Books for Beginners

Notice – titles and author names on this page are reserved by their companies.

There have always been lots of books on learning photography at the basic level for beginners.  Here is my survey of 10 current (or fairly recent) books.  We will start off with the description for each book. Some of the book titles are quite long, so for the survey I will abbreviate these. The name shown at the bottom of each description in quote marks is my abbreviation.  The order for these descriptions is the same as in the opening photograph.  So the physically smallest book is at the top.

BetterPhoto Basics
by Jim Miotke Amphoto Books 2010 239 pages
The Illustrated Practical Guide To Digital And Classic Photography
by Steve Luck & John Freeman Hermes House 2009 512 pages
“Guide To Digital”
Exposure: From Snapshots To Great Shots
by Jeff Revell Peachpit Press 2011 270 pages
“Great Shots”
The Beginner’s Photography Guide
by Chris Gatcum DK Publishing 2013 – 1st ed. 192 pages
“Beginner’s Photography”
Langford’s Basic Photography
by Langford, Fox, and Smith Focal Press 2010 – 9th ed. 464 pages
The Complete Photo Manual
by Weldon Owen Popular Photography 2012 approx.280 pages
“Photo Manual”
Complete Photography
editor: Susan Hitchcock National Geographic 2012 408 pages
“Complete Photography”
Digital Photographer’s Handbook
by Tom Ang DK Publishing 2012 – 5th ed. 408 pages
“Photographer’s Handbook”
Understanding Exposure
by Bryan Peterson Amphoto Books 2016 – 4th ed. 168 pages
“Understanding Exposure”
Digital Photography
by Michael Wright Metro Books 2008 319 pages
“Digital Photography”

Instead of reviewing each book one-by-one, I am showing short lists of my recommendations for each topic in photography. The order within each list is arbitrary, matches the order of the descriptions. The first section is general topics. Followed by a section braking down photography by subject area.

Camera types
Focusing here on digital cameras, but a few of the books also cover film.
Guide To Digital – Beginner’s Photography – Photographer’s Handbook


Camera controls
How the camera works, setting exposure is covered later.
Guide To Digital – Great Shots – Beginner’s Photography


More MP is always an easy sales pitch.  It’s crucial that your grocery car has 400HP, right?
Guide To Digital – Beginner’s Photography – Langfords – Digital Photography


Focus – automatic
Auto focus technology can be a little daunting.  Yes, only one book gave this a thorough treatment.
Beginner’s Photography


Focus and Depth Of Field
The principles behind arriving at a focus. This topic is sometimes found under Aperture.
Guide To Digital – Beginner’s Photography – Langfords – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook – Understanding Exposure


Exposure – quick and easy
When the scene is static (nothing in motion) and you are not trying to be artsy, exposure can be pretty simple.  Which means taking advantage of the camera’s Auto Exposure tools.  Only one book shows this approach.
Beginner’s Photography


Exposure – advanced issues
Of course all books cover this, these just took the deepest dive.
Guide To Digital – Great Shots – Langfords – Photographer’s Handbook – Understanding Exposure


Lens types
Crop factor and all that jazz.
Guide To Digital – Beginner’s Photography – Langfords


Flash gear
A topic that is complex, and evolving over the years. Only a couple of books even tried to keep up.
Beginner’s Photography – Photographer’s Handbook


Flash usage
Talking about using an external flash unit, not just the little built-in one.
Beginner’s Photography – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook – Understanding Exposure


Camera accessories
Camera bags, tripods, etc.  I’m appalled that so many had so little to say about tripod selection!
Great Shots – Photographer’s Handbook


Of course this is a huge topic, and everybody has some tips to share.  So these picks reflect my idea of good presentation of the topic.  A few books use the term “organization” instead of “composition”.
Guide To Digital – Langfords – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook – Digital Photography


Natural light
Again, all books have at least some tips.  These had their info on light better organized.
BetterPhoto – Guide To Digital – Complete Photography – Understanding Exposure – Digital Photography


Controlling light
Obviously flash and studio work are all about controlling light.  But some of the basics can also be applied to daylight or natural light photography.
Great Shots – Beginner’s Photography – Langfords


Posing people
FAIL alert!  One or two books mentioned that posing is useful, and that was it.  Not even the most basic tips on posing.  So for posing you will need to move on to a proper book on portraiture.
– empty –


Close-up gear or technique
Every book has stunning closeups of flowers, etc.  I just thought these stood out for info.
Langfords – Photographer’s Handbook – Understanding Exposure


Studio gear
These two at least show what the basic studio gear looks like.  But they are not a deep dive, by any means.
Langfords – Photo Manual
Post processing (photo editing)
Every photo can be improved by adjustments with a photo editor.  These books selected for simple presentation.
Guide To Digital – Langfords – Digital Photography


Creative post
Going wild with photo editors . . .
Guide To Digital – Photo Manual – Photographer’s Handbook – Digital Photography


Even with a flawless digital image, getting a high quality print is no sure thing.  One book simply blew all the others away.
Photographer’s Handbook


Web resources
Today’s photographers are bound to spend some time online.  So at least show a few sites to get started.
Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook

Below is a breakdown by genre.
Another FAIL.  The books listed here come with a caveat.  They have the nuggets of info needed.  But it will be left up to you to connect the dots.
(  Beginner’s Photography – Langfords – Photographer’s Handbook )
Architecture and cityscapes
Note, this is not “street photography”.  See that topic further down.
Guide To Digital – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook – Understanding Exposure
Candids (friends and family)
Several books break this down into tips scattered all over the book.  The books listed here were selected for more easy presentation.
Guide To Digital – Great Shots – Complete Photography – Digital Photography


Events and weddings
With a mix of group photography
Guide To Digital – Photo Manual – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook – Digital Photography


Lonesome subject!
Photo Manual


Formal portraits
Several books bang away on environmental portraits in their composition sections.  The books in this list get closer to the studio.
Guide To Digital – Photo Manual – Digital Photography


Again, many books had scattered tips, the books in this list had things together better.
Guide To Digital – Great Shots – Complete Photography


Night sky
Not as popular as I expected.
Photo Manual – Understanding Exposure


Nude studies
Only one dared to go there.
Photo Manual


I have not found this to be as easy as advertised.  But here you go.
BetterPhoto – Guide To Digital – Photographer’s Handbook – Digital Photography


Product (catalog shots)
Caution, the product photography tips were buried in a gear chapter.  As often as I see questions about taking shots for e-bay, etc, I’m surprised this got so little attention.
Photographer’s Handbook


Again, everybody has scattered tips.  This list tried to talk about sports in general.
Great Shots – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook


Street (strangers)
Street photography is not empty street scenes, such as in a travel book.  It is the people who are the focus.  If you like, an extreme form of candid photography.  For pretty shots of street scenes, see the prior “Architecture and cityscapes” listing.
Langfords – Photo Manual – Complete Photography – Photographer’s Handbook – Digital Photography


Not pets!  But zoo animals can count.
BetterPhoto – Guide To Digital – Photo Manual