Books to buy to learn photography with?

Popular isn't always the best.

My Motley Collection Of Dog-eared Photography Books.

Some of the books on this list of books can be found dog eared and well thumbed on my shelves at home and at work, others more recent but just as useful. I would consider these books more than ample for a simple introduction to photography, included are a couple of texts that have a significant value in a further research of materials and processes. Finally some aesthetic and historical texts too that are always useful. This is not a definitive list of books but are merely some of the most readily accessible and useful for teacher and student alike.

These books are ones I keep returning too over and over again, both in my teaching practice, and my own exploration of the relationship between myself and my world around me—with my cameras. Each book listed below is linked to a brief description I have written for it further down the page, the list will grow as I continue to purchase more books and as they are published.

Henry Horenstein

This book while not as technically in depth as others out there, is written from the heart, it's illustrations while a bit dated are clear and the approach is one that any curriculum could be based upon. This is the second in Mr Horenstein's series of photography books. Again well written, covers the essentials, and is written by the author based on his own experiences, often using his own images/photographs. [top]

Arnold Gassan

Arnold Gassan, has written several books on photography and teaching, all of which I find to be thought provoking and inspirational. It is written in conjunction with A. J.Meek. It includes several useful items in the front alone, a model release form and an 18% grey card.[top]

Michael Langford

Michael Langford has long Published a series of very good technical manuals, and technical they are, if your style is hard core facts and figures compiled in a logical manner than this is the book for you, it sits on my shelves at home and is only dragged out when I need to confirm a fact or figure. [top]

Steve Anchell

Steve Anchell has Published two books on chemicals for black and white film, and their impact on the whole process. One is a broad overview of the process and includes film developers, paper developers, fixers stop baths and toners. Again this book is not for a quick read, or to plan simple lessons around but it's information is very useful and if applied well could even be used to save money. The other concentrates on film and film developers—'The Film Developing Cookbook', both a worthy addition to any serious black and white worker. [ Both Published by Focal press] His third book looks at Multi contrast papers. It is an in-depth investigation of papers and how to best utilise their characteristics to produce wonderful prints. A vital resource given the scarcity of graded papers the world over these days. [top]

Lustrum Press

Lustrum Press Published several books in the 70's, these books looked at Photographers as individuals and compared and contrasted their practices in the darkroom and on location. They may be a little hard to get these days but are a worthy addition to any serious darkroom workers library. The books are called,Darkroom, Darkroom 2, and Contact theory. They are useful for the way that they discuss several working photographers methods and techniques, very useful when setting up a photo lab/darkroom for the first time. They are all Published by Lustrum press, and their ISBN's in order are, [for the paperback versions] 0-912810-19-x, 0-912810-31-9, 0-912810-21-1] [top]

History of Photography

'The History of Photography' by Beaumont Newhall is a fantastic introductory resource for beginning photographers and teachers who want a broad overview of the history of photography, as most books of this genre do it explains the history of photography as primarily technique based, in that it argues that the development of the technology largely drove the aesthetic and history of the medium. An idea that is only now being argued against by a handful of authors. [Published by The Museum of Modern Art New York, ISBN 0-87070-381-1] [top]

Photography a Critical Introduction

Edited by Liz Wells, this is a good critical introduction to the aesthetics and politics of photography. It's collection of essays amongst other things, argues strongly for accepting less the role of the 'power of photography' as a truth telling device and asks for a more critical appreciation of how photography can be used Both creatively and critically. It is also a good resource for other references and a great leaping off point for anyone interested in some serious research on photography and the history of it. [Published by Routledge ISBN 0-415-12559-6] [top]

Left Brain Right Brain Photography

This book is a nice blend of intuition and logic that helps guide us to the idea that not all photography is pure mechanical fact. It contains a useful set of exercises that help us as individuals or groups make better use of both sides of our brains. [top]

The Nature of Photographs

This book is a little gem, I recently uncovered. It has the most succinct and eloquent discussion about what a photograph is or isn't I have ever read. Just check out this table of contents. Prologue, The Physical Level,The Depictive Level, The Mental Level, Mental Modeling. [top]

Robert Adams

These two tomes are my solace in the desert of creativity that is often our day to day lives. While they would be shredded to pieces by many Post-Modernists these days they are more than justification for me to keep on doing what it is I do, and as Frederick Sommer has been quoted as saying, “...understanding what you are doing only increases the obligations.” [top]

Gerry Badger

A delightful collection of essays, by Mr Badger, asks questions, about Photoshop, and examines Photographers like Thomas Joshua Cooper. [top]

Photography Changes Everything

A collection of essays that raise issues about photography's impact on our lives and culture, fascinating read from specialists as diverse as artists, scientist, advertisers, police, military and historians. [top]

Reframing Photography

This book is an educators dream, but alos incredibly accessible to the novice as well. If you are na educator, you can gain access to a wealth of extra materials by creating an account at

Exploring Colour Photography

This book has a great collection of images by many artists exploring colour photography, both ideas and processes are given equal weight and there is ample background history as well.