The Best Photography Books: Top 70 Books from Beginner to Expert

With the constant rise in popularity of smartphones – and the increasing quality of smartphone cameras – everyone can claim to be a photographer these days. The internet is packed full of how-to guides, ranging from composition techniques to lighting tricks. With such a wide range of information, how do you know what to trust? 

Articles, videos, and tutorials can be very beneficial, but you may reach a point where you want to gain some more in-depth knowledge. This is where photo books come in handy. Photography books are written by professionals, compiling decades worth of skills and information you need to perfect your craft. 

There are many different categories of photography books depending on what you are looking for. Some are made for complete beginners, while others are more technical and are geared towards the professional. Some cover all of the basics, while some are specifically related to lighting, or composition, or nature photography. Others focus solely on the business and marketing aspects of being a photographer. 

Here we’ve compiled a list of 70 of the best photography books out there. You’ll find something for all skill levels and all subject matters. The addition of coffee table photography books will give you the inspiration you need to go out and shoot your own images. 

Beginner photography books

  1. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Understanding Exposure is one of the best photo books if you’re a beginner photographer and want to start using manual mode on your camera. The author explains light, aperture, and shutter speed and how they all affect each other. This book will help you learn how to set the perfect exposure, even in tricky situations. 

  1. How to Create Stunning Digital Photography by Tony Northrup 

You get a lot more than a book when you purchase this package. Along with the book comes over 14 hours of online training videos to help you get a more hands-on learning experience. This book covers everything a beginner photographer could need to know – technical aspects of the camera, composition, lighting & flash, problem-solving, taking portraits, shooting landscapes, HDR, macro images, and more! 

  1. Digital Photography Complete Course by David Taylor

This book is another great one on beginner photography, touching on everything from types of lenses to working with light to composition. You’ll learn what all of the different shooting modes on your camera mean, how to properly ‘read’ light, and how to take impactful portraits. The book includes tutorials, Q&A sections, and assignments to help you master your camera. 

  1. The Beginner’s Photography Guide by Chris Gatcum 

The Beginner’s Photography Guide takes you through your camera step by step, explaining every function and teaching you everything you need to create beautiful images. You’ll learn light, composition, exposure, and more. Each technique included in the book comes with a handy checklist that tells you exactly what equipment and camera settings you need to recreate each image. 

  1. BetterPhoto Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like the Pros by Jim Miotke 

BetterPhoto Basics will teach you how to master stunning digital photography no matter what type of camera you are using. It will walk you through how to take photographs of 20 popular subjects, from close-ups of flowers to family portraits. This book also includes 40 tips that you can use to instantly improve your photography. 

  1. DSLR Photography for Beginners by Brian Black 

This book is geared to those who have either never picked up a camera before or are looking for simple ways to improve your photography. It will teach you how to properly compose a photograph, how to tell stories through your images, how to make your photos stand out from the crowd, and how to use filters. This is all on top of the basics, such as understanding light and exposure. 

  1. Mastering Digital Cameras: An Illustrated Guidebook for Absolute Beginners by Al Judge 

This book includes everything you need to know to get started with photography. The charts and photos included help you better understand your camera. You’ll learn what you need to know before buying your first camera, how to choose which lens to use, and how to understand the exposure triangle. 

  1. Extraordinary Everyday Photography by Brenda Tharp and Jed Manwaring 

Sometimes it may feel like you need to go to extraordinary locations to capture extraordinary photographs. This book will convince you otherwise. You’ll learn how to turn any situation into a beautiful image, whether it’s simply a street in your neighborhood or the interior of your own home. 

  1. Bryan Peterson’s Exposure Solutions by Bryan Peterson 

Exposure Solutions is a follow-up to Peterson’s earlier book, Understanding Exposure. It will take you through 28 of the most common exposure problems you’ll face as an amateur photographer. Each problem is accompanied by an easy to understand solution that will help improve photography skills. 

