Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My Favorite (i.e. in my opinion, the best :-) Photography Books

I think most amateur photographers overlook their best learning tool without realizing it. That tool being books. I’ve learned so much from the experts that I can hardly document it all.

I own three dozen photography books at least. I have not read every single one of them cover to cover, but I have read at least 9 that way. And they are the ones I recommend.

I’ll try to go in order by the most useful, but all of them are excellent and in the end what is useful to me might not be useful to you.

Check them out at the library if you prefer, or buy cheaply from Amazon. For your convenience (and to help support my blogging efforts – I won’t hide that fact) I will provide links to amazon.com.

Note to Canadians … I often buy from amazon.com as I often find it cheaper overall than the Canadian Amazon site, even after shipping is factored in.

Update for 2016: This is waaaaayyyyy overdue. And yet, not. You see, the fundamentals of photography have hardly changed in decades. We do have better equipment now than ever, but that is the tool. You are the craftsman, and so you still need to make sure that you understand how to use the tool and what your goals should be. It should be blindingly obvious that the most important aspect in any image is light. Or maybe lighting. Or both. You simply cannot make an image without light, and you cannot fix horrible light, although you can attempt to compensate for it (for example, processing to black and white is a time-honored save.) Also, the following list might look a little out of date. But fear not ... many of these books have been updated in the last few years and are as current and relevant as when they first appeared. And finally, these books are best practices that are bound to improve your technique, which will absolutely show up in your results.

John Shaw – Field Guide to Nature Photography

This book has an absolutely excellent discussion of metering. It also covers basic technique and macro photography. Lots of useful info and a must read in my opinion … at least the metering and close up parts.


Bryan Peterson – Understanding Exposure 3rd Edition

This is a classic. Everyone eventually reads it.
Jim Zuckerman – The Perfect Exposure

I like this one because it deals with difficult situations like white on white and black on black. Plus it puts some effort into spot metering.

Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe -- Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop, Camera Raw, and Lightroom (2nd Edition)

In my opinion, sharpening technique makes more difference than almost any other skill to the appearance of your images. Two little and they look soft, too much and they look gritty. You need to know what this book teaches.

It covers the A to Z of sharpening and noise reduction technique. You will learn more than you thought could possibly exist about the subject, and your images will improve greatly as a result.
Bryan Peterson -- Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second

This book contains all the tips you need to move comfortably between the technical requirements for creative exposures for things like blurred merry go rounds or flowing water and technically correct exposure exposures for action. He covers it all with excellent examples that make things dead clear.

Lee Varis – Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies

The classic book on portrait and people photography. Covers lighting and processing and you really should read this if you expect to be shooting people.
Fil Hunter, Paul Fuqua, Steven Biver -- Light Science and Magic, An Introduction to Photographic Lighting, Fourth Edition

This one is a real gem. Tons of information on lighting models and products. It covers the white on white and black on black problem in addition to reflective surfaces. Every scenario comes with a map of how the lights are set up so you can reproduce at home or in studio. A real tome.

Jeff Schewe and Bruce Fraser -- Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS5

In my opinion, enthusiasts and indeed all advanced photographers should seriously consider shooting RAW. Unless, of course there is a pressing need for immediate output etc.

There are many reasons and you will know them all once you have been shooting for a while. This book provides a ton of information on Adobe’s converter, which ships with Photoshop, Photoshop Elements and Lightroom. It is a bit out of date these days, but if you are serious about learning the ins and outs of raw shooting, this is a pretty good place to start.
Bryan Peterson -- Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography (Updated Edition)

An interesting book that helps to shape your perceptions as a photographer. In other words, it will help you learn to “see” …

I can't really describe it any other way. Take a look at it and see what I mean.


Unknown said...

Kim any online links like the EV posted earlier would be great for networms like me :D

Unknown said...

Thanks for tip Kim. Seems great info, not exactly a book reader but would try to read at least one from these :)

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: It's getting late and my mind is not quite clicking on what you mean by "like the EV posted earlier" ... sorry.

Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: All of these books are worthy reads. But stick to the first few for the general stuff. Go for the specialty stuff only when and if the interest builds.

Unknown said...

hehe...taken from the how to shoot F70 mkII


Kim Letkeman said...

Archish: Yes, that's one of my goto articles when people get chronic underexposures. It helps you understand how you should be exposing, but it does not help you understand what the meter is doing. John Shaw's book does that.