Top 20 Best Photography Books for Beginners

How can I teach myself photography? As a beginner photographer, these top 20 photography books are a good place to start learning, along with our free resource guide.

camera resting on film and video art book scaled e1715611670635

With so many resources to help you learn photography available on the internet, in stores, and in libraries, you can teach yourself to be a photographer without a traditional college degree. While there are many places where you can learn, one of the best resources is photography books in which famous and talented photographers share their knowledge and work. They often cover many complementary theories and concepts to teach you different photography techniques

Have you ever asked yourself: can I teach myself to be a photographer? The books on this list are a good starting point.

1. Understanding Exposure

  • Author – Bryan Peterson
  • Price – $23.99
  • Publications – Watson-Guptill Publications

Bryan is a professional photographer based in Chicago who has written several books on photography and is the founder of an online photography school called “The Picture Perfect School”. His book is a comprehensive guide to mastering the art of photography by understanding a wide range of topics, from the basics of aperture, shutter speed, and ISO, to more advanced techniques like metering, dynamic range and white balance. 

Peterson explains how to use these settings to gain creative control over your images and how to get the most out of different lighting situations. The book also includes exercises and assignments with clear explanations and helpful examples, making it an essential resource for photographers of all skill levels.

2. The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos

  • Author – Michael Freeman
  • Price – $29.99
  • Publication – 2017 by Routledge Publishers

Freeman received the Louis Philippe Clerc Prize from the French Ministry of Culture for this book. The book explores how photographers can use composition, light, and color to create powerful and compelling images. Freeman breaks down the different elements of composition, such as balance, scale, and point of view, and explains how they can be used to create different effects in a photo. Dedicated to digital photography, the book covers fully digital techniques such as HDR or stitching with many examples of well-composed photos, along with detailed analysis of how they work.

3. Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting

  • Authors – Fil Hunter, Paul Fuqua, and Steven Biver
  • Price – $61.63
  • Publication – Fourth edition in 2011 by Focal Press Publishers

The book is a great source of foundational knowledge about lighting in photography. It deals with the physics of light and provides helpful tips on how to photograph objects like metal, glass, and other textured surfaces. If you’re focusing on how lighting can influence the look and feel of your work, this book has a list of reliable equipment you may need and how to use them to create great photos. The language of the book can be complicated with jargon, but for those getting into commercial and editorial photography, it may be a worthwhile addition to your collection. 

4. Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color, and Composition in Photography 

  • Author – Bryan Peterson
  • Price – $20.60
  • Publication – 2015 by Amphoto Books

The book focuses on the art of seeing and how to identify and capture interesting and unique images. It covers a wide range of topics, from the basics of composition and framing to more advanced techniques like the creative use of color and light. Peterson uses clear language and lots of examples to explain the concepts, making it easy for beginners to understand and apply them. It provides practical advice and inspiration to help you develop your creativity and visual perception.

5. Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots

  • Author – Laurie Excell 
  • Price – $25.00
  • Publication – 2010 by Peachpit Publisher

For beginner photographers looking to improve their compositional skills, this book is a great tool to help them understand the basics of framing, the rule of thirds, and advanced techniques for effective use of color and contrast for visually appealing images. The book walks you through the key camera features that affect composition and how to direct the viewer’s eye creating visual paths to points of interest in your images.

6. Expressive Nature Photography

  • Author – Brenda Tharp
  • Price – $18.60
  • Publication – 2017 by Monacelli Studio

The book focuses on creativity and expression. It offers helpful advice on creating images that are technically competent, emotionally appealing, and visually expressive. The author provides her extensive nature photography portfolio to explain all the components a photographer can come across outdoors and how to capture them. As a beginner photographer, you will find the author’s tutorials on how to photograph stars at night, create long exposures, or capture fast-moving photos very helpful. 

7. Photography Q&A: Real Questions. Real Answers. 

  • Author – Zack Arias
  • Price – $35.65
  • Publication – 2013 by New Riders Publisher

Arias’ book makes you feel like you’re talking face-to-face with an established photographer who’ll answer all your questions. Instead of just telling you how to take great photos, the book answers questions from all facets of the photography business, from equipment and vision to business and branding. Arias discusses many of the problems a photographer may face as a beginner, but the tone of the book is often supportive and encouraging. 

8. The Digital Photography Workflow Handbook

  • Author – Juergen Gulbins
  • Price – $49.95
  • Publication – 2010 by Rocky Nook Publisher

After a photo is taken, the editing workflow in post has a significant effect on the quality of the final image. If the workflow is neglected, it can lead to a weak image and a poorly managed portfolio. This photography book provides a step-by-step guide to the photography process, from capturing, editing, and managing content to getting the perfect shot. The book can be used as a reference for aspiring amateur and professional photographers, as well as students.

9. Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs

  • Author – Henry Carroll
  • Price – $17.99
  • Publication – 2015 by Laurence King Publishing

The book is an accessible guide for anyone new to DSLR, compact, and bridge cameras. Carroll uses clear language and plenty of examples to explain the fundamentals of photography in a concise and engaging way. What sets this book apart is its focus on inspiration and creativity. Carroll provides many examples of iconic photography and encourages readers to think beyond the technical aspects of photography to find their own style and voice. 

10. The Headshot: The Secrets to Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits

  • Author – Peter Hurley
  • Price – $44.10
  • Publication – 2015 by New Riders

Working in a photo studio is ideal as you can control the lighting, space, and mood to ensure you get the perfect shot. But real life is rarely this easy and can require you to shoot in awkward places. Hurley gives a behind-the-scenes look at his photography sessions, explaining how to creatively fine-tune lighting and post-process images to develop your own vision and get professional-looking shots at different locations. If you’re a portrait photographer looking to learn some tricks and some out-of-the-box thinking, you won’t find a better book than this.

