In a forum I frequent, someone asked about what books we suggest for learning photography. After listing all of my books, and giving a quick critique, I thought it would be good to add here, as well. So, without further ado, here are the books I have and recommend, as well as a few that I have my eye on, and would love to read. These books will be digital centric. Not film.
So, for the first book… this is a very important position. Three books jump out at me, at once. I guess I will start from the more basic, to more advanced.
For the absolute beginner, I would have to go with BetterPhoto Guide to Digital Photography. This is a good book for people with digital cameras. Be it point and shoot, or SLR. There is a lot in here that will be covered later, but it is a great primer. Very easy to read.
For the next one, it is actually a 2 book set. I would recommend Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Boxed Set. When I bought it, it was 2 separate books. Now, you can get a single gift set. The books complement each other very well. This is a more basic book, with advanced sections. That is not quite right. He tends to tell you what to do, and less HOW to do it. The end sections I would love to see him come out with, as flash cards, that are weather resistant. Once again, it is more of, do this… and this is how you do it. Very cool concept. Scott Kelby is pretty much a god, when it comes to digital imaging. He also has a GREAT sense of humor, which makes reading his books excessively easy.
For the next book, I would recommend, I would have to go to Understanding Exposure. This is one of the more popular books that I have seen. Amazon is showing 484 customer reviews at 4.5 stars. I think that alone, is a testament to this book. I find Bryan Peterson books, easy to read. This book goes in depth about creating “artistically correct” exposures. You can create several pictures of the same object, using different exposures. They are all technically correct, but there is only one artistically correct exposure, for you. It is a very interesting concept, and something that he follows through several books. He also goes in depth about the interaction of Aperture, ISO, and Shutter Speed. This a very KEY aspect to photography.
Those are three GREAT books, to get started with, learning photography. I recommend them all.
One other book, that is good in its own right, but I don’t think it is quite up there with the other three, is another book by Bryan Peterson. This one is called Understanding Digital Photography. The reason I show some hesitation on this book, is that while I really like it… some of the advice seems to be a little off. For one, I would not recommend blowing out your sensor with compressed air. Just a few minor issues, in a technically good book. Once again, Bryan Peterson is a creative photographer, and you can see his love for the medium shine through. His pictures that go along with the concepts are spot on. This one is pretty much interchangeable with the first book on my list. I think the Betterphoto book, is just a touch better on the beginner book, though.
The next book is my final Bryan Peterson book. This one is Learning to See Creatively. Learning to See Creatively was the first photography book I purchased. I was able to read it all, cover to cover, in one evening. It is not difficult to digest. Lots of pictures. This one, more than all of my other books, really OPENED my eyes to the creative side of photography. (I am kind of a tech-head, so come to photography with a VERY tech, look. Not as creative). This book will always hold a special place in my heart. It is also the book that pushed me into getting my first dSLR camera, since all of the sudden my Point and Shoot was holding me back.
Now, from here on out, I am going to be talking about books that speak to my favorite aspects of photography.
My first “love” in photography, would have to be macro photography. I love doing it. I question if I have the patience at times to do it WELL, but I truly do love it. So, I have picked up two books on the subject. The first one, is Digital Macro Photography. This is done by a younger gentleman. I think he needs to refine his writing style a bit, but he does a good job of explaining concepts. He has some truly outstanding pictures to illustrate his points, as well.
The next book that I have, is John Shaw’s Closeups in Nature. I know that John Shaw is one of the top writers in photography, but I just have some troubles recommending his books. The pictures themselves are QUITE stunning, but I am not a big fan of his writing style, and these books are a DEFINITE throw-back to the film era where he talks about film selection for different pictures. Just not my bag of tea. And quite honestly, god I am glad I don’t have to shoot film!
From there, I will take you into another aspect of photography I love, HDR, or High Dynamic Range photography.
The first book I want to talk about is Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography. I think the title is misleading. I have another HDR book, that is much more complete. I would say this would be better called HDR for everyone that wants to learn how to shoot HDR. 🙂 This is really a great book. Awesome examples, and several different ways of looking at things. HDR made easy. I REALLY like this book.
The second HDR book in my collection is The HDRI Handbook. This one really does fall under the “complete” category, more so than the title above. This one is VERY complete. It is more complete than what I have been really interested in, though. There is some VERY good information on where HDR came from, and a LOT more technical background. I found it a bit dry to read though. I know this is a bit rough of a review, but I want to temper it by saying that this book is VERY good. VERY technical, and definitely a great addition to my library.
This last book is one that I am still not 100% sure about. It is called The Photo Idea Index. This book gives you ideas on how to shoot pictures. TONS of different ideas, and pictures to back them up. It doesn’t seem to be technically, that great. But, it is GOOD when your brain is in a slump. I REALLY like the “flash cards” in the back of Scott Kelby’s two books, and I almost feel that this BOOK is a lot like those. I have a hard time recommending this book, because it is odd. It fits in a weird spot, though, I wouldn’t give it up, and am happy I own it.
So, those are books on Photography. I have a few additional books that go along with photography. These are books on post processing. The first one I got, was Photoshop Elements 6 Missing Manual. A bit dry, but a GREAT manual. I had it get wet, and ruined, so I have not read as much of it, as I would have liked. The other Adobe Elements 6 book I have is Photoshop Elements 6 for Digital Photographers. This is another Scott Kelby book. This one TOO was ruined in the great flood… but I have re-purchased it. It is not as technically complete as the missing manual, but it more than makes up for it by being REALLY easy to read, and has great illustrations.
My latest book on post processing, is another Scott Kelby Book. It is Lightroom 2.0 for Digital Photographers. This book is VERY much like the Photoshop Elements book in look and feel. It is a must-have book for any LR2.0 user.
Once I am able to get some more books, I have several on my list. They range from another Bryan Peterson book, kind of Understanding Exposure 2, to more specialized books on low-light, portraits, landscapes. What I am planning on getting, coming up are:
Understanding shutter speed
Night and Low Light Photography
Understanding Close-Up Photography
Digital SLR Expert Landscapes
Low Budget Shooting
Working with Light
The moment it clicks
I think it would be difficult to really read a book, and look at someone else’s photographs, and not come out with further insights in how to take pictures, or how to see the world, in that slightly different way. How to see light, even more so than the scene. I think that is what these books help you to do. Garner further understanding of light, and photography.
Finally, books are fine and all, but if you want a great photographic experience, check out Art Wolfe’s Travels to the Edge on your local PBS station. Getting someone like him to talk about photography, and those items that surround it, and then seeing what they produce is quite an experience. It is available to snag on your DVR, or pick up on DVD.
If you have any other suggestions, please feel free to add some comments.