The Best Photography Books - Top 30 List

Amrish Mudgal - Author Amrish Mudgal on Jun 14, 2019

In this digital age, anyone with a camera can lay claim to being a photographer. However, photography as art needs both education and practice. You read articles, ebooks, and view videos online to get started with developing your interest in this art into something more serious. However, photography is a complex and specialized skill, and you need trusted resources that you can depend on to take forward steps as a photographer. This is where photography books come in.

Learning photography from books by master photographers gives you direct access to professional techniques and tricks that the pros have developed over their careers.  

Photography books are not just a great way to be inspired and to learn some new techniques; they also help you understand the business of photography better.

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We have researched and compiled a list of the 30 best photography books that can help you learn about every aspect of it:

 - Photography books for beginners.
 - Textbooks with all the details and techniques.
 - Technical manuals focussed on specific topics like posing or lighting.
 - Coffee table photo books full of inspiration. And even business books to help you run a successful photography business

Disclaimer: The links given below are not sponsored links. We do not receive any commission if you buy these books using the links below.

Here is the list of the 25 best photography books to learn photography:

Best Beginner Photography Books

Understanding Exposure By Bryan Peterson

An excellent primer on how to get out of the programmed automatic mode on your camera, Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure touches on many of the fundamentals of photography. From composition to aperture and depth of field, Understanding Exposure helps both the beginning novice learn the ropes and the seasoned pro learn something new. The book has been ranked #1 on Amazon's bestsellers for photography reference books and with a good reason. The text also includes some workbook type problems to help you "get it."

Complete Guide to Photography

Focused on the beginners of photography, this book will help you to learn all the functionalities of a professional camera and how to use them. The content of this book is divided into the main settings in your camera and the explanation is given with proper images. There is a separate section on composition, creative techniques and post processing as well. 

Better Photo Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro By Jim Miotke

As a beginner photographer, you'll often be looking for advice on how to take better photographs and to get set up. This book by Jim Miotke is an excellent start for anyone of any age looking to get into photography, whether with their cell phone or a complicated DSLR. Unlike some photography books for beginners, this one is not weighted down with technical, lengthy explanations. Instead, it is made up of quick tips to help photographers see an immediate difference in their images.

DSLR Photography for Beginners: Take 10 Times Better Pictures in 48 Hours or Less By Brian Black

This popular book by Brian Black offers beginning photographers a crash course in using their fancy new digital SLR cameras. A valuable resource to help you hit the ground running, you can use this book to get started and find the topics you want to study more in depth. DSLR Photography for Beginners is currently the number one best seller on Amazon's Landscape Photography and Photography Equipment lists.

Photoshop for Photographers: Training for Photographers to Master Digital Photography and Photo Editing By John Slavio

Digital photographers not only need to be well versed in their photo equipment, but they must also know their way around a computer and photo editing program. Photoshop has been an industry standard for decades. It is one of the best photography books for beginners, and it helps you make better images and gain valuable experience and a new comfort level with the king of all photography programs.

Extraordinary Everyday Photography By Brenda Tharp And Jed Manwaring

Written for literally anyone who wants to take better photos, Tharp and Manwaring's book encourages photography from new angles in the same places. No matter where you are, you can always find more to photograph and new ways to create enticing images. This book is not a technical guide with lots of details; instead, it provides inspiration and a new way to look at subjects and shooting locations.

The Digital Photography Book Box Set By Scott Kelby

Sold in a five-volume set, this series by Scott Kelby gives you step-by-step pointers to getting your photographs to look like the pros. The book avoids dull and lengthy technical explanations and, according to some reviewers, is more like going shooting with a knowledgeable friend who shares his secrets along the way. As the series progresses, more and more technical explanations are added. When studied together, the box set is a complete course in the art of photography and are the best digital photography books which you need to have.

50 Photo Projects - Ideas to Kickstart Your Photography By Lee Frost

Often you can read the textbook over and over again, but you will never truly understand a concept until you practice it. 50 Photo Projects allows you to do just that. Without having to rely on inspiration, the book provides an accessible path to practicing your art no matter where you are. Lack of project ideas is often a missing link for self-taught photographers and is an excellent exercise for every photographer that can help get you out of your comfort zone and bolster your portfolio with something a little different.

Langford’s Basic Photography: The guide for serious photographers – Michael Langford 

This excellent book for beginner photographers teaches you everything about how to capture images and how to evolve and grow your technique as a photographer. The book gives in-depth insights on how to choose the best camera and lenses for your work and talks about the principles of lighting and the equipment you will need to achieve the results you want. You will also learn about the entire workflow of digital photography - how to edit, store, and organize your images, and then how to print and present your images to clients. It is a great book that takes you through the A-Z of a digital photographer's process.