  1. Understanding Photography: Master Your Digital Camera and Capture That Perfect Photo by Sean T. McHugh 

This comprehensive book covers all of the basics from choosing the proper lens to getting the perfect exposure in a variety of conditions. You’ll learn how to reduce noise, master the exposure triangle, and use filters and flash to improve your photography. 

Advanced photography books

  1. Studio Anywhere: A Photographer’s Guide to Shooting in Unconventional Locations by Nick Fancher

This is a professional, in-depth look at creating a studio anywhere. The author understands that not everyone has access to expensive studios and professional equipment, so he explains how to create professional shots with minimal equipment. 

  1. Master Lighting Guide for Portrait Photographers by Christopher Grey

This book is geared towards those who already have the basics under their belt and are looking to improve their lighting techniques. You’ll learn how to effectively control light to create flattering images in a studio setting. 

  1. Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibilities of Flash by Joe McNally

Sketching Light is written by a highly successful magazine photographer who has photographed for Life, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic and more. He takes photographers through the possibilities of using a flash – either big, small, or in-between – to create impactful images. 

  1. Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision by David Duchemin 

This book takes you beyond the basic techniques for photography and teaches you how to create emotive, meaningful images. You’ll learn how to approach different subjects in ways that bring out the best in them. If you haven’t yet developed your own personal ‘vision’, this book will help. 

  1. The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs by David Duchemin

Another book by David Duchemin, this will teach you how to go beyond practical techniques and develop your own unique vision. This book is geared towards photographers who already understand the technical aspects of photography and are looking to turn their passion into more of an art form.

Composition books 

  1. The Secrets to Creating Amazing Photos by Marc Silber 

This easy to understand book will give you all of the knowledge you need to perfect the composition in your images. You’ll learn how to create stunning digital photographs whether you’re using a smartphone or a DSLR. Includes handy “recipes” you can follow to create better images. 

  1. Learning to See Creatively by Bryan Peterson 

Learning to See Creatively walks you step by step through what makes an image pop. You’ll learn both the basic techniques of creating particular photographs, as well as ways to improve your photography. This book focuses a lot on both color and composition as tools of the craft. 

  1. The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman 

This book explains the fact that everyone has the ability to see and capture great photographs. You’ll learn the basics of composition and design, as well as ways of improving the image in post-processing software. 

  1. Bryan Peterson’s Understanding Composition Field Guide by Brian Peterson 

This book will walk you through the idea that the subject of a photograph isn’t nearly as important as the composition. Stunning digital photographs can be taken of any subject as long as you know how to arrange it properly. You’ll learn how to focus on line, light, pattern, and color to create beautiful images. 

  1. The Art of the Photograph: Essential Habits for Stronger Composition by Rob Sheppard 

The Art of the Photograph will help you get rid of all of your past prejudices. You’ll learn to stop feeling as if there are certain subjects you “should” photograph and instead learn that every subject can create an interesting image. You’ll learn how to choose the right camera and lens, as well as the basics of composition. 

  1. Understanding Color in Photography by Bryan Peterson 

This book will teach you the basics of color theory, and help you understand how to properly use color in your images to make them pop. You’ll also learn the basics of exposure, composition, and lighting. 

  1. Digital Photography Composition for Dummies by Thomas Clark 

This is a crash course in composition. You’ll learn everything you need to know about the rule of thirds, picking points of interest, mastering depth of field, and properly framing your subject. 

  1. Rick Sammon’s Creative Visualization for Photographers by Rick Sammon 

Creative Visualization for Photographers will teach you the difference between a snapshot and a great photograph. Oftentimes the only difference is a simple change of angle, light, or framing. You’ll learn exposure, composition, and lighting techniques. 

Lighting books to improve photography

  1. Light Science & Magic by Fil Hunter 

One of the best photo books on photographic light, this comprehensive guide is perfect for photographers of all levels. It provides step by step instructions on how to light difficult subjects such as glass, liquid, metal, and portraits. 

  1. The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow by Christ Knight

You’ll learn everything you need to know about lighting dramatic, evocative portraits. By knowing how to combine light and shadow, you’ll learn how to capture powerful portraits that perfectly convey your subject’s inner self. 

