There are many reasons why people are interested in photography, either in a professional sense or simply for fun. Photography completely changes the way we look at life and can be an incredibly valuable and transformative experience.
Once you get into the habit of seeing your surroundings as a photographer, an entirely new world opens up to your senses. You begin to notice the smaller details around you, including textures, colors, shapes, facial expressions, or even special lighting. Beauty is everywhere, and once you start to pay closer attention, you might be surprised where you find it.
Not only this, but photography allows you to notice and capture this beauty, share it with others, and keep it forever. Although this is something we often take for granted in our modern world of gadgets, it’s quite incredible when you stop to consider it.
What Do You Want Out of Photography?
Perhaps your goal is to get better at snapping family photos or shots of your vacation spots. Maybe you are simply looking for a new passion to get absorbed in and have always been drawn to photography. Or it could be that your goals are a bit more serious than this and you’re aiming to make photography a professional pursuit or even a career, eventually.
Whatever your main reason is for being interested in this subject, dedicating some time to learning how to take quality photos is a valuable venture. But this can be an expensive interest with an overwhelming amount of data on the subject to learn about, and you may (understandably) be wondering how and where you should start.
As with any other creative pursuit out there, there isn’t one correct way to enter into the art of photography. There are, however, a few factors you can consider to get a head start, rather than just becoming interested, purchasing a nice camera, and then leaving it in the closet to gather dust a couple weeks later.
Discover Your Inspiration
Firstly, you must find whatever subject matter it is that inspires you most. Discovering your creative inspiration should be your very first step on the photography journey. Do you have the most fun taking traveling photos of exotic cuisine or quirky roadside signs? What about taking funny or candid pictures of your children? Are you the type that needs to have your photo subjects look perfect, or do you prefer to capture spontaneous moments? Maybe you have a specific subject that interests you more than others, such as landscapes or sports.
You can begin by thinking about what it is that you already enjoy. Photography is something that mixes very well with existing interests and hobbies, such as gardening, music, or fashion.
Next, you can start browsing through some photography work to see which pictures pull you in the most. Is it inanimate objects or portraits of people you like most, for example? Once you figure out what it is that you find inspiring, or find out how you can combine photography with your existing interests, you will have an idea of where to begin with learning the art.
The next (and perhaps most obvious) step to becoming a photographer is getting a camera and becoming familiar with it. It’s impossible to get into a hobby if you don’t have the main tool needed, and a quality one at that. This doesn’t mean that you have to buy the most expensive or fanciest camera on the market, but there are some features you will need if you want to dedicate yourself to this path. First, look for something that comes with a manual mode, which will let you control the pictures.
If your main interest is photographing subject material that is quick moving, try to get a camera that has a 5 fps (or higher) burst speed. The higher the number, the better the quality for this particular feature. As soon as you have the perfect camera for you, get to know it intimately. Find out where the important features are, and what all the dials and buttons are for. This is one factor (among many) that books on photography can be great for.
How Reading Can Help Your Photo Skill Set
Books, as a beginner, are as valuable a resource as your camera itself, and as crucial as your own willingness to learn. They will help introduce you to important terminology, methods, and attitudes to adopt while photographing. Many of them even give various ideas for subject matter if you’re stuck and can’t decide.
Once you pick the best photography book for your needs, you will want to take as many photos as you can to find out what your style is, which types of photos you prefer, and which you can do without. As you begin to learn more methods and techniques for photography through reading about it, test each of them out as you progress. Take your camera out with you every time you leave the house. You will find that there is inspiration for this art form wherever you end up.
As you learn new techniques and tricks of the trade, you can test them out throughout the day and put that knowledge to real use. Bring your camera on your walks, and even to work or the grocery store. When you find yourself inspired by the colors and shapes of houses along the road or just some nice lighting, snap some pictures. Get a great photography book, try out the techniques you read about, take photos when you’re inspired, and you will end up mastering the craft.
