The Best Portrait Photography Books to Add to Your Collection

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portrait photography books

Adding portrait photography books to your library is a great way to grow your photography work. Portrait photographers have been around since the beginning of photography, but a few names stand out among the rest.

We put together this list of the best photographers and great photographs to help inspire your work and learn some stories behind each picture-perfect portrait. Keep in mind that portrait photography is always more than simply taking pictures.

If you want to take great photographs yourself, it’s important to study these renowned photographers and develop your own unique and creative posing, techniques, and camera settings. So let’s dive in!

Best Portrait Photography Lighting Books

These portrait photography books are designed to help you master lighting for portraits. By understanding exposure, lighting diagrams, and shutter speed techniques, you will quickly notice changes in your portrait photographs. These are the best books to help you master light.

best natural light portrait book.

The Natural Light Portrait Book: The step-by-step techniques you need to capture amazing photographs like the pros

Author and renowned photographer Scott Kelby created an easy-to-follow technical portrait book to help you master light. This is a great book for any photographer who is struggling with how to put light on their subjects.

Scott shares many secrets and digital techniques that help you not only create beautiful photos but make your still life subjects come to life. His easy-to-understand tips help you learn natural lighting for portraits. You will learn how to shoot in any light and which gear to buy and how to control harsh light. Photographing in any type of light is a skill every shooter needs to learn.

book about dramatic portraits.

The Dramatic Portrait: The Art of Crafting Light and Shadow

In this book, Chris Knight shares unique tips to help you master light and shadows. Digital photography, as well as film, is all about drawing with light. Whether you are shooting a family portrait or want to become a portrait photographer in general, photographers around the world praise Chris’ work as one of the best books on the art of light.

You will learn everything there is to know about lighting including background, patterns, rembrandt, modifiers, and retouching. This photographer’s guide also helps you how to create distance between your subject and your background. Create beautiful images in just a few easy-to-follow tips.

portrait photography posing book.

Picture Perfect Posing: Practicing the Art of Posing for Photographers and Models (Voices That Matter)

Author and photographer Roberta Valenzuela prove that teaching difficult subject matter becomes easier when told through a photo. His remarkable methods have helped 1000s of photographers learn how to take photos of normal people and models. He can break down complicated concepts into easy-to-understand techniques.

You will learn how to create natural and elegant looks as well as more in-depth ideas such as how to pose fingers. He even breaks down the human body and how to make it look good on the other side of any camera! If you need to figure out the details of shooting portraits, check out this read.

Famous Portrait Photography Books

A few names come to mind when we think of famous portrait photographers. You need to go further than just understanding exposure when creating beautiful portraits. These books are for any photographer who wants to study under the greats and create their own world-famous portrait images.

portraits photos of the famous people.

Secrets of Great Portrait Photography: Photographs of the Famous and Infamous (Voices That Matter) 1st Edition

Digital photography has changed the world but what makes us take a second look at any portrait? Well, many times it’s because there is a famous person in the image. This bold and beautiful book is one of the top portrait photography books available.

Not only will you follow portrait photographer, Brian Smith through an array of images, but you will learn the stories behind famous and infamous voices. The book describes exactly how the photographer told celebrities what to do to gain the most beautiful portraits. Imagine bossing around Bill Gates for an hour? This book is not only full of techniques but also juicy stories. Learn posing, technical tips, post-processing, and much more while having fun! You will be prepared to photograph any celebrity after diving into this photography book.

50 Portraits by Gregory Heisler.

Gregory Heisler: 50 Portraits: Stories and Techniques from a Photographer’s Photographer

Gregory Heisler is one of the most respected photographers in the world. His book of portraits not only teaches you how to better use your camera but how to work with some of the most respected people on the planet. He’s worked with celebrities, athletes, and world leaders!

His photos tell a story and highlight the subject without losing who they are. Whether you are an amateur or have been photographing people for years, this book is sure to inspire you. Master posing and more importantly how to work with people from any background.

portrait book by Annie Leibovitz.

Annie Leibovitz: Portraits

New York photographer Annie Leibovitz is one of the most influential photographers on the planet. She has created iconic image after iconic image and changed the world of digital photography as we know it today. This book is full of photos of compelling people from over a decade.

If you want to learn contemporary documentary-style portrait photography then this book is for you. Hosting a mix of black and white images as well as compelling color photos that are recognizable and entertaining to study. Take your camera out as you read and try to recreate the portraits with your own friends and family from this book. This book is a work of art!

Portrait Photography Books for Beginners

If you are a beginner in posing and shooting portraits in general, then this list of portrait photography books is for you! Portraits can feel intimidating at first, but by studying these books you will feel confident to carry on shooting anyone in any lighting. Some of the books even create a practical guide to the business side portrait photography including social media.

Mastering Portrait Photography.

Mastering Portrait Photography by Paul Wilkinson and Sarah Plater

Stop creating corporate and overly posed business images with this digital photography portrait book. You will learn techniques that every beginner photographer needs including subject ideas, camera gear, natural light, balance exposure, shutter speed, and of course natural posing and lighting.

This portrait guide takes digital photography a bit further by covering such things as hair, make-up, and clothing choices as well. You will end with learning basic post-processing tips. Shoot with confidence a variety of subjects as author Sarah Plater and her colleague Paul Wilkinson teach you life photography.

understanding portraits.

