Skip to main content

15 best new photography books of 2021

Included in this guide:

Best photo books 2021 listing image
(Image credit: Future)

To mark the arrival of 2022, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite photography books to have gone on sale during the last year. 

Plenty has changed in the world since we published last year’s round-up, but one thing has remained constant – there’s no shortage of compelling new photography books hitting the bookstores, and the following selection will soon transport you away from the here and now.  

Some of the images you’ll discover in the books listed below started out far from the printed page, but there are few better ways of enjoying photography than when it’s up close and personal in your hands – especially when printed on high quality paper in a lovingly bound book. 

So read on for our top picks across the photography book marketplace… from epic long-form documentary to fine-art portraiture, and bodies of work that use photography to raise awareness of conservation. 

We’ve also included some excellent new technical guides to photography, lighting and image editing – essential reading if you’re looking to skill up in 2022. 

(Image credit: Laurence King Publishing)

1: Creating Photographs

A master photographer takes us behind the scenes

Author: Albert Watson
Publisher: Laurence King Publishing
Pages: 128
ISBN-13: 978-1786278838
Reasons to buy
+128 pages+Soft cover+Published in 2021 

Photographer and film-maker Albert Watson has produced an incredible body of work over the last 50 years. Now he’s passing on some of his advice and experience in ‘Creating Photographs’. 

This 128-page paperback combines no end of incredible photography and enlightening anecdotes about Watson’s eventful and very productive career, plus advice covering different photographic genres and on the technical aspects of photography. 

Interesting fact: this 20-chapter volume was conceived as a book-form extension of Watson’s contributions to the Masters of Photography series of online masterclasses. 

Best for Required reading for any photographer – whatever genre they shoot, there’s a lot to learn from in this book.

(Image credit: Abrams & Chronicle Books)

2: Birds

Incredible images that celebrate the avian world

Author: Tim Flach
Publisher: Abrams & Chronicle Books
Pages: 336
ISBN-13: 978-1419747618
Reasons to buy
+336 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021

Acclaimed across the world, leading animal photographer Tim Flach brings approaches used in human portraiture to his images, where he seeks to draw an emotional response from the viewer by displaying the character and personality of his animal subjects. 

Whereas Flach’s previous book ‘Endangered’ documents a variety of species, ‘Birds’ turns its lens on avians only, grouping them in sub-species chapters. 

Shot against black or white backgrounds so that the viewer engages only with the subject, and captured with high definition cameras, the resulting images are bursting with detail and colour. 

Best for Anyone with an interest in ornithology, photography or both. Stunning  images presented in high quality, ‘Birds’ is what photography books are all about.

 Read more: The best lenses for bird photography 

(Image credit: Remembering Wildlife)

3: Remembering African Wild Dogs

Supporting conservation efforts for this endangered species

Author: Wildlife Photographers United/Margot Raggett
Publisher: Remembering Wildlife
Pages: 144
ISBN-13: 978-1999643355
Reasons to buy
+144 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021

The sixth book in this excellent wildlife conservation series focuses on a species that’s described in the foreword as “rarely seen, often talked about.” 

Perhaps lacking the species recognition covered by the previous books, ‘Remembering African Wild Dogs’ is no less significant for it, as there are now fewer African wild dogs than cheetahs. 

With photographic contributions from leading wildlife photographers including Will Burrard-Lucas, Nick Dyer, Suzi Eszterhaz, Marsel van Oosten, Art Wolfe and many more, this book is an invaluable introduction to the habitats and behaviour of this threatened species, and also documents the ongoing conservation efforts to protect them. You can do your bit for this cause by buying the book. 

Best for Buyers looking for one of the year’s best conservation photography books to take pride of place on their coffee table.

• Read more: Best coffee table books on photography

(Image credit: Phaidon)

4: Two Worlds: Above and Below the Sea

Mesmerizing ‘half and half’ photographic study of our oceans

Author: David Doubilet
Publisher: Phaidon
Pages: 128
ISBN-13: 978-1838663186
Reasons to buy
+128 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021

This new book from the renowned National Geographic photographer includes over 60 of his signature ‘half and half’ images, where the bottom part of the images are shot below the water level, while the top parts of them show what’s happening on or above it. 

