Top 5 Photography books for New DSLR Users

I have been asked a lot by my readers what books they should pick up that will help them improve on their ‘Digital Photography’ skills. I went to my shelf and took a look at the books I have and narrowed it  down the ones I liked the most. I then went and raided a friends book shelf too. I checked out his collection and narrowed these down to the ones I felt were the most informative. What each person gets out of a book is unique to the individual. I felt these books provide some good information and I can only hope they will do something for you as well.

Why a book?

First off I should tell you, I am a firm believer in a book having more words than images. If it is basically a picture book, it is not included in this list. I prefer to have some interesting and accurate writing that explains how accomplish something, than have 40 images showing what they did. The images should complement the information that is being provided, and give the reader a useful reference they can refer back to again and again.

I feel at the beginner to amateur level, we need to have something on the shelf we can grab and refresh our memories now and then. We could of course always go to the Internet. But realistically we would probably just end up on Facebook, Google + or dreaming about the next great piece of gear we absolutely have to get.. Plus I may be a little old school, but I enjoy the feel of that big old book in my hands, the look of the images and the smell of the old pages. Corny I know but it is a quirk I can’t overcome.

Many of these are available in e-book versions, which make it nice to take on the road with you on your mobile device.

Here is my Top 5 List

Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography 3 book series. If you haven’t read any of Scott’s books before your missing out. His books are almost story like, in that you the reader become involved with the project your working on at that moment. The 3 book series covers everything from beginner to amateur topics in a format that really gets you into it. Scott has a way to give you the information that has been repeated over and over in other books, in a new and fun fashion.  If your wanting to know how to use your gear and how to move up the ladder from rookie to amateur, this book series will get you there. Topics from how to use flash, macro and close up photography, how to set up a home studio,what and how to shoot when you travel, and much more are included in this 3 volume set.

Michael Freeman’s 101 Top Digital Photography TipsMichael Freeman is of course one of the elite professional photographers that has taken the time to share his tips and tricks with us. The author presents much of the same information that Scott Kelby does in many of his books, but in a more direct, less humorous approach. So if you don’t want the witticism you get with Scott Kelby this might be more your style. I personally feel this book has some great information inside its covers. Some of it may be repetitive, but you need that now and then just to refresh your memory.

David Pogue’s Digital Photography: The Missing ManualDavid Poque has possibly written more books on how to use your Digital SLR’s than anyone out here. This particular book is a general knowledge tome about everything from Digital SLR cameras to Point and shoot, to even camera phones. By combing the manual for your camera and the knowledge in this book you will be able to set up for just about any shot you like. It has specific tutorials to show you how to get that one shot you have been trying so hard to reproduce. Three that I found helpful were, ‘trailing car lights’, ‘fireworks’ and ‘star trails’.

Digital SLR Photography All-in-One for Dummies
I know in the photography world dummies books aren’t that well received But if your an absolute beginner, these can be a valuable resource to get you pointed in the right direction. If you keep it between you me and the fencepost, I’ll let you know that this book was on ‘my’ shelf not my friends. I was flipping through this in the store a while back and found a slick little section dealing with framing that I found interesting. It is also a good book to have around to give to a friend who needs a little advice on their new DSLR. It will bring them up to speed pretty fast, so they can understand the tips and suggestion you will be giving them later.

Understanding Exposure: How to Shoot Great Photographs with a Film or Digital Camera (Updated Edition)Bryan Peterson takes understanding exposure settings in manual control to new heights in this book. At some point you are going to have to take that DSLR out of Full Auto mode and start experimenting with manual. This book will help you do that in a simple easy to follow way.

John Hedgecoe Books

Ok I know I said top 5, but I feel I have to include John Hedgecoe’s books, simply because they are the first books I ever purchased to help me learn about photography. The copies I have are ragged, dog eared and worn beyond compare. I give any of my friends that want to improve their use of any SLR camera these books to read through before I start tutoring them. Many times they hand them back to me with a glassy eyed expression on their faces, from information overload. But later on, when I am explaining things to them, they will many times refer back to what they read in ‘The Complete Photography Course’ and pick it up much faster.

I have had several old John Hedgcoe books on my shelf for decades. His books do border line on what I was referring to earlier by having more pictures than words. But they have one feature many books like this do not. They give you some very useful information to go along with those images. I have the first two books in my list on the shelf and refer back to these on a regular basis. They are old enough that they only deal with film. But they can give a new user insight into why ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed are used the way they are, and the effect that was created using film. I think if a new DSLR user can understand why some of the effects we get were originally done using combination of Film ISO and Different brands of film, they can gain a better understanding of how to use the equipment they have in their hands today.

John Hedgcoe’s Complete Photography Course (1979) One of my favorites to peruse occasionally.

The Art of Color Photography (1989) I can’t find this one anywhere anymore. A really nice book to have.

The Book of Photography (2006)One of his more recent additions.

The New Manual of Photography(2003) Another nice book to have around.
I know this is far from a comprehensive list, please feel free to leave comments on what your favorite books are. The more we can share this information, the better photographers we shall become.





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Is an amateur photographer and writer who enjoys sharing information with others. "Technical information sharing is a critical part of helping everyone become a better photographer. If you don't know it, you can't do it!" From Film to Digital, photography has changed a lot, but the idea of learning hasn't.

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