Recommendation for books on Photography and Composition

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by ghoztman, Feb 4, 2009.

  1. ghoztman macrumors regular

    May 23, 2008
    Hi all,

    I am looking to buy a good instructional book or two on the fundamental principles of photography and composition.

    I consider myself an enthusiastic beginner, although not a total newbie. I take a lot of pictures and video, but would like to learn more about the basic principles of composition so that I can take better shots and footage.

    Are there any books or even online resources that you can recommend?
  2. svndmvn Guest

    Nov 6, 2007
    I understand this book isn't about composition but I believe it's as important as that, a forum member has been suggested to read it: Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson
  3. ghoztman thread starter macrumors regular

    May 23, 2008
    Thanks for that. I am also looking for good books on Photography, so feel free to make recommendations for that too.
  4. PeteB macrumors 6502a


    Jan 14, 2008
  5. svndmvn Guest

    Nov 6, 2007
    I will quote a MR user
    I snipped the less important parts, IMO. He was replying to another user interested first in another camera then in a new lens. If you already know the direction your photography skills should go to I suggest you buy or find online a book/guiding lines better suitable to your area of interest. I'm not saying there would be something wrong with buying a general photography book, it's just what I personally did, since I'm not that interested in portraits/cityscapes, I bought a book about landscapes.
  6. CarlsonCustoms macrumors 6502

    Mar 5, 2007
    I'm going to echo the Understanding Exposure book . I picked it up on a recommendation and found it an easy read and helpful in its contents.
  7. GotMyOrangeCrus macrumors regular

    The Photography textbook by Phil Davis is the only way to go!! On top of that I would get Ansel Adams, The Camera. If your interested in shooting film then I recommend getting all 3 of Ansel's books (The Camera, The
    Negative, The Print). If your just doing digital then just get the Camera. Either way you should absolutely get the Phil Davis textbook. Its easily one of the best textbooks ever written on beginning photography.

    Here is the Phil Davis Book

    There are some copies for only 3 bucks on Amazon Marketplace. That is the best deal ever!!!

    Here are the Ansel Books

    Actually the more I think about it the more I think those other 2 books would still be extremely beneficial even to a strictly digital photographer. There are really some invaluable techniques that would be beneficial to all photographers. They are a bit technical but there isnt a better set of photography books on the planet in regards to the basic principals of photography. I would get all 3. The Zone system is the single best method of shooting ever established.

    Hell I am actually thinking about re-buying them as mine are worn and torn and those new copies look really nice.
  8. jaduffy108 macrumors 6502a

    Oct 12, 2005
    In addition to previous suggestions, here's an essential read:

    Light: Science and Magic by Fil Hunter
  9. anubis macrumors 6502a

    Feb 7, 2003
    Thanks for this recommendation... I just downloaded this book from my university's ebook library collection and it looks pretty sweet. Got any other great books? :)
  10. H2Ockey macrumors regular

    Aug 25, 2008
    I second the "Light, Science and Magic" as well as some others already mentioned. "understanding Exposure" and Adams' books. I would however recomend all three in the series "Camera" "The Print" and "The Negative". There are fundamental principals about light and composition in them. All the dark room talk can be tedious to a digital shooter, but IMO it translates to post processing... if only I could implement it better myself:rolleyes:

    Also since you mention a university library, maybe look into traditional art books. If you can find out what some of the intro to art instructors are using as text for their classes. A specific book about painting whether landscapes or portraits or some other random subject you might want to photograph will have a load of very good theory about color and composition, more than i've seen in photo books you would think should have similar information.
    As far as this last point see some of Phrasikleia's landscape photos. Her composition usually increadible and IIRC she mentioned in a thread once having background education in traditional art. I think it shows through in her photographs.
  11. Martster macrumors newbie

    Feb 9, 2008
    Van Diemen's Land
    History of Landscape Art

    I agree with the above recommendations about getting to grips with exposure through a good technical manual. As stated Ansell Adam's books are great. I have also found Michael J. Langford's books, "Basic Photography" and "Advanced Photography", to be two real "keepers".

