8 Top Books For Photography Dreamers

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Sonoma County Bike Club - Dreamers in action

I started my dream photography career at age 8, when I bought my first film camera for 50 cents at a neighborhood garage sale. At that time, there wasn’t a lot written for the young wanna-be top photographer like me. If you wanted to get better, it was all about practice – point and shoot and develop and print – as much as possible.

I stayed with film cameras as long as possible – but then finally joined the digital world and bought my first Olympus DSLR in 2006. I’ll have to admit, it was thrilling to see the digital images right there as I was taking them.

No longer did I have to point and shoot and hope. But even with all that cool new stuff, I quickly learned that I knew nothing about the powerful computer I had in my hands.

I think there are 2 main kinds of aspiring top photographers:

  1. those of us who are artsy, creative, and know what makes a good composition. We know little about the machine itself other than what the manual attempts to teach us. We thrive on making the images look good.
  2. those of us who are technical, and understand how to maximize the camera’s seemingly limitless features and benefits. We use the technology to create good images, and our passion is driven by this technical expertise.

Whether you are artsy or technical (and OK, somewhere in between) there are now tons of books and resources to help us become top photographers.

8 Books For Photography Dreamers:

1. Lessons in DSLR Workflow with Lightroom and Photoshop — Jerry Courvoisier

This book addresses the un-sexy but totally necessary job of categorizing and storing images successfully. This is a side to photography I knew little about. I’m three years in, and I’ve finally realized I can’t just keep buying new flash cards, fill them up with raw images and put them in a safe. There has to be a more efficient way – and this book helps us get started.

Jerry provides an easy-to-follow road map for importing, organizing, and editing digital images. Its so straight forward, it can support both serious hobbyists and professional photographers.

2. Faces of Ground Zero Joe McNally

Joe is a top New York based photographer. On 9-11, he started the most amazing project. With his incredible technical accomplishments (using the largest Polaroid set up ever) this book pushes the envelope as both a creative and technical resource. The project includes the 9-11 story of each person in the book, which ultimately translates incredible emotion in each image. It’s an amazing, inspirational piece of work.

3. The Moment It ClicksJoe McNally

This is one of my favorite instruction books ever. Joe is a master of light and photography. He has some incredible tips on lighting and setting up for success, and a ton of his own photos to look at, too. If you have ever met Joe, you can almost hear his voice as he describes the passion for capturing the essence of his subjects. He also pokes fun at himself and the industry which keeps the reading light and real.

4. Italy from Above Giuliano Urbani and Marcello Bertinetti

This beautiful book inspired me to travel to Tuscany in 2007 for a National Geographic Adventure. The photos are incredibly unique, as many of them are captured from above, looking down on to the landscapes of volcanoes, the Alps, lakes, and vineyards of the country.

Amazon describes it as “An insider’s view of Italy with all its flavors and people”.

5. Baseball’s Greatest BallparksSteven Krasner

In honor of my other passion (the San Francisco Giants) I’ll throw this one in as a creative resource. What a great book of photos and the history of baseball! There are shots of the ball parks themselves in various stages of development, age, and use – and shots of historical events that may have happened in some.

Books written by those who are passionate about their subject just seem to create another level of beautiful, don’t you think?? Mr. Krasner loves baseball and it’s obvious.

6. DSLR All-In-One for Dummies -Steve Correll

To drive our inner geek – All ten self-contained mini-books cover the basics of dSLR photography! Chapter topics include using various lenses, exposure, lighting, composition, processing and editing, camera settings and a section on high dynamic range (HDR) photography.

A must have for any aspiring top photographer as reference material.

7. 400 Photographs Of Ansel Adams-Andrea G. Stillman

Ansel Adams was one of my early inspirations. This book presents the full spectrum of Adams’ work in a single volume. It’s a great book for us nature lovers who appreciate photography and the gift that Mr. Adams had in capturing it.

Truly stunning to see a majority of his work all in one place.

8. The Food Stylist’s Handbook Denise Vivaldo

Every picture tells a story, right? There is a HUGE demand for this genre right now – Whether for food blogs, television, books, magazines, movies, menus or advertising – food stylists and photographers help create images that sells a dream, brand, product, lifestyle, chef, or restaurant. This book has both staging how-to suggestions and photography tips to create incredible food photos.

Until next photo


Remy’s dream is creating opportunities for photography showings and public displays of her work.

