Our Gift Guide: Books To Inspire And Teach

’Tis the time of year when many magazines and newspapers and even websites hit you with their annual gift guide, tips for everything from stocking stuffers to big-ticket items. While the latter might have to wait until things improve, photographers and their kin and kindred have many such items available to them, being by nature collectors and, as Joe Farace says, tinkers who are fascinated by gadgets and gizmos designed to make picture making fun and more creative. But as is our wont, our annual guide touts books as excellent gift items for every photographer and image-maker from beginner to veteran.

Yes, we mean real, rap your knuckle on them books, not electronic bits readable by only the keenest of eyes who don’t mind squinting at tiny screens. Books you can thumb through, throw in your pack and read while taking the train or plane, or just hanging out on the back porch or wherever your favorite reading locale might be. This is especially true for photography books, where (usually) beautiful paper holds stunning, large images that are rarely seen in the bright light when on screen. It means books that you can read from the back forward without having to scroll, that you can use an index without typing in a keyword, and that you can lay down next to your computer when trying out the newest software piece of magic, without having to flip from screen to screen.

This might sound like I am anti-electronic information delivery, but that’s anything but the case. I just think that when it comes to books, and especially photo books, you want the real deal in your hands for a true appreciation of the medium. Besides, buying a photographer’s book helps support his or her work, gives you a ready reference for inspiration and education, and is a wonderful, thoughtful gift for you and all those who see the magic in the image.

That being said, we have two sets of book recommendations in this issue, one on “imaging” and one on what might be loosely called “photo books.” The former tend to be instructional while the latter tend to be inspirational, though looking over the lists this year I think that the lines between the two are not so easily drawn. What the recommendations do show is that the book in all its manifestations continues to be a wonderful and viable medium for photographers. Many of these books, I can assure you, are a labor of love for those who create them, and each is a summation of years, if not a lifetime,
of work.

So, while there are many ideas for gifts for photographers that you’ll see coming at you in the month ahead, our recommendation is to put books at the top of your list. They combine affordability with thoughtfulness, and education with inspiration. That’s a hard combination to beat.

Another great gift idea, though not couched as same in this issue, are lenses that expand your view and offer another way to look at and photograph the world. In this issue we look at a wide variety of optics, from macro to long-range tele to ultra-wide zoom. One surefire way to refresh your vision is to put a different focal-length lens on your camera. And which lens should you get next? There’s an old theory about either dividing or multiplying the lens you own by half, or to increase coverage by supplementing a tele-zoom with a wide zoom. My vote these days is to get yourself a prime with a fast max aperture. If you haven’t worked with one you’ll be amazed at the low-light and depth-of-field options a fast prime lens affords.