    One of the best ways to learn about composition is to look at the work of other artists who have similar interests, no matter what their medium of expression. For hundreds of years landscape painters have been exploring a huge variety of solutions to essentially the same compositional problems that photographers encounter. When you study these works look at the way the artist has positioned the horizon, and the way in which lines within the image meet the frame. Also watch how your eye moves through an image; does it get stuck somewhere ( a dead space in the image), or does it get dragged to the frame via a dominant diagonal for example. The longer you can keep an eye interested and moving around your image, the more satisfaction you give the viewer.
  12. GotMyOrangeCrus macrumors regular

    I have to disagree in regards to worrying about aspects of complex composition and worrying about what his eye is looking at at this point in time. The photographic eye is something that develops over time and he has plenty of time to worry about such things later on down the road. Its better to concentrate on gaining a solid technical understanding of the basic principals of photography and then once you have that you can jump into more complex things such as composition, learning to see photographically and working on your eye. Thats how the photography programs I went through were set up and they worked really well. Dont get me wrong there will come a point in time where he should do what you mention, its just shouldn't be in the very beginning stages of learning the medium. He should just stick to the basics until he has a firm understanding of them and then move on.
  13. Martster macrumors newbie

    Feb 9, 2008
    Van Diemen's Land
    agree to disagree

    Well Orange I guess this is one of the age old debates; rather than suggesting that the OP should learn pure technique and then develop their eye, I believe the photographic eye should be trained in parallel with the technical skills from the first shot.

    As someone who teaches a range of media to students in a University Art School I find that it is rarely technical skill that limits a dedicated students progress - in fact digital technology has been a real leveler in this regard - just look at the rich source of technical knowledge this site offers. It is far more common that the biggest hurdle for students to overcome is a lack of visual training - they dont have a well developed personal aesthetic approach or the associated confidence that brings with it. Therefore i recommend starting to think about the poetics of the image from day one.
  14. GotMyOrangeCrus macrumors regular

    I respect your opinion however I still disagree. There is a big difference between reading a bunch of technical advice on the internet, or even in books, and actually learning it to the point where its second nature and you dont even have to think about it anymore. That is what getting a solid foundation does, it frees you up from even having to think about these things and they literally do become 2nd nature and its really at that point where your really free to improve your other skills. I am not saying that a photographer should ignore 100% the aspects of composition or working on his eye. I am merely saying that it should be kept to a minimum in the beginning and going back and studying pre renaissance painters compositions in paintings is a bad idea. The technical aspects of photography are more than enough to keep a beginner busy and he has the rest of his life to worry about those other things. There is no reason to make it that complicated in the beginning.

    I think that digital has done the exact opposite, it hasn't leveled the field, it has handicapped a lot of the photographers out there because they are solely dependent on the technology and really do not have a firm understanding of the processes the camera is doing for them and understanding these processes can really open the door to a lot more creativity. I still have beers with a few of my college professors and I just found out like 3 weeks ago that they actually just changed the entire curriculum back to nothing but film for the first year because they were finding that the students that were concentrating on digital from the get go simply didn't have the same skill level in a lot of areas that the film students had and they said that a lot of other high quality programs around the country are doing the exact same thing.

    Again I respect your opinion, I just disagree with it.
  15. ghoztman thread starter macrumors regular

    May 23, 2008
    This is becoming a most interesting thread for me. Thank you all for the input.

    I have ordered:

    - Understanding Exposure
    - Light - Science and Magic

    I will offer feedback on the books once I have received and read them. In the meantime, I hope that you will all continue this interesting discussion.
  16. jimothyGator macrumors regular


    Jun 12, 2008
    Atlanta, GA
    I second these recommendations, particularly Learning to See Creatively. The Photographer's Eye goes into the theoretical basis for composition, as well as explaining and showing how that theory works in practice. It's not as easy of a read as Peterson's books, but if you are both analytical and creative, it shows you how the two sides of the brain interact.
  17. GotMyOrangeCrus macrumors regular

    You really should pick up those 3 Ansel Books. I know I have already suggested it but I cant stress enough how great these books are on the technical aspects of the medium. There are no better books out there. The man was an absolute genius at the technical aspects of photography and he was also a genius for his ability to take that advanced knowledge and formulate it into a system of shooting that everyone can understand. The man is probably the greatest technical teacher the world has ever seen and these 3 books are a culmination of that ability to teach. I actually ordered another set for myself as mine were beat to hell with huge darkroom stains all over them.

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