  • Toni Schram

    Sounds like I need to put some of these book titles on my Christmas list! Yikes, I definitely need to read Jerry Courvoisier’s book about sorting and categorizing.

    I know how highly you think of Joe McNally, so I’ll check out his primer, “The Moment It

    Thanks for keeping us informed on one of my favorite subjects!


    • Remy G

      Lemme know how you like Joe’s book. And definitely get Jerry’s – I have similar issues!
      Thanks for your comments…Rem

  • Laurie

    I am definitely the girl who knows nothing about the camera, but loves to take pictures. I have the most awesome photos of my kids, shooting their dirty little faces in black and white. My friend went to Guam in 1978 and brought me a Nikon…….I still use that camera. I love it. My daughter who is a pro steals it from me every chance she gets. I must buy her one of the books on your list.
    Thanks Remy, L

    • Remy G

      Thanks Laurie! I will have to set up some time to chat with her. I’d love to pick her brain a bit. If she doesn’t have The Moment it Clicks by Joe McNally start there. I love his stuff! he also did one called Hot Shoe Diaries which is mostly about lighting and set ups. VERY helpful. xox Rem

  • Heather Montgomery, CEO & serial entrepreneur

    I was just reading about Joe Mcnally’s “Faces of Ground Zero” project and the millions of dollars its raised for victims of the attack.

    Thanks for sharing the list! – Heather

    • Remy G

      Thanks H – yea, it’s a pretty cool project, and when you hear him talk about it, you can tell, still to this day, it impacts him. xoR

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  • My favorite authors are Elisabeth Gilbert, Herman Melville and too many to list . . .

    And some of my favorite books are –
    Moby-Dick, Pride and Prejudice, Eat, Pray, Love, Emma, Gone With The Wind . . .

    Great post.


    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      Thx for your help on this one! I love Pride and Prejudice too! hmm. Read??? Maybe! xox REm

  • Chas

    Ansel Adams has inspired me since my twenties. I used to do only landscape, and IMO he’s the master.

    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      Yes, “Master” is a great word Chas – xox Rem

  • Remy,

    Your word pictures are so vivid, I can see what you describe without the camera. That is also a gift.

    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      Must be all that consulting time on the phone. :) Thanks for your comments, I really appreciate them Shallie! xox REm

  • Kalle Koponen

    A good list, Remy. I´d add my own favourites: Kazuyoshi Nomachi is a japanese master and his book Pilgrimages is a must for all of us who love light. Fantastic images from various religious sites and rituals spanning decades of work.
    John Harrington´s Best business practices for photographers is also a must for anyone who wants to feed his or her children with photography.
    I´d strongly advocate also studying any art books featuring Caravaggio, Vermeer and Rembrandt.
    Finally, Tom Stoddard and his book iWitness should also be in our bookshelves.
    And by the way, greetings from Berlin! Kalle

    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      Kalle – Greetings back from California – I’ll have to look into John Harrington, thanks for the suggestion – Tom Stoddard too. How is the photography business treating you there?
      xox Rem

      • Kalle Koponen

        It varies, Remy. This week has been busy. Had a serial portrait shoot in a kindergarten on monday. (Tough!) Today was editing. Thursday will see me flying to Milan, Italy for a travel piece for a magazine. I´ll then stay for a few days in northern Italy for some soccer games and player portraits for some sports pages. But will see how November turns out. Not many solid assignments yet there…
        Keep up the good work in California!

  • Julie Cresswell

    Also, great photo!!

  • Julie Cresswell

    Hey Remy, I was wanted to buy a gift for someone I work with you is very into photography as well, so thank you for the ideas!! (also, Go Giants!!)

    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      thx Julie – and yes, GO GIANTS – xox rem

  • Rayne

    Remy, I LOVE your list because it is SO diverse. There’s something there for every type of shooter. I’m only an iphone shooter but I take a lot of images and I use them creatively all the time. The first book I want to see on your list is the one about food styling. I know how hot and creative that arena is and I’d love to see what the experts know. Thanks for encouraging creativity!

    • Remy, Photographer & CEO of Cornerstone Creative

      Thanks Rayne! Glad you enjoyed it – xox Rem ps your Iphone has more megapixels in it than my digital camera. go figure!

      • Bruce

        There are good reasons for that! :)

        • Remy G

          ah, the techie! thanks bruce xoRem