This is a list of books that were the most helpful to me when I took a serious interest in photography, and I continue to refer to them. These books were written back when film was king, but that makes them all the more valuable to today’s digital photographers. Some digital photography books get so lost in technical information that the heart and soul of photography can get lost. The best film photography books are about light and shadow, subjects, form, texture, line and shape – all of which applies to digital photography.
Most of these books are out of print but well worth finding on the used book market. Click on these links (ignore the “This item is not available” message), then click the “Buy at Amazon.com” button and look at copies in Amazon’s used book market.
The books in the Kodak “Joy” series like the original Joy of Photography and the revised edition are full of eye-catching images and a ton of photo suggestions and ideas. If you like people photography, be sure to find a copy of The Joy of Photographing People. It is a must read.
The Art of the Photograph by Art Wolfe is the best introduction to photographic composition and is a must read for anyone who is serious about the visual power of their images.
Light, Science, and Magic is the best introduction to photographic lighting.
Galen Rowell’s Mountain Light is first rate at getting inside the photographer’s head and thinking along with him as he creates images. The photography is stunning. If you aren’t inspired by this book, you might as well put your camera away. This is a must read for anyone interested in landscape, nature, and adventure photography. Any of Rowell’s other books are also well worth reading.
Freeman Patterson’s practical and inspirational books get to the heart and soul of photography. Look for Photography and the Art of Seeing, Photography for the Joy of It, Photography of Natural Things, and Photographing the World Around You. As with other books in this article, click on the links, choose “Buy at Amazon.com” and look for copies in the used market.
Tom Ang’s Photography: The Definitive Visual History is a visual feast.
Some of the older photography books were long on text with less photos (many of them in black & white), but they are still filled with a wealth of valuable information. You can still find these books on the used market. The Amateur Photographer’s Handbook by Aaron Sussman is first rate and worth reading in any edition. Andreas Feininger has written several excellent classics. Look for The Complete Photographer, Photographic Seeing, Principles of Composition in Photography, Light and Lighting in Photography, and The Creative Photographer.
You can find these books and more in this book section of my photography store which is powered by Amazon.com.
The best of the best photography gear, books, accessories, and online photo labs: a series of articles. You will find additional suggestions for the best books on a variety of specialized topics.