12 Best Books On Photography

12 Best Books On Photography

Learning photography is a process that never really ends - it's easy to get the basics down, but you can spend the rest of your life figuring out new ways to see the world, new ways to share your vision and new methods of capturing light and landscapes.

While there's no substitute for practice, there's nothing wrong with getting some inspiration and wisdom from photographers who have a bit more experience.

With that in mind, here are 12 of the best photography books on a range of subjects related to landscape photography.

Choosing the Right Book to Expand Your Photographic Horizons

One of the most important things to keep in mind when you're trying to decide on a photography book is that you don't need to just buy one.

The more you broaden your horizons, the better a photographer you'll be, and more books to look through means more exposure to new styles, techniques and ideas.

That being said, it's usually a good idea to start with the work of a photographer whose visual style you enjoy, as it will help motivate you to continue working through your new material.

In addition to having a visual style you appreciate, it's important to choose a book by someone who can explain their ideas simply and effectively so that you don't waste time trying to decipher bad explanations - or worse, get frustrated with the book and put it aside.

Many talented photographers are not very good at communicating their ideas through writing, so don't get discouraged if the first book you try doesn't quite 'click' with your particular learning style.

Techniques

Of the three types of books we're going to look at in this review roundup, technique instruction is probably the easiest to share with another photographer.

There are clear procedures that can be simply and effectively taught, and as long as the writing is clear it's possible to replicate an impressive piece of work simply by repeating the instructions.

This is how many photographers have begun to learn their craft, and it can be incredibly motivating to be able to create beautiful photographs by following some simple steps.

The danger of learning strictly though following the techniques of others is that you can start to think too rigidly, only following the same steps and producing the same types of images.

While that can be effective and helpful early on in your photographic education, it becomes rapidly problematic if you lose the drive to explore and experiment with brand new techniques.

So it's important to flesh out your technique knowledge with books from our other two essential categories.

Composition 

Composition is one of the most subtle aspects of photography, and one that isn't nearly as easy to teach as some of the more basic technical aspects.

Most photographers are aware of simple compositional guidelines like the Rule of Thirds, but once you get past that kind of introductory material it gets harder and harder to teach.

At that point, a solid understanding of more difficult concepts such as negative space, asymmetrical balance and visual rhythm are often best understood through a series of visual examples and explanations.

When looking for composition help, it's definitely best to choose a book by someone whose style you respect.

You're going to be looking at a lot of images in order to deconstruct what makes them work from a compositional perspective, so images made in a style you enjoy will help you stay interested while you learn to process how it all works.

Creativity & Inspirational 

There are many different approaches to creativity, and every person's process is unique - but that means it is all the more valuable to look at books by photographers whose work you wouldn't necessarily choose to explore otherwise.

Creativity comes from unexpected directions, making connections between things you never associated before and a constant exposure to new ideas and images.

It's hard to teach someone to see things in a new way when all they want to see is what they already know that they like.

If this is the type of book you're after, try to keep an open mind, and try an interesting experiment: for every book you read by a photographer you like, try to choose a second one by a photographer whose work you don't particularly appreciate.

You might find that you get more out of the books you thought you wouldn't like than the ones you knew you would.

Our pick of Photography Books

As you will have noticed earlier, we're dividing the best photography books into three basic categories, because it's next to impossible to choose 'overall best' photography books when there are so many different aspects to the art.

Here are our 12 favourites.

Photographic Technique Books

Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera 

by Bryan Peterson


There's a reason this book has made it to the 3rd edition, with over 350,000 copies sold worldwide - Peterson has a talent for explaining complex technical subjects in a way that's easy to understand.

Exposure is one of the most basic aspects of photography, but there's a large difference between knowing the basics and truly understanding it, and Peterson can help you bridge the gap and make exposure work for you instead of just being something you struggle with.

With over 30 years of experience and numerous bestselling photography books, he is eminently qualified to break down the technical side of exposure and help you take your photographs to the next level, no matter whether you're a beginner or an experienced photographer.

Night Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots 

by Gabriel Biderman and Tim Cooper


One thing is to be able to take great photographs when there is plenty of light, but moving into the world of night photography is another game.

It can be a confusing experience for beginner and intermediate-level photographers who aren't familiar with how it works.

