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Looking to expand your understanding of photography? There are plenty of resources online, but a web page can’t compare to flipping through a beautifully bound tome filled with glossy pages of striking images. Books on photography can be not only instructive but also transportive: They can open your mind, change your perspective, and compel you to pick up your own camera. Whether you are curious about how photographers work, are in your own creative rut, or simply want to see some stunning photographs, our picks below highlight the best books to add to your shelf.
1. The Photography Ideas Book
Published by ILEX in partnership with the Tate museum group, this dynamic book dissects and reimagines the art of photography, ultimately offering lessons on how to look with fresh eyes. Each spread is dedicated to a mini description of an artwork and an explanation of a specific concept used to create it; these include perspective, multiple exposures, glitching, collaging, and scanning. Together, these pages provide an exploration of interesting photographic processes while shedding light on dozens of exciting photographers working today.
2. The Art of Photography: A Personal Approach to Artistic Expression
It can be difficult to master the technical side of photography, but even more challenging can be developing your own artistic voice. In this rhapsodic text, photographer Bruce Barnbaum explores approaches to image making, writing about why great photos work, how color and composition contribute to emotion, and how a single moment can be interpreted in limitless ways. There are some bits of practical advice, like how to print film and present your image, but this is largely a guide to help you harness your technical skills for maximum creativity.
3. BetterPhoto Basics
This is an excellent technical book that seeks to demystify the often overwhelming world of photography. Perfect for beginners, it covers common camera controls; explains basic concepts of aperture, shutter speed, and focal length; and provides tips on focus, lighting, and composition. There are also assignments for hands-on learning as well as sections with more advanced instruction, making this a great book for growing your skills as you progress on your photography journey. There are also plenty of inspiring photographs to help you understand how all these techniques can come together, not only when shooting but also in post-processing.
4. Photographers on Photography: How the Masters See, Think, and Shoot
If you like to learn from the best, consider reading this guide, which highlights the approaches of pros. It’s packed with interviews, images, and quotes by photographers such as Dorothea Lange, Saul Leiter, and Wendy Red Star, exploring their ideas, concerns, motives, and methods. Whether you are interested in commercial work, photojournalism, or conceptual art, you’ll walk away with a greater appreciation of the artistic process—and some inspiration for your own practice.
5. Extraordinary Everyday Photography
The driving force of this book is the concept that beauty can be found all around us, that one doesn’t have to travel to obscure or exotic places to get “the shot.” Authors Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring offer engaging lessons with titles such as “Practice Seeing Daily” and “Photographing at Dusk” to urge readers to see the familiar anew. Through clear language, they describe how unexpected delights can be found by getting close, focusing on details, and creating abstract views. They also provide exercises to help you apply what you’ve learned to your own surroundings.