Best Learning Photography Books

The Art of Photography By Bruce Barnbaum

With so many technical volumes focusing on specifics like composition and exposures, it's easy to forget the artistic side of taking photographs. Barnbaum's The Art of Photography is here to help, with clearly written lessons that concentrate on how to express yourself through your art and your camera better.

Understanding Flash Photography: How to Shoot Great Photographs Using Electronic Flash By Bryan Peterson

Another excellent guide from Peterson, Understanding Flash Photography is also a must-read. Flash photography is a worthy challenge for all photographers, and the wide range of lighting products and techniques makes it all the more daunting. Peterson breaks down the options to the basics and gives useful tips any photographer can apply to his or her work. Learning to master the speed light is an excellent skill for photographers of all types. The tips and tricks employed are useful even when dealing with natural light.

Photography: The Definitive Visual History

This history of photography book by Tom Ang and published by DK presents the content in a way no other book on photography history does. One of the best reference books for photographers which compiles the history from the beginning till the digital photography age going on now. The significant events in photography history, the major technological changes, the world-famous photographers who have created iconic photos; this book has it all.

Picture Perfect Posing By Roberto Valenzuela

At some point, every photographer will work with human subjects. Valenzuela's Picture Perfect series is an excellent resource for learning all things photography, but the volume on posing stands out. Working with models and human subjects can be one of the more challenging aspects of photography, and camera-friendly posing is an art form all to itself. Picture Perfect Posing is a perfect resource for portrait photographers.

Film Is Not Dead By Jonathon Canlas

As shocking as it may sound to those who have been in the industry for decades, there are photographers out there today that have never held a film camera. While digital has proliferated and permeated every aspect of the photography industry, a growing movement is bringing film photography back to the forefront. Whether it is merely retro nostalgia or the makings of a new kind of photography remains to be seen, but this excellent book by Canlas will help interested photographers learn their way around both 35 mm and medium format films.

Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual By Henry Horenstein

Horenstein's book about black and white photography has been a common sight in beginning photography courses for decades. With the current renaissance of film photography, perhaps Horenstein's book can inspire new audiences. Black and white photography can be one of the most challenging and yet rewarding aspects, so don't miss this manual to help expand your horizons.

The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets From One Of The World’s Top Shooters By Joe McNally

Advanced techniques are great for students and pros alike to brush up on new and exciting ways to shoot. In McNally's book, The Moment It Clicks, invaluable tips and tricks are shared from a well-respected industry professional, making it one of the best books to learn photography. While sharing his work, he shares the stories behind each shot and challenges you to approach your projects differently.

Night Photography & Light Painting: Finding Your Way in the Dark By Lance Keimig

Nothing comes close to capturing a spectacular night shot. Night photography, maybe more than any other type of photography, shares a new view of the world that few people are lucky enough to experience themselves. It creates a magical experience. Technically challenging but a lot of fun, night photography doesn't need to be intimidating. Keimig’s book challenges you to take a stroll after dark and to create some remarkable works of art.

Guide To Travel Photography By Lonely Planet

Maybe just looking at photos of beautiful places isn't quite enough for you. When you visit those world-class locales, you want to capture the beauty with the skill and eye of the best photographer. This book by Lonely Planet is a great step in that direction. By sharing the tips and tricks of the industry's leading travel photographers, the guide will have you transitioning your images from snapshots to breathtaking destination photography in no time.

Photography Theory Books

Photography Theory By James Elkins

Imagine world-famous art historians and theorists having a debate on the nature of photography! This book has exactly that and that too in animated form. There are many answers to what a photograph is, and this book discusses various opinions around it. These opinions range from a picture being a way to present the reality of the world to it being a medium to confuse the people on the same.

The Decisive Moment By Henri Cartier-Bresson

This book by the legend in photography - Bresson, contains some of his photographs as well as his view on the approach to photography. Street photographers especially adore Henri Cartier Bresson for his unique style. The Decisive Moment book is one of the best street photography books and for anyone who wants to understand the views of Bresson towards photography, which has influenced generations of photographers. Bresson lay down his belief in the magical moment when many different elements like interactions, moments, form, and light all come together to form a perfect, visually appealing image. To achieve that one has to be unnoticeable, quick, and attentive.

