learning tools that will help anyone develop their skills, elegant coffee table tomes, and, of course, many options that feature some of the most stunning digital and film images. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best photography book on Amazon.

10. Extraordinary Everyday Photography

Extraordinary Everyday Photography helps readers understand that they don't need to be in exotic locations to find great images. It will inspire you to take another look at your daily surroundings and teach you how to find the stunning shots lurking just under your nose.
  • inspiring examples from authors
  • helps you find your personal style
  • doesn't contain many technical tips
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 1.4 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

9. On Photography

Rather than teach you how to improve your skills, On Photography is a philosophical examination of how the art has affected the way we look at the world. It discusses concepts such as how seeing an image of a place before visiting it can produce unattainable expectations.
  • raises lots of interesting questions
  • thought-provoking read
  • some topics feel somewhat dated
Publisher Sontag, Susan
Model n/a
Weight 12.2 ounces
Rating 4.2 / 5.0

8. The Photographer's Playbook

The Photographer's Playbook includes 307 assignments and ideas to get your creative juices flowing, so you can learn by doing, not just reading. It is organized in a way that allows you to jump around and pick the subjects and tasks you want to focus on first.
  • anecdotes from pro photographers
  • will spark your creativity
  • doesn't contain any photos
Publisher imusti
Model n/a
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

7. Digital Photography Complete Course

The Digital Photography Complete Course uses a combination of techniques, including tutorials, step-by-step demonstrations, practical assignments, and Q&As to expand your knowledge and skill set. It's great for those who like to work at their own pace.
  • helps you troubleshoot common issues
  • very detailed and well-illustrated
  • seems to jump around a lot
Publisher DK Publishing Dorling K
Model n/a
Weight 2.8 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. The Art of Photography

In The Art of Photography, the author somehow manages to craft a text that is applicable to nearly every skill level without talking down to anybody or going over anyone's head. It not only covers technical aspects of photography, but philosophical ones, as well.
  • helps you polish your personal style
  • lots of how-to techniques
  • mostly applies to film work
Publisher ROCKY NOOK
Model n/a
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

5. How to Photograph Everything

How to Photograph Everything is filled with over 500 breathtaking images and, more importantly, gives you the tips to help you take photos of the same caliber. It's the kind of book that teaches and inspires at the same time, so you'll be itching to break out your camera.
  • makes a good coffee table book
  • brilliant image editing tips
  • really only suitable for beginners
Publisher Popular Photography (CO
Model n/a
Weight 3.7 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. How To Create Stunning Digital Photography

Tony Northrup's How To Create Stunning Digital Photography is a hands-on, self-paced class that will help you improve your skills and master aspects of composition, exposure, shutter speed, ISO, and more. It even includes 12 hours of online training videos and quizzes.
  • good resource for beginners and pros
  • end-of-chapter exercises
  • lifetime ebook updates
Publisher Mason Press
Model n/a
Weight 1.7 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

3. Photography Demystified

Photography Demystified is a tome intended to break you out of your camera comfort zone and remove your dependence on any and all automatic settings, save perhaps autofocus. It's written in a step-by-step style, so it won't overwhelm anyone.
  • clear examples given throughout
  • assignments provide practice
  • discussion on flash usage
Publisher Photography Demystified
Model n/a
Weight 15.2 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

2. Understanding Exposure

Understanding Exposure is an extremely useful tool to use in the quest to improve your photography skills. In it, the author explains the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, and gives lots of tips on how to achieve successful exposures in difficult situations.
  • easy-to-understand style
  • encourages outside the box thinking
  • covers all camera settings in detail
Publisher Amphoto Books
Model n/a
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

1. Photography: The Definitive Visual History

Photography: The Definitive Visual History is written by a world-renowned photographer, and traces the history of the practice from the 1800s to the digital age. It gives a comprehensive overview of the people and technologies that have shaped the art.
  • celebrates the most iconic images
  • profiles 50 famous photographers
  • special features on pulitzer winners
Publisher Ang, Tom
Model n/a
Weight 6 pounds
Rating 4.6 / 5.0

