Words and pictures

I’ve had several conversations recently with photographers who were asking for recommendations on books to read to improve their photography. That’s a bit of a tricky question, as “photography” is a deep and vast subject.

There’s the technical side: how do cameras and lenses work, mechanically and optically? What’s the difference in an image shot at 1/100th of a second at f5.8 vs 1/50th of a second at f8?  How do you post-process the images?

There’s the artistic side: e.g., topics like composition and storytelling.

There’s the social side: how do you meet and interact with models and other creative talent?

…I could draw this list out quite a bit further.

In my experience, books can be a great tool for learning the technical stuff.  Here are a few of my top recommendations for technical photography books.

 Artistic topics are a little harder to learn from books, but there are some good examples out there (links to a couple of recommended books are in this earlier post).

Photography – Barbara London and John Upton


This encyclopedically-titled book is now in its 11th edition. It covers topics from film and darkroom processing to the mechanical operation of cameras and lenses to color to…  well, let’s just say it’s pretty encyclopedic.  As such, it can be a bit of a dry read.  It’s a great reference, but for other recommendations, read on!

The Creative Digital Darkroom – Kartin Eismann and Sean Duggan


Surprisingly not a terribly dry read, the authors infused this book with a lot of personality via stories about their work and anecdotes about the specific photos used in this book as examples.

Despite being about 5 years old, this is my absolute #1 recommendation for people looking to improve their skills with digital post-processing. Katrin and Sean are true Photoshop ninjas; despite using Photoshop for nearly 20 years, I found quite a lot to learn from this book.  Use it as a reference or read it straight through.

Real World Digital Photography – Katrin Eismann, Sean Duggan and Tim Grey

real world digital photography

Another book from the same authors as above, this book can be thought of as a more-focused companion or alternative to London + Upton’s “Photography”.  It focuses on the mechanics and settings of digital cameras, differences between memory card and sensor formats, how to understand things like ISO and color balance, digital printing, etc.

This book does go into post-processing to some extent, but it’s nothing like Digital Darkroom, which has countless recipes, tips and tricks in that regard.