No matter how fancy your camera is, your image output will always depend on your technique. Like any other art, photography is one of constant learning, with endless opportunities to adopt, push, and break trusted methods as you like. Whether you have just picked up your first camera, want to explore a new process, or need to troubleshoot a difficult lighting condition, guidance is just a book away. Find one that suits your skill level and curiosity among our picks below.
1. In Camera: How to Get Perfect Pictures Straight Out of the Camera
As its title suggests, this book aims to get you familiar with the workings of your camera, ultimately helping you spend less time on the post-production process. Written by Gordon Laing, the well-known camera reviewer of cameralabs.com, it features 100 of the author’s photographs accompanied by commentary on his technical approach and creative decisions. The photographs are taken with a variety of cameras, from compacts to high-end mirrorless ones, so the book can even serve as an introduction to different camera types. Reading Laing’s clearly written advice, you’ll become more attuned to exposure, composition, and light as you do your own work.
2. Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Exposure
Ideal for those who have never taken a photography class, this straightforward and concise book provides a fast overview of necessary basics. Author and photographer Al Judge outlines the building blocks of photography—aperture, shutter speed, and exposure—and describes in simple terms how they all come together. These fundamental concepts are accompanied by sample photographs and beginner tips such as how to set up a tripod and how to work with a pinhole camera.
3. The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes
If you’re itching to try experimental, hands-on techniques that may or may not involve a camera, photographer Christopher James has written the definitive text on uncommon and historical photographic methods. This massive guide’s 800 pages chronicle the history and chemistry of photo techniques, followed by step-by-step instructions for trying each one (if you can attain the appropriate materials, that is). Learn about tintypes, albumen prints, cyanotypes, carbon prints, and much, much more. Don’t let the book’s size intimidate you: There are tons of images, and James’s conversational approach keeps the reading experience fun and engaging.
4. Dawoud Bey on Photographing People and Communities
The photography magazine Aperture has published a number of insightful books as part of its Photography Workshop Series, in which photographers share their personal approaches to the art. This installment is written by the highly respected Dawoud Bey, who has spent much of his career photographing and uplifting people of color, often those he casually passes on the street. Within its pages, Bey describes how he works slowly and with intention to turn his shoots into a collaboration with his subjects. Walking us through some of his own images, he relates how he gets their attention, starts conversations, and gives them space as he works.
5. Focus On Food Photography for Bloggers
Shutterbugs who love photographing food and want to improve their will find a reliable mentor in Matt Armendariz, author of this colorful guide. In it, Armendariz, a popular food blogger, shares his tips and tricks for achieving professional-looking food photographs in your own kitchen—even if you don’t have fancy equipment. His easygoing chapters walk you through concepts such as composition, lighting, and styling; they also address common challenges presented by hard-to-photograph foods and offer advice on marketing your shots.