Five Photography Books for Beginners

Photography Books

Photography Books

You finally got your hands on your first DSLR, and you’re ready to start making art. So where do you begin? There’s an overwhelming amount of information available online, but piecing together the tidbits found on blogs can be frustrating.

Reading a good photography book is one solution to diving into your new hobby. For one thing, books are more likely to offer sequential lessons, and they’re often more researched than online tutorials. Here are some of what we think are the best photography books for beginners:

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson

Understanding Exposure, a favorite of countless photographers, covers the basics that you need to take control of your photos. It’s peppered with memorable analogies that help you grasp technical concepts without any needless jargon. The book is broken down into digestible bits of information with suggestions for hands-on assignments that illustrate how photography works. While providing the details you need to master your camera, the author also gives suggestions for instilling creativity into your images from the beginning.

Photography by Barbara London, John Upton, and Jim Stone

This book is on the Professional Photographers of America’s suggested reading list, and it’s not hard to see why. Now on its 11th edition, this comprehensive reference covers nearly everything imaginable, from film types to digital post-processing. It’s a thick tome, and to read it cover to cover would be a feat, but, fortunately, it’s well-indexed so you can skip to the subjects you’re most interested in. Not just for beginners, this book makes a valuable addition to the library of any photographer.

The Photographer’s Mind: Creative Thinking for Better Digital Photos by Michael Freeman

After you’ve learned about all of your camera’s bells and whistles, there’s still a lot to learn about how to create appealing photographs. This philosophical photography book, which is broken down into the topics of intent, style, and process, goes beyond technical explanations and talks about what makes a photo interesting. The scholarly yet readable book is especially for photographers who want to move beyond snapshots and learn to see the world in artistic ways that will improve their compositions.

100 Ideas That Changed Photography by Mary Warner Marien

Take a whirlwind tour of photography’s history from the camera obscura to camera phones. While this book doesn’t offer any technical skill building for photographers, it fills in some knowledge gaps for anyone new to the science and technology behind modern photography. Each “idea” is given a two page spread of images and factoids. This volume is more suitable for those who want to pique their interests than for armchair historians who want an in-depth study of a particular topic.

Speedliter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlites by Syl Arena

For those who want to jump right into the world of off-camera flash photography, this book is a worthwhile resource. Though the guide is Canon-specific when it comes to particular gear, it’s equally informative for those using other camera makes. After a thorough tutorial on the way light affects photography, the author, an experienced commercial photographer, explains the reasons behind his lighting methods and discusses how you can achieve similar results. Packed with lighting diagrams and easy to understand explanations, this book is a great starting point for portable flash photography.

Mastering the basics is the first step in becoming a skilled photographer. Rather than getting lost in a sea of Google results, try starting with these five photography books for beginners. Head to your library or favorite bookstore and give your photography a jump start.

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Profile photo of Nicoal Price About Nicoal Price

​Nicoal is a New England photographer with a penchant for learning. Her work ranges from nature-inspired portraiture to outdoor product photography. Visit for more info.

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