Understanding Portrait Photography: How to Shoot Great Pictures of People Anywhere

Author, Bryan Peterson teaches you how to capture the perfect portrait image, including shooting selfies and other people. Every photo tells a story, and even the cover of this guide does just that. It leaves you wondering who is that person and what is their story? Learn how to capture moments that will last forever and then many audiences can identify with.

With this guide, you will find clarity in lighting, storytelling, and creating joy in everyday moments. The publisher has updated this version to include more information on shooting with iPhone or in other cultures. Make sure to purchase the newest edition.

techniques for shooting perfect portraits of people.

This portrait photography guide is the perfect gift for yourself or the photographer in your life. The publisher made sure to include over 200 tips for shooting a variety of people. The cover captures your attention as the author takes you for a ride inside 70+ years of portraits.

The novel really is an all-in-one guide covering everything from headshots to studio portraits, and tasteful selfies. Learn how to take candid street images, use a ring setup, hide flaws, and retouch. This guide really does cover everything there is to know about portraits! Every photo will leave you inspired and wanting to learn more.

Inspiring Portrait Photography Books

If you have been shooting for portraits for a long time, you may be feeling a little bored. This list of books is made to inspire you. By studying this list you will find new angles and ideas to bring your portraits to life. Learn how to breathe new life into your photography and view your portrait subjects in a new light, literally. Any one of these portrait books is sure to make you fall in love with photography again and help you desire to shoot once more.

creative portraits.

One Face Fifty Ways: The Portrait Photography Ideas Book

This paperback is a creative resource full of possibilities to inspire you. Whatever side of the camera you are on, you will learn how to create simple and inexpensive portrait shots. You can revolutionize your portfolio with just a few of the techniques in this book.

Turning practical wisdom into a worldwide sensation, author, Mark Wilkson teaches readers how to attract more clients through his portraits and by marketing them on YouTube and other publications. You will be excited to pick up your camera once more and apply the business skills you learn as well.

the headshot book by peter hurley.

Headshot: The Secrets to Creating Amazing Headshot Portraits (Voices That Matter) 1st Edition

Years ago, professional headshots were only for models and actors. But this simply isn’t true anymore. There is a whole market waiting for you to dive in and make more money through headshots. Due to social media such as Instagram and Facebook, the average person is searching for beautiful headshots of themselves.

This book reveals how to get authentic reactions from your portrait subjects as well as flattering poses. Learn how to capture beautiful smiles, natural hand poses, and headshots that will impress any company. These are all the tricks of the trade including backgrounds, locations, positions, and quirky ideas. This book will help you make more money and feel inspired to photograph any headshot.

learning portrait photography.

Portrait Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots

The publisher left nothing out of this amazing portrait book. Erik Valind shows you how to shooting indoors, outdoors, and in many different event situations. Valind starts with a foundation in the fundamentals of photography and builds from there including which lenses to use for portrait shoots.

He then covers problems that may arise while shooting. And helps you resolve any lighting conditions. In the end, you learn how to modify your lighting to photograph single or multiple people. He even teaches you wedding and family portraits. This book will give you so many new ideas and inspiration when it comes to portraits. The vibrant photos and illustrations will help you take control of your work and feel confident.

learning portrait photography.

Authentic Portraits: Searching for Soul, Significance, and Depth

The best portrait photographers show the viewers more than just the glamour or beauty of their subjects. Every photo should reveal a story, life, and character. The best portraits leave a long-lasting feeling and thought process for the viewers.

You want to showcase your subject’s dreams and desires without speaking a word. Chris Orwig, helps you do all of this and more in his portrait photography book. He helps photographers create authentic work and inspire them with jaw-dropping images. The photos are simple and authentic with a powerful message. If you are struggling to showcase your portrait subject’s true identity this book is for you.


We hope you enjoyed this list of portrait photography books. Every book on the list offers a unique perspective to help you take beautiful portraits. If you are struggling with which one to choose, try checking out a few from your local library before investing in a single book.

These are the types of books you want sitting on your library shelf or on a coffee table, ready for easy access to admire and feel inspired. That’s why you must choose the best one to fit your needs. First, examine how experienced you feel in portrait photography and then work your way up from there, choosing your next investment piece.

Want More? Try Our Courses

Are you feeling more inspired to shoot portraits after reading this list? Maybe you are more of a visual learner and prefer to watch someone on video teach you how to take better portraits. If that is the case, we have a couple of video courses for you!

Our very own Taya Lv takes viewers behind the scenes on how to take better self-portraits. The course covers everything from lighting, props, backgrounds, and inspiration. Pick up your camera today and get ready to shoot photo after photo of yourself looking professional and camera ready!

If you are interested in learning how to take portraits in natural light, check out this course by our lead instructor, Kevin Lj.

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Krystal Kenney is an award-winning photographer residing in Paris, France. She has been photographing for over 10 years and enjoys teaching others about the craft. She spends most days shooting events, portraits, and weddings around Paris and working on writing new books.
Krystal Kenney is an award-winning photographer residing in Paris, France. She has been photographing for over 10 years and enjoys teaching others about the craft. She spends most days shooting events, portraits, and weddings around Paris and working on writing new books.

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