If you are serious about digital photography and you use Lightroom and/or Photoshop, these books are “The Essentials”.
For starters, you need an excellent introduction to dealing with your RAW files using Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) which comes with Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom, and Adobe Photoshop Elements. To get the maximum benefits from using RAW files, you need to know what you are doing with ACR. If you don’t, you will limit the potential of your processed files. So one of the keys to great images is to do the right thing by your RAW files with ACR.
Your best guides to ACR and RAW files are Bruce Fraser (who wrote the first books on Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop) and Jeff Schewe. If you are using Photoshop CC or CS6, and/or Lightroom 5 or 4, get the latest book The Digital Negative: Raw Image Processing in Lightroom, Camera Raw, and Photoshop by Jeff Schewe. If you are using Photoshop CS5, get Real World Camera Raw with Adobe Photoshop CS5 by Schewe and Fraser. Fraser and Schewe also wrote versions for Photoshop CS4 and Photoshop CS3.
Photoshop & Lightroom
While Tom Ang, Scott Kelby, and others have written excellent introductions to Photoshop and Lightroom (which you can find here and here), if you really want to dig into Lightroom and Photoshop you need to read Martin Evening. A member of the Photoshop Hall of Fame, I know of no other author who has written such excellent and comprehensive single volume guides to Photoshop and Lightroom. Evening’s books are the best of the best and he comes at this software with a professional photographer’s perspective. (If you want more information than Evening provides, you are going to have to get a set of books that specialize in different aspects of Photoshop, like my Mastering Photoshop Series.) Pick the book by Evening for the version of Photoshop and/or Lightroom that you are using.
Adobe Photoshop CC for Photographers by Martin Evening
Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers by Martin Evening
Adobe Photoshop CS5 for Photographers by Martin Evening
Adobe Photoshop CS4 for Photographers by Martin Evening
The Adobe Photoshop Light room 5 Book by Martin Evening
The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book by Martin Evening
It is a shame so many great images are ruined by poor sharpening techniques, and there are so many things you can do in terms of sharpening if you know how. Your guide is Real World Image Sharpening with Adobe Photoshop; CameraRaw, and Lightroom (2nd edition) by Bruce Fraser and Jeff Schewe.
The final test of your image quality is in your prints. As much fun as online photos are too look at, nothing is quite like a big beautiful print hanging on a wall. After you’ve gone to all the work to create a beautiful image with Lightroom and/or Photoshop, how do you get the best possible print from your carefully crafted digital file? Read The Digital Print: Preparing Images in Lightroom and Photoshop for Printing by Jeff Schewe.
If it sounds like you have heard the same three names over and over again, you are right. But if you really want to learn, you might as well learn from the best.
All of the above books are linked individually and can also be found on page 3 in the Digital Photography Books section of my photography store (which is powered by Amazon’s fast delivery, great service, and excellent guarantee). You will find some excellent books that deal with digital photography in terms of both shooting and image processing.
If you want to follow up on Evening, Schewe, and Fraser with some specialized books on different areas of Photoshop, go to my “Mastering Photoshop” Series. The Schewe/Fraser books on RAW image processing are also part of that series.
This is one in a series of over 40 articles with “best of the best” recommendations for photographers. You can find the rest in The Best of the Best: Recommendations For The Best Photo Gear, Books, Software, and Online Photo Labs.