Photographers are an interesting group. Some consider themselves artists, some craftsmen, some a mixture of both. But one thing most of us all have in common is a serious desire to improve our art, craft, or business.
This is why I have sought out some of the best photography books for beginners as I believe they can assist any level of photographer!
Top 20 Best Photography Books For Beginners!
Books covering the basics:
1. Digital SLR Photography All-in-One for Dummies
All of the “for Dummies” series of books are extremely helpful in whatever subject they are teaching. This book is no exception, so it’s a good beginning to our list. Actually six separate books in one volume, this covers all the basics.
The six major parts are Pursuing Digital SLR Photography, Looking Through Lenses, Taking Creative Control, Lighting the Scene, Managing and Processing Your Shots, and Showcasing Different Scenes.
Information is presented in a very brand neutral way, which is always best for general purpose instructions.
Richly illustrated with graphs, diagrams, charts, and examples, this book is a great first read for anyone just beginning to become serious about photography.
2. The Beginner’s Photography Guide, 2nd Edition
For a photographer with no prior knowledge, an easy to follow layout takes you through every technique needed to capture beautiful images. It covers exposure, flash use, even image enhancement. Checklists provide a quick view of the equipment and the camera settings for each technique.
Comparison images show how varied camera settings produce different results. Full of hundreds of images, this book provides motivation to learn more. Even a beginner that doesn’t know the difference between focus, shutter speed, or aperture, will be able to figure out how to use camera settings.
3. Digital Photography Complete Course
Subtitled “Learn Everything You Need to Know in 20 Weeks.” With quizzes for self grading after each section, this book reads more like a lesson plan for a class on introductory digital photography than as ‘sit down and read’ type of book.
For some photography enthusiasts, this method will work well. The illustrations, exercises, and examples help bring home the points being discussed. After a lot of time is spent on basics, it starts to get a little deeper. Photographers well grounded in the basics could still benefit completing the exercises and taking the quizzes.
4. BetterPhoto Basics: The Absolute Beginner’s Guide to Taking Photos Like a Pro
Tag line: “Absolutely anyone can take better photos!”
That tag line is a true statement, if you can press a button, you can take great pictures. It’s just that simple. In this book, the founder of the popular online photography school BetterPhoto.com, shares tips and tricks to improve your photography that you can implement right away, regardless of the type of camera owned.
Many instant tips are included that can be used right away. Composition is well covered, as is how make the most of indoor and outdoor light. A list of twenty popular subjects, from nature photos to family portraits, are expanded with easy to follow instructions for taking snapshots to the next level.
5. DSLR Photography for Beginners
An interesting approach to learning digital photography, this book encourages readers to go out and make mistakes. Then, come back to what you read earlier and learn more. Sort of like handing out assignments.
Early subjects covered are all the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), autofocus limitations, how to compose creatively, and a very good section on what is focal length. The author believes photography should be fun, and many will find the teaching methods used to bring that out are fun as well.
6. Digital Photography: A Basic Manual
Film photographers transitioning to digital, as well as anyone starting out, will appreciate the hands on approach of this book. Presented as series of subjects covering basics and advanced techniques, any level of photographer can benefit from the lessons.
The concepts discussed are illustrated with samples by professionals representing editorial work, photojournalism, and many other genres of professional photography. Topics covered include information used for both film and digital photography, such as exposure controls and shutter speed, as well as information directly related to digital imaging, such as image editing, printing methods, and file storage.
7. Sweet as Photos – Quick Reference Cards / Cheat Sheets
Not a traditional book, these plastic cards are intended for field use by photographers. Printed on both sides with check lists, guides, and instructions, you can clip to your camera bag or a belt loop to always have them ready to go.
This is also a great idea gift for any photographer who are trying to improve their art. I have given this to a few friends which they have all loved!
Beginners will appreciate the scope of what is covered, and experienced photographers will benefit too. Sometimes, a quick glance at a reminder is just what is needed, especially when caught in the moment of capturing images.
Books going a little deeper:
8. Mastering Aperture, Shutter Speed, ISO and Exposure: How They Interact and Affect Each Other
Filled with charts and illustrations, a photographer will come away with a thorough understanding of the exposure triangle. Describing what each aspect actually does and how they relate to each other, this book brings even already successful imagers into a world of absolute control of the art and craft of photographic exposure.
Useful as a companion to any of the beginner books already listed, it can also be used on its own to complete a self taught mastery of photography.
Though covering the subject matter in great detail, it never gets out into any over technical territory, staying grounded in the mindset of learning and improving.
9. Mastering Photographic Histograms: The key to fine-tuning exposure and better photo editing
If you decide you want to get deeper into mastering digital photography exposure, than this guide will satisfy that desire.
Histogram use can be daunting to all types and levels of photographers, but the direct explanations and applications provided in this book will enable understanding how to make that back of camera graph work for you.
Works best with those who are well grounded in photography, but the discussions are capable of being followed by anyone with a camera in their hands.
10. Understanding Photography – by Carl Shipman
Written when automatic 35mm cameras were barely beginning to get to the mass markets, this instructional guidebook is still one of the best books for really understanding what is actually happening when you expose an image.
