12 Books That Will Make You A More Creative Photographer

If you're a photography student and are learning techniques, these books focus more on helping you to think more creatively as a photographer.

Here are a dozen books I've hand-picked for you so you can go back to school ahead of the game. Some of them, depending on your level of experience, may change your life! All books described here are available at the Adorama Bookstore.



Understanding Exposure
by Bryan Peterson

Many consider AdoramaTV host Bryan Peterson's book Understanding Exposure to be the bible of exposure for photographers who are just starting out, or who want to explore their digital camera's manual exposure abilities. Bryan demystifies this complex subject, making it easy to grasp. He explains how to successfully combine aperture, shutter speed, and film - the elements that compose what Peterson refers to as "the photographic triangle." He defines each element of the triangle and shows how it relates to the other two through the use of more than 100 side-by-side comparison pictures. He also shows how to break the rules creatively to bring your work to the next level.


The Life Guide to Digital Photography, Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros
by Joe McNally

AdoramaTV host Joe McNally was the last staff photographer for Life Magazine, and in this book he shares the lessons he learned that got him to that vaunted position. The tips and advice will help you think like a professional photographer. Joe generously shares what he's learned over 30 years that's made him one of the top photographers and most in-demand workshop teachers in the world.

The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3
by Scott Kelby

Scott Kelby's latest book is filled with "Ah ha-so that's how they do it," straight-to-the-point, skip-the-techno-jargon stuff you can really use today to make your shots even better. Here's how Scott describes this book's format: "If you and I were out on a shoot and you asked me, 'Hey Scott, I want the light for this portrait to look really soft and flattering. How far back should I put this softbox?' I wouldn't give you a lecture about lighting ratios, or flash modifiers. In real life, I'd just turn to you and say, 'Move it in as close to your subject as you possibly can, without it actually showing up in the shot.' Well, that's what this book is all about: you and I out shooting where I answer questions, give you advice and share the secrets I've learned, just like I would with a friend-without all the technical explanations and techie photo speak."

Each page covers a single concept on how to make your photography better. Every time you turn the page, you'll learn another pro setting, tool, or trick to transform your work from snapshots into gallery prints. This book tells you which button to push, which setting to use and when to use it. Nearly 200 tricks of the trade are included.

Tamara Lackey's Capturing Life Through (Better) Photography
by Tamara Lackey

AdoramaTV host Tamara Lackey is one of the top lifestyle and family photographers in the world, and a much sought-after instructor. In this 100-page book, tamera delivers a detailed breakdown of her 5 Tips - teaching you everything from basic photography principles and simple technical details to learning ways to compose the best possible shot while using available light, background and perspective. This in-depth yet lively resource incorporates a wide breadth of photographic knowledge, while including "fun facts," "simplify-this" breakdowns and "try this" opportunities. Want more? Other variations of this book include a package with an instructional DVD and an inexpensive quick reference guide.



Digital Wedding Photography Secrets
by Rick Sammon

Wedding photography is a competitive but potentially highly profitable business. Rick Sammon, one of Canon's venerable Explorers of Light and a frequent contributor to the Adorama Learning Center, has collected more than 200 expert tips and tricks to help you create images as memorable as the wedding itself. Follow them and you'll become the photographer the bride recommends to all her friends.

Creative Shutter Speed: Master the Art of Motion Capture
By Derek Doeffinger 

Adorama Learning Center contributing writer Derek Doeffinger shows you how to unleash the power of every shutter speed. Shutter speed is an integral part of exposure. Learn to use it creatively and you unlock the magic that transforms an ordinary subject into a work of art. From the blazing 1/8000 second that captures each feather in a hummingbird's wing to the lazy half-second that turns a fireworks display into a color-rich patchwork, shutter speed allows you to freeze time. Derek Doeffinger teaches you to harness the power that separates the amateur from the professional. This book is a great companion to Bryan Peterson's Understanding Exposure, listed above.

The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of The World's Top Shooters
by Joe McNally

AdoramaTV's Joe McNally's second book on this list is a compendium of the same techniques that Joe shares in his popular seminars and lectures. What makes the book so unique is the "triangle of learning" where (1) Joe distills the concept down to one brief sentence. It usually starts with something like, "An editor at National Geographic once told me..." and then he shares one of those hard-earned tricks of the trade that you only get from spending a lifetime behind the lens. Then, (2) on the facing page is one of Joe's brilliant images that perfectly illustrates the technique (you'll recognize many of his photos from magazine covers). And (3) you get the inside story of how that shot was taken, including which equipment he used (lens, f/stop, lighting, accessories, etc.), along with the challenges that type of project brings and how to set up a shot like that of your own.