  1. The Flash Book by Scott Kelby 

You don’t need expensive lighting equipment to make powerful images. This book will teach you everything you need to know about using inexpensive flashes to create beautiful photographs. This book leads you step-by-step through the process in an easy to understand way. 

  1. One Flash! Great Photography with Just One Light by Tilo Gockel

Another great book on flash lighting, this will take you through the equipment and techniques needed for effective flash photography. You’ll learn how one single flash can light a photograph, add color, and even add pattern to a scene. 

  1. The Speedlight Studio by Michael Mowbray

Great portraits are possible without a proper lighting studio. This book will lead you through the techniques of creating powerful portraits with just one simple speedlight. Example portraits and lighting diagrams make following these tips easy. 

  1. Lighting for Digital Photography by Syl Arena

Geared towards those who already understand basic exposure and DSLR settings, this book will help you further your photography by understanding light. You’ll learn how to use softboxes, umbrellas, external flash, beauty dishes and more. 

  1. Studio Lighting by Christopher Grey 

Written for professional photographers, this book will take you step by step through complicated lighting techniques for studio portraits. You’ll learn to understand types of light sources, different light placements and how to light difficult surfaces. 

Portrait photography books

  1. The Photographer’s Guide to Posing by Lindsay Adler 

Perfect lighting, composition, and exposure settings are worth nothing if your subject’s pose is off. This book will lead you through everything you need to know about posing women, men, couples, families, and people based on body type. You’ll learn the proper lens choices, camera angles, and go-to poses that always work. 

  1. How I Photograph People by Joris Hermans 

Joris Hermans leads readers through his process of creating powerful portraits of people across the world. Example photos are combined with camera settings, gear lists, and practical tips and advice to recreate these powerful photos with your own subjects. 

  1. Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits by Gregory Heisler 

Heisler shares 50 iconic portraits that he has taken throughout the years, accompanied by the stories behind how the images were made. Both the creative and technical process is touched on, making this a wonderful read for professional portrait photographers. 

  1. Photographing Women by Jeff Rojas 

This book goes beyond basic composition and lighting techniques and really focuses on different face shapes and body types you’ll deal with when photographing women. Rojas then explains particular lighting, styling and posing techniques that will best flatter your subjects. 

  1. The Complete Portrait Manual by the editors of Popular Photography Magazine 

This all-encompassing guide covers everything you need to know to take impressive portraits. Combining over 300 tips and techniques, you’ll learn how to take studio portraits, master natural light, and perfect your images in post-processing. 

Landscape photography books

  1. Dusk to Dawn: A Guide to Landscape Photography at Night by Glenn Randall

Digital cameras have made it easier than ever to photograph after the sun sets. This book will take you through everything you need to know to master nighttime photography. You’ll learn how to photograph lunar eclipses, meteor showers, star trails and more. 

  1. Mastering Landscape Photography by David Taylor 

You’ll learn how to master landscape photography in every lighting and weather situation. Taylor takes you step by step through the process of choosing a location, using maps, packing a travel bag, and predicting the proper exposure. 

  1. The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography by Glenn Randall

This book will teach you all of the in-depth processes you need to know for great landscape photographs. You’ll understand how to plan shoots based on the position of the sun throughout the year, how to use topographic maps, and how to work with light. 

  1. The Art of Landscape Photography by Ross Hoddinott 

Best for those who already have a grasp of basic exposure settings, this book dives deep into the principles of composition. It will help you learn how to create photographs that convey particular emotions based on lighting, filters, and more. 

  1. The Landscape Photography Workshop by Mark Bauer and Ross Hoddinott 

Equipment, exposure, composition, and lighting are all covered in this all-encompassing book. You’ll learn how to take a successful landscape photograph, as well as how to use post-processing software and print the image. 

  1. The New Art of Photographing Nature by Art Wolfe 

This book is filled with powerful landscape images, in which the authors discuss what works and what doesn’t. You’ll learn how to properly expose, compose, and perfect your images in post-processing. 

