FIVE FANTASTIC PHOTOGRAPHY BOOKS THAT WILL TEACH YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
One of the best ways to learn photography and become a better photographer is books. Especially good books. Of course, you can find great youtube channels where you-tubers discus various photography topics, you can go to photography classes, but I found out that to learn something seriously books are still the best. Over time, I read many books, some average, some truly bad. And that is entirely normal, but I decided to select here five books that lifted my photography knowledge the most. I Keep coming to those books from time to time, and I always learn something new from them, or, they inspire me to go out and shoot if I’m in the period when I start to less believe in the importance of photography in my life.
One note here. I bought and read all those books, so this is not some clickbait article where the author select five books, read a few sentences about each of them on the internet and then spill out the article.
Michel Freeman / The Photographer's Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos
After you learn the basics of handling the camera, and how to use it, the first question that arises is how to take better pictures. And the answer is almost always the same-Composition. It’s a single skill, once it’s learned, that will make you instantly better photographer. And this book is, if not the best, one of the best one about composition.
The problem with making good “how to” book about anything is that you need at least two things. You must be good and experienced in that category (great photography), and you must also have the skill to sum and organize that knowledge into readable text and book. So, shortly, you must be a good photographer and an excellent educator/writer. And I think that Michael Freeman is outstanding in both. That’s why he sold millions of books, just because they are great. If you need to pick up only one book about photography composition, pick this one. You won’t regret it.
MAGNUM CONTACT SHEETS
This book is an instant classic . When I was working with Matt Black in his photography workshops, one of the girls asks him the question. “Can you tell me which of these photos are better than the other ones” He pulled up his eyebrow and said
“Well, sure, I can tell you. But, if you don’t know which of your photos are good and what are not, then you have a serious problem. In this book, we see the best photographers that walk this earth with their selected work. Each Magnum photographer talks about specific project/assignment and shows us the whole contact sheet with pictures that they took during the assignment. We can see that one image that is chosen by a photographer to be published, but also, all the other ones, no matter how bad they are, that we never saw publicly. Looking at these contact sheets, we can learn a lot.
How they work, how they approach the subject and theme, and how even though they are already great photographers, they also need to work hard to get this one great image that rises above others. Also, we learned their thought process in selecting a good photo and ditch all the others. One of the things that novice photographers probably don’t know that editing and selecting photos has the same importance as the actual shooting. As one famous photographer once said:
“ Shoot with your guts; edit with your brain.”
Highly recommended book.
Alex Webb: The Suffering of Light
I think everybody already knows who Alex Webb is. Magnum photographer, with decades of shooting under his belt, and, of course, one of the best street photographer alive today. But he is also very good at developing and printing his photos, and master in knowing how color complement composition and has a high impact on mood and emotion. The suffering of the light is a feast for the eyes. The pure pleasure of great photos is printed in fantastic quality and collect a significant part of the Alex Webb life work. It’s a big and heavy book. But every time I struggle with my color work, I come back to this book, and I’m convinced again that you can work in color and make pictures that have the same quality as paintings from the old masters from the history — pure art.
Henri Cartier-Bresson: The Mind's Eye: Writings on Photography and Photographers
This HCB’s cult book is more philosophy than a practical guide. It's a Zen photography experience. But, no matter that is short, every sentence in it is pure gold. Henri Cartier-Bresson is, probably, the most celebrated photographer that ever lived and also one of the founders of Magnum agency that changed how we see our world through photography. In this book, HCB talks about his thoughts and opinions about what is photography for him and how life and photography blend in one singular way of life. You can read the whole book in one afternoon, but you can learn from it your whole life. A must-have!
Kenneth Kobre / Photojournalism: The Professionals' Approach
This book has very practical and down to earth approach. What gear you need to have, how to open the door to photography as a business, how to organize a personal project, how to shoot a video for clients, what newspaper editor wants. It has it all. The amount of useful information is almost overwhelming. It’s not the book that you sit and read from covers to covers. It’s the guidebook that you need to have near you always if you are serious about your photography. And it’s up to date with current trends in the industry (latest edition), so even the longtime pro’s can learn a thing or two from this book. The focus of the book is on photojournalism, but many pieces of information and practical tips are also relevant to the other fields of photography.
And that’s it, folks. These five books are distillation from my years of reading hundreds of books on photography. If you can have only five books about photography in your life, my humble opinion is that these five will be enough for your lifetime learning.
And don't forget to go out on the street with a camera to shoot, if you don't do that, no book will help you!
PEACE & LIGHT