On Photography By Susan Sontag

Susan Sontag is regarded as one of the most influential writers of the modern era. This book gives a detailed analysis of photography, giving her strong opinions on the issues of morality and aesthetics. She explains the role photography has in our lives, how we treat photography, how it influences us, and so on. This photography theory book is a must read for someone who wants to understand how photographs are perceived and how it is changing the world. 'On Photography' is one of the best photography books of all time, which will make you question everything you know about the way we consume photographs.

Best Books For Building Your Photography Business

What They Didn’t Teach You In Photo School By Demetrius Fordham

If you are looking for books on starting a photography business and if you're looking to make money with your photos, consider checking out Fordham's What They Didn't Teach You in Photo School. This volume covers the business aspects of photography, specifically. The book touches on what it is like to be a working photographer and ways to successfully get there.

The Photographer’s Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion By Maria Piscopo

Penned by a creative services consultant, this book helps any fledgling creative businesses get off the ground. As any professional photographer will tell you, photography is about much more than just taking great photos. Success often boils down to your business skills, your business plan, and your marketing. The book features case studies and interviews with commercial photographers, making it a useful reference for photographers looking to take their businesses to the next level.

No Plastic Sleeves: Portfolio and Self-Promotion Guides for Photographers and Designers By Larry Volk and Danielle Currier

A topic of great importance to beginners and seasoned photographers alike is how to keep their portfolio polished and relevant. No Plastic Sleeves dives deep into the art of portfolio making for effective marketing of your business. For visual artists, nothing trumps your portfolio. Make sure yours shines by taking the advice of industry pros like Volk and Currier.

Understanding the Business of Entertainment: The Legal and Business Essentials All Filmmakers Should Know By Gregory Bernstein

Legal issues abound in the film and photography industry, from privacy to trademarks and copyright issues. Primarily focuses on filmmaking, Bernstein's volume is valuable to anyone in the visual arts. Bernstein's time as an entertainment attorney allows him to shed light on some of the most critical and lesser-known challenges facing artists today.

Best Photography Coffee Table Books for Inspiration

In the National Parks By Ansel Adams

Not every photography book should be about technique or business. Presented in over 200 photos, this photo book of Adams' timeless black and white images shares the story of America's national parks. In the National Parks By Ansel Adams is one of the best photo books, sure to spur your creativity and appreciation for artistic black and white landscapes.

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016

This new collection of photographs by Annie Leibovitz is a follow-up to her two previous landmark photo books, Annie Leibovitz: Photographs, 1970-1990 and A Photographer's Life, 1990-2005. In this photography portfolio book, Annie Leibovitz, one of the most influential photographers of our time, presents iconic portraits along with never before published images that she has shot over the last decade.

Destinations of a Lifetime By National Geographic

Another stunning coffee table book, this National Geographic collection shares breathtaking views of some of the most remote and most beautiful destinations around the globe. Featuring over 250 images that span the range from secluded islands, exotic rainforests, and majestic mountains. It isn't just another photo book, however. This National Geographic guide also gives aspiring travelers the details they need to know to visit each of these bucket list-worthy destinations.

Humans of New York By Brandon Stanton

A street photographer's show book, Stanton's Humans of New York, contains over 400 images of people in their natural environment. The moving pictures in this book have propelled it to be a #1 New York Times bestseller. The stunning photography in this photo book will inspire you to walk down the street and meet some new people.

Underwater Dogs By Seth Casteel

This laugh-out-loud funny coffee table book is full of amazing shots of dogs and water. Dive in with the furry friends as they jump, splash, slosh, and play. Many of these photos will make you wonder aloud, "how on earth did he get that shot?" Underwater Dogs provides inspiration and a reminder that for every photographer, there is a niche. It is one of the best photography coffee table books you can have in your house and let the viewers have a good time.

Vivian Maier: The Color Work by Colin Westerbeck

Vivian Maier, who came into the photography scene when thousands of photographs taken by her, were discovered after her death. Her unique perspective into the world can now be seen with pictures which were never published before. Having more than 150 of her color photographs and a foreword written by renowned photographer Joel Meyerowitz, this book is one of the best photo books published in 2018.


Whether you are a beginner looking to grab some tips from the pros or a life-long expert, photography books are a great way to keep building your photography knowledge base. Some books teach, some books inspire, and some books do both. Break your dry spell and get out of your creative rut with a new challenge and a new technique.

These are just some of the best photography books, that have received great reviews from beginner and pro photographers alike. Have you read some of these books? Are there any other books that you would like to see included in the list.

Share your feedback and recommendations with us in the comments below.


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