A technique that Doubilet came up with in his teens, he has been able to spend decades perfecting his ‘half and half’ images, and the photographs that grace the book certainly realise his intentions, namely to relate the underwater world to the ‘air world’. 

Often beautiful and always intriguing, Doubilet’s images also raise awareness of the huge changes impacting the oceans due to climate change. 

Best for Anyone interested in the oceans, marine life and conservation.  

(Image credit: Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers)

5: Icons

Over 250 A-list stars as you may have seldom seen them

Author: Andy Gotts
Publisher: Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers
Pages: 240
ISBN-13: 978-1785513718
Reasons to buy
+240 pages+Hard cover +Published in 2021

Andy Gotts has had an incredible photographic journey. He owes his career to an opportune portrait of Stephen Fry (the foreword writer here) that he took as a student; since then Gotts has become one of the world’s foremost portrait photographers. 

It would probably be easier to list the A-listers who haven’t sat for Gotts, rather than who have, but you’ll find over 250 of the latter group in ‘Icons’. 

Helpfully divided into Movies, Fashion and Music sections, the book features household names we’re all familiar with – but captured in ways that are different to most of what you’ve seen before. 

Best for You don’t have to be an aficionado of portraits to appreciate the images in ‘Icons’: the creator’s love for the photographic form leaps from every page. 

• Read more: The best books on portrait photography

(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

6: Face Time

A fascinating history of the photographic portrait

Author: Phillip Prodger
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Pages: 256
ISBN-13: 978-0500544914
Reasons to buy
+256 pages+Hard cover +Published in 2021
Reasons to avoid

Now that everyone is a photographer, thanks to camera phones, the photographic portrait is more popular than ever. 

But anyone curious about the origins and development of the form should treat themselves to a copy of this book. The author is a curator and art historian who has worked at London’s National Portrait Gallery but ‘Face Time’ is anything but a stuffy treatise about photo portraiture. 

With chapter headings like ‘Me, Myself and I’ and ‘Death by Selfie’ setting the tone, ‘Face Time’ is a compelling exploration of this type of photographic practice, and the selection of images – stretching from the Victorian period to the present day – is always engaging, fun – and insightful. 

Best for Anyone keen to discover the background and context of today’s all-pervading branch of photography.

(Image credit: Julia Fullerton-Batten)

7: Looking Out from Within

Enchanting fine-art portraits of people living under lockdown

Author: Julia Fullerton-Batten
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 128
Reasons to buy
+128 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021 
Reasons to avoid

London-based fine-art photographer Julia Fullerton-Batten came up with a novel project to work on while being locked down in the city in 2020: photographing residents looking out of the windows of their homes. 

Providing her subjects with studio lighting and vintage clothing allowed Fullerton-Batten to bring an art aesthetic to the work, rather than a documentary approach. 

And the images – initially posted to Instagram but now self-published in the book form they richly deserve – really capture the essence of what her sitters were going through as they were confined to their homes for months on end. 

An original concept, and beautifully executed, too. 

Best for Art photography lovers looking for a distinctive chronicle of the London lockdown to show to future generations.

(Image credit: Hoxton Mini Press)

8: London in Lockdown

24 projects celebrating community and connection during Covid

Author: Jilke Golbach
Publisher: Hoxton Mini Press
Pages: 176
ISBN-13: 978-1910566961
Reasons to buy
+176 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021

Staying with the Covid-19 lockdown a little longer, here’s a different approach to chronicling it, from a purveyor of consistently excellent photo books. 

‘London in Lockdown’ features the work of 24 photographers who set out to capture stories of community and connection in England’s capital. 

Each photographer has submitted a series of photo projects or essays created under a different theme, so the book comprises a diverse selection of images that will engage many types of viewer. 

Beautifully produced in hardback form, ‘London in Lockdown’ is a pleasure to browse – thanks to its compact A5-plus (9 x 7in) dimensions. 

