15 Photography Books to Read to Inspire Your Next Shoot

Pick up one of our top fifteen photography books to read, and find endless inspiration for shooting imagery of every type.

What’s on your dream list of photography books to read? For travel photographers, maybe it’s the diary of an explorer venturing into the unknown. For food photographers, maybe it’s a recently released cookbook with inspiring imagery from local photographers. Whatever it is, this is the ultimate list of photography books to read to get inspired to create better art.

We get it. Opening a browser and searching for inspiration is a lot easier (and perhaps cheaper) nowadays. However, there’s something about having a physical reference art book that seems to resonate more than any blog or social media platform ever could.

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Image by Popartic
Before there were travel bloggers, there were adventurers who wrote diaries of their great explorations. Before food photographers were able to share tips on YouTube channels, there were cookbooks that paired recipes with beautiful food imagery.

In this article, we’re sharing a few of our favorite reads for photographers to get inspired by.

For travel photographers:

No Ordinary Woman: The Story of Mary Schaffer Warren

Mary Schaffer Warren was the ultimate chaser of dreams. An artist, a photographer, a writer, and explorer, she embodied an entrepreneur spirit and freelancer’s attitude long before it became in vogue. Not only did she defy the expectations of women during her time, but her series of explorations in the Canadian Rockies also rediscovered many beautiful gems that we are fortunate to be able to photograph today, including Maligne Lake.

While Mary’s story absolutely embodies a feminist spirit, this is a beautifully written biography of a modern-day explorer that every person in the world will find inspiration in reading before dreaming up a new creative project.
Image by Shift Drive

My Tiny Atlas: Our World Through Your Eyes

If you’re like us, you endlessly browse Instagram for new inspiration before a shoot somewhere new. Tiny Atlas Quarterly’s hashtag #MyTinyAtlas is one of those hashtags that encourage photographers to explore and share new discoveries around the world through captured images shared on the platform.

Beyond the tag, however, Tiny Atlas’ first book is a wanderlust-inspiring look at some of these images shared from all corners of the world. With over two hundred photographs and stories, this is a beautifully curated read for an authentic look at travel through the eyes of travel photographers around the world.
Image by Benevolente82

Exploring America: Wandering All the National Parks

Photography power couple Renee and Matthew Hahnel documented an incredible journey in this practical guide for visiting all the US National Parks. Exploring America is the ultimate resource for any photographer living in the States wanting to explore their own backyard, or for visiting photographers looking to explore national parks.

Not only do the Hahnel’s pack useful planning information and suggested itineraries in this book, their breathtaking imagery adds further awe to this incredible photography book and reference guide.
Image by Victor Maschek

For food photographers:

Feast for the Eyes: The Story of Food in Photography
While social media has spurred a resurgence of food photography, this classic form of photography has a long history. Packed full of food photo inspiration from globally renowned photographers, Feast for the Eyes is an educational read that pairs with beautiful imagery to tell the ultimate story of food. This photography book is an absolute must-read for any food lover.
Image by maxtimofeev

Salad for President: A Cookbook Inspired by Artists

For food photographers, the best photography books to read are often cookbooks. And this one is no exception. Based off the popular blog Salad for President, this isn’t your average cookbook. It’s a resurgence of the beauty of a simple salad, inspired by artists from around the world. Artists’ who share their tips on how they approach preparing and photographing, their favorite dishes.

An inspiring look at creativity, Salad for President: A Cookbook inspired by Artists is a fantastic resource that’s jam-packed with tips on creating the ultimate salad presentation.
Image by Pinkyone

Visual Feast: Contemporary Food Styling and Photography

Now more than ever, people are creating beautiful user-generated content on social media that showcases meals worth remembering. What’s more, this literal visual feast is constantly evolving thanks to new artists, stylists, and photographers inventing new ways of presenting and photographing food.

In this educational photography read, you’ll learn how to create mouth-watering images that are uniquely creative and shareable online.
Image by 279photo studio

For landscape photographers:

Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

The man, the myth, the legend. Ansel was an incredible artist, conservationist, and photographer. He dedicated his life to sharing his art with the world, and preserving the environment he called home. An incredibly intimate look into a man who changed how we see nature conservation in photography and art, this book is a rare glimpse into the mind and life of a world-renowned artist. Not just for landscape photographers, any artist will find comfort in Ansel’s story, his triumphs, and his struggles in his art and life.

