The Best Photography Books Every Beginner Should Have

Posted on June 12, 2023 | Updated on June 11, 2024

Everyone has to start somewhere. Some pick up a camera and spend hours teaching themselves the basics, but others work smarter and read the best photography books. While the nature of photography entails eventually grabbing a camera and using it, intermingling that practice with learning can help move the education process along. Take this opportunity to learn from the cream of the crop when it comes to a new trade or brushing up on essential skills.

But is there any benefit to reading and not using a camera right away? Use this list to find some of the best photography books to add to your collection, as well as why it’s vital to read them.

1. A World History of Photography by Naomi Rosenblum

While this 750-page behemoth may look intimidating, it is an incredibly worthwhile buy to learn how humanity has utilized photography in the last 200 years. The book spans from the earliest forms of cameras to modern digital means, detailing the history of each photo. Readers will see how photographers used the medium to convey ideas and emotions throughout time, picking up time-tested methods along the way.

This incredible collection and anthology contains nearly 850 photos covering advertising, portraiture, photojournalism and documentation. Budding and experienced photographers of any genre will find this volume a worthwhile addition to their knowledge and shelf. While the most recent edition — the 5th edition — currently hovers around $60, older copies can get as low as $9. Either way, A World History of Photography is a worthy purchase.

2. Digital Photography Complete Course by David Taylor

Ready to learn everything a beginner might need to know about digital photography? David Taylor has written the book to get. He promises new photographers will learn how to navigate their cameras and take amazing shots in just 20 weeks. This 360-page book is full of helpful examples and diagrams that help budding professionals figure out exactly what terms like exposure, depth of field and composition mean.

When the title says “course,” it means it. The chapters have small quizzes so readers can test their knowledge and ensure they’re absorbing every valuable tidbit. Additionally, the pages will have helpful “Need to Know” boxes for short refreshers and photography assignments to test newfound skills. Grab this comprehensive class turned book for a genuine introduction to the art of photography.

3. The Natural Light Portrait Book by Scott Kelby

For a look at how to capture gorgeous portraits from start to finish, look no further than Scott Kelby’s excellent 200-pager. While this book specifically focuses on the art of portraiture, its tips will likely carry over to various photography genres. If the book’s description isn’t enough to convince someone of a purchase, check out the Amazon reviews. Readers have said, “If I had to buy one book, this would be it,” and “…do yourself a huge favor and buy this book.”

This book comprises nine chapters, covering everything from lenses and settings to retouching photos. Newcomers to the trade will find much use out of the chapters detailing how to shoot in direct light, outside and with window light. While those with more than a few years of practice under their belts might not think they need such a book, this quick read may teach them a few new tricks.

4. The Photographer’s Guide to Posing by Lindsay Adler

Portraiture is one thing, but finding poses that complement the subject is another beast. While photographers and graphic designers are first learning the art form, they likely won’t work with people who know how to model. Thus, giving them a few helpful tips so each image turns out stellar is key to building a portfolio. Lindsay Adler’s comprehensive guide gives readers a fleshed-out look at how to style the subject of a photo and how to utilize the camera.

One aspect of the book reviewers found particularly helpful is Adler teaches why particular poses do and don’t work. Giving readers the “why” of successes and growth areas can really help a beginner grow. The first half of the book how a camera will see a subject, what elements a model may need to adjust in their pose and the basics of posing. Then, she dives into how to pose various groupings and settings. For tips on all the essentials of styling models, turn to these 450 pages.

5. Photo Basics: The Ultimate Guide to Great Photography by Joel Sartore

Want to learn from the best of the best? Look no further than National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore’s instructional guide. This book covers everything from framing to archiving the wonderful images new photographers snap. He even talks about how to shoot on a smartphone — great knowledge for newcomers who aren’t sure if they want to invest in a hefty DSLR. Sartore also discusses how to pick a new device and gear, so those looking to make a purchase may find these comments beneficial.

What makes this one of the best photography books for beginners? It covers a range of photography genres, including pets, family, street, nature and travel. Sartore also includes quick tips and assignments so readers can absorb knowledge quickly and get into the field. The practice modules ensure photographers know how to use all the great teachings he shares. Those who want to learn how to shoot nature — as well as other great subjects — will likely love this 250-page work from a true master of the craft.

6. Night Sky: A Field Guide for Shooting After Dark by Jennifer Wu and James Martin

These two authors have more than enough credentials to back up their authority. Jennifer Wu is one of the world-renowned Canon “Explorers of Light” and James Martin has been working in the field since 1989. Both collaborate on this fantastic examination of how to photograph the night sky. While the previous books have explained how to capture sunlight, those who want to shoot the stars will find a lot of valuable information in these 176 pages.

Wu and Martin teach about four critical elements of nighttime photography — the Moon, stars, twilight and star trails. Beginners will learn the different techniques of capturing these celestial objects in gorgeous composition and clarity. While reviewers say experienced photographers might not get much out of this book, beginners should find many of these tips incredibly useful. For those who want to dive into nighttime photography, grab this short read.

Learn From the Greats in the Best Photography Books for Beginners

Should a photographer pick up a book rather than a camera when they’re new to the trade? Instead of doing one or the other, do both. It’s hugely beneficial to learn from those who spent years mastering their craft and can teach what they wished they knew when they were learning. Reading the best photography books is vital because simply grabbing a camera will offer education, but a newcomer won’t know how to capture the best shots possible.

However, beginners must also put their new knowledge into practice. After grabbing one, two or all these fantastic books, remember to carry their teachings into action. Follow their tips, practice the assignments and start crafting beautiful images on the way to becoming a professional.

About The Author

Eleanor Hecks is the Editor-in-Chief of Designerly Magazine, an online publication dedicated to providing in-depth content from the design and marketing industries. When she's not designing or writing code, you can find her exploring the outdoors with her husband and dog in their RV, burning calories at a local Zumba class, or curled up with a good book with her cats Gem and Cali.

You can find more of Eleanor's work at www.eleanorhecks.com.

Leave a Comment





Related Posts