2019 Round-Up: The Year's Best Educational Photography Books

2019 Round-Up: The Year's Best Educational Photography Books

As the year draws to a close and photographers around the world obsessively check the tracking info for their eagerly awaited Peak Designs tripods, why not distract ourselves by taking some time to reflect on the best new books to hit the educational photography market this year? 

Photography: History. Art. Technique

This fascinating all-in-one guide introduces you to the art, history, and culture of photography, and shows you how to get the very best from your own photographs. -- DK Media Company

Tom Ang is one of those wonderfully reliable authors: his discussions of photography are always thoughtful, concise, and easy to understand and implement. If you haven't read any of his instructional books before, it's time to start. In Photography: History. Art. Technique, Ang balances the practical with the historic. He represents the evolution of photography, both through concept and technology. Iconic photographers and their accomplishments are cataloged in detail, and carefully curated example images are provided along the way. If you've ever wanted to learn more about photographic history, but your eyes glaze over the second you open a book about it, Ang is your guy. Think of this book as the definitive encyclopedia of photography, presented in an interesting and digestible way. Ang brings the book to the tangible and contemporary in the second half through helpful discussion of photographic principles, complete with diagrams. This book is a great all-in-one educational source.

Seeing in SIXES

In the fourth and final annual installment of Seeing in SIXES, the editors at LensWork present their favorite 50 submissions from photographers around the world. Each submission features a collection of six images photographed as an intentional series. Each photographer is challenged to write minimally about their work, allowing the photographs to largely speak for themselves. Brooks Jensen, editor at LensWork, provided these insights to photographers preparing to submit:

There is a very fine line between six images that are repetitive and six images that are not. The best six-image projects can all be characterized as being composed of six related but independent images, the removal of any one of which would diminish the project. In fact, that's not a bad way to approach editing. Ask of each image: Can I eliminate this image without diminishing the whole?

This book is much more than a collection of collections; it's a chance to enter into 50 photographers' artistic minds and perhaps challenge yourself to create a similarly cohesive project.

The Natural Light Portrait Book: The Step-by-Step Techniques You Need to Capture Amazing Photographs Like the Pros

Photography educator and author Scott Kelby is back with a comprehensive portrait photography guide. This guide, released earlier this month, explains everything from how to select the best lens for the circumstances to working in harsh, unflattering lighting conditions. Kelby's books are known for being approachable and containing great example images. This book will be a great addition to any aspiring portrait photographer's library.

Photo Work: Forty Photographers on Process and Practice

How does a photographic project or series evolve? How important are 'style' and 'genre'? What comes first, the photographs or a concept? PhotoWork is a collection of interviews by a wide range of photographers about their approach to making photographs and, more importantly, a sustained body of work. Curator and lecturer Sasha Wolf was inspired to seek out and assemble responses to these questions after hearing from countless young photographers about how they often feel adrift in their own practice, wondering if they are doing it the 'right' way. The responses, from both established and newly emerging photographers, reveal there is no single path. — aperture.org

Sasha Wolf, the editor and creator of this book, designed a common questionnaire about the photographic process and invited 40 photographers to weigh in. Through their varied responses, it quickly becomes apparent that no two artists think about their work in quite the same way. This book is less of a descriptive manual and more of a book on how to think about, talk about, and live with your art stylized guide. While the insights are very interesting, it's important to note that the book doesn't contain any photographs, so readers hoping to compare each photographer's philosophies with their images will have some googling in their future.

Wedding Storyteller, Volume 2: Wedding Case Studies and Workflow

Following on the heels of his best-selling 2017 book, Wedding Storyteller, Volume 1: Elevating the Approach to Photographing Wedding Stories, Roberto Valenzuela presents the second volume in what will ultimately be a three-part series. In this thoughtful examination of wedding photography, Valenzuela gives you actual situations to consider. Most wedding photography guides serve as an obvious overview, briefly touching on topics, while the Wedding Storyteller series goes into extreme detail. Each page is filled with insights and plenty of supporting imagery. Grab this book and its predecessor for an instant level-up in Wedding Photography.