High Tide: A Surf Odyssey

A gorgeous portrayal of surfing by one of the most famous modern-day outdoor photographers, Chris Burkard’s High Tide: A Surf Odyssey is a must-read for anyone looking to develop in a specific field of photography. While the focus of High Tide is on remote surfing and spectacularly extreme surfing destinations, it’s a perfect read for anyone looking to take on a passion project.
Have you always wanted to photograph something, but never thought it possible? Let High Tide and Chris’ passion for cold water surfing drive you to push your boundaries and seek the unknown.
Image by kahksha siddiqui

Unexpected: A Retrospective of Patagonia’s Outdoor Photography

From the legends at Patagonia, comes a breathtaking book of catalog images shot at some of the world’s most incredible outdoor destinations. Perfect to inspire a combination of lifestyle, adventure, and landscape photography, get inspired by images of climbers on mountain peaks, or camp vibe photographs of a perfectly styled lifestyle shoots.

Featuring submissions from adventure photographers and customers around the globe, get inspired by this extreme look at catalog photography and compelling images that celebrate the great outdoors and Patagonia’s love of the wild.
Image by Grogl

For lifestyle photographers:

Van Life: Your Home on the Road

Haven’t heard of van life? Basically, it’s people living on the road in converted automobiles such as redesigned campers, trucks, or vans. A passion project turned photo book, photographer and van-dweller Foster Huntington uses his camera to tap into a community of individuals and their vans exploring nature and the great outdoors. Similar to High Tide, Van Life is a great reference for anyone seeking to get inspired to do a creative project long-term and start creating work they love to share with others.
Image by oneinchpunch

Cabin Porn: Inside

It began as an online project curated by a group of friends to inspire their own home building. Eventually, it turned into Cabin Porn. This book is an intimate look into simple homes in incredible environments. Cabin Porn: Inside takes viewers inside these homes, to discover what home really looks like to people. Cabin Porn will inspire photographers to take a step back, and be truly present in the moment of home.
Image by PhotoSunny

Find Momo: A Photography Book

Finding Momo is a unique one on our list, but an incredible story for photographers searching for something to inspire. Vancouver-based photographer Andrew Knapp and his dog Momo have created an incredible story through their love of adventure, and each other. On Andrew’s Instagram, fans from around the world spot his dog Momo in bizarre places, in a personal take on a Where’s Waldo style.

Once you spot Momo’s sweet face, you’re guaranteed to have a smile on your face. Find Momo is a great example of how to find inspiration in your creative field and the importance of passion in whatever you do.

For portrait photographers:

Annie Leibovitz: At Work

She’s photographed prolific people from all corners of the world and has now provided a rare glimpse into her career. In her book At Work, not only does Leibovitz discuss her love of portraiture and how she got started in the industry, but she also touches on the technical aspects of photography. From lighting to photographic reporting, and digital vs. film cameras, learn from the pro through her photographic tales.
Image by Augustino

The Atlas of Beauty: Women of the World in 500 Portraits

A photography book to read that is guaranteed to inspire awe is photographer Mihaela Norac’s book on the beauty of diversity in women around the world. Since 2013, Mihaela’s been toting her camera to every corner of the globe to capture different cultures’ way of celebrating beauty. Her colorful and breathtaking portraiture feature women in their communities, offering a fresh and intriguing perspective of the global lives of women.

To glance at one of Mihaela’s images is to truly be jaw-dropped at the remarkable beauty of women. Take a peek at this book to inspire both your portrait photography and travel photography.
Image by Master1305

Portraits by Steve McCurry

The cover may intrigue you to pick it up, but the contents are what’s going to hold your attention. The famous “Afghan Girl” photograph is only the cherry on top of a remarkable collection of photographer Steve McCurry’s work.

A peek of the cultures captured through Steve’s lenses is a rare opportunity to see global communities captured in beauty. Get inspired to use more color, and to create unposed and natural images by glancing at Steve’s collection of portraits.

We hope these books help inspire your next photoshoot or personal photo project you’re working towards. Not a Shutterstock contributor yet? Click here to sign up and get started sharing your art with the world.
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Featured Image by Justin Adam Lee
Article by Jordan Dyck
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