There are many digital photography books in the market and not all of them are created equal. Some are nothing more than glorified user manuals, some are written like boring text books, and then there are those that are not only filled with technical information that helps you improve your photography, but also highly practical and a joy to read.
In no particular order, I present to you my top 5 recommendations of digital photography books by genre. The books I’m recommending are based on categories that majority of my readers are interested in. I strongly suggest you run to your nearest library to check them out or go ahead and buy a copy.
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Top 5 General Reference Books
- Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting
Seriously good technical resource about how light behaves. This is one book where it can literally make your photography better without you touching the camera while learning. Highly recommended to those who have progressed to appreciating light and execution (rather than camera gears). The link leads you to the latest, 4th edition copy.
- Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
On it’s third update, this book by Bryan Peterson is as good and comprehensive as ever. Great value.
- The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
When it comes to DETAILED explanation on a single subject matter, nobody can do it as well as Michael Freeman. This book is purely about composition and how to analyze scenes, utilize geometry, color, patterns, etc. to create dynamic shots. Great for the intermediate and advanced photographer.
- Exposure: From Snapshots to Great Shots
Jeff Revel’s book is pretty new and honestly, at over 250 pages, it’s quite a value in terms of modern reference material. Any beginner’s reference book that puts gear upgrades at the very last segment is a good book for me LOL.
- Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists
Now this is a special book. Special in a way that it’s highly unusual. It’s a wonderful and eclectic book for portrait artists especially. Featuring over 2500 images analyzing facial features of different races, age, emotions, even analyzing heads when hats are worn! It’s a very, very special book to own. I just ordered mine.
Top 5 Family-Oriented Photography Books
- Material World: A Global Family Portrait
This is not an instructional or reference book, it’s a documentation of culture and ‘average’ families that is not only refreshing to read, but also a great educational tool to introduce diversity. Rather than random snapshots of foreign cultures or using poverty as a theme, this Menzel/Mann/Kennedy book shows you what actual, REAL families tend to be like in many cultures, and we’re not just talking about people. Their personal belongings, living quarters, everything that we take for granted that people from other cultures will find fascinating is presented with great, but casual artistry.
- Your Baby in Pictures: The New Parents’ Guide to Photographing Your Baby’s First Year
The title says it all! I’d be pretty confident to assume that the surge in digital camera sales in recent years, particularly with digital SLRs are attributed to parents excited to take better quality photographs fo their kids. Unlike toddlers and older children, however, babies offer a great challenge even for the seasoned pro, let alone a worried-but-excited parent. The ‘photo recipes’ are brilliant and easy to follow, and the way the book is presented just follows a typical parent-to-parent conversation atmosphere. A great book for any parent.
- Mamarazzi: Every Mom’s Guide to Photographing Kids
Targeted marketing at work! Moms do spend the most time with their children in many parts of the world and naturally, they will have the most opportunities to photograph the kids as well (along with juggling tons of other tasks!). This book by Stacy Wasmuth contains BEAUTIFUL casual portraits and the tips are very non-technical. It’s great for moms who are not interested with technical details like EXIF and such, which is good as most pocket digital cameras don’t offer adjustments anyway. The book may be light on technicalities, but is highly useful and practical for its target audience.
- Photographing Children Photo Workshop There’s actually an older revision of this book which contains a lot of similar content, but this revised version offers more info such as HD video shooting with today’s video SLR cameras as well as mobile phone photography. This is a very good ‘guideline reference’ book to help you be more aware of the environment surrounding children that lends to better photographs as well as developing your style. This book concentrates on a central theme of capturing childhood moments rather than the technicalities.
- Children’s Portrait Photography Handbook: Techniques for Digital Photographers Bill Hurter’s book stands out from the list of reference book because it covers not only kid’s photography all the way to teen years, but also the important aspects of connecting with your subjects. Let’s face it, unless we’re shooting our own children, kids are difficult to connect with, especially if you’re asking them to do something for you, such as pose. This book provides some psychological explanation on how to be ‘on the same page’ with the kids so they can be a cooperative subject for you and your photographs.
Top 5 Food Photography Books
- Food Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots I’ve been a follower of Nicole’s excellent food photography and tutorial blog for almost a year now, and her food styling tips are just awesome and easy-to-follow. Her book may not be as authoritative as the others I’ve listed, but I think it will be a big hit for bloggers and non-professional food photographers. Being a National Association of Photoshop Professionals Helpdesk Specialist, she also covers post-capture editing topics that relate solely to food photography, something not many books offer. (This book is still under pre-order as of this article).
- For Food and Drink Photography (Lighting) Everybody loves diagrams and detailed how-to explanations, and this book covers A LOT of them. Stuffed with really high quality photographs, each featured photo is accompanied with detailed text and light/prop setup diagrams to help you understand lighting and styling.
- Food Styling: The Art of Preparing Food for the Camera Now this is a BIG BOOK. If you want the ‘insider’ peek on how professionals photograph and style food, this is it. This book will be very useful to chefs, culinary students, food stylists, and food photographers alike. With over 400 large pages to skim through, you’ll be spending a lot of time practicing what this book preaches.
- Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography & Styling Plate to Pixel is another splendid book to buy if you’re a food blogger, particularly if you prefer natural lighting. A lot of the dishes presented in this book look very serene, natural, and just ready to be plopped into a modern cookbook. By relying mostly on natural lighting, many aspiring food photographers will find this book easy to digest (pun intended).