What to Look for in a Photography Book for Beginners
- Easy-to-understand terminology: As a beginner, the last thing you want is to get overwhelmed and frustrated while trying to learn the ropes of a new craft. This is what causes people to throw their hands up in the air and quit before they even get started. When an author truly knows a subject, they can explain it thoroughly and concisely, without using needlessly complicated terms or being longwinded. Make sure that your photography book assumes the reader is new to photography, will be easy to follow, and clearly explains each new term they introduce.
- A conversational tone: Along with being easy to understand, the book you’re reading must invite you to keep reading by using a conversational writing tone. This makes you feel like a part of the learning experience, rather than a passive observer. It helps to look for books that have been written by someone with experience in instructing or teaching the subject of photography, as they will know the right way to communicate messages in an informative yet engaging manner. Learning about your new hobby should be fun, not a chore or something you have to force yourself to do, so the right tone is important.
- Photo examples: Reading about a subject is one thing, but seeing example photos gives the text a whole new added value. In the subject of taking photos, what can be more important than illustrating concepts and points with actual pictures? A quality beginner photography book will show what various camera settings result in through images and accompanying text comments from the author. Not only will the images within the book inspire you to take your own amazing photos, but you’ll get a more intimate feel for who the author is by experiencing their work firsthand. In addition, the pictures will give you proof that they are a credible source for what they’re explaining.
- Hands-on tips and guidelines: How do you get a photo to look balanced? How do you work with lighting so that it accentuates the subject of your picture rather than taking away from it? What are the special techniques for capturing objects in motion without a blurred image? These questions, among others, should be covered in a good photography book for beginners. As you read through the book, you should end up with concrete tips to use for snapping your own beautiful photos. A good guide on this subject will leave you feeling prepared to take matters into your own hands by the time you finish reading it.
Here are the best photography books for beginners on the market that will help you learn the technique and experience needed to perfect your craft.
- Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera
- The Beginner’s Photography Guide, 2nd Edition
- Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs
- Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography
- How to Photograph Everything: Simple Techniques for Shooting Spectacular Images
Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera (Fourth Edition)
Bryan Peterson is internationally known as the founder of a successful photography school. Along with this, he is an instructor, professional photographer, and popular author. He has created Understanding Exposure in order to help people learn the craft he is so passionate about.
Understanding exposure is important because if you understand the way a camera functions, you have even better opportunities to master photography. The book focuses on something known as the “triangle”, which is essentially ISO, aperture, and shutter speed.
Once you figure out the way these work, you will have a better idea of how to make them work for you and create your own beautiful pictures.
The book goes over these three in a detailed, thorough fashion, giving graphic depictions along the way. By focusing on discovering the correct exposure (even when it’s difficult), this book tells you exactly how to find contrast and sharpness in images, along with freezing action and exploring light, flash settings, and filters.
The tone of this book is readable, friendly, and professional, which explains its success over the past 10 years. One of the main pieces of advice offered by the author is to discover your camera’s manual setting and keep it there, rather than using the automatic options. He also suggests that readers get rid of their camera’s manual.
This may sound intimidating, but the author makes it easy to master the basics and take quality photos on a consistent basis. Although the majority of people purchase cameras in order to use the automatic settings, for those who are serious about or interested in photography, this is only a hindrance.
This book is full of gorgeous, inspiring photos taken by Bryan himself, complete with commends left by him next to each, detailing why he chose specific settings for the pictures. On the pages, one scene is depicted in multiple shots with differing settings, showing the reader which specific differences this makes.
You are sure to notice new details each time you pick up the book, which makes it a valuable reference to keep on hand in your library. For anyone who has the earlier editions of this book, it might be useful to know what is different about this version. There is now a section about flash that has been expanded, along with information on star trails, completely new sections, and entirely updated images.
The Beginner’s Photography Guide, 2nd Edition
Chris Gatcum has worked as an author, journalist, and photographer over the course of 20 years. The way many photographers do, he started with a degree course on photography that introduced him to a range of technologies and skills. Here, he learned large format, location work, studio work, and Photoshop.
