My favourite books for photographers

In For Photographers

Ahhh, books. Remember those? In the days before Kindles and iPads a book was a physical object made with actual pages made out of pulped wood, printed and bound together, that you could hold in your hands, with a cool page-turning interface that’s even more lifelike than the animations in iBooks…

Okay, we all know what books are! A lot of these books below are actually available on Kindle, but sometimes an old fashioned Real Book is exactly what you need, and especially so when it comes to enjoying a collection of photographs, in the same way that looking at your wedding photos on a screen will never ever match the wonderful feeling of a heavy, luxurious handmade album. Photographs are made to be printed!

The books for photographers below are ones I can personally recommend. As well as instruction and tutorial books for Lightroom and Photoshop, I’ve included some of my favourite books written by photographers themselves, collecting some of their best photographs along with fascinating insights into how each image was made. If you’re looking for the perfect Christmas or birthday gift for the photographer in your life (or you just fancy treating yourself!) the books by Joe McNally and Gregory Heisler in particular are fantastic.

If you’ve got some favourite books for photographers you think I should check out let me know in the comments!

Lightroom & Photoshop

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / 6 Book for Digital Photographers
Scott Kelby | Buy it on Amazon

The Photoshop Elements 14 Book for Digital Photographers
Scott Kelby | Buy it on Amazon

The Adobe Photoshop CC Book for Digital Photographers 2014
Scott Kelby | Buy it on Amazon

best lightroom bookWhen I was first learning Photoshop and, more recently, Lightroom, Scott Kelby’s books were my first introduction to the basics. His style of writing is very informal and jovial, but he sets out everything you might want to do in the software and then explains exactly how to get there. His books aren’t an exhaustive manual of every single feature, but you’ll learn practical methods to achieve the results you want with lots of step-by-step pictures and, most importantly, an explanation of what each adjustment is doing so that you can take that new knowledge and experiment with it on subsequent edits. These are definitely the first books I’d recommend if you’re looking to teach yourself these apps, and then for much finer detail of every aspect of the software you can dip into Martin Evening’s books. Just bear in mind that his slightly whacky sense of humour might not be to your taste!


The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC / 6 Book: The Complete Guide for Photographers
Martin Evening | Buy it on Amazon

Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers: 2016 Edition
Martin Evening | Buy it on Amazon

best lightroom bookMartin Evening’s books go into a fantastic level of detail. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming! So, I don’t necessarily recommend these books as the first port of call for the curious newcomer but when you’re ready to really get into the nitty-gritty of how the software works and what each and every setting does, Martin’s books are comprehensive and very well written and presented, very much an indispensable bible. I’d say Scott Kelby’s example-based approach and writing style is definitely more accessible to amateurs, but just as enjoyable and useful to professionals, whereas Martin’s books are focussed squarely and unapologetically at the professional photographer looking to double down on their existing knowledge.

Photography

The Moment It Clicks
Joe McNally | Buy it on Amazon

The Hot Shoe Diaries
Joe McNally | Buy it on Amazon

flash strobe guide joe mcnally bookThese books by Joe McNally are two of my favourites. Joe is a world famous portrait photographer and teacher, published in places like Time, National Geographic and Sports Illustrated, and these two books take you through some of his favourite images, starting with the story of getting the job, working out what the photos needed to say, and then explaining how he got each one. There’s so much more to it than just getting the technical aspects right, and Joe does a fantastic job of explaining the art of nailing a great shot – aka the moment everything clicks…

In The Hot Shoe Diaries, Joe spends more time explaining the lighting setups for the photographs he shares. Lighting is one of the things I’ve always struggled with – I love finding moments that happen naturally with my photographs, which means working with natural light. But sometimes I’m asked to light some posed shots, and for moments like that when I would normally say “Sure, I can do that!” and then quietly panic, I have books like this to remind me that even the professionals panic sometimes, but having a process to follow can make everything come together. Brilliant book!


Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits
Gregory Heisler | Buy it on Amazon

best portrait photography bookI bought this book a couple of weeks before I was due to photograph a posed portrait of Sir Richard Branson, as inspiration and encouragement because, truth be told, I often panic about posed portraits, especially with someone as high profile as Sir Branson, even though he’s absolutely lovely. Like I say above, I vastly prefer shooting candid shots on location when something else is happening, and in fact one of my favourite ever photos of Sir Branson happened on just such a shoot. But for this posed shot I’d been asked for, I decided to read up on how one of the greatest portrait photographers, Gregory Heisler, captured their best shots. There’s some fantastic stories explaining everything from the choice of lighting and location, to how to deal with only having 30 seconds with your subject, and even some inspirational stories of how everything can all go wrong even for a superb photographer like Heisler, and how you salvage the shoot when it does.


Humans of New York
Brandon Stanton | Buy it on Amazon

Humans of New York: Stories
Brandon Stanton | Buy it on Amazon

humans of new york bookIn 2010 Brandon Stanton started a photoblog called Humans Of New York in which he approached interesting looking people on the streets of New York, asked to take their picture there and then, and got chatting to them about their lives for a bit. Then he’d post their photo and their story on his site. It encompasses everything from lifelong New Yorkers to tourists, ex-cons accused of organised crime to homeless families living on the street, and the honesty and beauty of the photos and the stories makes the world seem a little smaller and little friendlier. I wish I had the courage to approach the people of London for a similar project – we are all humans, after all, and yet we are all so distant from each other these days.


The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photographs
Michael Freeman | Buy it on Amazon

best photography composition bookThey say that a photographer’s eye is something you either have, or not, and while it’s certainly something I’ve always found comes naturally to me and the way I see things, I disagree completely that you can’t teach someone how to strengthen their framing and visual style. Michael Freeman’s book is a great place to start if you’re looking to better understand the power of visual composition. Rather than telling you ‘framing it this way is better than framing it that way’ instead it takes you through how to approach framing a subject based on what you want to say, and how you intend to present it, making you think more about your own visual ‘voice’ and how the same subject can be interpreted completely differently through your choice of framing.


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2 Comments on “My favourite books for photographers”

  1. Your blogs are so informative, can you also suggest some cameras to get started for blog and trvel photography with budget not being an issue. Thanks

    1. Hi Vedant, well there’s so many answers to that! I can only speak from my own experience though, and all I’ve used for the last three years are Fujifilm X Series cameras and lenses, and I can highly recommend them all.

      If budget is not a big consideration I would advise you to look at the their two top-of-the-range cameras, the Fujifilm X-Pro 2, and the Fujifilm X-T2. They both have the same 24MP X-Trans sensors, and the JPG film simulations built into them are simply gorgeous. The X-Pro 2 is a smaller and more ‘rangefinder-esque’ while the X-T2 is a bit bigger and feels more like an SLR.

      Both take the Fujifilm X-Series lenses which are almost all incredible. You might be perfectly happy to start off with the 18-55 kit lens, which is the single greatest kit lens I’ve ever used, but the 14mm, 23mm, 56mm and 90mm are all incredible, as are the 16-55mm and 50-140mm zooms.

      If you’d like to know more leave a reply and maybe I’ll get round to a blog post about why I love the X-T2 so much! :)

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