10 Best Photography Books You Should Read in 2022

The internet is a wealth of information, but photography books are still a fantastic way to learn about photography and be inspired by the work of great photographers.

I’m a big fan of art books and often recommend newbie photographers to look beyond photography and immerse themselves in art. That’s not to say that I recommend not looking at the photos at all: that would be silly. In this article, I’m going to suggest some of my favorite books that I’ve found very interesting, informative and/or inspiring – books that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend, whether for yourself or as a a gift for another photographer.

1. Annie Leibovitz at work

A deep dive into Leibovitz’s career, Annie Leibovitz at work will tell you how she approaches photography of different subjects, creates her work from start to finish and her equipment. I found this book particularly useful for understanding how to work with different subjects. It opened up a new channel of communication with people I was previously hesitant to photograph, like politicians.

2. Peter Lindbergh. On fashion photography

It is an excellent choice for those who want to familiarize with the authentic work and style of the late German fashion photographer Peter Lindbergh. The book is neatly divided into designers that Lindbergh worked with, allowing you to understand how he applied his artistic style with various garments and designs.

3. Big Magic: A Creative Life Beyond Fear

i’m a big fan of Big Magic: A Creative Life Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert, the best-selling author of Eat Pray Love. It’s not specific to photography, it’s specific to art. This book changed my life by making me much braver with art and creativity. It is also perhaps the one I recommend the most to people outside of photography.

Contrary to what you might think, this is not a self-help book – Gilbert wrote great magic to help herself. This resonates with a lot of creatives simply because we all want to be braver, create to create, and not be afraid to make mistakes. In a way, it’s a must-read, even if you think you know everything Gilbert has to say. I suggest reading this book to every person who comes to my coaching sessions.

4. On the photo by Susan Sontag

On the photo is another thought-provoking book that makes you think about what photography is all about. Sontag argues that photography is a control mechanism that we exert over the world. His argument against photography rests on the principle of seeing for the sake of seeing. This is a highly controversial book that is sure to spark discussion and make you rethink everything you think about photography…

5. Light ― Science & Magic

Light ― Science & Magic is my favorite book on light and the book I recommend to anyone who wants to learn about light. Speaking from personal experience, my insight has been turned upside down by learning and applying the principles in this book. It dives deep into lighting and the way we see, never mentioning “5 Lighting Setups for Perfect Portraits”. A real treat for a light-conscious photographer who wants to go beyond their skills.

6. Helmut Newton. Legacy

Helmut Newton is one of the most influential photographers of the 20e century. He has created works that have stood the test of time and sparked debate around controversial topics. Published by Taschen, a reputable publisher in the industry, Helmut Newton. Legacy is a collection of Newton’s work that spans 5 decades. Having forever revolutionized fashion photography, Helmut Newton was best known for mixing genres and creating works that have cultural significance, subtle seduction and, interestingly, a sense of humor.

seven. Annie Leibovitz: Wonderland

Released Fall 2021, Wonderland is a collection of Leibovitz’s fashion work. Anna Wintour co-authored the book, which means only the best of the best images are in it, and the publication itself is sure to be excellent. Although known for her portraits, Leibovitz also photographed a lot of fashion. In fact, just this summer, in an infomercial for Vogue magazine. Although this is her first fashion-only book, it has been incredibly well received.

8. Martin Schoeller: Close

If you like portraits, you might find Schoeller’s work rather unique and interesting. Yet another example of how a photographer can apply their style to almost any subject is a series of intimate portraits of celebrities, politicians and other well-known people. Martin Schoeller: Close pushes the viewer to look beyond the technical aspects and beyond the photography, it pushes the audience to look at the subject. Ultimately, if your images aren’t about the subject, what are they about?

9. Magnum contact sheets

Have you ever sat down on a selection of photos and had no idea which photo to edit? I know I have, I still do. Perhaps the heart of editing is making the selection for the final shot. Somehow, very few photographers share how they select images for editing. Magnum contact sheets solves this very problem. It takes film scans, or contact sheets, and shows all the footage from the shoot. You can see how the photographer worked and how he selected the final shot. It’s a great buy for someone who wants to see behind the scenes of the world’s most important images that have made history.

Spoiler alert: all photographers take awful pictures that you usually never see.

ten. Americans by Robert Frank

One of my favorite street photography books, Americans is a collection of images that show just how diverse American society was in the 1950s. To some extent, photos of Americans are as relevant today as they were 70 years ago. In one sentence, this seminal photo book is both thought-provoking and moving.

Final Thoughts

These books are all different, some delve into technical details, while others are made to make you think. Now it depends on your personal taste and what you want for yourself. If I only received two books from this list, I would probably choose Susan Sontag’s essays and great magic.

Editor’s note: While the scope of these 10 initial picks is relatively narrow, the list will continue to grow and evolve over time to include a wider range of genres and topics. If you have a suggestion for a photography book that deserves to be in the next edition of this list, We would like to hear from you.

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