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Updated on August 30, 2017

Photography eBooks - are they worth it?

I have spent nearly a life-time studying photography books. I have admired the delicacy and beauty of fine prints in finely-bound books, and I have learned a great deal from the traditionally-published technical books. Now that more and more photography books are appearing in digital format - including those written for the Kindle - I am wondering if I will continue to admire, or will I simply yearn for those fine-art traditional volumes of the past?

This lens sets out to examine these questions, to find some answers, and to pick out the best-of-the-best in both genres. You can have your say at the end.

(Side Photo: a graphic image in the tradition of fine-art photography, published in a Kindle eBook : copyright John C. Doornkamp)

John C. Doornkamp
John C. Doornkamp

My Background

I came to true photography rather late in life.

I had used a camera throughout my professional career as a geomorphologist and University teacher.

However, I did not meet "true" photography until I was introduced to a Photographic Society. It was there that I realised what photography was all about.

The enthusiasm and keenness of the members was infectious, and their images were examples that I could not ignore.

I was hooked.

Since my retirement from University I have become almost wholly engrossed in photography - especially landscape and fine art photography. I have proved, once again, that you can only get better by thoughtful practice - and a willingness to take advice from other photographers.

I want to share that experience, and perhaps some of my enthusiasm, with others. Hence my foray into Squidoo lenses.

Being a photographer can be a lonely experience - I work best when I am on my own in the landscape. However, we are part of a fantastic community of devotees and enthusiasts, and we should embrace that as well.

Enjoy this lens.

A note on Instructional books

It is perhaps worth making it clear that some eBooks are designed to be instructional rather than presenting quality portfolios of images.

This discussion is more about "picture" books than it is about instructional books of the kind to be found in this volume on converting colour images to black and white.


There is a new trend in photography to produce black and white images from colour originals. This eBook shows you how to get the best results from using Photoshop Elements software.


TRADITIONAL OR EBOOK? - Have your say.

Have you bought a photography eBook?

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Selected Old Masters and their Work

The best of the traditional books.

The task of listing the very best of the traditional publications in photography is, of course, both impossible and presumptuous. Who am I to make such judgements? No, all I can do is to take you through my own set of thoughts, and tell you what I have found to be high-quality, beautifully produced, works of photographic art. In doing so I am setting up the base-line against which I shall then compare the modern (digital) work.

For convenience I am giving you the cross-reference to Amazon (where some of my long-standing favourites can still be obtained). At the same time I will tell you why they are my favourites.

(Please note: I am saying less here about the work of Sebastiao Salgado than I otherwise would because there is also a separate lens: "SAHEL The End of the Road" that describes his wonderful work.)

Some of the best of the Traditional Photography Books - My personal selection

It is no accident that many of the traditional books have all (if not most) of their illustrations as monochrome photographs. For me there is a feeling generated by black and white photographs that cannot be generated by many of the modern colour images. There are many fine examples, but I have selected one book by Ansel Adams (working in the first half of the 20th Century) and one by Tony Worobiec (working in the late 1900s and early 2000s) to illustrate the genre.

See what you think.

California: With Classic California Writings
California: With Classic California Writings

Of the many books by Adams this one shows the range of his photographic skills, and subjects. The reproduction of the images is of high quality. There are several other Adams titles from which you can make your choice, but I would start with this one - especially considering the current price.

Ghosts in the Wilderness: Abandoned America
Ghosts in the Wilderness: Abandoned America

Much more recently Tony and his wife Eva Worobiec produced this imaginative record of the abandoned farms of the northern part of the US mid-west (the Dakotas, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska). Their images are hauntingly beautiful as well as skilfully created. Theirs is amongst the most recent of the "traditional" publications.


How does digital photography even get close? - This book makes for very interesting reading.

In between traditionally published beautifully crafted hard-back books and eBooks there sits another genre. These are the traditionally published books that tell you about digital techniques. They use the old methods of publication (i.e. printed books) to describe how we do the new things that our digital cameras provide.This may seem odd, but as I shall describe below, we now have photography books that also tell us how to get those wonderful old-style images, but tell is through the medium of eBooks. What a mixture!