This book also gives you something more. It inspires. It challenges. It informs. But perhaps most importantly, it will help you understand photography and the art of making great photos at a level you never thought possible. This book is packed with those "Ah ha!" moments-those clever insights that make it all come together for you. It brings you that wonderful moment when it suddenly all makes sense-that "moment it clicks."

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book: 95 Inspiring Ideas for Photographing Your Friends, Your World and Yourself
by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

This book is not necessarily for cutting edge photographers; rather, it uses your camera (or smart phone) as an adjunct to living your life and documenting it as you go along. Whether it's of your sister's smile, your morning coffee, or your new puppy, photos are a way to connect on Facebook and Instagram, keep a visual diary of the lives and create momentos for future generations. Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman, creators of the mega-popular DIY style blog A Beautiful Mess, are in love with photographing everyday life. Here, they share that love with 95 all-new tips and photo challenges that will inspire you to style and snap better photos and then transform them into simple yet stunning projects and gifts. Packed with Elsie and Emma's happy spirit and unique style, A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book will inspire you to capture your days, your friends and your dreams in beautiful photos.


Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots
by Laurie Excell

As a student you've probably invested in a DSLR so you can take greater control over your images. This book is for you: It goes beyond the camera manual to teach you how to take great shots. One key component to that is understanding composition--the creative arrangement of elements in the shot, and the way a viewer's eye travels through an image.

Author Laurie Excell starts with the basics of composition--such as the popular rule of thirds--and continues with exploring how the elements of color, shape, angles, and contrast work to create compelling images. The book covers all key camera features that affect composition (regardless of what type of DSLR you have) including shutter speed's ability to freeze and convey motion, as well as aperture's direct correlation with depth of field. You'll gain a deeper understanding of basic compositional concepts.


Captured: Lessons from Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer
by Moose Peterson

This book, by Workshops@Adorama instructor Moose Peterson, takes you deep into the wilderness. It is an inspiring and riveting narrative combined with the how-to nuts and bolts of legendary wilderness photographer Moose Peterson's personal photographic approach and process. Moose describes his love affair with the wilderness and the camera like any other, it took time for it to grow and become what is is today. Photography must be more than f/stops and shutter speeds, yet that's where one must begin. Yet, it's hard to think of those technical aspects while right in front of you is a Grizzly Bear with cubs.

His anecdotes are coupled with the camera techniques and basic biology you'll also learn in the book, your images will capture and grab the heartstrings of anyone viewing them. Pull up a comfy chair, pour your favorite beverage and put your feet up for an intriguing read.


Visual Poetry: A Creative Guide for Making Engaging Digital Photographs
by Chris Orwig 

While the books we've talked about until now are more about the nuts and bolts of photography, Chris Orwig's book is more about inspiration and creativity. A great photograph has the potential to transcend verbal and written language. But how do you create these photographs? It's not the how that's important, but the who and the what. Who you are as a person has a direct impact on what you capture as a photographer.

Chris Orwig's insights-to reduce and simplify, participate rather than critique and capture a story-have made him an immensely popular workshop speaker and faculty member at the prestigious Brooks Institute. His engaging stories presented as lessons follow his classroom approach and highlight what students say is his contagious passion for life. Chris also includes exclusive interviews with such photographers as: Steve McCurry, Chris Rainier, John Sexton, Rodney Smith, Joyce Tenneson, John Paul Caponigro, Marc Riboud and Pete Turner.


The Passionate Photographer: Ten Steps Toward Becoming Great
by Steve Simon

Professional photographer, School of Visual Arts faculty member and co-host of the popular, "This Week in Photography podcast", Steve Simon shares 30 years of experience as he discusses the ten crucial elements every photographer needs to know and do in order to become truly great at their craft.

For photographers who are ready to challenge themselves to take their craft to new heights, Steve Simon mentors through education, inspiration, practical tips and photographic concepts that are both immediately actionable and capable of being revisited time and again throughout your photographic journey. Simon discusses the often overlooked yet core concepts to becoming a great photographer, such as the simple importance of shooting a lot of pictures; learning how to work a scene and not give up too soon; taking evocative and compelling portraits; learning to see and take advantage of light; making the best edits and learning from each shoot; and more.

Steve puts forth a wealth of ideas and creative solutions that every photographer can add their unique vision to. The Passionate Photographer draws out the personal vision of every reader, encouraging a unique way of looking at the world that we all possess, but don't always have the confidence to pursue.

And with that, we're done. Knowing technique is important, but just as important are inspiration and passion for photography. The combination will make you a better photography and these books will help you get on the right path as you begin a lifetime of visual exploration.

Continue the conversation: What photo book has inspired you the most? Leave a comment below!

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