Best for Lovers of high quality documentary photography will love this – impeccably packaged, it’ll make an ideal photography book gift.

• Read more: The best books on street photography

(Image credit: Thames & Hudson)

9: American Geography: A Reckoning With A Dream

Long-form study of living under poverty in the US

Author: Matt Black
Publisher: Thames & Hudson
Pages: 168
ISBN-13: 978-0500545355
Reasons to buy
+168 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021

Matt Black has just published the fruits of his ambitious five-year project to document the reality of poverty across the USA. 

Images made in 46 states appear in ‘American Geography’, which is an unflinching and challenging portrayal of its subject matter. 

Shot entirely in black and white, Black’s medium of choice, the work showcases the power of the Magnum photographer’s storytelling talents, and highlights the lives of people in places deemed ‘unimportant’ – the towns and cities with poverty rates of above 20%. 

Black’s innovative approach of using photography to connect the dots between the high-poverty areas on the map of the US is certainly ingenious, and can only raise more awareness of the stark inequalities in American society. 

Best for Documentary photography appreciators looking for something original – and very moving at the same time. 

• Read more: The best coffee table books on photography

(Image credit: Ammonite Press)

10: New Yorkers

A colourful cast of NYC residents photographed at home

Author: Sally Davies
Publisher: Ammonite Press
Pages: 160
ISBN-13: 978-1781454046
Reasons to buy
+160 pages+Hard cover +Published in 2021

Having spent 38 years photographing Manhattan, especially the Lower East Side, Sally Davies set out to document the lives of the people who lived in the buildings she had photographed. 

Fortunately for her, she completed the project and had submitted it for publication just before Covid-19 swept into New York City. 

A set of more than 70 portraits each taken in less than 30 minutes, always un-staged and captured with on-camera flash only, ‘New Yorkers’ offers the viewer a through-the-keyhole glimpse into the distinct domestic spaces of a colourful cast of characters who live and work in the Big Apple. 

Best for Looking for an intriguing inside story of big city life? The fascinating ‘New Yorkers’ offers all that, and more. 

(Image credit: Hoxton Mini Press)

11: London 1977-1987

Life in the capital captured during a pivotal 10 years

Author: Berris Conolly
Publisher: Hoxton Mini Press
Pages: 128
ISBN-13: 978-1914314049
Reasons to buy
+128 pages+Hard cover+Published in 2021 

The ninth book in the publisher’s Vintage Britain series, ‘London 1977-1987’ is a collection of black and white images captured during an eventful 10 years for the city. 

Two years before taking the final photo to appear in this book, Berris Conolly had given up a 20-year commercial photography career to concentrate on documentary work, and it’s clear to see that the latter has been enriched as a result. 

Anyone familiar with north and east inner London in the 1980s will find Conolly’s photos fascinating to look at, especially what people are wearing and driving and consuming, via the brand names pasted on billboards, and where they live. 

‘London 1977-1987’ is more than nostalgia, though: the aesthetic qualities of Conolly’s masterful medium-format photos mean that there’s so much more to enjoy. 

Best for Collectors of this series of books, plus anyone who appreciates fine-quality documentary photography. 

(Image credit: Ammonite Press)

12: Mastering Lighting & Flash Photography

A deep dive into light, and how best to use it

Author: Richard Bradbury
Publisher: Ammonite Press
Pages: 176
ISBN-13: 978-1781454190
Reasons to buy
+176 pages+Soft cover+Published in 2021 

Photography is painting with light, so knowing how to master it pays dividends. 

That’s the mission statement of this 176-page guide penned by the leading British photographer Richard Bradbury. 

Following some helpful introductory chapters that define light and its various forms, the author offers a series of step-by-step tutorials for shooting portraits, still-life, products and cars and vehicles, supported by diagrams and tip boxes. 

Alongside useful case study interviews with other leading pros, you’ll also find a chapter on post-production and using software to enhance lighting effects. 

Best for If you’re looking to get to grips with the intricacies of lighting in its various forms, then this book will be a great place to start.

