Before I really got started with photography all I could do was read about it. All I did was read every book I possibly could on the subject so that when I got a DSLR I would already know how it worked. For a long time I thought that the information I was reading would useless because I didn’t know if I would get a camera with as much control as the ones all the authors talked about.
Looking back now, I did end up getting a DSLR, I did end up using it almost every day, I am going to college for photography now and I think all the reading I did beforehand really helped shorten my learning curve in the beginning by leaps and bounds. I still do this technique even now with school and anything else I want to learn.
For school, I like to find out what books I will be using for a semester and read all the ones that apply to my major, or whatever interests me, before the school year starts. That way I don’t walk into a class completely unaware of the subject matter which is something that used to bug me a lot in highschool. A lot of times, especially for an English course, the amount of analysis and research that goes into a paper is 1000x more difficult if you’re completely unfamiliar with the text. I find it’s best to read whatever books you need a few months or weeks before so you can get those first few hard passes through the book out of the way. After the 2nd or 3rd read, the information and or/characters/plot lines should be much clearer.
For example, in my Photography I class this past semester, the professor told us to buy his book (Creative Camera Control, 3rd edition) only a few weeks before the course really got moving. Now, normally this is where I would have said, “Let me write that down so I can go to the bookstore and purchase that book and read it.” Luckily for me, I toured my University several times in the past year before attending and I found out the name of the photography professor. This opens up a few doors, I now have a name I can use to search for information and get some background on him. In my searches I found that he had published a book, and I thought, “If I’m considering attending this University for the next 4-ish years then I should probably buy this guy’s book.” This way, I can see if he knows what he’s talking about, before that I had no idea if the program was really worth it. The book is a basic manual on photography, film, light, the zone system, and it was also a safe bet that this book would play a big part in whatever the first photo course would be. I also just enjoy reading photography books, so why not? I bought the book on Amazon in June before Freshman year and read it a few times over the summer. When Photo 1 started during the second semester I was already familiar with all the concepts and ended up getting a 4.0 on the final exam.
Now that I am going to this University and I have my schedule for the fall semester of my second year, I can look and see what books I need and buy at least all the photography ones beforehand so I can become familiar with the subject matter way before the course starts. Of course, you can do this same technique with any subject but it is most applicable to your current major. I know that I want to own all the books required for the courses I take in communications media because those are the books I will probably refer to most often while working in the field after college is over. Those are the books that I get the most benefit from by reading multiple times.
I’d like to present the budding amateur photogs and maybe even some who have been around a while with my recommended reading list. Out of all the books I’ve read on photography, there have only been a handful that I’ve picked up again and again. This is a perfect example of the Pareto principle, or the 80-20 rule. In this case, 80% of the most useful information on photography came from only 20% of the books I read. I’m glad there’s only a few books so far because most people don’t like reading or don’t like reading technical books or don’t like reading about a subject they already think they are the best at.
The books are:
Skin: The Complete Guide to Digitally Lighting, Photographing, and Retouching Faces and Bodies 2nd Edition
This reading list does not need to be read in this particular order, it’s not the order that I read the books in, but I think you will benefit the most from reading them in this order.
A couple side notes,
I tend not to buy kindle versions of these types of books for my Kindle Paperwhite because it doesn’t display pictures in color or diagrams all that well because it’s meant more for reading novels. I also just like to have a hard copy of these types of books because I reference them a lot and flip to specific pages and go back and forth a lot.
A lot of people ask me, “Why do you read books on photography when there’s the internet?”
My answer to this is simple, although the internet is a great place to publish yourself, like I do with this blog, there will always be a lot of people who are not really qualified to teach photography and present a lot of misinformation on the web. Also, it’s hard to learn something new on the web unless you know exactly what you’re looking for. It sounds like it’s not that big of a deal but I would never have known to go to Google and type in “colorimeter” or find out about display calibration unless I read it in a book.
A book, while seaming old-fashioned to some people, can present you with useful information you didn’t think you needed to know or wouldn’t have even thought about. I think a book has the greatest potential for creating the most well-rounded set of information on a subject. Even just a small set of books is better than watching YouTube videos. The exception to this rule, would be Aaron Nace on Phlearn.
That about wraps up this post, I’ll be making some more posts like this with a recommended gear list next week.