Biderman and Cooper take you through everything you need to know about the world of night photography, from what equipment you'll need to special techniques for night focusing and composition all the way through to finalizing your images with special post-processing techniques specifically designed for night photographs.

Also included are a number of inspirational images and 'assignments' for you to go out and put your skills into practice, and there's even a group dedicated to the book and its readers on the photo sharing site Flickr.

How to Create Stunning Digital Photography 

by Tony Northrup


Tony Northrup has created more than just an instructional technique book with this title.

Instead is using it as a method to teach both beginner and intermediate photographers through free supplementary video lessons, online community engagement with other aspiring photographers who have purchased his book, and a constantly updated ebook version that stays current with the latest trends and techniques.

Northrup's extensive career in a range of photographic disciplines from advertising to travel have informed his photographic eye, while publishing over 30 instructional books have helped him to hone his teaching style down to a fine art.

With over a million copies of his books in print, he can make even the most complex photographic subjects simple enough for anyone to understand.

Digital Landscape Photography: In The Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters

by Michael Frye


Ansel Adams is one of the most revered landscape photographers in the whole history of the discipline.

He was a master of precision techniques that helped make his work so popular.

Unfortunately, he was photographing well before the digital age and a lot of his instruction needs adaptation to stay relevant in modern photography. 

Frye in this book delivers an excellent update. Having lived near Yosemite National Park for the last 35 years,

Frye has the perfect shooting locations just outside his front door. 

He uses his own beautiful photographs to demonstrate the ins and outs of the techniques of Adams including an update to famous Zone System that is better suited to digital photography.

Photography: Complete Guide To Taking Stunning, Beautiful Pictures

by Nicole Woods


This book is a great introduction for beginner photographers who want to learn the basic techniques that are required knowledge for producing a decent photograph.

For those who are finally making the leap to a DSLR camera or finally switching away from using 'Auto' mode, there is a great deal of well-presented information about the basics of ISO, shutter speed and aperture.

More advanced photographers will find the subject matter somewhat basic when compared to some of the other books we reviewed here.

Woods does cover a lot of ground in this book, explaining everything from exactly how a DSLR works to the basics of digital post-processing and printing your images, but that wide scope also prevents her from delving too deeply into any of one them.

Photographic Composition Books

Learning to See Creatively, Third Edition: Design, Color, and Composition in Photography

by Bryan Peterson


There's a good reason that Peterson has two entries in our list of the best photography books.

He has an impressive ability to turn the most complex subjects into simple, easy-to-understand explanations that give his readers sudden insight into how it all works.

That's exactly the kind of writing style that you need to explain the nature of composition and visual design.

A subject that can seem pretty mysterious to intermediate photographers who have mastered the basic technical side of photography but are looking for the next opportunity to improve the quality of their work.

Like his book on exposure, this book has made it to its third edition, updated with brand new photos from Peterson's extensive portfolio and a whole new section on how to use colour as a compositional design element.

Composing the Photo

by Trey Ratcliff

Composing the Photo by Trey Ratcliffe

This ebook is perfect for beginner photographers who learn best through carefully analysing the photos of others.

Trey Ratcliff has filled much of the 50 page book with these types of guides.

He writes in a very approachable, personable way that resonates with many readers, and takes you through a number of examples with detailed explanations of how and why each photo was selected out of a range of similar images.

Ratcliff has had a long career in photography, embracing HDR photography and being distinguished as the first photographer to hang an HDR photo in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C.

Photographic Creativity & Inspirational Books

Examples: The Making of 40 Photographs

by Ansel Adams


When you're looking for inspiration in the world of landscape photography, there are few better sources than the work and writings of the legendary American landscape photographer Ansel Adams.

Written by Adams before his death in 1984, this book takes 40 of his most famous photographs and deconstructs the visual and technical challenges he overcame in order to turn them into international successes.

In addition to the fascinating insight into the processes and procedures he used to make his iconic images, Adams also shares the stories and the people behind his images and how he came to make them.

Extraordinary Everyday Photography: Awaken Your Vision to Create Stunning Images Wherever You Are

by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring


Landscape photography is all about the world around us on a large scale, and yet sometimes we find ourselves missing the beauty in the landscapes we see on a daily basis.