It was first printed when film was king, but many of the basics discussed transition completely into the digital era.
Some of the subject matter gets very deep, but is presented in such a way that a true enthusiast will never get lost or bogged down. As an example, the information on film characteristics can be applied to understanding what you’re seeing on the histogram of digital exposures. Lots of examples and illustrations included.
11. Advancing Your Photography: Secrets to Amazing Photos from the Masters
Packed with tips from some of the world’s best photographers, the author interviewed some of the world’s best photographers. Their secrets, tips, and experience come to you in an easy to understand way in this book.
It’s as though you have mentors guiding you to take your photography to the next level.
Covering camera settings, lighting, composition, and post processing, this takes you on a journey of learning from some the best photographers in various fields.
Books focused on specific aspects of photography:
12. The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow
Light is at the heart of photography. The root words for photography emphasize that well, drawing with light.
With portraits, the difference from a basic record of a person’s looks to a stunning portrait work of art depends on skillful use of light and shadow.
Almost anything you ever wanted to know about portrait is explained and illustrated. Different techniques and equipment used for those are shown and discussed. Lots of examples provided so you can see the subject material brought to life with real world images.
13. Understanding Close-Up Photography: Creative Close Encounters with Or Without a Macro Lens
Those beautiful, perfect photos of flowers, bugs, or small details of man made objects don’t just happen. They are planned out and completed with a lot of photographic know how and techniques.
With this book, a number of techniques are shown and taught in a manner that all can appreciate.
What’s nice about this book is how is really does primarily focus on the art and form and not so much on specialty equipment. Enjoyable to read and learn, or look at it for all the pictures.
14. Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual
Black and white photography is alive and well. In fact, recent advances in sensor technology and post processing programs have actually enabled photographers to take this art form to unbelievable heights.
Used as a textbook for various educational programs, this covers specifics of film photography and printing. Also useful for digital artists to show what the different colors of light are doing in the black and white medium.
Very detailed and specific at times, yet accessible to all interested in this beautiful, and still completely relevant, genre of photography.
15. Mastering Composition: The Definitive Guide for Photographers
Composing the image seems to be one of the more worrisome parts of learning photography for many beginners. If you fall into that category, then this book will help.
Rules of composition are examined, and also when to not go by a strict interpretation of those rules. Composition techniques for landscapes, still life, and portraits are shown and explained with many examples and illustrations.
It gets pretty technical at times, but all the information is useful and easy to apply.
16. Photography: Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting after Dark
When the Sun goes down, the light show is just beginning. From deep sky astrophotography to moonlit landscapes, photography after dark is great fun and can result in fantastic images.
A lot of care goes into a good night time picture. Learn how to make full use of modern equipment and techniques with this excellent guide and work book.
You can also check out my guide here on what type of tripods I use for milky way and astrophotography. Even an inexpensive tripod can do wonders!
17. Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Masters
Ansel Adams pioneered and refined use of the Zone System in photography. That method is as awesome today as it was 60 years ago.
Besides the Zone System, the other techniques and methods used by the old film masters such as Adams, Edward Weston, and Elliot Porter are taught in this beautiful book by a current landscape master.
To get the most out of these instructions, you really should already be fairly conversant in photography, especially with regards to composition and exposure.
Beginners can learn a lot as well, just give it a chance if gorgeous landscape images are your goal. This is hands down one of the best photography books for beginners!
18. Understanding Color in Photography: Using Color, Composition, and Exposure to Create Vivid Photos
A laid back and sometimes humorous look at color theory and practical application of it. Learn what colors work together for different end results. Contrasts, complementary colors, monotones, and color blocs, all have a place in digital photography.
It goes beyond basic color use, also explaining how exposure and composition affect colors in photography.
I would highly recommend this as one of the best photography books for beginners! It is also great for kids!
19. Photoshop CC Essentials for Photographers: Chelsea & Tony Northrup’s Video Book
A video book that gives a great hands on walk through of basic Photoshop use, it also goes into as much detail as most photographers will need.
For more PS instructions, an online tutorial course is the next step after this. Real photos are used for teaching the tools and methods employed in post processing.
Personally I use Lightroom for all my photo editing as I find it is stripped back of all the extra layers that Photoshop has. If you plan on just doing tweak and color correction, the Lightroom is a great option. You can also check out my review on the best Lightroom presets here.
20. Mastering Digital Images: Capture – Process – Display – Sell (Digital Photography)
Now, take everything you have learned from these books, apply them, and profit! It’s not as simple as that, but making money in photography is within the reach of any good photographer. Take the next logical step and let your art and craft enhance your income.
If you want to learn more about upping your photography game, you can check out my guide on the best online photography courses.
Almost of these courses are completely free and are at your own pace. This book is also a great supplement on how to capture images then be able to sell them as a business or for profit.
Other books will cover certain aspects of photography in greater detail, giving even a seasoned professional a tutorial on different subjects. Subjects that may be of interest could include portrait lighting, macrophotography, studio product photography, video, sports photography, architectural imaging, astrophotography, and even business practices.