Santa's coming! And for many photography enthusiasts, that means gear! For the luckiest amongst you, it might mean lenses and bodies. Others might be looking forward to a Loupedeck Live or Simplr Strap. That stuff is fantastic, too. For me, though, wedding photography is my job, and I don't ask Santa for gadgets because I buy them when needed. Instead, my family now usually asks: "which book do you want for Christmas?"
My books are my small luxury in life. Some people love fast cars and designer handbags. I like to sit at my table with a fresh coffee and a photo book. When I'm out and about, I also prefer reading from paper books rather than endlessly scrolling Instagram.
And so, you could put all of my books into two vast categories. Books I look at, and books I read.
The first group, photo books, is filled with nostalgic, thought-provoking, and beautiful photography books. I will often pick one up, flick through the pages for 10 minutes, and then pop it back on my shelf. I may not touch it again for months, but I usually see or absorb something different each time. Some of them are substantial coffee table books.
My reading books are still photography-related. These are often instructional books by authors like Brian Lloyd Ducket or David Gibson. They may also be inspirational or just pleasant to read. These smaller books slide into a bag and come with me everywhere I go until I've read them cover to cover.
You may be different than me. Perhaps you don't want to collect many books. You may want one book that will take you a year to read in your spare time. On the other hand, you might be looking for a big book to sit on your desk and inspire you in times of boredom. Or, just like me, you want all the books you can get your hands on.
So, I've listed a few below, some from well-established photographers or publishers and a few lesser-known ones. I urge you to also look for your own; it's a personal journey.
Why You Like This Photo: The Science of Perception, Brian Dilg
An interesting read by Brian Dilg, Why You Like This Photo takes a deeper look into our brain. It delves not just into how we take photos but why we would do things in a certain way, using scientifically proven insights, interviews, and infographics to study what the mind is doing when we look at photographs.
Unfinished Stories, Lucy Hamidzadeh
Lucy is an incredibly talented emerging street photographer based in London, England. Her first book, Unfinished Stories, from Trope Publishing, contains beautiful photographs, mostly of people going about their daily business. She has managed to find calmness in the hustle and bustle of London, which is not an easy thing to do. Lucy is also a fantastic writer, making this a great read also.
Where I Find Myself, Joel Meyerowitz
I am moving on to one of the all-time greats, Joel Meyerowitz. Where I Find Myself is likely one of my most frequented photo books. The inspirational book contains a lifetime of work, from his powerful photographs at ground zero to playful street photography. The retrospective also includes his many projects. It's a big book, indeed not one for the subway, but you'll be hard-pressed to find a better book to lose yourself in with a coffee.
Street Photography Pocket Guide, Brian Lloyd Ducket
I'm moving from one of the heaviest books in my collection to the smallest. But it's small for a reason, Brian's Street Photography Pocket Guide is designed to go wherever your camera does. So, if there's a stocking filler for the avid street photographers amongst us, this has to be it. Small but mighty, the pocket guide runs through gear, mindset, techniques, locations, and lighting.
100 Great Street Photographs, David Gibson
Acting as a celebration of modern street photography, 100 Great Street Photographs brings together a collection of, you guessed it, 100 great images by a newer generation of talented photographers. The book also contains information about each of the photographers, some of whom are relatively unknown or have only been active for a few years. It's a true insight into the work consistently being produced by great photographers every day, not just the legends.
Europeans, Henri Cartier-Bresson
Speaking of legends, no photo book roundup would be complete without at least one title by Henri Cartier-Bresson. Europeans may not be his best-known book, but it covers a vast period from the 1920s through to the 1970s, with images from his travels around the European continent. We have all seen famous photographs by Henri, but Europeans contains some of his lesser-known but ever-fascinating work.
I could go on listing books for days, but I wanted to give an insight into the variety of books available. Whether your chosen title is from a famous photographer or a self-published book from a newbie, I know it will offer something to you. That could be technical information about camera settings or a nostalgic insight into how life used to be.
My personal collection also contains many, many books that are interesting to me, but may not be to the vast majority of people: books containing smaller projects, photographs from certain nightclubs, some are picture books by unknown photographers containing photographs of places I've visited. Some are by people I have met or simply want to support. I have many very old books that I've picked up at secondhand stores. It would be almost pointless to mention any of these, as they're so personal to me, but they're loved just as much as any other.
If you haven't yet started your own never-ending journey into the rabbit hole that is photography books, consider buying your first from a local bookshop. The ones that are remaining are desperate for our support. If you don't have anywhere local, Amazon is the obvious choice, and you can spend hours discovering new titles.
If you have any books that you think I need to try, pop it in the comments. I'm always adding to my collection and may be asking Santa for a few this year.
It would've been nice if fstoppers arranged a way for us to purchase all books as a bundle 😊
The book first choice is a good one to get us beyond the usual rules of composition.
I am interested in the world of Architectural photography at the moment, so my list reflects this.
Two book by an interesting Italian photographer, the first is in Italian, but the second has an English translation.
"Milano. Ritratti di fabbriche. Quarant’anni dopo" by Gabriele Basilico, is a reprint of a classic photobook that was the breakout work by this photographer. You do not need to read the text to enjoy the play of light and shadow in these documentary style pictures.
Also by Basilico "Spaces in Between: Territori Intermedi" is a curiously intriguing set of pictures of ordinary suburban places from around the world.
Old but still the best book about Architectural photography is "Follow the Sun" by James Ewing. A text book for professionals, but good solid information. I prefer this book to Architectural Photography by Shulz by a very short margin. Both are well worth getting.
In my lunch break in the late seventies, I often visited the Photographers Gallery in London. It was a moment that was producing some great British photographers. I did buy several books such as several sighed by Fay Godwin, but missed some that have become out of reach on the used market due to the stratospheric prices asked. One such, "In Flagrante" by Chris Killip has been reprinted. A classic ot the "Thatcherite" period.
thanks for your additions... Many of my books listed were bought from the photographers gallery... they still have a fantastic bookshop downstairs. I believe there is also a Chris Killip exhibition ongoing there... It;s fantastic!
I spent many happy hours looking at the exhibitions, when I worked in central London. I think it had a big impact on my photography as I was exposed to all sorts of photography. It was free back then. Last time I was in London things had changed somewhat and the exhibitions are no longer free.
You left off what is perhaps the most important book a photographer should get their eyes on: Light ― Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting.
Thanks for a great article - i'm always on the lookout for a good photography book. I recently bought the new Annie Liebovitz At Work which was great.