There’s no shortage of information about photography out there in both digital and print, but photography books are still one of the best ways to learn and find inspiration.
Whether you’re a newbie having fun with your first digital camera, or you are a seasoned photographer, being a photographer means being a lifetime student. Photography is both art and science. As such, no two photographers have the same relationship with photography. This is what makes it a forever evolving, always surprising, and inspirational industry.
The written work of great photographers, past and present, is an invaluable gift. It gives us a glimpse into their personal relationship with photography to better inform and inspire our own. Kirk says, “Reading has, time and time again, helped me view my photography (sometimes literally) from a different perspective. It has given me insight on producing authentic, emotional images, and it has reignited my own passion for photography.”
So what do you think? Mastin Labs Book Club, anyone?
There are so many books for photographers, but we’ve narrowed down a long reading list to a few books that have had the greatest influence on Kirk and some of our community members.
The following is a list of the top ten books for photographers that we believe every photographer should read.
10 Best Books for Photographers
PHOTOJOURNALISM: THE PROFESSIONALS’ APPROACH BY KENNETH KOBRE
In Kirk’s opinion, this book is, arguably, the bible on how to be an effective and ethical photojournalist. A lot of what Kirk learned from this book has fed into his shooting philosophy. Photojournalism: The Professionals’ Approach taught him to look for the story, find the peak moment, use layers to add interest to a photo, and keep the photo as honest as possible with no manipulation during the taking of the photo.
RICHARD AVEDON AT WORK: IN THE AMERICAN WEST BY LAURA WILSON
Richard Avedon is Kirk’s portrait hero, and Avedon At Work is essential for portrait photographers. Avedon has a supernatural way of capturing the soul of a person with the click of his camera. Avedon’s unique blend of instinct and psychology made his portraits of Americans in the west one of the most lucrative and productive phases of his life. His assistant, Laura Wilson, wrote this book to document the behind-the-scenes of this powerful series. This book gives the reader deep insight into Avedon’s process of working with people and choosing locations. Fascinating.
THE SUFFERING OF LIGHT BY ALEX WEBB
Unmatched in his ability to harness hard light and stack multiple layers, photographer Alex Webb creates breathtaking street photography that stands the test of time. The Suffering of Light is a 13-year compilation of Webb’s best work and will take you from Haiti to Mexico to examine the life of everyday people through the lens of a master photographer.
OVERSUBSCRIBED: HOW TO GET PEOPLE LINING UP TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOU BY DANIEL PRIESTLY
This book isn’t written specifically for photographers, but it’s great for the ones who want to stand out, get busy, and stay booked. Reading Oversubscribed will help you figure out how to get your ideal potential clients chasing you. What I love about this book is that, at its core, it gives you the tools you need to share your creative gifts with even more people. It’s not all about the numbers, but having clients knocking at your door (instead of the other way around) is bound to make you feel pretty good.
WIM WENDERS: ONCE
The photobook Once is a heartbreakingly beautiful photo diary by filmmaker Wim Wenders. Kirk loves this book so much that he gifts it over and over to photographers he feels could benefit from its emotional power. The photos are taken by Wenders during the making of his most well-known films such as Paris, Texas, and Faraway, So Close. Each photo is described by Wenders to give the reader insight into the meaning behind it. This book will not teach you how to be a better technical photographer; However, it will teach your heart to see more clearly, and you’ll be a better photographer for it.
THE LAST RESORT BY MARTIN PARR
Martin Parr is a controversial photographer and many of his images (and his photography book The Last Resort) were satirical and often humorous takes on the heaviness and monotony of daily life in England. They were not well received by the public...at first. His use of on-camera flash and bold color to document the English seaside was seen as cruel and voyeuristic by his critics, but ultimately stood the test of time as an authentic way of documenting the real life of the working class in England in the 80s and 90s. Martin Parr is now a key member of Magnum Photos as a highly influential photographer who paved the way for alternative documentary photography.
BEST BUSINESS PRACTICES FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS BY JOHN HARRINGTON
If you’re looking for a book to help boost your photography business, this is the one. Best Business Practices for Photographers walks you through how you as a photographer can meet your business objectives. If you’re struggling with aspects of your business like interacting with clients, behind the scenes operations, or the best way to negotiate contracts, this book is for you.
BIG MAGIC: CREATIVE LIVING BEYOND FEAR BY ELIZABETH GILBERT
Have you ever felt creatively tapped out? Almost every photographer goes through a period where they struggle to find inspiration. In her book Big Magic, Elizabeth Gilbert helps the reader find inspiration from within. This book is filled with optimism, joy, and unique ideas about creativity. If you’ve had a long day, curl up with this book. You’ll be buzzing to get back behind the camera in no time.
MORE THAN A ROCK BY GUY TAL
Guy's love for art, science, and nature are evident in this photography book, More Than a Rock. Visual expression is central to the theme, which also includes brief essays by Guy sharing his thoughts and experiences as an artist. If you love landscape photography or simply learning about the journey of a fellow photographer, you’ll get a lot out of this book.
EXTRAORDINARY EVERYDAY PHOTOGRAPHY BY BRENDA THARP AND JED MANWARING
What lengths should you go to for the perfect photo? In Extraordinary Everyday Photography, you’ll learn you don’t have to go far. This book provides information about composition, color, and light, but also emphasizes the creative vision of the photographer. Providing both technical information and inspiration, Extraordinary Everyday Photography is designed to inspire you to take great photos anywhere and everywhere.
These books about photography and life/work inspiration have had an incredible influence on our community of photographers, and we believe they are must-reads regardless of your level or experience. Whether you’re looking for a book about photography or business to help with direction, inspiration, best business practices, or to get to know the artist behind the lens, there’s a book on this list for you.
What photography books have you read that made a lasting impact?