7 Books Every Product Photographer Should Read

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There used to be a time when you had to figure things out by yourself, the hard way. And while there are still some secrets in the product photography world, there is a growing number of resources for enhancing our craft.

Professional development is a big part of any field of work if you want to hone your skills. It’s important to stay current as well as maintain an openness to learning from those who have been successful. Product photography books can also show you the techniques used by top photographers in the field as well as serve to inspire you in your work. 

The best product photography books are Masterclass: Studio Photography for product lighting techniques, Licensing Photography for protecting your work, and The Win Without Pitching Manifesto for dealing with clients. Other books on setting up a studio are also included below.

Anyone in the field of product photography is going to benefit from these product photography books, whether you’re just getting started in the product photography business or have many years of experience in the field, there is always something to learn.

So let’s take a look at the 7 best product photography books to add to your collection now. 

The Art and Style of Product Photography by J. Dennis Thomas

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Wiley, 2013, 288 pages

J. Dennis Thomas shares the tricks of the trade he’s learned in his product photography experience for publications such as Rolling Stone, Elle, W Magazine, and US Weekly. All of the tools you need to prepare you for a career in product photography are in this book.

A reviewer claimed that The Art and Style of Product Photography “covers literally every detail of anything you would want or need to know about product photography.”

  • Choosing the Right Cameras
    Thomas starts by covering the basics such as how to choose the right equipment. You’ll find information about selecting the best cameras for your product photography. If you’re a newcomer, you’ll appreciate the sections on standard, special-purpose lenses, tripods, and background equipment to help you prepare for photo shoots.

    There are some great tips on using camera angles and composition to achieve your desired look as well. And Thomas teaches you how to manipulate exposure settings to achieve different effects.
  • Finding the Right Lighting Equipment
    Also discussed in this book are the different types of lighting equipment. Thomas addresses the use of natural light, continuous light, shoe-mount flashes, studio strobes, flash triggering, and light modifiers. Another great addition for novices is a section on how to assemble a basic lighting kit.

    Thomas shows you how to use different lighting techniques to get the results you want. He covers quality, types, direction, and ratios in lighting.
  • Setting Up the Background
    Some other important details like how to set up a product background and use props to enhance your photos are also a part of this book. 
  • Tackling Tricky Products
    In addition to the basics, Thomas also addresses how to master different techniques for photographing a variety of products, including some that present more of a challenge. You’ll learn how to handle reflective surfaces like jewelry, glass, and liquids. 
  • Streamlining the Editing Process
    Post-production workflow is also covered, giving ideas for how to make the process smoother.

What You’ll Love

  • This book is great for beginners to the product photography field
  • The fundamentals of photography are covered
  • The layout is very orderly, chronologically presenting topics in a way that makes sense when preparing for product photography work
  • Side by side photos clearly demonstrate the effects of using different photography techniques
  • Great information for those photographing smaller products

What You May Not Love

  • Doesn’t provide details about how to create the setup used for the product images shown in the book
  • Doesn’t provide diagrams with all of the shots which would be more useful for visual learners
  • Some readers have mentioned that the font used in the book isn’t easy to read
  • May not go into as much depth as an experienced photographer would like

This book received 4.4 out of 5 stars on Amazon. 

Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting (5th edition) by Fil Hunter, Steven Biver, and Paul Fuqua

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Routledge, 2015, 400 pages

This book covers photography lighting for all types of photography rather than just for product photography, however, many of the subjects used for the examples are products. Also, many of the tips for photography lighting are especially relevant to product photography.

You’ll learn how to use lighting to your advantage when shooting a variety of products, including those that can be tougher to master, like glass and liquids. That makes this book helpful for all levels of product photographers. 

If you’ve been struggling with getting your product photography lighting just right, consider this comment from a reviewer who says Light Science & Magic: An Introduction to Photographic Lighting “is a must have for anyone who’s having a hard time wrapping their head around photography lighting.”

  • Choosing Cameras and Lighting Equipment
    The authors start with an overview of photography basics such as the principles of lighting and what types of camera and lighting are needed. 
  • What is Light?
    There is an in-depth discussion about what light is in relation to photography. Different aspects are addressed such as brightness, color, contrast, and light versus lighting. 
  • Using Light to Shape Your Images
    The authors spend several chapters going over how to use different aspects of light to sort of mold your subject, achieving your vision for your final product images. Subjects covered are reflection, angles, shapes, and contours.  
  • Photographing Challenging Products
    Some aspects of products are notoriously difficult to get just right, such as those with reflective surfaces, but Hunter, Biver, and Fuqua give helpful tips for handling these tricky subjects. You’ll discover how to navigate lighting for glass, liquid, and metal products, as well as how to take on white-on-white and black-on-black images. 
  • Studio Setup Tips for Beginners
    This 5th edition of the book has the added bonus chapter “Setting Up Your First Studio,” making this extremely valuable for newcomers to the product photography field. Also new in this edition is an updated appendix of sources for dependable photo gear, another significant treat for those starting out.