(Image credit: Ilex Press)

13: The Digital Darkroom

An editing masterclass for Photoshop and Affinity Photo users

Author: James Abbott
Publisher: Ilex Press
Pages: 256
ISBN-13: 978-1781578087
Reasons to buy
+256 pages+Soft cover+Published in 2021
Reasons to avoid

Over 256 pages, regular Digital Camera World contributor James Abbott shares his expert image editing insights for users of Adobe Photoshop and Affinity Photo. 

As he notes in his introduction, “post production can make the difference between a good image and a great image,” and the remaining 11 chapters show you how to turn your photos into great ones. 

From making basic adjustments to more advanced black and white, colour and special effects, it’s all here. 

The design of the book aids understanding; with plenty of pages to spread the techniques over, ‘The Digital Darkroom’ can eschew slabs of impenetrable text in favour of more manageable lengths, backed up by nugget-sized tips that are easy to grasp. 

Abbott’s decision to cover the excellent-value Affinity Photo alongside Photoshop meets the subscription/ non-subscription preferences of image-editing software buyers, and widens the scope of the book. 

Best for Beginner to intermediate-level users of Photoshop and Affinity Photo can’t fail to improve their editing skills after reading this. 

• Read more: The best photo editing software in 2022

(Image credit: Ilex Press)

14: Night Sky Photography

Everything you need to know about shooting astro

Author: Adam Woodworth
Publisher: Ilex Press
Pages: 208
ISBN-13: 978-1781577509
Reasons to buy
+208 pages+Soft cover+Published in 2021 
Reasons to avoid

Astrophotography has become more and more popular in recent years, and anyone looking for a good grounding in the genre will do well to buy a copy of this comprehensive new guide. 

Author Adam Woodworth takes the reader through the fundamentals of astrophotography and shows how even using a modest camera setup can yield great results. 

Chapters about camera gear and settings are complemented by ones about night sky subjects and how to plan for shooting them, as well as other useful areas including exposure blending, shooting panoramas and the practicalities of working outside in the dark. 

A comprehensive chapter about editing ties everything together, as do the useful case studies about approaching specific shooting situations. 

Best for Anyone keen to kick-start their journey of discovery into astrophotography.

• Read more: The best cameras for astrophotography

(Image credit: Cico Books)

15: Smart Phone, Smart Photo Editing

Everything you need to know about editing with Snapseed

Author: Jo Bradford
Publisher: Cico Books
Pages: 128
ISBN-13: 978-1800650534
Reasons to buy
+128 pages+Soft cover+Published in 2021 
Reasons to avoid

Subtitled ‘A complete workflow for editing on any phone or tablet using Snapseed’, Jo Bradford’s latest book follows 2018’s ‘Smart Phone, Smart Photography’. 

Conscious that she may have only told half the story about camera phone photography in that book, the author has duly written a follow-up volume. 

The techniques featured in the book apply to editing images non-destructively using Snapseed, a free app that works on both Android and iOS. 

Starting with an introduction to the software, Bradford moves on to using the software to enhance compositions, before looking at making global and local adjustments. 

She then goes beyond the basics with a look at filters and lens blur, and includes some useful case studies covering creative extras. 

Best for A must for any camera phone owner who uses, or intends to use, Snapseed – and the perfect accompaniment to the author’s ‘Smart Phone, Smart Photography’ book. 

• Read more: The best camera phones in 2022

Read more:

Best photography books for beginners and pros
Best books on food photography
Best photobooks: make your own photography book

Niall Hampton

Niall is the editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and has been shooting on interchangeable lens cameras for over 20 years, and on various point-and-shoot models for years before that. 

Working alongside professional photographers for many years as a jobbing journalist gave Niall the curiosity to also start working on the other side of the lens. These days his favored shooting subjects include wildlife, travel and street photography, and he also enjoys dabbling with studio still life. 

On the site you will see him writing photographer profiles, asking questions for Q&As and interviews, reporting on the latest and most noteworthy photography competitions, and sharing his knowledge on website building.