  1. John Shaw’s Guide to Digital Nature Photography by John Shaw 

Great for beginners to professionals, this book is filled with inspiring images and how-to guides. Learn how to choose the proper equipment and lenses, dive deep into the technical aspects of your camera, and perfect your vision. 

  1. Photographs from the Edge by Art Wolfe 

An inspiring coffee table book in itself, these incredible images are paired with behind the scenes commentary on how they were shot. From the Himalayas to Africa, you’ll learn about the equipment and settings Wolfe used to create these stunning photographs. 

  1. Expressive Nature Photography by Brenda Tharp 

This book will take you through everything you need to know to create beautiful landscape photographs at any point of the day or night. You’ll learn the techniques behind using filters, light painting, photographing the night sky and capturing motion. 

Wildlife photography books

  1. Mastering Bird Photography by Marie Read

While this book is specific to bird photography, the tips and tricks can also help you photograph other wildlife whether out in the field or in your own backyard. You’ll learn how to capture motion as well as portray birds in an artistic way. 

  1. Wildlife Photography by Richard Bernabe 

Richard Bernabe takes you through a collection of stunning digital photography, paired with the tips and techniques you need to take your own images. You’ll learn what gear you need, mistakes to avoid, and how to turn your photographs into works of art. 

  1. Wildlife Photography: Proven Techniques for Capturing Stunning Digital Images by Jack Ballard 

This book will teach you everything you need to know to get out in the field. You’ll learn what gear you need, exposure settings, how to make split-second decisions, and how to understand the animals you are attempting to photograph. 

  1. Wildlife Photography: Advanced Field Techniques for Tracking Elusive Animals and Capturing Magical Moments by Joseph Classen 

Classen takes a unique approach to wildlife photography, approaching it from a hunter’s perspective. You’ll learn how to properly sneak up on elusive animals, capturing them in their native habitat in an artistic way. 

Macro photography books

  1. Mastering Macro Photography by David Taylor 

Macro photography is more accessible than ever, and this book will take you through everything you need to know to master the craft. It explains the basics of focusing, exposure, and using depth of field to create powerful images. 

  1. The Complete Guide to Macro and Close-Up Photography by Cyrill Harnischmacher 

Geared towards both beginners and professionals, this book is an all-encompassing guide to macro photography. You’ll learn the ins and outs of the proper equipment, how to master focus stacking to extend the depth of field, and how to work with both natural and artificial light. 

  1. Macro Photography for Gardeners and Nature Lovers by Alan L. Detrick  

This book starts at the basics and gives you all the information you need to capture macro photographs in your own backyard. You’ll learn the basics of the camera, how to compose your images and how to manipulate images in post-processing. 

  1. Understanding Close-Up Photography by Bryan Peterson 

Bryan Peterson moves beyond traditional macro photography and inspires you to look deeper. Instead of photographing a flower, why not photograph a bee pollinating that flower? You’ll learn how to photograph unconventional subjects with minimal equipment. 

  1. Photographing Flowers by Harold Davis 

Learn the ins and outs of photographing flowers both in the studio and in nature. You’ll learn proper lighting and composition techniques based on the type of flower, as well as how to properly expose your images. 

  1. Extreme Close-Up Photography and Focus Stacking by Julian Cremona 

The techniques described in this book will help you take macro photographs of anything, from fish to butterflies to details of larger mammals. You’ll learn about the equipment you need to take macro images, as well as learn all aspects of focus stacking. 

Sport and action photography books

  1. Outdoor Action and Adventure Photography by Dan Bailey 

Photographing action can be difficult, but Dan Bailey breaks it down in an easy to understand way. This book will describe the equipment necessary for the perfect shot, the techniques used to properly capture action, and how to create your own style. 

  1. Digital Sports Photography by G. Newman Lowrance 

 Written by a professional sports photographer, this book will teach you the proper equipment, setup, shutter speed, composition, and more. Focusing on six major sports, this book will also take you through what a photo editor looks for when choosing images. 

  1. Sports Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots by Bill Frakes 

Starting from the beginning, this book will teach you proper exposure techniques, what equipment you need, and how to compose powerful images. You’ll also learn how to time the perfect moment, capture the action, and how to choose a shooting position. 

