Photography text books are interesting textbooks as photography is an art and way of expressing yourself which means the finer details can’t be taught through words on a page alone. Someone who is looking to learn photography must be able to able to learn through practice more than just reading alone. In saying that I still think textbooks have a large place in learning photography. I’ll outline why below.
Beginner photographers may have just bought their first DSLR camera through recommendations from many possible mediums such as friends, camera store employees or the internet for example. Assuming the photographer is starting with a DSLR like myself, all the buttons and settings can be scary and it is difficult to find where to start. My first response to this was to use auto and auto alone to start with. This is an easy trap to fall into and an easier trap to stay in if you’re not prepared to research or fiddle with the settings. This is because auto mode can and will produce some very good images especially for someone starting out and this can get them in the trap of relying on it.
This is where internet articles or textbooks come in. Textbooks can explain the basics and some starting points for using manual settings and even manual focus as well as composition and things to look for. This lays the foundation for the photographer and sets them on a path to increased creativity and options within photography. If a more experienced photographer were to read a text book on photography they may find that there are things that they disagree with and a lot of it they will already know. But I still think there is use in reading a textbook as it can maybe present a different perspective on something that you’ve been doing whilst also introducing you to more ideas and challenges that can be set to help improve.
So far I’ve read ‘Understanding Exposure’ by Bryan Peterson and I’m about halfway through ‘Complete Guide to Digital Photography’ by Ian Farrell. Understanding Exposure helped my photography tremendously and as it is a smaller textbook that is easy to read I will be re-reading it again in the future to try and take in more. After completing ‘Complete Guide to Digital Photography’ which is a very different style of textbook to ‘Understanding Exposure’ that presents many different ideas and speaks on not only all types of photography but post-production as well I am definitely going to look for another book to read.
While I don’t suggest doing all your learning from textbooks I think they can be a great asset to lay the foundations, expand your horizons or present fresh ideas from a new perspective. This paired with analysing and viewing other photographers and your own work should set you on the path to improving your photography, or at least that is what I’m hoping for.