5 Photography Books for a Creative Mind

Photography books are an amazing source of inspiration for those of us who don’t live our lives through social media.

What are the books about?

We’re not saying that’s a bad thing by the way. But there is a generation who prefer to sit, read and lose themselves in a good book. And at iPhotography we’re no different.

In fact, our sister company, Write Academy, trains aspiring writers to create their own novels, so we’re surrounded by book talk every day! It must have rubbed off on us.

Therefore, we’ve decided to compile a list of the best photography books. These books aren’t instruction manuals about how to take a photograph – we’ve got loads of training courses for that.

Instead this list is aimed at stirring your creative mind and soul.

It can help you find inspiration for the next step in your photo adventure.

We’ve chosen a range of books that approach photography from different angles. It’s not just a list coffee table art books of pretty pictures.

In fact, it’s an unvarnished and insightful guide on how to become a better creative artist written by people who know.

polaroid camera on photo book

The Bible of Street Photography

Bystander: A History of Street Photography

by Colin Westerbeck and Joel Meyerowitz (1994)

For those that have never heard of Bystander it is generally regarded as the bible to street photography. Therefore, it’s an important book to get your hands on if you love your street shooting.

Featuring a range of renowned photographers (such as Cartier-Bresson, Capa, Arbus and Klein), Bystander, is a collection of essays discussing the ethics and responsibility of photography in our society.

The book will teach you that street photography is about disbanding traditional rules and instead focussing more on the lives of your characters. If you class yourself as a ‘people watcher’ then this is the first (and only) photography book you’ll ever need.

Top Tip – Get your hands on the revised version, which has been expanded to cover digital photography too.

Buy it Now – Bystander: A History of Street Photography

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Understanding the ‘Art’ of Photography

On Photography by Susan Sontag (1977)On Photography

by Susan Sontag (1977)

Sontag created this photography book based on her assortment of papers dissecting the art forms position as a societal tool. It is a rather cerebral read and not for glossing over.

One of the points she argues is how can a photographer faithfully record a moment and intervene at the same time, when both elements require separate attention. Does this make the photographer a vessel and not human? See what we mean, it’s a deep read.

But don’t let that you put you off as Sontag really hits a chord expressing how photography has levelled the playing field of information, allowing more events to become factual and less interpretative.

This is a very interesting position from when it was written. The juxtaposition to fake news makes you realise what photography was intended for, and how it’s being manipulated nowadays.

Top Tip – For you readers on the go, then there is an audio book version available online.

Buy it Now – On Photography

What does a ‘skilled’ photographer look like? 

The Negative

by Ansel Adams (1995)

This two series collection of Ansel Adam’s work is an incredible insight to a man, who’s work is widely regarded as the greatest examples of landscape photography. The Negative isn’t just a photography book lauding the celebrity of Adams but instead focuses on his revered skill as a technical photographer. The way he could naturally read light, create relationships in natural features as well as enhance his work through darkroom techniques.

It will cause you to appreciate how much easier life with a digital camera is. There is a lot of lessons to be learnt from Adams’ book which hones in on the practical process of bringing an image to life. After reading The Negative you’ll be inspired to slow your shooting and consider every element as if it was the only picture you were allowed to take that day.

This is a crucial photography book for those who are wanting to treat their photography as a skilled art and not just a snapshot.  

Top Tip – For you readers on the go, then there is an audio book version available online.

Buy it Now – The Negative

Building a Creative Mindset

Photojournalism: Stories Behind Their Greatest Images

by Andy Steel

This is not strictly speaking a photography book. But that’s fine, because what it teaches can still be applied to photography. Austin Kleon’s book is a retrospective look on what he wished he was taught whilst going through college.

You don’t have to a young gun to make use of his teachings, it’s simply a truthful doctrine about how to self motivate and pro-long your passion as a creative artist.

The idea of ‘stealing like an artist’ is a call to readers to stop waiting for an original idea and use what you see around you to build your creativity. He believes nothing is truly original – people just don’t know where the idea came from to begin with.

It’s a very good book to calm your anxiety and make you realise that borrowing ideas is better than no ideas at all.

Buy it Now – Steal Like An Artist

The Harsh Reality

Photojournalism: Stories Behind Their Greatest Images

by Andy Steel

Our last photography book sets the outer boundary for aspiring photographers. Photography offers beginners a starting point in the art; maybe it’s a snapshot or a quick selfie. But this book will show you the limits that you could venture towards.

It may seem worlds apart, and it is, but that could be the journey you’re on.

Andy Steel’s compendium of the world’s greatest photojournalists delivers images from battlefields and conflict zones across the world. The book will make you feel uneasy, and that’s its purpose. This harks back to Susan Sontag’s comments about photography levelling the playing field of events.

You’ll have a newfound respect for photojournalists. It should teach you to understand how important your camera is and maybe that will influence you to capture more meaningful images.

Buy it Now – Photojournalism: Stories Behind Their Greatest Images


The Final Chapter

Photography books should never be overlooked as the older (and dated) brother of Instagram, Flickr, 500px etc., where images are easily accessible. But instead they are sources of honest, raw and direct information about what photography was, is and could be in the future. We hope they find a place on your bookshelf and your space in your soul.

twin lens vintage camera rolleiflex books

There are no doubt thousands of books that could be added to this list that you may have found influential on your photography. And if so, we would love to know about them.

We never profess that this list is the absolute. It is a collection of works, we, at iPhotography, have found empowering during our careers as creative artists. If you know of other photography books you think we ought to check out then please, drop us a line.

You can find us everyday on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube and Instagram so there’s no excuse in holding back. Tell us what you think, have you read any of these books, or are you inspired to check one out?

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