11. On Composition

  • Author – Michael Freeman
  • Price – $24.99
  • Publication – 2022 by Ilex Press Publishing

What makes composition so important is that it is the most powerful tool that allows photographers to express their individuality without any outside influence. In this book, he includes real-life examples from his portfolio to demonstrate the key compositional rules you need to follow. The book also includes composition templates, from “Walk-in to Frame Break” to “Fibonacci Point”, which can help you better compose your photos. 

12. Photography Demystified

  • Author – David McKay
  • Price – $24.99
  • Publication – 2016 by McKay Photography Inc

McKay has 29 years of experience as a professional photographer and has taught thousands of beginner photographers, camera enthusiasts and photography lovers how to excel at photography while still eliminating the frustration of the process. This book is designed with photography beginners in mind to help you transition from automatic to fully manual camera settings, giving you the control you need to take your photos according to your needs. Through his books, McKay gives you the tools, education, and practical applications you need to understand photography concepts, exposure, and how to use your camera.

13. DSLR Photography for Beginners

  • Author – Stacey Hersh 
  • Price – $6.99
  • Publication – 2018 by Independently published

Most DSLRs seem more complicated than your computer, and navigating their technical instructions can be overwhelming for a novice photographer. DSLR Photography for Beginners explains the different types of cameras, lenses, filters, functions, and more. This book will help you choose the right camera for you and teach you how to take high-quality photos with it. 

14. BetterPhoto Basics

  • Author – Jim Miotke
  • Price – $22.99
  • Publication – 2010 by Amphoto Books

Miotke believes that if you can press a button, you can take great photos. The author shares expert tips and tricks that can instantly improve your photos, no matter what camera you use. Learn how to compose great photos, using indoor and outdoor lighting, and capture 20 popular subjects, from sunsets to family portraits. Miotke uses simple teaching techniques to reveal the secrets of advanced creative techniques. Regardless of your level of photography experience, you’ll be surprised how much these tips can help you. 

15. Advancing your Photography: Secrets to Making Photographs that You and Others Will Love

  • Author – Marc Silber
  • Price – $19.95
  • Publication – 2017 by Mango Media

Photography and the technology associated with it are constantly evolving, but the fundamentals remain the same. The book serves as an accurate handbook to guide you through the process of becoming a great photographer. It contains valuable information and photography tips for beginners and amateurs shooting wedding, lifestyle, sports, landscape, animal, still life, portrait or iPhone photography. Silber also shares key points on how to use a DSLR like a pro and the secrets to processing your photos to the professional standard. 

16. The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing

  • Author – James Abbott
  • Price – $29.99
  • Publication – 2021 by Ilex Press

RAW images give you the most flexibility and control over your images, and the post-production process is what makes a good image great. With this book, you can better understand how to apply darkroom-style effects using Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Photo. Photography requires you to learn to edit images, and this book teaches you the basic adjustments as well as more advanced edits such as black and white, color, and special effects. The Digital Darkroom provides information in manageable lengths and bite-sized tips that are easy to understand and apply to your work. 

17. Mastering Lighting & Flash Photography

  • Author – Richard Bradbury
  • Price – $29.95
  • Publication – 2021 by Ammonite Press

British photographer Richard Bradbury introduces readers to light and its different forms used in photography. The book provides step-by-step instructions for product photography, portraits, still life, cars and vehicles photography, using diagrams and tips. The book also includes helpful case studies and interviews with other professional photographers. You can also find a chapter on how to use photography software to improve the lighting effects in your photos. 

18. The Photography Storytelling Workshop

  • Author – Finn Beales
  • Price – $22.00
  • Publication – 2020 by White Lion Publishing

In this workshop, award-winning photographer and influencer Finn Beales teaches novice photographers how to master the five elements of a photography business – pitch, prepare, shoot, edit, and deliver. It covers the essentials of creating a story from preparing to shoot, using the right equipment, working with a mood board, directing the model to editing and distribution. Whatever your genre, the trusted methods in this book will help you design your shots, engage your audience, and tell richer stories using your camera.

19. Extraordinary Everyday Photography

  • Author – Brenda Tharp, Jed Manwaring
  • Price – $25.99
  • Publication – 2012 by Amphoto Books

The authors encourage beginner photographers to slow down and observe the available elements in their surroundings to create compelling photos that don’t need to be overworked in post-production. The book features images taken by the author with DSLRs, point-and-shoot digital cameras, and even iPhones, showing how the photographer’s eyes and vision make great photos, not just the gear used. While not a technical guide, this book still provides inspiration for you to look at subjects and shooting locations in a new way. 

20. The Photographer’s Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion

  • Author – Maria Piscopo
  • Price – $24.99
  • Publication – 2017 by Allworth Press

Any professional photographer will tell you that photography is more than just taking beautiful pictures. The third edition of this book is revised to incorporate current photo market trends and the latest internet marketing techniques. The book covers topics such as portfolio building, winning clients, negotiating rates, working with agents, computers, and business ethics. With case studies and interviews with commercial photographers, this book is a helpful reference for beginner photographers looking to improve their business. 

Photography is a path that will always teach you something throughout your life. Besides books, there are plenty of photography resources for beginners, both paid and free. Paid learning platforms include Udemy, Coursera, and Digital Photography School. Some great free resources include the Format Resource Guide, YouTube, Strobist, SLR Lounge, and Phlearn.

A4 1 4

A Guide to Improving Your Photography Skills

Elevate your photography with our free resource guide. Gain exclusive access to insider tips, tricks, and tools for perfecting your craft, building your online portfolio, and growing your business.

Subscribe to the newsletter Field Label
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.