- Carl Warner’s Food Landscapes Food Landscapes is NOT a reference/technical book by any means, but if you think food photography’s boring or too clinical, then you’ll be amazed by what imagination can do to food. Carl Warner’s an incredible food ‘manipulator’, as I’d like to call him. The satirical scenarios he create with a simple piece of vegetable is nothing but entertaining. Feast your eyes from scorching deserts (or desserts!) to tranquil beaches with nothing more than what you can find at the market. I wonder if his mother still tells him not to play with his food?
Top 5 Wedding Photography Books
- Digital Wedding Photographer’s Planner The title’s a bit different as it’s marketed as a planner rather than an instruction book, but ask anyone who has covered a full day of wedding, you’re guaranteed to hear that planning for the day is a MUST. Everything’s covered from the initial interview to album presentation and repeat sales. By the way, click the link and scroll down to the Editorial Reviews section, there are several paragraphs of bonus, Amazon-only tips provided by Kenny.
- Captured by the Light: The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography When I picked up this book, I expected it to be a typical ‘film info translated to digital’ type of book, but I was wrong. Ziser’s an excellent instructor in this book, and based on the fact that he’s also one of the most sought-after wedding photography instructors, his techniques and explanations are layman enough for practically anyone to understand and implement. His style is a very good blend of old-school, fail-proof lighting and fundamentals mixed with the execution of only modern camera gear can provide.
- Fine Art Wedding Photography: How to Capture Images with Style for the Modern Bride From one of the most popular fine art wedding photographers today, this book from Jose Villa is not only inspirational to look at, but also highly technical. His style of photography, while unique, is very easily digestible by readers and customers alike. Seriously, the book is very well written as well, excellent writing, editing, and of course, photography.
- Wedding Photojournalism: The Business of Aesthetics: A Guide for Professional Digital Photographers If you’re already into professional wedding photography, this book’s for you. There are TONS of business info in this book ranging from operations, marketing, conversion rates, even social network marketing! You’ll probably learn how much untapped potentials and leads your business actually have when you’re done with this book. Highly recommended for anyone who’s serious about the business aspects of wedding photography.
- Digital Wedding Photography: Capturing Beautiful Memories If you need someone to guide you to get started with wedding photography, Glen Johnson’s book will do the trick. The key to this book’s success is not only that it tells you what to do in certain situations, but also the rationale behind it. The book forces you to understand concepts and execution rather than just telling you what to do. It covers a lot of subtleties you’ll face when shooting weddings such as etiquette, posing, adapting to your client, etc.
Top 5 Lighting Books
- On-Camera Flash Techniques for Digital Wedding and Portrait Photography If you’ve been following my blog for quite some time, you’ll know that I’m a big fan of Neil Van Niekerk’s Tangents blog. While a lot of topics in this book is covered in his blog as well (he gave away all those info for free long before the book came along), we all know that having a physical book offers a different level comprehension for most people. Neil is a heavy proponent of creating BEAUTIFUL lighting with on-camera flash on full-auto TTL mode, a refreshing niche topic to concentrate on when the web tends to favor off-camera flash lighting situations. “Get your flash off the camera” has always been a battlecry for MANY gurus and professionals since the flash gun was invented, but with proper knowledge of how a modern flash system works, your photography with flash may very well change your opinion about flash photography forever. Neil’s website and book sure made a believer out of me.
- Photographing Arts, Crafts & Collectibles: Take Great Digital Photos for Portfolios, Documentation, or Selling on the Web (A Lark Photography Book) The title’s self explanatory. Still-life lighting and more. With so many people getting into blogging and online selling, this book can help anyone to get better with product photography, even if you’re not into photography. It’s one of the best books for non-technical photographers and if you know anyone who’s getting into online businesses and blogging, send them one as a gift (along with a light cube tent, maybe) and they’ll thank you endlessly for it (and probably curse you out for getting them into photography eventually).
- Doug Box’s Flash Photography: On- and Off- Camera Techniques for Digital Photographers Off camera lighting isn’t really hard to understand, it’s just a light source. But with so many technical ways to manipulate light, it can get pretty difficult for a beginner to understand. Even with the prolifiration of lighting-specific sites and books in the market, many still prefer the most basic explanations as well as resulting photographs to fast-track their learning. Doug’s book fulfills that need and I’m glad I accidentally chanced on this book last month in the bookstore.
- Fashion Flair for Portrait and Wedding Photography I personally LOVE this book because concepts and imagination are my weakest skills in terms of photography. Lindsay Adler really made a special book because she’s helping readers use trends and techniques in the fashion industry and apply it to your wedding and portrait photography. Quite ingenious as the current wedding photography market is filled with too many ‘me-too’ safe styles and not enough unique and high-end impact products. This is a very audience-specific book that may not fit everyone, particularly those who already have established their own style, but for guys like me who lacks imagination, this is a great find.
- Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites In case you’re not aware, this book is written by Syl Arena, a very popular flash photography blogger concentrating mainly on Canon systems. This book departs from the usual user-manual like books explaining flash systems and really matches the feel and style of his blog as well. The other reason why I’m recommending this book is that the Nikon flashes are well covered by the great Joe McNally and there aren’t a lot of creative Canon flash book available, so if you’re a Canon user and want to learn how to maximize the Canon flash system, this is for you!
So there you have it, my recommendations for your library collection of digital photography books for both beginners and advanced photographers. You can never have too much books anyway, and spending on education far outweighs buying a piece of gear of the same value any day :) Enjoy!
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