I was sorting through my photographic books last night and I started limiting myself to a shortlist of 5 books which have been useful to me over the years which I felt might also be useful to those starting out in photography either as a serious hobby or as a career.  I made a small pile of them and thought I would share them with you.  Some of them are quite old now and you might have to get hold of second hand copies or order them from your library.  It would be good if you made a similar list too and we shared them – email me with your list and I will post it in this blog  heather@heatherbennett.co.uk  Strangely two are by the same author yet they were bought years apart.

Michael Freeman – The Photographer’s Mind “The source of any photograph is not the camera, or even the scene viewed through the viewfinder – it is in the mind of the photographer; this is where the image is created before it is committed to a memory card of film”  This quote from the back of the book lays out the intention of the author.  He seeks to illustrate the depth of thinking necessary for us to do in anticipation of making an image putting out there what we want the viewer to share with us as he or she sees it.  I work often using a form of mindful photography which encourages me not to commit too quickly to pressing the shutter button.  In the world we live in today which is much faster than times like say Henri Cartier Bresson lived in there is an underlying urgency about achieving something right now and the medium of photography itself does not help that for there is an immediacy about the digital world which encourages quick results.  It is as though we expect to be able to take something amazing every day of our photographic lives.  Michael Freeman asks us to think deeply around what an image consists of not only technically but in terms of conceptual  and emotional content at the same time.  He wrote an earlier book called The Photographer’s Eye which is also worth reading.  www.michaelfreemanphoto.com

Ross Hoddinott – Lenses  “Understanding a lens’s characteristics is crucial to obtaining really successful photographs yet many people still spend far longer deliberating over their choice of camera body than they do over the lenses that will fit onto it”.  I did realize fairly early on that I was one of those people partly because the idea of trying to understand and choose from the seemingly huge number of lenses and their differing focal lengths and specialist abilities seemed like one step too far!  I kept putting off buying anything other than a couple of Canon zoom lenses that I felt comfortable with and did not really move away from that until I got into nature photography.  I came across Ross’s book at that point and found it to be such a relief as he explains clearly the differences between prime and zoom lenses, unravels the mystery of differing apertures and depth of field and, amongst other things, explained the specialist lenses to be used in various fields of work.  His book is much more than that it is a demystification of a subject which aficionados can make endlessly complicated.   www.rosshoddinott.co.uk

Bryan Peterson – Understanding Shutter Speed “Written in clear jargon free prose and catering for photographers using both digital and film based formats this is the definitive practical guide to mastering a subject that still confuses many practitioners”  Having got into taking images of birds and finding it notoriously difficult to capture their speedy take-off and landing habits this book came along at the right time for me.  What I found useful was that the author showed images where the speed had resulted in a ‘messy’ image and then showed me how to set up my camera controls so that this became a clear and acceptable image and was the one I had in my imagination.  I have read several of his other books all of which are helpful but this one was what I needed right then.  He has useful chapters on subjects like ‘Implying Motion with a Tripod’ and ‘Dusk and Low Light – 1 second and beyond” which encouraged me to experiment.   www.bpsop.com for online courses

Caroline Herter/Laurie Frankel/Laura Lovett – Photocraft   This is not strictly speaking a book about photography but I often find myself picking it up when I am giving workshops and showing it to people.  “Photocraft features more than forty simple, stylish and affordable ideas for transforming the photos you love into beautiful keepsakes”. I show it to people because I am aware that like me, over the years, they will not only produce wonderful images which can be mounted and framed and that will give pleasure to themselves and others but they will have a plethora of other prints which seem like a good image at the time but actually have no real end use and will just be abandoned in a box or drawer somewhere.  This book is a collection of ideas of what to use them for and still give pleasure to yourself and others.

Ross Hoddinott and Mark Bauer – The Landscape Photography Workshop   If I had to choose one book out of the five to keep this would be the one: “Awe inspiring landscape photography is within your grasp with this workshop in a book, written and beautifully illustrated by two of the leading professionals in the field”  It was a joy the first time I picked it up and I still re-visit it frequently.  It covers so many of the often recurring questions and I find myself recommending it to many of the people who email me asking questions about landscape work.  They actually do give face to face workshops across the UK details of which can be found on www.dawn2duskphotography.co.uk  I was booked on one myself and then my Mother got seriously ill and I had to pull out but I definitely have one of their Scottish ones on my bucket list.  I find that I can dip in  and read a chapter one a specific subject when I need to refresh myself and that each chapter stands alone as well as in sequence with the others.

Michael Freeman  The Photographer's Mind