The Birth Of Photography

The first photograph ever taken in 1827 by Joseph Nicephore Niepce, a French inventor. He used a camera obscura, which is often referred to as a pinhole image. Up until Niepce made a photograph with a camera obscura, they were only used for drawing and viewing purposes. Niepce used it to make a heliograph, which is an image that is created by letting light draw the picture. He applied a coating of bitumen of Judea, a light-sensitive material, to a pewter plate and then exposed it for eight hours. This hardened the bitumen and turned what was previously a soluble-in-spirits material, into an insoluble material. The parts that weren't exposed to light remained unhardened, and were washed away with a solvent. The result was the first ever photograph, and a perfect representation of the pinhole image. Unfortunately Niepce's technique not only took a very long time, making it impractical, the images quickly faded away.

Around the same time, another French inventor by the name of Louis Daguerre was also experimenting on ways to permanently capture an image. In 1829, he partnered with Neipce and together they worked to perfect the process. Unfortunately Neipce passed away in 1833, but Daguerre continued with their work and, in 1839, finally developed a method that created photographic images that wouldn't fade. His new technique also only required 30 minutes of exposure, instead of the eight hours Neipce's original technique needed.

Daguerre named the process after himself and called it the daguerreotype. His process fixed an image onto a sheet of silver-plated copper, instead of the pewter Neipce originally used. By coating the sheet in iodine, he made it sensitive to light, and, as with Neipce's heliograph technique, let sunlight create the image for him. The key step to making the image last was bathing it in a silver chloride solution, which prevented it from fading when exposed to light again.

Why Study Digital Photography Books

Many of the world's most renowned photographers never actually went to school for photography. Instead, the majority of them are self taught. While there is no substitution for practical application, studying photography books is also a great way to improve one's skills, without having to spend thousands of dollars on a photography degree.

Photography books come in a range of genres, from artistic to digital, and in all levels. There are books suitable for beginners just getting started on the path to photography, and for experienced professionals looking for inspiration. For beginners, the best photography books are often ones that focus on the technical aspects of photography. Amateur photographers need to learn about things like exposure, the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, composition, setting ISO speeds, and other technical aspects which can be difficult and time consuming to figure out on one's own. They may also need to learn how to take light meter readings and edit images for the best results. If nothing else, a great photography book will inspire them to get out and take more photos.

Many experienced professionals often wind up pigeon-holing themselves into a particular genre or subject. Taking the time to look through some great photography books can be a reminder of the many different styles out there and motivate them to tackle something new.

The First Photography Books

The first photography book ever published was Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions in 1843. It was produced by English botanist Anna Atkins and was intended to help the scientific community identify marine specimens with nearly 500 images. It was the first book to be illustrated solely with photographs, as opposed to the drawings that were more common in the time. Unlike standard photographs shot with a camera, the pictures in Atkins' book were cyanotypes, which were made by pressing marine specimens onto light sensitive paper and then exposing them. This created actual silhouette photos of the algae.

Currently it is believed 17 copies of the book still exist, with at least three of the copies being housed in museums, like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the British Library in London and the New York Public Library. In 2004, a copy of the book sold for over $300,000 making it one of the most expensive photography books ever sold.

In 1874, Julia Margaret Cameron published the first photography book designed to illustrate a literary work. Cameron made 12 images specifically for Idylls of the King, which was written by Alfred Lord Tennyson. Her images were reproduced as wood engravings so she went on to publish her own copies of the book that included her original album prints.

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Last updated on March 17, 2018 by Daniel Imperiale

Daniel is a writer, actor, and director living in Los Angeles, CA. He spent a large portion of his 20s roaming the country in search of new experiences, taking on odd jobs in the strangest places, studying at incredible schools, and making art with empathy and curiosity.

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