To appeal to all experience levels in product photography, this new edition of Light Science & Magic has an updated section on the advances in photography lighting equipment.

Another point to consider is that this book is highly regarded (all editions) and frequently used as required reading in photography courses. This is an excellent addition to any photographer’s collection. 

What You’ll Love

  • Relevant for newbies or veterans of the product photography field
  • Very clear, detailed explanations 
  • Information on setting up a photography studio from start to finish
  • This newest edition contains the latest information in photography lighting

What You May Not Love

  • Some experienced photographers feel this book is too elementary
  • No in-depth detail about lighting equipment usage, more about lighting concepts
  • It’s not exclusively about product photography

This book received 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Masterclass: Professional Studio Photography (1st edition) by Dennis Savini

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Rocky Nook, 2012, 240 pages

While not exclusively focused on product photography, Dennis Savini’s book is still a treasure trove of information for anyone looking to be successful in the product photography field. There are sections on portraits, but you’ll find that most of the photography subjects featured are products.

One reviewer referred to Masterclass: Professional Studio Photography as “one of the best reference books I’ve read on this technical aspect of photography.”

Savini is a professional photographer and an instructor at a photography school in Switzerland, so you can count on his explanations being clear and easy to follow. He’s been training others in the field since 1980 and knows how to create a user-friendly studio photography guide to help others achieve success. 

  • Setting Up a Photography Studio
    You’ll learn how to set up the photography studio for your photo shoot, including tips for choosing cameras and lighting. This is helpful for any photographer planning to work in a studio and looking for tips to optimize their setup.
  • Product Photography Examples
    Dennis Savini includes plenty of product photography examples in this book, such as technology, food, and jewelry. There are 50 full-page examples of different types of product photography. He provides thorough details about how each image was created; specifics like the specs for all of the equipment used, the studio setup, lighting, and post-production work.

    Savini guides you through all of the steps that went into creating the product images, so you can feel confident trying to recreate your favorite images. 

What You’ll Love

  • Particularly helpful for seasoned product photographers
  • Covers a variety of photography aspects, including cameras, lenses, lighting, and studio setup
  • Very clear instructions and examples are given for different types of studio photo shoots
  • Includes lots of relevant information primarily geared toward product photographers

What You May Not Love

  • Some readers feel the book isn’t up to date
  • May be too advanced for some less experienced photographers
  • Although the main focus is on product photography, this book isn’t exclusively about this field
  • There are reportedly some typos in the book and the page numbers are on the inner margins which is a bit less convenient when searching for a specific page

This book received 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

The New Lighting for Product Photography: The Digital Photographer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Sculpting with Light (2nd edition) by Allison Earnest 

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Amherst Media, 2019, 128 pages

Allison Earnest infuses her 24 years of photography experience into this guide to mastering product photography lighting. Getting the lighting just right can be tricky until you’ve got years of experience under your belt, but with this book, you’ll be able to tackle even the most challenging lighting situations in a whole new way.

  • Overview of Photography and Light
    Earnest begins with a discussion about different types of photography, comparing some popular photography fields such as portrait and art with that of product photography. She explains how your lighting needs will differ based on the type of photography.
  • Comparison of Light vs. Lighting
    There is also a chapter titled “Light vs. Lighting” where the author sets the stage for her later lessons on how to “sculpt” with light and use the art of lighting to make your product images pop.
  • Different Types of Lighting Equipment
    Also helpful is an overview of different lighting tools, how they’re used, and how they affect the look of your product photos.

    The New Lighting for Product Photography: The Digital Photographer’s Step-by-Step Guide to Sculpting with Light is a great introduction for those new to product photography. One reviewer stated that “this book can help even the newest photographer understand how light works in the photography world!”
  • Product Photography Lighting Case Studies
    Although this book does cover some product photography lighting basics, it is anything but basic. Earnest provides case studies showing step-by-step how to set up lighting in a variety of situations, especially those that prove to be quite challenging to even the most experienced product photographers. Seeing the before and after photos really helps drive home the point of using the right lighting.

What You’ll Love

  • This edition was printed in larger type than the first for easier reading
  • Case studies with step-by-step instructions for different lighting setups
  • Clear and concise writing style
  • Illustrations to help demonstrate abstract concepts
  • Great for novice and experienced product photographers
  • Tricks for dealing with challenging lighting issues, like highly-reflective products
  • Covers post-processing techniques
  • Includes a section on Photoshop

What You May Not Love

  • Case studies don’t include specific wattage used 
  • Case studies don’t show photos of the lighting setup used
  • There are some errors in the lighting diagrams

This book received 4.7 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Product Photography Magic (3rd edition) by Garry Edwards

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

All for Horses, 2019, 241 pages

One significant thing to note with this book is that the Kindle version was updated in September 2020, so it’s the most current book on our list.

