My Top-10 Photography & Photoshop Book Holiday Gift Guide

Although I included some of “The Photoshop Guys” latest books in my Holiday Gear Guide (which ran here on the blog last Friday), there are some other great books out there that I think would make fantastic Holiday gifts, so I wanted to do a separate gift guide just for those. Here are my top 10 holiday gift book picks (in no particular order):

(1) Sketching Light: An Illustrated Tour of the Possibiliites of Flash
By Joe McNally

Joe’s lighting is the stuff legends are made of (I call him “the magical unicorn of lighting), and Joe wrote 420 pages about exactly how he lights. If this isn’t 2012’s lighting book of the year I’ll eat my hat (well, it’s really more of a ball cap, but I can’t imagine it would taste good).

From New Riders Press. ISBN# 0321700902. List Price: $49.95 (Online it sells for around $32). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(2) Going Pro: How to make the Leap from Aspiring to Professional Photographer
by Skip Cohen and Scott Bourne

I’ve been recommending this book to students at my seminars for a while now because I think it really gives some great insights, real life instruction, and it’s filled with great images too boot, which make this a no-brainer for anyone whose thinking of taking their passion and turning it into profits. Very well done.

From Amphoto Books. ISBN# 0817435794. List Price: $29.95 (Online it sells for around $19). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.



(3) Photographer’s Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age
By Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki 

I don’t think there’s ever been a more practical, down-to-earth, cut the BS and just tell it like it is book about copyright and protecting photographers and their images than this. Jack and Ed cover this topic in a way that is not only informative, it’s fascinating and fun, and the advice they share is worth many, many times the cover price.

From Lark Books. ISBN# 1600594204. List Price: $24.95 (It sells online for around $15). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(4) Photoshop Down & Dirty Tricks for Designers
By Corey Barker 

This book didn’t’ make it in time for my regular Holiday Gear Guide, but I wish it had because Corey did an absolutely amazing job on this book. He is a freakin’ Photoshop Genius and the stuff he comes up with, and the ways he uses Photoshop are just flat out amazing, and incredibly informative. It’ll help you unlock features and power you never knew were in Photoshop. Incredibly cool book (Note: Kelby Training produced this book for Peachpit Press, so know that I am totally biased, but also know that I went to Corey to help me with my Down & Dirty Tricks book in 2009 because when it comes to stuff like this, he is the best!).

From New Riders Press. ISBN# 0321820495. List Price: $49.99 (It sells online for around $29). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(5) Kevin Kubota’s Lighting Notebook: 101 Lighting Styles and Setups for Digital Photographers
By Kevin Kubota 

I’m really picky when it comes to books on Lighting, but I really like this one, and I think one of its strengths is the wealth of inspiration you’ll get from the book because the type of shots are so varied. His lighting set-ups are straight forward (and you get a diagram for each), but seeing them applied on location really starts making the gears in your head start turning, and that alone makes it worth it to me.

From Wiley Publishing. ISBN# 1118035100. List Price: $34.95 (it sells online for around $24). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(6) Captured: Lessons from the Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer
by Moose Peterson

Moose wrote a book that literally just captivates wildlife photographers, both with its amazing photography and insights and advice that you won’t find anywhere else. Really a brilliantly written and presented book from cover to cover, and it’s been widely acclaimed as one of the best books ever written on wildlife photography (Note: we produced this book for Peachpit Press, but as much as I’d love to make more credit, it’s Moose’s words and pictures that make it what it is).

From New Riders Press. ISBN# 0321720598. List Price: $54.95 (Online price around $40). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(7) Enchantment: the Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions 
by Guy Kawasaki

OK, this isn’t technically a book about photography, but it’s a book that every photographer in business needs to read, because in the wildly competitive market photographers are in today, they need to do more than take pretty pictures, they need to enchant your customers and this book will set you on that path, as well as inspire and motivate you. You will love it, and you’ll share it with others.

From Portfolio. ISBN# 1591843790. List Price: $26.95 [Hardcover]. (Online price around $15). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(8) Fashion Flair for Portrait & Wedding Photography
by Lindsay Adler

I’m not the only one that thinks that this is a kick-butt book; Amazon’s own Editors chose it as one of their “Best of 2011” top 10 books, and rightfully so. The wedding market, and what customers expect, is changing rapidly and Lindsay brings a breath of fresh air with her fresh take and a woman’s sensibility to what today’s brides want.

From Course Technology PTR. ISBN# 1435458842. List Price: $34.99 (Online around $23). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.


