The books that helped me most initially were the Bryan Peterson books and more recently the Joe McNally books.

Both of these working photographers give a lot of honest and helpful examples. These books don't lose their appeal once you've finished reading them, they're good for reference and continual inspiration.

Does anyone have any other favorites?

  • Changed the tags. Not really a question about 'Canon'. :-)
    – Jordan H.
    Jul 16, 2010 at 15:01
  • There is also a question for online classes here: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/1928/…
    – chills42
    Aug 5, 2010 at 13:15
  • Also, a question for blog listings: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/384/…
    – chills42
    Aug 5, 2010 at 13:59
  • 1
    And also a question for the artistic/composition side of photography: photo.stackexchange.com/questions/4804/…
    – mattdm
    Mar 22, 2011 at 2:57
  • 1
    there's no such thing as learning "SLR photography", it's just photography you need to know about; the fact that you're using a SLR is quite not relevant. You may consider changing the title of your question. Also it makes sense to make a distinction between composition (and other to some degree artistic aspects) and technique.
    – MattiaG
    Apr 5, 2011 at 11:42

17 Answers 17


The manual that came with your camera.

  • Funny, but true! Jul 18, 2010 at 5:01
  • 1
    Y'know, I've never really learned anything useful from my camera manual except when I was looking for a specific function I already knew about....
    – mattdm
    Jan 26, 2012 at 23:25
  • 5
    Each time I have bought a new camera, I still read the manual cover to cover. Very useful also just to learn about features you never knew the camera had! (such as setting minimum shutter speeds etc). :)
    – Mike
    Aug 7, 2012 at 8:53

I'd agree with Peterson (e.g. Understanding Exposure). One I've found very useful is Michael Freeman's The Photographer's Eye - some excellent stuff about the composition of photos, with plenty of good examples, and very helpful diagrams.

  • 1
    +1 for Photographers Eye (recently purchased that myself, phenomenal book), and for Cambridge in Color (excellent tutorial site.)
    – jrista
    Jul 16, 2010 at 4:23

I have to say that the Scott Kelby book "The Digital Photography Book: The Step-by-step Secrets for How to Make Your Photos Look Like the Pros" was a digestible and easy page turner which is small enough for a beginner to lug around whilst still referring to situation specific shot suggestions. A little tongue in cheek in tone in places, but I found it invaluable.

  • Kelby's books are very good. Practical, clear and informative.
    – GeneQ
    Aug 11, 2010 at 15:24
  • In the middle of reading this right now (volume 2):).
    – rfusca
    Nov 9, 2010 at 20:18

I found Light: Science and Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting really good book for photographers. After all photography is nothing but managing light. The chapters mostly use artificial lighting, but it is the concept building of why a particular setting was used makes the book informative.

  • 3
    +1000 any serious photography book list should include this one. Apr 9, 2011 at 18:15

Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great and easy to read book that covers these topics.

  • This is a superb book. It's in the 3rd edition now and is well worth a read for anyone starting out (even experienced photographers might learn something). It provides a really solid grounding in exposure control.
    – Mark J P
    Mar 26, 2012 at 21:39

Scott Kelby's "Digital Photography"

A great book to really improve your photography is Scott Kelby's Digital Photography.

It's a hints and tips book, not a thorough working through of the principals, but I came away from it with a lot of really good solid practical things which I now include in my photography, so I'm sure it would be helpful.

  • I think this is an awesome book to read as the second book, once you have learned the basics of photography.
    – Pete
    Apr 9, 2011 at 15:15

The one that helped me the most and that I read the most times is The National Geographic Photography Field Guide. Unlike most modern books it is about photography itself, not manipulating images. It also puts talks about techniques in context for different subjects.


Here are some excellent books on nature and landscape photography that I have found invaluable to my own work:


Ansel Adams' books, especially "The Camera". It over-focuses on large format cameras sometimes, but the knowledge there is invaluable.

Also, thumbs up on "Light: Science and Magic". It's great!


For true beginners, Joe McNally's LIFE Guide to Digital Photography covers all the basics in a very readable style. I love his Hot Shoe Diaries and The Moment it Clicks, but not sure they're really good "first books" for someone wanting to learn photography.

Tom Ang has also written a number of books, all of which are loaded with images and easy to digest tips. Not everyone's cup of tea, but his books pack a lot of information aimed at beginner to intermediate photographers. How to Photograph Absolutely Everything and Digital Photography Masterclass are two of his most popular.

For learning about compostion and creativity, Michael Freeman's series is excellent: The Photographer's Mind, The Photographer's Eye and The Photographer's Vision

As mentioned a few times, Bryan Peterson's books are great. Understanding Exposure and he has an upcoming Understanding Composition Field Guide that looks very promising (October 2012).


I have started with the guide comming with Apple Aperture, it can be downloaded here. It's not the most complete guide of course but it explain basics in a very clear way


Digital Portrait Photography by Steve Sint

The best book I have ever read on photography is Steve Sint's Digital Portrait Photography. It is very rich, full of information with no padding. I learned new stuff from nearly every page.

As well as covering composition, interacting with your subject(s) and a little about equipment, this book includes the best lighting primer I have come across.


If you own Adobe Photoshop, you should get "The Photoshop Book for Digital Photographers", also by Kelby. Photoshop is a daunting tool for beginners, but it is essential if you ever plan to sell images or prepare anything for print, even for hanging on your wall at home.


Try to find a book that specifically covers your camera. These generally duplicate the information in the manual, but they are more detailed. An they also tend to cover more general photography elements.

E.g. I just started reading, "Canon Rebel T1i / 500D: From Snapshots to Great Shots" By Jeff Revell, and so far it does seem like a book I could recommend to any 500D owner.


I would learn about Photography itself- essentially lighting and composition and not worry much about the "digital" or "SLR" part. Digital makes everything easier - if you want to take better pictures, worry about the subject (what you are clicking) and not about the gadgets you use.

Some of the books mentioned above are good. Here are couple I like

(The Negative) http://readershideout.com/Book/Show/47

(Photographic Composition) http://readershideout.com/Book/Show/32

Hope these help.


The only books on photography that I've ever read are all written by John Hedgecoe, the man who is said to have taught the World to photograph. As I have not read any photography books by other authors, means I can not compare and explain why would John Hedgecoe's books be better than others. But his name was not yet mentioned in previous answers, and I think it should have.

John Hedgecoe has written more than 30 books on photography, which have sold over 30 billion copies and been published in 37 languages. so there's plenty to choose from. I learned a lot from his earliest books, especially from Manual of Photography (1977). Unfortunately this book is not available today, and even if it was, it might not fully satisfy digital photographers anyway. But he authored new books constantly, covering digital photography too in several of his books, for example in New Manual of Photography.

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