Off The Shelf: How-To Books on Photography

We thought it might be helpful if we reviewed our how-to faves at the beginning of our month long excursion into photography.  We really want you to feel inspired, compelled and empowered to take the kind of photos of your daily life that you love seeing whenever you are home.  Here are four of the best we've found.

A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book
by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman

"A Beautiful Mess Photo Idea Book" will inspire you to take photos like someone who has fallen desperately in love with their camera!  The book is reflective of the vibrant blog that it comes from, also called "A Beautiful Mess," brought to you by sisters Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman.   Your copy will quickly have little stickies coming out all over the place because it's jam packed with idea after idea that you'll be itching to try.  It offers ideas ranging from creating backgrounds and props, to displaying your masterpieces beyond that ugly frame you bought at your local drugstore.  What's really interesting is how these ladies present the more technical stuff like lighting and depth of field.  Instead of just explaining those terms, they talk about them in the context of particular projects you might want to tackle.  Their photos alone are enough to get you snapping away but the writing makes the book truly accessible to anyone.  You'll come away with a do-able list of ideas that you can try right away, probably making you break out into Broadway show tunes with all of the success you're going to have.  This book makes me that giddy!  

Beyond Snapshots: How to Take That Fancy DSLR Camera off "Auto" and Photograph Your Life Like a Pro
by Rachel Devine and Peta Mazey

For an easy-to-use, pleasure-to-read guide to all of the technical stuff, I really like this book, "Beyond Snapshots." Rachel and Peta are passionate about convincing you that you can master ISO, shutter speed and aperture, even if you've tried before and given up.  The way they break down the lingo makes you want to look in the mirror and proclaim, "Yes!  I CAN do this!"  (Seriously.  I need this sort of pep talk).  Part One focuses (get it?) entirely on getting comfortable with all of the variables that go into taking great photos.  There are plenty of example shots to visually explain differences in setting, light, choice of lens, etc.  This section is wrapped up with a chapter on photo editing and organizational software.  Part Two shows the kinds of camera skills you might use for a variety of different settings and events.  It's both a great reference guide where you can dip in and out and look something up quickly as well as a step-by-step DIY course on getting the most out of your camera.  It's a gotta-have-it kind of book, people.  

Sixty Tips for Creative iPhone Photography
by Martina Holmberg

I love this little book!  In "Sixty Tips," all of the ideas, tips and tricks are presented in a no-fuss style that you can quickly absorb and get on with whatever it is you're supposed to be doing (rather than messing around with your iPhone).  Flip through the book, choose a photo that you like, read about how it was taken and then go take one yourself.  It's really encouraging to see something come out the way you intended it to!  You can slip this baby in your bag and read one tip in 5 minutes while you're waiting in line for something.  The book shows some terrific examples of artistic shots by professional photographers, too, and you'll be surprised that they were taken with a camera phone.  

The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos
by Heidi Adnum

Ok, this one probably seems geared only to the handcrafted business crowd...well, I guess it is mostly that...but if you're interested in any kind of still-life photography, "The Crafter's Guide to Taking Great Photos" is for you.  (But truthfully, I'm including it in this round-up because there are a lot of people out there trying to sell the wares they've painstakingly made, only to not sell them because the photo of the thing doesn't come close to representing the product).  Now, back to how this is a super helpful book for both crafters and still-lifers.  What I like about it is that the author focuses (no pun intended this time) on how to develop your unique visual point of view.  It's this kind of purposeful photography that make some photos look like they could be in a magazine, rather than pasted into your grandmother's photo album.  The point of a product shot is to tell the story behind it.  Conjuring up a feeling in a potential customer is the first step toward helping her connect with your piece so that she ultimately becomes a buyer.  Yes, photography is that important if you care about making any money from your labors.  Another awesome feature of the book is that it's broken down by craft medium (jewelry, pottery, stationery) so you can really see what the author means by "point of view" for your particular needs. This one definitely gets our seal of approval.  (As if we had an actual seal.  Wait.  I would LOVE to have my own seal.  Hmmm....I feel a DIY coming on).  Anyway, go buy this book.  

Happy Snapping!

xoxo Zandra