Stories Behind the Images: Lessons From a Life in Adventure Photography

Interweaving stories and anecdotes with beautiful imagery and techniques, author Corey Rich takes readers behind the scenes of some of his most iconic adventure photographs. We've all seen countless guides within most genres of photography, but this book, focusing specifically on a genre that's as hard to break into as it is to teach, fills a void in the educational photography book market. If you've always dreamed of being an adventure photographer, this book will give you an idea of the type of commitment and fortitude you'll need. As a helpful bonus, images in the book include EXIF data for additional instructional context.

Women: The National Geographic Image Collection

Every year, National Geographic finds a way to repurpose classic fan favorites in their image collection. This year, the focus is on women. This stunning coffee table book features many of the beautiful portraits of women you'll recognize from the pages of Nat Geo, mixed with new insights and portraits from contemporary feminist icons. National Geographic describes:

This powerful photography collection, drawn from the celebrated National Geographic archive, reveals the lives of women from around the globe, accompanied by revelatory new interviews and portraits of contemporary trailblazers including Oprah Winfrey, Jane Goodall, and Christiane Amanpour.

#MeToo. #GirlBoss. Time's Up. From Silicon Valley to politics and beyond, women are reshaping our world. Now, in anticipation of the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, this bold and inspiring book from National Geographic mines 130 years of photography to showcase their past, their present, and their future. With 300+ stunning images from more than 50 countries, each page of this glorious book offers compelling testimony about what it means to be female, from historic suffragettes to the haunting, green-eyed 'Afghan girl.'

The educational opportunities from a coffee table book like this one may not stem from the traditional "how-to" format, but to become a truly great photographer, it helps to be a consumer of images. Read, absorb, and seek inspiration from the pages of this fantastic collection.

Creative Calling: Establish a Daily Practice, Infuse Your World with Meaning, and Succeed in Work + Life

Chase Jarvis, founder of the popular education site Creative Live, presents an actionable and interesting guide to developing a daily creative workflow. Part feel-good self-help, part brutally honest call to action, this book will teach you to hold yourself accountable to your creative dreams. If you are a photographer stuck in a creative rut, this book just might be the push you need to get back to feeling successful and inspired.

Authentic Portraits: Searching for Soul, Significance, and Depth

Author Chris Orwig's portraits have soul, and he wants you to know it. In his career as a photographer, educator, and public speaker, he has shared how a near-death experience at a young age brought a sense of meaning into his lif, and as a result, into his work. In his latest book, he shares his techniques and philosophies for creating dynamic and unique portraits that project personality, style, and soul.

In Authentic Portraits, photographer Chris Orwig teaches you that the secret to creating meaningful portraits is simple: curiosity, empathy, kindness, and soul… plus a bit of technique. While Chris spends significant time on the fundamentals of 'getting the shot' — working with natural light, nailing focus, dialing in the correct exposure, effectively posing and directing the subject, intentionally composing the frame — he also passionately discusses the need for personal development, creative collaboration, and connection with the subject. Because who you are directly and deeply affects what you create, and it is only through cultivating your own inner light that you will be able to bring it out in your subjects. — Authentic Portraits, jacket description

Within the Frame, 10th Anniversary Edition: The Journey of Photographic Vision

The last book on this list is a bit of a cheat; no, it's not new in 2019, but it is a 10th Anniversary reprint of a classic. David duChemin has spent years cultivating a philosophy on storytelling through photography, and this reprint of his 2009 book is a must-read for photographers hoping to instill a bit more meaning into their images.

Through a genuine and soulful discussion about creating photographs of people, places, cultures, and the discovery of a personal point of view that makes those stories compelling and authentic, David teaches how to seek and serve your creative vision through the art of photography. He shares the nuances of approaching different subjects, the value of scouting locations (and wandering in unfamiliar places), techniques for photographing landscapes, how to capture a sense of place and culture with sensitivity through images of food, festivals, art, faith, and more. Most importantly, David maintains the crucial theme of vision and helps you find, cultivate, and pursue your own ― and then fit it within the frame. — Rocky Nook Inc

What did we miss? Read any good books lately? Share your favorite 2019 releases in the comments! 

Jordana Wright's picture

For over a decade Jordana has been a professional photographer and photography educator. In 2018 she published "The Enthusiast's Guide to Travel Photography" with Rocky Nook Inc. Check out "Focused On Travel", her online educational photography and travel series on her YouTube page!

Log in or register to post comments