Business photography books

  1. Start a Successful Photography Business in 34 Days by Amanda Stock 

Broken up into two parts, this book covers 34 simple tasks you can work through over 34 days to successfully start a photography business. Part one is all about planning your business and laying a foundation, while part two covers a 12-month marketing plan. After purchasing, you get access to a website that has a lot of useful templates. 

  1. The Photographer’s Market Guide to Building Your Photography Business by Vik Orenstein 

The Photographer’s Market is one of the best photography books for starting a business. This all-in-one resource will give you all the tips you need to start. You’ll learn how to properly market your business, find your niche, create a business plan, price your work, and much more. 

  1. Photographer’s Market 2018 by Noel Rivera 

Constantly being updated every year, Photographer’s Market is a great resource for those who are trying to grow their photography business. This book includes more than 1,500 verified contacts such as magazines, books, stock agencies, and more. It also contains information on how to start and run your own business, including how to find clients, how to submit photos, and what makes a photograph marketable. 

  1. An Essential Guide to the Business of Photography by Judith Pishnery 

Pricing, accounting, marketing, taxes – all of this and more is covered in this comprehensive guide. You’ll learn how to create noticeable portfolios and websites, deal with legal matters and properly market your business. 

  1. Legal Handbook for Photographers by Bert P. Krages 

Many people who start a photography business don’t fully understand all of their legal rights and responsibilities. This book lays out exactly what you need to know to protect both yourself and your business when selling your work. 

  1. ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography by American Society of Media Photographers 

This newly revised book is full of up-to-date information on industry standards, business practices, resources, and more. It covers nearly every question about business and legal problems that photographers may have, as well as how to price and negotiate. 

  1. Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington 

This book will lead you through everything you need to know to create a successful photography business in an easy to understand way. You’ll learn how to establish your business, price your work, successfully navigate taxes, get insurance, market your work and more.

Best photography books for the coffee table

  1. Annie Leibovitz: Portraits 2005-2016

This is one of the best photography books for the coffee table. Annie Leibovitz is one of the most influential photographers of all time, and this collection of portraits does not disappoint. This large-scale book is 312 pages long, including iconic portraits as well as never before published images. 

  1. Ansel Adams: 400 Photographs

Ansel Adams is perhaps the most well-known landscape photographer in the world, and this collection of images is highly inspirational to all nature photographers. The photographs in this book are arranged chronologically into five different periods. They span Adams’ work from 1916 to the 1960s, including essays on his life and work. 

  1. National Geographic: The Photographs

Filled with iconic images, including the much-loved portrait of the Afghan girl with stunning green eyes, this book should be a staple in every photographer’s household. This dense volume has 336 pages of powerful images that span from wildlife to portraits to archaeology to astronomy. 

  1. Irving Penn: Centennial

Irving Penn was one of the most influential photographers of the 20th century. Over the course of nearly seventy years, he mastered studio photography. This book is one of the largest collections of Penn’s work at nearly 400 pages. Essays on his work and life are mixed in with portraits, fashion photographs, documentary photographs and still lifes. 

  1. Richard Avedon: Photographs 1946-2004

At nearly 200 pages, this book encompasses Avedon’s work from the 1940s to 2004, including 125 reproductions of his best work. Most of the images are in black and white, but a handful of his color photographs are also included. The stunning photographs are accompanied by essays on his career. 

  1. National Geographic Rarely Seen: Photographs of the Extraordinary 

This book is a collection of some of National Geographic’s most powerful images, many of which are of places or events that most will never see with their own eyes. Striking images of rare natural phenomena, 30,000-year-old cave art, animals close to extinction, and giant crystals fill the covers. 

Regardless of whether you’re a beginner or expert, landscape photographer or portrait artist, there is a book out there for you that will help improve your photography. Flip through composition books, look to the professionals, and read up on business. Every flip of the page will help improve your photography skills. If you’re ready to bring your photographs to the next level, download a free trial of Luminar today.