His Beginner’s Photography Guide (2nd Edition) assumes that the reader has no existing knowledge on the subject, making it perfect for beginners. The book is simple to follow and gives a step-by-step, easily digestible layout to techniques for enhancing images, mastering flash and exposure, and creating amazing images.
For each technique outlined in the book, there are checklists provided to let you know which settings and equipment are needed. Comparison photos display the difference various camera settings can have on the pictures you take, and crisp example photos give you added motivation to become a great photographer.
If you have a camera and are completely unfamiliar with its features or how it works, this is a great place to start. Even those who have no idea what terms like “shutter” or “aperture” mean will find it easy to learn about and follow along with. The author reaches readers and holds their attention firmly, staying understandable and clear with his explanations. Teachers of photography would find this guide useful for their students, as it provides plenty of example photos and thorough instructions.
Read This If You Want to Take Great Photographs
The author of Read This if You Want to Take Great Photographs, Henry Carroll, went to the Royal College of Art to study photography. He has had his work featured in a multitude of international publications and exhibitions and enjoys teaching potential photographers the craft.
Henry Carroll uses a jargon-free, clear teaching style and aims to demystify the subject and act of taking digital photos. His book is our best inspiration pick on the list.
The book describes the basic elements necessary for photography, including ISO, shutter speed, and aperture, including images that illustrate the concepts. There is one photo series, for example, that shows moving objects and the way that lower shutter speeds blur the image, while higher speeds freeze the movement.
You will also find, in this book, major factors that affect composition, like the flow of curves and lines in images, symmetry, and framing, with accompanying photos. The book is short, so these descriptions are quite brief. The rest of the book discusses the art of “seeing” along with photographing, delivered in a concise and clear way.
If you’re a beginner who is interested into entering the realm of photography, but get confused by some of the terminology used online, this is the book for you. The author uses helpful diagrams and has a straightforward approach to explaining concepts related to the art. Even those who are not beginners will find this useful and glean some new insight from it.
Tony Northrup’s DSLR Book: How to Create Stunning Digital Photography
Tony Northrup is an award-winning photographer and author with over 30 instructional books that have sold over a million copies across the globe. His pictures have been used for calendars, TV shows, magazine and book covers, and more over the years.
The book starts off by moving through the most basic factors of the art, going over lighting, field depth, general composition, and other quick tips. Camera equipment, shutter speed, and aperture are covered, as well.
Once the basics are gone over, the author includes detailed chapters with inspirational ideas for landscapes, portraits, animal photography, macro images, night photos, weddings, and even underwater photos.
Readers will appreciate the fact that this book doesn’t have pointless words or “fluff” in it. Although the book has a fair amount of text, each word is communicating something useful and important and doesn’t waste any time. Every sentence is interesting, relevant, and at times, humorous.
Many readers will find it convenient and helpful that you can carry the e-book with you everywhere you go, making it easy to look up something on the go or read it as you travel. You might find yourself in a situation where you see the perfect photo opportunity, but want to check on some information first.
The most recent updated version flows easily to your device right away, so instead of trying to remember something you read in a book at home, you can actually pull out your tablet or smartphone and find out the particulars about snapping the best photo you can.
How to Create Stunning Digital Photography has been illustrated with original, inspiring photos and text that thoroughly explain the principles and concepts being written about. The most unique feature about this book is the accompanying videos. You will find a few hours-worth of video material that reinforces and illustrates the tips and concepts within the book.
The experience can be compared to taking an online class for a much lower price than you’d actually pay for a course. In addition to this, purchasing the book allows you to access the author’s Facebook page, where you’ll find more techniques and tips for taking great photos.
How to Photograph Everything: Simple Techniques for Shooting Spectacular Images
How to Photograph Everything is a long, detailed account of how to become a photographer. The first section of this book is about photography basics, complete with chapters about tonality, color, and composition.
You will also find detailed text on exposure (including ISO, shutter, and aperture and how they function as one), software for editing, lighting, and lenses. It will go over the “triangle” of exposure, the Rule of Thirds, and the Photography Golden Mean.
