Physics of Photography References (Books)

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This is a comprehensive list of all the references cited or used throughout my Physics of Photography series. When possible, I have included links to Amazon – as an Amazon affiliate, I earn a commission if you purchase through these recommended links; your support helps keep this website running!

Photography Basics

Caroll, Henry. (2014). Read This If You Want To Take Great Photographs (2nd ed.). Laurence King Publishing.

Fantastic beginner book. It covers a little of everything and is very compartmentalized. It’s essentially a summary of what you would learn in an introductory photography course, so if you’ve had a bit of photography education or even self-education, there probably won’t be much to gain from it.

Peterson, B. (2016). Understanding exposure (4th ed.). Amphoto Books.

A great, well-rounded approach to basic camera settings. This would be a great read for hobbyist photographers wanting to learn a bit more about the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO.

General Photography

Barnbaum, Bruce. (2017). The Art of Photography: A Personal Approach to Artistic Expression (2nd ed.). Rocky Nook.

Very nicely presented and, as stated in the title, very personal. A great mix of techniques, philosophy, light, color, editing, and art. It covers both digital and analog photography and darkroom techniques. If I were to select just one photography book for someone at any level, this would be it.

Adams, Ansel. (1995). The Camera: The Ansel Adams Photography Series 1. Little, Brown.

The first in a revered trilogy by one of America’s most celebrated photographers, this series seamlessly translates into the digital age despite its roots in the film era. I’ve cherished these books for decades and find myself returning to them often. A must-have for every photographer’s bookshelf.

Adams, Ansel. (1995). The Negative: The Ansel Adams Photography Series 2. Little, Brown.

I would argue that the second book in the trilogy, The Negative, is the most valuable of the three. The chapters on light, exposure, and the zone system are invaluable. Understanding the zone system can be particularly useful for more detailed photo editing.

Adams, Ansel. (1995). The Print: The Ansel Adams Photography Series 3. Little, Brown.

Not as useful as the first two if you primarily shoot digital, but it’s worth mentioning. Some darkroom techniques do correspond to digital editing. If you are shooting film, and especially if you are working in a darkroom it’s a must-have. Or, you know, just complete the set. 😁

Physics and Optics Basics

Feynman, Leighton, Sands (2006). The Feynman Lectures on Physics Volumes I, II, III. Pearson.

One of the best presentations on physics I’ve read. This three-volume series does contain more advanced content than you would find in a typical undergraduate course, but Feynman was so good at explaining the material intuitively that there is a lot to be gained, even if you don’t understand all the more detailed math and calculus.

Young and Freedman, L. (2020). University Physics with Modern Physics (15th Edition). Pearson.

A typical undergraduate textbook in Physics, but it also includes modern physics, which includes an introduction to optics and light. This wasn’t what I used in my undergraduate, but I frequently referenced it when TA’ing for modern physics (11th edition) in grad school. I liked it a lot more than others.

Griffiths, David J. (2017). Introduction to Electrodynamics (4th Edition). Cambridge University Press.

Common undergraduate-level text on electricity and magnetism. Well presented and easy to follow. It does require an understanding of calculus and differential equations, but it also has good conceptual explanations. Much more accessible than Jackson’s Classical Electrodynamics listed below.

Advanced Physics and Optics

Pedrotti, F., Pedrotti, L., & Pedrotti, L. (2017). Introduction to Optics (3rd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/9781108552493

Easily one of the first references I go to for anything optics related. This was my Optics textbook when working on my BS in Physics, and I continued to reference it frequently in graduate school and after.

Rowlands, D. A. (2020). Physics of Digital Photography (Second Edition). IOP Publishing.

I’ve been living in this book since I began writing the series on the Physics of Photography. It is fairly advanced and would be difficult to read without a background in optics or at least a strong understanding of trigonometry and calculus.

Jackson, John David. (1998). Classical Electrodynamics (Third Edition). Wiley.

Graduate-level text on electricity and magnetism. Most physics grad students I know likely have PTSD from this book. It has an incredible amount of information in it, but the material is not always presented with ease. Accurately described as a “right of passage for students of physics.” Expect a fair amount of “left as an exercise for the reader.” I hate that I love this book, and I love to hate this book. It’s great and terrible at the same time.

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