I’m often asked where I went to school for photography or how I learned photography. The answer is simple yet complicated. The simple part is that I read Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson repeatedly for a couple of weeks to learn the basics. Since then, it has been a lot of in-the-field learning, which has been supplemented with the following books (among others):
Understanding Exposure - This book is where I learned photography. I would still be using automatic mode if it weren’t for someone recommending Mr. Peterson’s book. A wealth of information, from the basics to some more advanced techniques, this book is the perfect jumping off point.
Trey Ratcliff’s Complete HDR Video Tutorial - At $86-97, this may seem a bit pricey. That said, Trey Ratcliff is the HDR master, and this video includes 11.5 hours of instructions, 9 classes, 130 raw files, access to private forums, and a HDR eBook. This is the full and definitive package to get you started making great HDR photos.
The Photographer’s Eye: Composition and Design for Better Digital Photos- Great composition is paramount to a great photo, but unfortunately it’s one of those things that’s difficult to learn (conventional wisdom says that you either have “the eye” or you don’t). This book disproves that conventional wisdom and helps any aspiring photographer really learn composition. This is a book to read over and over again. Definitely the second-most important book to own on photography.
Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second by Bryan Peterson – very similar (in some ways redundant) to Understanding Exposure, this book also starts to dive into some creative ways to manipulate shutter speed and aperture.
National Geographic Ultimate Field Guide to Photography: Revised and Expanded – Another great book for learning photography, this is a great alternative to Understanding Exposure.
Scott Kelby’s 7-Point System for Adobe Photoshop CS3 - this book is great for learning some Photoshop tricks, and it’s really helped me process my night images from Disney (1 point did, at least). I don’t regularly use all 7 points, but it is very informative. Requires slight background knowledge of Photoshop–can be applied to CS4 and CS5, as well.
Scott Kelby’s Digital Photography Boxed Set, Volumes 1, 2, and 3 – A three part series of beginner and intermediate books with plenty of useful tips for veteran photographers, too. The information in these books really runs the gamut, and if ever there were to be a single (or 3 book) series for mastering the craft/business of all types of photography, this would be it.
The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes – Very inspirational book, and a great look at the creative process of Joe McNally. Wonderful writing style and sense of humor, to boot. If ever a photography book were a page-turner, this would be it.
The Moment It Clicks: Photography secrets from one of the world’s top shooters – Another brilliant book from Joe McNally that combines stunning photos (this could stand alone as a coffee-table book) with simple explanations as to how the photo was made.
Creative Night: Digital Photography Tips and Techniques – Night and low light photography can be difficult to master, but this book does an excellent job teaching the basics to get a great night photo, and it also contains many unique techniques to get creative night shots.
LIFE Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros – Anecdotal and humorous account of how to “make” a great image by some of the veteran photographers at LIFE Magazine (for you young whipper-snappers, this was a prolific magazine for photographers back in the day). A great hands-on way to learn.
The Camera (Ansel Adams Photography Series)Ansel Adams Arts & Photography Books) – The “Ansel Adams” aspect of this line is all you need to know. The technical side is obviously not so relevant to digital, but as Adams demonstrates, it’s the photographer, not the camera.
Captured by the Light: The Essential Guide to Creating Extraordinary Wedding Photography – Don’t let the “Wedding Photography” bit in the title fool you. Anyone looking to improve their dramatic lighting should check this book out!