You will find the format very easy to recall and clear, and the main approach is to discuss particular images and see methods and concepts as they pertain to realistic challenges in photography. The book has large, full color pictures on almost every page, has a large format, and comes with a hardcover.
With all of the photos you get inside, it’s a good value. Along with illustrating techniques and concepts in a clear manner, such as giving instructions for exposure, the authors of the book also show what you should and shouldn’t do, with direct comparison images.
Starting on the 31st page, you will find over 200 pages about the subjects you are most likely to photograph as you get into this craft. Within these pages you will find specific advice on how to photograph each of these subjects, complete with plenty of photo examples.
This section has over 40 different subjects, including familiar topics like floral photography, landscapes, travel, photojournalism, portraits, weddings, and animals. However, you’ll also find plenty of specialized topics like sunsets, architecture, friends and relatives, sports, underwater photos, weather, cars, nude people, conventions, fireworks, and more.
The advantage of this book showing so many different subjects for photography is the format of each of these chapters. You will find out how to get started, including an overview on preparing for the subject, along with specified ideas for what you should look for, what you should shoot, gear to include like a tripod, flash, filters, or lenses, and whether these are needed for that specific type of shoot.
In this book, you’ll find something called “Tech Tips” at the start of every chapter on a sidebar. Here, information is listed about which settings are recommended for exposure, along with tips for metering, shooting mode, balance, and focus.
This doesn’t require that you copy everything exactly as its written, especially since you might have a different type of camera, but it does give you a great starting point and some ideas to begin with. You can always experiment with, tweak, and adjust them as you see fit until you find your own style.
4 Things to Know about Choosing a Camera
The price range: Exactly how much do you need to spend for a great camera that will do what you want it to do? Of course, like any reasonable consumer, you want to get the best value you can find for the most affordable price. It’s easy to assume that paying more always means a better product, but that’s not necessarily the case with a camera.
First of all, think about what you’re expecting to get out of your purchase. Many cameras with a higher price range come with a bunch of extra features that you don’t need or want. Since smartphones are capable of taking good pictures nowadays, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point in buying an entry level digital camera, outside of getting it for something specific.
If you want a camera with good image quality, you will want to spend a minimum of $500, in most cases. However, you could reasonably pay less than this if you are just looking for a few more options than you have on your phone.
Considering camera ergonomics: Another important consideration for your camera is ergonomics. You need to test out the camera before you take the plunge and purchase it. Some elements you want to make sure of are that the camera feels comfortable when you hold it and that it isn’t too heavy.
Heavy cameras are more of a hassle to carry around, so you’ll likely end up using it less if you buy one. Your camera should give you quick access to the menu, common functions, and have a simple structure. When you have a camera that is simple to learn and logically structured, it isn’t a chore to use it, meaning you’ll be more excited to get some practice snapping photos.
Touch screen cameras are easier to use for some, but can be frustrating for others. These are subjective preferences, which is why getting a hands-on testing experience is best before you decide which camera to get. Try out as many as you can before buying.
What does the megapixel count really affect? Some may assume that a higher megapixel count always guarantees the best quality photos, but it’s not that simple. You shouldn’t judge cameras based only on their megapixel count. The quality and size of the camera’s image sensor, and its corresponding optics, have a stronger impact on the quality of the images it will produce.
Having a portable and compact camera is nice, but that will come with a smaller sensor, and in many cases, this means you are sacrificing some in the department of image quality to get this convenience. You will get better quality photos with a DSLR camera that has a larger sensor, but even smaller DSLR models are comparatively bulky. Decide which features are more important to you and buy accordingly.
What will you use it for? Before you decide to purchase the fanciest camera you can find, think long and hard about why you are buying it in the first place. Are you going to be taking pictures of concerts and bands? Low-key family outings? Perhaps you’re hoping to be a professional portrait photographer.
This matters, very much, when it comes to which model you should choose. If you feel as though you’re ready to move onto a training wheel-free choice, find a camera that allows you to control capture mode, megapixel number, and ISO. Most importantly of all, do plenty of thorough research and comparisons before you choose your camera.