This book is a great exploration of how it's possible to find inspiration without having to travel to the other side of the world.

It's presented in a way that doesn't over emphasize the technical side of photography but rather the feelings and emotions that make you want to create images in the first place.

This book provides inspiration for photographers at almost all skill levels. Novice photographers though may find that there isn't enough description of the techniques used to create the images - although more advanced photographers will appreciate that this is part of the book's strength.

Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs

by Ansel Adams, edited by Andrea G. Stillman


For those of you looking for a more in-depth look at the work of Ansel Adams, you'll find ten times as many images in this book, although they aren't discussed in quite such exquisite detail as you find in Examples.

This is largely because the book wasn't written by Adams exclusively, but rather compiled and edited by his colleague and close friend Andrea Stillman who worked with Adams in the decade before his death.

It covers the full extent of his long photographic career, allowing you to see how his processes and photographic eye evolved over the course of his lifetime, and provides an almost never-ending source of inspiration for landscape photographers who want to explore every significant image that Adams produced.

Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative

by Austin Kleon


This book is quite a bit different from the others that we looked at in this post, because it's not specifically about photography - but don't let that make you avoid it.

Kleon has a relatively short but vibrant and popular career lecturing about creativity to a host of organizations from Pixar Studios to Google to TEDx.

He condensed much of his lecture series into this book in order to provide creativity advice to a range of audiences from writers to photographers to business executives.

This book is very engagingly written and presented in a novel, heavily-graphical way that forces you to start thinking outside the box, and asks you to re-examine all of your preconceptions about the nature of inspiration and how the process of creativity really works.

Creative Visualization for Photographers

by Rick Simmons


Last but not least is this excellent book from Rick Simmons that challenges readers to change the way they view photography by asking them to spend more time visualizing their shots before pressing the shutter.

While that might seem like an obvious step to some, the process of planning out your shots is an important tool for boosting your creativity.

It forces you to stop and think about all the different ways that a particular scene can be photographed.

Simmons presents this seemingly dull idea in a range of interesting ways, and provides great examples and assignments to help you explore the ideas and start putting them into your own photographic practice.

Conclusions

Hopefully, you're going to have a long photographic fun ahead of you, and over that time you'll probably acquire dozens if not hundreds of photography books.

If possible, you should grab a copy of every book we've listed here and then continue building your library, but photography books can quickly become expensive - especially when there is so much other photographic gear you want to spend money on.

With that in mind, we've chosen one from each category that deserves your attention the most.

In addition to being our favourite in the technique category, if you have to choose a single book overall, you can't go wrong with How to Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup.

Northrup has created an impressive amount of content on a wide range of subjects, which allows both beginners and intermediate photographers to learn on virtually any photographic subject they're curious about.

In addition to the free supplementary videos and huge private community of likeminded learners, you get free access to an ebook version of the book that will be updated constantly as new styles and equipment arrive on the photography scene.

When it comes to our favorite book on compositional learning, Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson tackles the often complex and difficult subject in a clear and easy-to-understand way that demonstrates the structure behind all manner of compositions.

His signature writing style cuts through all the nonsense that surrounds a lot of photographic instruction, and you before you're even finished reading the book, you find yourself filled with new ideas that you want to experiment with.

Inspiration above and beyond learning new compositional styles is hard to teach, and that also made it hard to choose a book that stands out in the creativity/inspiration category.

All too often as landscape photographers, we spend all our time thinking about the next great far-distant photography hotspot and what's over the next horizon, without stopping to really see the beauty of the natural landscapes that surround us in everyday life.

Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring has earned the title of our creative teaching best pick because it shows you how to appreciate the landscapes all around you, and reminds you not to focus too much on the technology behind your photography but rather on the way you feel about the scenes you discover.

Honorable mention must be made for the value of Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon, however - we said earlier that the more books you have, the better off you'll be. As Kleon would say, it's just more inspiration for you to steal from!

12 Best Books On Photography

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About the Author Luca

Hi, I am Luca, founder and editor in chief at photographyambition.com. I am crazy about photography and I always have a camera with me. When I am not busy with my day job, enjoying my family or taking photos, I am on Photography Ambition to share what I have learnt so far.

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