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The Best Photography Books I Read in 2011

I love to read and one of the subjects I most love to read about is photography.  I read a lot of photography books this year, both in print and Kindle format and these are a few of my favorite books that did the most to help me further my photography.

Photography Vision Books

Vision & Voice – Refining Your Vision in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom by David duChemin

I’m not going to lie, but I do have a thing for David duChemin books.  I’ve purchased and read them all and each has added tons of value to my own photography.  Vision and Voice is a great book if you are curious about what goes through a photographers mind during the capture and post processing of an image.  David goes into great detail on the Lightroom processing he did on select photos in this book.  But it’s more than just the technique behind creating the image, it’s the idea of asking yourself what it is you are trying to communicate and then figuring out how you go about accomplishing that.  It’s the vision-driven workflow.

Within the Frame – The Journey of Photographic Vision by David duChemin

This is a great book on finding your own unique photographic vision with great insight and tips to help you create the kinds if images that move people.  Included are ideas on storytelling, photographing people and culture, photographing places and creating an interesting frame.  If you are looking for inspiration for your own photography this book is a must read.

Photographically Speaking – A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images by David duChemin

Often I make a photo that I really like but when it comes to putting into words why I like the photo I really struggle.  This book is about consciously thinking about the elements we choose to either include or exclude from our images.  It about the visual language we communicate with.  The first part of the book addresses this while the second half applies these teaching to 20 of the authors own images where David talks about his choices behind each image and why certain elements were included and how they make the image stronger.

Photography Technical Books

Light Science & Magic – An Introduction to Photographic Lighting by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver and Paul Fuqua

If you are looking to learn the technical and scientific aspects of light and how to use that knowledge to light different subjects, then this book will not disappoint you.  It’s complete with examples and detailed lighting diagrams.  If you want to learn how to “see” the light then read this book.  Make sure you get the 4th and most recent edition.

Understanding Exposure – How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera by Bryan Peterson

It took me quite some time and lots of experimentation before I was comfortable with exposure and even answering the question of what proper exposure is (it’s not what you think it is).  I had questions like:

Does a smaller aperture give me more depth of field or less depth of field?
What is a stop?
If I increase my shutter speed from 1/250th to 1/500th what do I need to change my aperture to in order to maintain the same exposure?

If you’ve asked these same questions or ever wanted to learn more about exposure then this is the book for you.  I learned more about exposure and practicing what was taught in this book than any other source.  Get the 3rd edition.

The Adobe Photoshop CS5 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby

What can one say about Scott Kelby.  He’s probably the most prolific writer of photography related books than anyone in the universe.  I really like his writing style.  If you want to learn every aspect of Photoshop CS5 I highly recommend this book.  I use it as a reference all the time.

The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers
by Scott Kelby

Again, Scott Kelby is a great writer and this book on Lightroom is no exception.  I picked up so many different techniques and tips from this book that have really enhanced and changed the way I use Lightroom.


Focus on Lighting Photos: Focus on the Fundamentals by Fil Hunter and Robin Reid

Another great book on lighting from one of the authors of Light, Science & Magic mentioned above.  I really enjoyed this book and thought it was a good follow-up book to Light, Science & Magic.  I love that this book shows you in detail, through lighting diagrams, how to modify light to get good results.  And it shows you how to create your own inexpensive modifiers for those DIY types like myself.  If you are struggling with lighting this is a good book to begin with.

Topical Photography Books

Food Photography – From Snapshots to Great Shots by Nicole S. Young

This book will seriously make you hungry; hungry not only for food but hungry to get out and start photographing food.  Nicole goes into so much detail on food photography where she breaks down and dissects each image showing you why she chose a particular aperture, why backlighting was used and plenty of tips on how to create a balanced image.  This is an awesome food photography book that fills you up with knowledge and inspiration.

Digital Wedding Photography Photo Workshop by Kenny Kim

I’m getting into wedding photography in 2012 after shooting several weddings throughout 2011.  I wanted to learn techniques and garner advice from the best in the business and Kenny Kim is a legend.  This book teaches you about every aspect of wedding photography.  Kenny teaches you about exposure and composition, developing your own style, indoor and outdoor shooting issues and how to overcome them.  He then goes into detail the various shots throughout the day such as group portraits, the bride and groom, the wedding ceremony and the reception.  If you are looking to get into wedding photography this book is a must read.  Read it along with the next book.

Digital Wedding Photographer’s Planner by Kenny Kim

If you have ever wanted to get into wedding photography but have serious questions and concerns about how to pull it off this book walks you through the process from the initial meeting with the client to presenting the final product.  It’s complete with checklists, shot lists and so much insider information it will make your head spin.  And after your head stops spinning you’ll realize you have all the tools to pull off a successful wedding shoot and provide your clients with an exceptional product.  Do your homework and read this book.

Photography Business Books

Visionmongers – Making a Life and a Living in Photography by David duChemin

If you want to sell photos or shoot photos for a living then you need to be thinking like a business.  The 5 books in this section are excellent at teaching you the business side of photography (or any business for that matter) and help you get into the mindset of being a businessman or businesswoman separate from being a photographer.  Think of it as two different hats that you wear with each requiring a different perspective.  Visionmongers is a great read on this subject.

Fast Track Photographer by Dane Sanders and Richard N Boles

Great book on discovering your true photographic nature!  When you purchase this book you also get access to the pDNA which is an online test that will reveal some interesting insights into your own personality as related to your own photographic endeavors.  I know when I took it I felt it was pretty accurate and caused me to stop and reflect a bit about the kind of business I want to build.  I really got a lot out of this book as well as the next book which is more business-side focused.

Fast Track Photographer Business Plan by Dane Sanders and David duChemin

This book talks a lot about the new era that we are in, the “Digi-Flat” era where all the rules have changed.  It will teach you to use technology and the tools available today to grow your business and be successful at marketing your business.  You also get free access to the online “stress test” where you will gain insight into your business strengths and weaknesses.

Going Pro: How to Make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer by Scott Bourne and Skip Cohen

I really like Scott Bourne’s writing style.  This book is mostly about growing your business through the use of social media.  Whether it’s Twitter or a blog this book sells you on the importance of online networking and utilizing these social networks to broadcast your message. If you are confused about how to use social media to further your photography business this book answers any questions you might have.

Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington

This is probably the best photography business book out there. I’ve lost count of the number of people that have recommended this book to me and after reading it I know why.  It covers every aspect of running a successful business in great detail.  From pricing to contracts to copyright questions this book answers them all.  Make sure and get the second edition.

This was quite a long post but hopefully you found a few books that piqued your interest.  I own and recommend each book on this list.

Do you have a favorite book that you think is a must read for the aspiring photographer?  I’d love to hear about it.  Post it in the comments below.

Next up I’ll be detailing my favorite photography e-books of 2011.

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