Garry Edwards was a professional advertising and commercial photographer who now writes instructional photography books; he’s currently got sixteen books under his belt. His books are written in a very straightforward way for even the most novice product photographers to follow.

Edwards gives a comprehensive look at all aspects of product photography from marketing to choosing cameras and lighting to 360-degree product photos. He takes a comprehensive approach to the subject of product photography but keeps it user-friendly for even the newest photographer.

One reviewer wrote that Product Photography Magic is “a book that you can train yourself from but that doesn’t dumb down or gloss over whole loads of important information.”

  • Photography Lighting Lessons from a Specialist
    Photographic lighting is his specialty and the only subject he writes about. There is an in-depth discussion about the different types of lighting and accessories and how to decide which type of lighting and techniques to use for different products. 
  • Product Photography Marketing Tips
    The sections on marketing and different sales platforms will appeal to newer product photographers trying to get established in the business. Edwards intends to reach small and medium-sized product photography business owners who want to learn how to market themselves in the age of the online marketplace. 
  • Choosing Cameras and Lighting Equipment
    There are some basic topics covered to assist the beginner product photographer with getting started. Edwards discusses the different types of cameras and lenses as well as the various lighting options, including light tents and light cubes.
  • Product Photography Accessories
    Edwards includes a section on a variety of other accessories product photographers will need to create professional images. He covers lighting stands, boom arms, radio triggers, 5-in-1 reflectors, lighting gels, backgrounds, and cinefoil. 

What You’ll Love

  • Clear, easy-to-follow instructions
  • Valuable for beginners while also appealing to experienced product photographers looking to sharpen their skills
  • All proceeds from the sales of Edwards’ books go to All for Horses charity for horse rescue and rehoming

What You May Not Love

  • Photographing clothing is not covered
  • The book seems to need some professional editing
  • Some readers claim the quality of the photographs and images is lacking

This book received 3.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

Other Important Books For Product Photographers

Product photography books are great for learning about lighting and techniques, however there is another side to this creative industry that has a dark side, mainly:

  • Licensing/Copyright
  • Client Relationships

Below are some additional resources that are essential reading for product photographers.

Licensing Photography by Richard Weisgrau and Victor Perlman

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

Commercial work, and product photography in general, is about using your skills, knowledge, and creativity for crafting unique imagery that is only useful for your client. Imagery that actually influences the purchasing decisions of online shoppers and has a considerable impact on a business’ bottom line.

Many photographers who are new to the commercial world often find themselves not knowing how to protect their work and see their images on Billboards, Magazines, T.V. Commercials, Product Packaging, etc. without ever getting paid for that extra value.

Whether or not a photograph is easy for you to make is irrelevant. Photographers get paid more because when an image is used more it is worth more.

Licensing Photography is a critical resource about the legal side of photography and teaches you the best practices for protecting your work, issuing licenses and limiting usage, which is especially important in the world of product photography.

The Win Without Pitching Manifesto by Blair Enns

Copyright Disclaimer under section 107 of the Copyright Act 1976, allowance is made for fair use for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, education and research.

There are many books about how to get clients and market yourself as a photographer, but very few that actually go over the fundamentals about how to be perceived as an expert in your field.

Experts don’t need to beg for work or cut prices. They aren’t seen as “me too” photographers who get sorted by the lowest price, and The Win Without Pitching Manifesto goes over the mindset every creative needs to know in order to set themselves apart from the competition.

Here is a small Clubhouse discussion with the Author on The Futur:

The Best Product Photography Books: A Valuable Component of Your Professional Development

The seven product photography books we highlighted here will all make a great addition to your collection. Many successful photographers will be able to easily recall a book that has remained valuable to them throughout their product photography career.

If you freelance or own your own photography business, you’ll be responsible for arranging your own professional development opportunities. No matter how many years you’ve been in the field, there is always something to learn from your peers. Committing to lifetime learning will sharpen your skills and keep you up to date on advancements in product photography. 

Relevant books, such as those featured in this article, are one avenue to pursue convenient, affordable professional development.

There are also visual resources, such as video courses on product photography and our own Youtube channel that will help you hone your skills even more.

The coverage of photography equipment and techniques is invaluable for those that are newer to product photography. However, even as an experienced photographer, you are sure to find information in these books that may inspire you and enhance your work. 

Invest in yourself and your business by adding one or more of these titles to your collection. 

Benjamin

Benjamin

Hi, I'm Benjamin, Digital Media Strategist and product photographer for Skyline FBA.I have been involved in content creation for over 10 years and love helping people develop strategies to grow their business. My wife and I are Product Photographers that are experienced in Amazon FBA, eCommerce, Lifestyle, and Advertising photography.

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