with Courtney Slazinik
5 Must-Read Photography Books

5 must-read photography books
The contributors and I put together a list of must read photography books! There are so many books out there but it can be confusing to know exactly which one to purchase.

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Here is a list of our must-have photography books:

  • No.
    Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies

    Kelly Garvey’s Favorite

    For portrait photographers I think this book is a must have. A popular topic I always hear about on forums, receive emails on, etc. are skin tones. Skin tones & color are so important to the look of your images. Good color & skintones can take a flat image & make it look exceptional. Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies goes in depth in addressing color, capturing all kinds of skintones, & all the factors that contribute. This book is extremely detailed in addressing color & thorough in providing example images to go along with the information. This book was recommended to me by Sarah Wilkerson of Clickinmoms a couple years ago. Knowing how knowledgeable she is with skin tones & the CMYK method, I knew the recommendation came from someone who really knew what she was talking about so I went right out & bought this book immediately!

  • No.
    The Digital Photography Book, Vol. 1 by Scott Kelby

    Jen Bacher’s Favorite

    My favorite photography book is The Digital Photography Book. It’s claimed to be the world’s best-selling book on digital photography! There are actually four volumes and I love all of them. Scott Kelby’s books are easy to read and straight to the point. He has a funny sense of humor, which makes them entertaining, and he writes as if you are his friend and he is giving you advice. He skips all the technical jargon and gives tips and techniques in plain terms that he has learned over the years from some of the top pros. He covers lighting techniques, composition, camera settings, editing, posing, exposure, printing and so much more. Each page covers a single concept on how to make your photography better and includes an example photo. I am a visual learner, so I really like this! I had many “aha moments” while reading this series where he explained something in a way that finally made sense to me. He also gives equipment suggestions in different price ranges so you can decide as you are reading what you need to buy based on your budget. Definitely a resourceful book for learners at all levels! More of his fantastic books:
    Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Boxed Set, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 and The Digital Photography Book, Part 4

  • No.
    Learning To See Creatively- Design, Color & Composition in Photography by Bryan Peterso

    Laurie Flickinger’s Favorite

    One of my favorite authors who writes about photography is Bryan Peterson. While I’m sure most people have heard of Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson, an equally interesting book by Peterson is Learning to See Creatively: Design, Color & Composition in Photography. For many people, I think seeing creatively is certainly a gift, but I think it can also be learned. In this book, Peterson goes beyond the rule of thirds and discusses alternative “rules” of composition. In addition to the “rules”, he also explains when it is okay to break them. He goes into lines, shapes, forms, framing within frames, using color, patterns, diagonals….all to create more interesting images. It is definitely worth adding to the photography book collection!

  • No.
    Humanity: A celebration of Friendship, Family, Love & Laughter

    Melissa Noste’s Favorite

    Humanity: A Celebration of Friendship, Family, Love & Laughter is truly my favorite photography book. It has little writing, only inspirational quotes and 150 beautiful photos. To sum this book up I would say it’s incredibly inspiring. The photos are about life, capturing beautiful life and when I feel like I’m in a rut, it’s the only book I will pick up.

  • No.
    The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos

    Courtney’s Favorite

    I have to admit, I’m not finished reading The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos yet because it covers so many things. I like to read a little and test out what I learned. The chapters cover image frame, design basics, graphic and photographic elements, composing with light and color, intent and process. Finding new and interesting ways to compose my shots has been an interest of mine since taking Shooting 301: Composition and Creativity through Clickin’ Moms. The book is full of beautiful images that aren’t just inspiring to look at but also serve as great examples of the lessons he is teaching. It is a little dry because of all the information it covers but if you are interested in learning more about composition and design I definitely think it’s one to check out.

  • Catherine R.
    April 27, 2012 at 8:18 PM

    Great list! I also like Vision & Voice by David DuChemin (it deals with Lightroom).

  • April 27, 2012 at 8:21 PM

    This is a very helpful post. I have hit a wall with my camera and its ISO ability (not in position to upgrade now), so I really want to concentrate on creativity now. I will be heading to the library today. Thank you! Your blog is full of great information.

  • Christi
    April 27, 2012 at 8:44 PM

    I think I need that first book, Skin. I had a shoot earlier this week with a red head and the tones I picked up really challenged me.

  • April 28, 2012 at 12:10 AM

    YAY! I can’t wait to check out some of these books :) Some of them I’ve already read and they are fabulous! Skin only applies to CS right?

    • Courtney
      May 3, 2012 at 12:48 PM

      Hey! I think Skis is only CS. But I’ll double check!

  • April 28, 2012 at 8:13 AM

    I have 3 of the ones you mentioned. My favorite book right now is Pet Photography 101. That’s my favorite niche. I have several Michael Freeman and Scott Kelby books. And I just love Bryan Peterson. Someone told me he’s holding affordable workshops this year around the country. I hope so!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • April 28, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    Thanks for this list! Looks like I’ll be putting them on my mothers day suggestions and amazon wish list.

  • rachel
    May 1, 2012 at 10:14 AM

    love this! just blew up my amazon wish list with your picks. thank you, courtney! :)

    • Courtney
      May 2, 2012 at 9:48 AM

      ha ha don’t tell Mike! You won’t regret getting these books though!!

  • June 26, 2012 at 10:00 PM

    Thank you, I too am a visual learner so I took you advise and got the 4 book box set of Scott Kelby digital photography.

    I know I will learn a great deal.

  • November 11, 2012 at 10:17 AM

    Chris Orwig is one of my favorite portrait photographers, his writing is heartfelt and simple, easy to understand and inspiring. His book “People Pictures” 30 excercises for creating authentic photographs is wonderful.

    • Courtney
      November 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM

      I just bought that one a few months back. I have only been able to skim it over at the time but it looks amazing :)

  • Andre Favron
    January 19, 2014 at 8:52 PM

    Thank you for another great article.

    My all time favourite photography book that is both “how to” AND “creatively motivational” is
    Tom Ang’s: “Digital Photography Through The Year”.

    http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16183210-digital-photography-through-the-year (4.5 stars)
    http://www.amazon.com/Digital-Photography-Through-Year-Tom/dp/0756698340 (5 stars)

  • January 19, 2014 at 10:10 PM

    Love all of your lessons. This one is great. Of the 5 suggested, I have 4 of them. Going now to order humanity.
    Thank you for all your help in continuing on my photography journey..

  • January 29, 2014 at 5:17 PM

    Great post – thanks! I’m mainly working on food right now—I just put the digital photog book in my cart. Any other great ideas for me as far as books go? Maybe the composition one? Pinning this post and many others of yours :).

  • Ashley
    July 8, 2016 at 4:22 PM

    These sound so great! I’m going to have to check my library to see if they have any of them!

  • Heidi
    October 31, 2017 at 5:47 PM

    Thanks for the list. My favorites:

    2 by Bryan Peterson – Composition Field Guide and Photography Field Guide

    David Busch’s Close-up and Macro Photography Compact Field Guide

    Several by BetterPhoto’s Jim Miotke

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