However, there is one printed book that I want to single out. The link to the Amazon page is given below. This book by Michael Frye carries the title: Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams and the Great Masters.

Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams
Digital Landscape Photography: In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams

The printed book that crosses the bridge between the "old"and the "new" in photography. The only digital techniques book you may ever need.


So, what do eBooks give us that traditionally published books do not? - Or, are we comparing chalk and cheese?

Typical instructional eBook on Landscape Photography
Typical instructional eBook on Landscape Photography

Photo Gallery - Some images for you to study - do they match your expectations in terms of viewing quality? - they were all prepared for use within eBooks.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Reflected light within Bryce Canyon, Utah.Ashopton Viaduct, Peak District National Park, England.Twilight on Derwent Water, English Lake District.Autumn (Fall) English Lake District.Alstroemaria.Lone tree, Isle of Skye, Scotland.Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand.Alde Marshes, East Anglia, England.
Reflected light within Bryce Canyon, Utah.
Reflected light within Bryce Canyon, Utah.
Ashopton Viaduct, Peak District National Park, England.
Ashopton Viaduct, Peak District National Park, England.
Twilight on Derwent Water, English Lake District.
Twilight on Derwent Water, English Lake District.
Autumn (Fall) English Lake District.
Autumn (Fall) English Lake District.
Lone tree, Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Lone tree, Isle of Skye, Scotland.
Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand.
Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand.
Alde Marshes, East Anglia, England.
Alde Marshes, East Anglia, England.

Let's start by making it clear that holding a Kindle does not provide the same tactile feeling as holding a printed book. We could go even further and say that no reproduction of a photograph can have the same sense of quality when viewed on a Kindle screen as it does when seen on the printed page (or sheet of photographic paper).

Stop a minute, and ask if that is really true of the best images on the best screens. Technological advances are taking us closer and closer to near-perfect reproductions of photographic images on a screen - if not yet a Kindle screen. So, it is more than likely that devices such as the Kindle (and other hand-held devices) will, before long, provide near-perfect images.

What kind of photography books are appearing as an eBook?

It seems that the answers are several and include:

- they are traditionally published books converted to an electronic format (in order to improve accessibility and therefore sales)

- they are self-published books of work for which no traditional publisher can be found (or is even sought)

- they are books that describe techniques and methods (i.e. they are a substitute for an instruction manual) and they do not even pretend to be substitutes for those printed books that I admire so much.

We can have a look at some of these now.

Selected eBook Titles on Photography

For Kindle and many other electronic devices.

I have tried to include eBooks that are not electronic versions of printed books. These books have been written for, and edited to conform to the standards of digital readers (and computer screens).

Some of these are my own publications, but not exclusively so.

*** You do NOT have to own a Kindle in order to download an eBook from the Amazon Kindle Books site. These books can be downloaded n to any tablet or computer.

How? If you go to the book of your choice in the Kindle Bookstore and look at the right-hand side of the screen (where the option to purchase is listed) you will also see that you can download a free app that allows you to read your chosen book on your PC, Mac, or any tablet. ****

Selected eBooks from the Kindle Store

The single largest collection of eBooks available to all of us is the one in the Kindle Bookstore. There are hundreds from which to choose and you can use the subcategories to home in on your favourite photographic subjects.

It also pays to keep returning to this site as new titles are being added on a daily basis.

Be careful with some of the reviews. They are generally very helpful, but others tell you more about the writer than they do about the book they are reviewing.

I have offered a few suggestions here - you will find many more by visiting the site for yourselves.

Good hunting.

Digital Photography Basics: A Beginner's Guide to Getting Great Digital Photos
Digital Photography Basics: A Beginner's Guide to Getting Great Digital Photos

Just right for those of you starting out on your photographic adventures. There are more advanced books but this is a good start.


Have Youy Changed Your Mind?

Now that you have read this lens are you more inclined to buy a Photography eBook?

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