(9) Canon EOS Rebel T3i “From Snapshots to Great Shots”
By Jeff Revell 

I’ve been looking at books on how to use your camera for years, and if you read the online reviews for most of these books, you’ll see the same comments again and again that these books are just a longer version of the camera’s users guide. That’s what makes this book (and this series) stand apart. It’s not just “how to use your camera.” It’s “How to use your camera to make better photos, and at the end of the day, I think that’s really why we want to learn what all those menus and dials do. If you know someone getting a Nikon or Canon camera this Holiday Season, there’s most likely a version of this book to match their camera. Congrats to my buddy Jeff for redefining the genre of “menus and dial” books.

From Peachpit Press. ISBN#032177664X. List Price: $24.95 (Online Price around $15). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.

(10)  Speedlighter’s Handbook: Learning to Craft Light with Canon Speedlights 
by Syl Arena

In a book market dominated by books on Nikon Speedlights, Syl has made himself a hero to Canon shooters everywhere by doing a hot shoe flash book just for them, and its been one of the big hits of the year, and with good reason. He covers everything from soup to nuts, and if you’ve got a Canon flash shooter on your gift list, this is the book they’ve been waiting for.

From Peachpit Press. ISBN# 032171105X. List Price: $49.95 (Online price around $34). You can find it at Barnes & Noble or, or your local bookstore.




  1. Great list, Scott. You can never have enough photography books! 8)

    Hope you had a great time in NYC (saw your posts on Google+). How was the Radio City show? I’m taking my wife and Mom to the Rockettes Xmas show in Boston next week, so I can probably expect the same.


  2. No love for Nicolesy and her food photography book? :-(

    Great picks otherwise! I guess a top ten can only have ten (unless you’re the Big 10, then you can have however many you want!) so not everyone can make the cut. I guess i should also take note that Matt “How in the Hell Do You Say His Last Name” Kloskowski didn’t make the cut either… (note: Matt, I can pronounce your name, flawlessly, just sayin’)

    Also, I’m a Mythbusters fan but didn’t catch the reference????

    Anyway, thanks for all the free tips and recommendations, Scott! I wouldn’t have been able to take my photography nearly this far without help from you and your crew, Joe, Strobist and the like!

    Merry Christmas!

  3. A great list and some new inspiration for me, I have 2 out of 10 – Corey & Moose.

    I got to add both of Alan Hess’ two new books:
    Night and Low-Light Photography Photo Workshop – 6th Jan ’12 , pre order now
    All Access: Your Backstage Pass to Concert Photography – 17th Feb ’12, pre-order now

  4. Great to see Syl Arena’s ‘Speedliter’s Handbook’ make the list. Like myself, Syl uses Canon gear so uses the Canon ‘Speedlite’ spelling where Scott uses the Nikon ‘Speedlight’ spelling but the book, though technically tilted to Canon with regard to menu settings (in the same way Joe McNally gives SB-800 and SB-900 menu settings), is a really great manual for off-camera flash irrespective of your choice in manufacturer. If you want to get your flash off your camera, then this is a fine guide on how to approach that successfully.

    Through Syl’s ‘OCFGear’ project, Syl also sells extension cables for Canon in 33ft and 16ft lengths that allow you to take your master flash off camera and still have it be the master! At $65 for the 33ft cord, these are a way more cost effective means of getting a one-light off-camera setup than buying another flash or an ST-E2 to serve as a master mounted on-camera.

  5. Maybe most of your audience here has it already, but your “The Digital Photography Book” deserves to be on this list every year! I recommend that book to anyone and everyone I know that wants to start taking better pictures, and those that just got their first DSLR and “have no idea where to start.” It’s a great book (and series). I think I have referred enough of them that you probably owe me a coffee or something. ;)

    Have a good one!

  6. One book to add to this list is Vincent Laforet’s “Visual Stories” I am working my through it now and it is a fascinating look into the factors a great photographer considers before he presses the shutter button.

  7. Thanks Scott, seeing as how I finally got my first iPhone yesterday, an iPhone 4s, do you have a new book coming for that one? If not, a recommendation please . . .

  8. Thanks for sharing this Scott,
    I have to add that Syl Arena’s book is awesome for anyone who wants to learn off camera flash, regardless of brand. It is one of the most informative books I’ve ever read on any subject.

  9. Damn you Scott Kelby, now I have to spend money. Ok just kidding. I love books. So I had to order 3 from your list (#1, #2 & #5)! I have some of these books. I wanted to throw in my 2 cents – Syl’s book is really good – tons of details and examples – shows light placement and equipment used – very helpful! Guy Kawasaki’s book is also good inspiration. The book on your list that I’ve gotten tons of value from is the Photographer’s Survival Manual: A Legal Guide for Artists in the Digital Age By Ed Greenberg and Jack Reznicki. I attended both of their classes at Photoshop World Vegas 2011 and purchased the book at that time. Wow is it helpful. And when I ran into a question I sent an email message to Ed and got a personal reply. I’ve already registered several thousand images…and having read the book I know why I need to! Thanks again for the list!

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