Whilst I was researching small gifts suitable for photographers, I ran into so many books that would make fabulous presents I decided that they deserved a post of their own. Oh yeah, this is it.
I’ve tried to include books that cut across different styles of photography, as well as suggest technical and coffee table books. Hopefully, there is something here to appeal to everyone, and if you’ve any burning suggestions, then please let us know!
The Art of Black and White Photography, by Torsten Andreas Hoffman
This book begins at the beginning, looking at cameras and equipment, and works right the way through different genres and styles of photography – including portraits, abstracts, and street photography – the technical elements of how to compose a picture, and ends with post-processing. It feels comprehensive but isn’t overwhelming; if you want to refer to one specific section, it’s easy enough to do that. And it is full of lots of lovely pictures.
Currently £22.43 on Amazon UK and $29.67 on Amazon US.
Auto Focus, by Susan Bright
How many different forms can self-portraiture take? Susan Bright looks at series of self-portraits shot by seventy-five photographers from across the world. They cover autobiography, they explore the human body, they consider portraiture as a performance, and they use masks and masquerade. It’s a fascinating exploration of identity and self-expression.
At present £23.80 from Amazon UK and $37.80 from Amazon US.
Decade, by Eamonn McCabe and Terence McNamee
This book charts the first decade of the 21st century in pictures, illustrating everything from pop sensations bouncing on stage to disembodied heads being toted as war trophies in some of the world’s most troubled countries. Sometimes it’s amusing, sometimes it’s shocking, but is a gorgeous retrospective of ten years of world events.
Currently £16.22 on Amazon UK and $26.37 on Amazon US.
The Hotshoe Diaries, by Joe McNally
If photography is all about painting with light, then we need at least one book that looks at lighting. And seeing as we can’t all afford big lighting rigs, this will take you through using SpeedLites to get the most out of your pictures. Maybe with the odd bedsheet or reflector thrown in for good measure. Not only do you get great pictures in this book, you also get diagrams, some of them drawn on napkins!
At the moment: £13 from Amazon UK and $26.39 from Amazon US.
In My Mind’s Eye, by Charlie Waite
This is a gorgeous collection of black and white photographs. Mostly they are landscapes and still lifes, but there are some portraits, too. Definitely something to flick through if you want to escape for a moment or ten.
£12.99 from Amazon UK or £17.96 from Amazon US.
Langford’s Basic Photography, by Michael Langford, Anna Fox, and Richard Sawdon Smith
There are so many ‘complete guides’ or ‘introductions’ to digital photography out there that it is quite overwhelming. If your camera isn’t already confusing you, the number of books telling you what you should be doing will. This book is now on its ninth edition, having first been released in 1965, and has shepherded many budding photographers through their early days. It must be doing something right.
£17.59 from Amazon UK or $28.76 from Amazon US.
Macro Photography Photo Workshop, by Haje Jan Kamps
You might call me biased, but this is the best introduction to macro photography out there. Whatever teeny-tiny things you want to photograph, from droplets to spiders to eyes, this book will take you through the process, giving you examples and exercises along the way.
Currently £10 from Amazon UK or $21.89 from Amazon US.
The New Antiquity, by Tim Davis
I’m a great believer in the value of seemingly mundane photographs: shards or fragments of the prosaic preserved for future generations to use as insights into our lives. This book examines just that: the slivers of our world that will one day form the record of what will then be our ancient existence.
£29.71 from Amazon UK or $30.40 from Amazon US at present.
Norman Parkinson: Portraits in Fashion, by Robin Muir
Ooh this book is full of deliciousness. It’s a retrospective of Parkinson’s work as a fashion photographer, from the 1940s to the 1980s. Every image is the perfect embodiment of its age, from 1960s pillbox hats and swing coats to 1980s loud eye makeup and shoulder pads. Mmm.
£9.74 from Amazon UK or $19.44 via Amazon US.
Photobox, by Roberto Koch
I suppose that the easiest way to describe this book is that it is an encyclopaedia of photographers. It’s divided into different genres, with photographers who practised that art form listed there with a short biography and an example of her or his work. It’s the sort of slightly geeky information-fest that appeals to me, I suppose.
Currently £12.97 from Amazon UK or $19.77 from Amazon US.
The Photographer’s Guide to Landscapes, by John Freeman
I looked at a lot of books that covered landscape photography, but this was the one that I would’ve taken home for myself. It’s divided into three sections. The first looks at the technical elements of landscape photography, from how to compose a picture, which lenses to use, and what sort of ISO and shutterspeed to worry about. Then it looks at actual landscapes, and how best to capture them, whether they feature water, sand, or sky, are urban or rural. Then it takes you through the post-processing malarky. Beginning to end landscapes.
£14.44 from Amazon UK or $19.95 from Amazon US.
Photographing People Like a Pro, by Rod Edwards
If I thought that there were a lot of landscape books out there, then I must’ve looked at them before I almost collapsed under the portraiture guides. Want to know why I rejected most of them? (If you don’t, I’m going to tell you anyway.) I didn’t like the pictures in them. Seriously, if I were to pay for a portrait session that came out like some of the pictures in those books, I’d be deeply unhappy. This book, though, I could get along with. I liked its simple format and its progressive nature. It started with equipment, it moved on to designing an image, then it examined light before looking at how to work with the people you’re photographing, and it finished with post-processing.
Roughly £34 from Amazon UK or $52 from Amazon US.
Simply Beautiful Photographs, by Annie Griffiths
The title says it all: this is 500 pages of beautiful photographs that have been compiled from the National Geographic archives by Annie Griffiths. I defy you not to find an image that will take away your breath.
£11.54 from Amazon UK or $23.10 from Amazon US.
The Visual Dictionary of Photography, by David Präkel
This book is a stroke of genius. Seeing as photography is a visual medium, it explains technical terms from ‘abstract’ to ‘zoom lens’ using pictures as well as words.
£9.72 from Amazon UK or $18.96 from Amazon US.
The Wild Side of Photography, by Cyrill Harnischmacher
Run out of inspiration? (Really?) Fancy trying underwater photography? How about aerial photography? Want to give a time-lapse a go? Ever felt the need to look for unusual print media for your images? This books has it all: written instructions, diagrams, and pictures. You won’t be uninspired for very much longer. Or perhaps you’re just a photographic dare-devil!
£16.09 from Amazon UK or $19.77 from Amazon US.
Now, all the prices were what Amazon was quoting when I wrote this. Of course, I can’t promise that they’ll stay that way.