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Take Better Travel Photos (8 Best Photography Books)

Posted in: Ecuador Photos, Product Reviews, Resources & Gear

A landscape view in Southern Ecuador

When we moved here, we brought more than 60lbs of books in suitcases.

They were a combination of work and schooling books. Most of my work books were actually photography books – it was one of the ways we planned on making a living here.

As it turns out, we didn’t become photographers – but photography does play a huge roll in our work as bloggers and online marketers.

In this post, I share my 8 favorite photography books. They have helped me get an understanding of photography – both the technical and composition aspects. I hope you enjoy, and will share your suggestions in the comment section!

My Favorite Photography Authors

My two favorite photography authors are both long-time photographers and authors.

  • Scott Kelby: Published more than 100 photography books! I love his casual approach to photography. While he teaches technique, he is more focused on enjoying the process. His book are easily read and packed with practical tips and advice.
  • Bryan Peterson: More than 20 published books. There are two reasons I buy Bryan’s books. 1) he prints huge photos in his book and 2) he prints the settings he used to get them.

Note: the product links in this post are affiliate links to Amazon. If you click and purchase one of these titles, we may make a small commission. 

Interested to do some photography on your trip? Here’s how to choose Best Camera for Travel

Better Travel Photos with Scott Kelby

Scott Kelby is a professional photographer, trainer and author.

I have used Scotts’ Adobe Photoshop books for many years – they are the standard in learning to use Photoshop. I can’t imagine blogging without Photoshop. It is an essential tool for editing and processing photos.

Scott is also the Editor/Publisher of Photoshop User magazine, President of the National Assn. of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) co-host of the live weekly photography talk show “The Grid.” Co-host of “Photoshop User TV” and Conference Technical Chair of the Photoshop World Conference & Expo.

Here are four of Scott’s books that I recommend for travelers and expats:

1. The Digital Photography Book (Scott Kelby)

This entire book is written with a brilliant premise, and here’s how Scott describes it: “If you and I were out on a shoot, and you asked me, ‘Hey, how do I get this flower to be in focus, but I want the background out of focus?’ I wouldn’t stand there and give you a lecture about aperture, exposure, and depth of field. In real life, I’d just say, ‘Get out your telephoto lens, set your f/stop to f/2.8, focus on the flower, and fire away.’ You’d say, ‘OK,’ and you’d get the shot.

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Here’s another thing that makes this book different: each page covers just one trick, just one single concept that makes your photography better. Every time you turn the page, you’ll learn another pro setting, another pro tool, another pro trick to transform your work from snapshots into gallery prints. There’s never been a book like it, and if you’re tired of taking shots that look “OK,” and if you’re tired of looking in photography magazines and thinking, “Why don’t my shots look like that?” then this is the book for you.

2. The Digital Photography Book, Volume 2

Scott Kelby, author of the groundbreaking bestseller “The Digital Photography Book, Vol. 1” is back with an entirely new book that picks up right where Vol. 1 left off. It’s more of that “Ah ha—so that’s how they do it,” straight-to-the-point, skip the techno jargon; packed with stuff you can really use today, that made Vol. 1 the world’s bestselling book on digital photography.

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In Volume 2, Scott adds entirely new chapters packed with Plain English tips on using flash, shooting close up photography, travel photography, shooting people, and even how to build a studio from scratch, where he demystifies the process so anyone can start taking pro-quality portraits today! Plus, he’s got full chapters on his most requested topics, including loads of tips for landscape photographers, wedding photographers, and there’s an entire chapter devoted to sharing some of the pro’s secrets for making your photos look more professional, no matter what you’re shooting.

3. The Digital Photography Book, Volume 3

This book truly has a brilliant premise, and here’s how Scott describes it: “If you and I were out on a shoot and you asked me, ‘Hey Scott, I want the light for this portrait to look really soft and flattering. How far back should I put this softbox?’ I wouldn’t give you a lecture about lighting ratios, or flash modifiers. In real life, I’d just turn to you and say, ‘Move it in as close to your subject as you possibly can, without it actually showing up in the shot.’ Well, that’s what this book is all about: you and I out shooting where I answer questions, give you advice, and share the secrets I’ve learned, just like I would with a friend—without all the technical explanations and techie photo speak.”

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Each page covers a single concept on how to make your photography better. Every time you turn the page, you’ll learn another pro setting, tool, or trick to transform your work from snapshots into gallery prints. If you’re tired of taking shots that look “okay,” and if you’re tired of looking in photography magazines and thinking, “Why don’t my shots look like that?” then this is the book for you.

4. The Digital Photography Book, Volume 4

This isn’t a book of theory, full of confusing jargon and detailed concepts. This is a book on which button to push, which setting to use, and when to use it.

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With another 200 of the most closely guarded photographic “tricks of the trade,” this book gets you shooting dramatically better-looking, sharper, more colorful, more professional-looking photos every time.

Or buy all four books in a boxed set.

Better Travel Photos with Bryan Peterson

Bryan Peterson is a professional photographer, internationally known instructor, and founder of The Perfect Picture School of Photography. He is also the best-selling author of the following seven books:

Bryan’s writing style is relaxed and informative. These aren’t technical manuals, although he does address specific technical aspects. These are the kind of books you can use on the go. Whether you are hiking in the Galapagos or on a flight to Mexico, you can learn while you travel.

Here are four of Bryan’s books that I recommend for travelers and expats:

5. Understanding Digital Photography: Techniques for Getting Great Pictures

This was my first photography book and it is nicely worn and dogeared. If you are going to buy just one book – buy this one.

Using his popular bad image/good image pairings of real-life examples, Bryan Peterson takes the reader through all the techniques needed to succeed with digital photography in every popular genre: nature, people, sports, interiors, travel, low-light conditions, travel, weather, commercial portraits, macro, and wildlife—even how to use creative tricks such as reflections.

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As a bonus, Peterson explains, in straightforward text, the techniques of Photoshop as well as the basics of publishing, printing, and archiving and storing for personal or professional use. Full of great examples for beginners and serious photographers, Understanding Digital Photography makes it easy to create great digital pictures every time.

6. Understanding Exposure, 3rd Edition: How to Shoot Great Photographs with Any Camera

With more than 350,000 copies sold, Understanding Exposure has demystified the complex concepts of exposure for countless photographers. Now updated with current technologies, more than one hundred new images, and an all-new chapter, this new edition will inspire you more than ever to free yourself from “auto” and create the pictures you truly want.

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In his trademark easy-to-understand style, author Bryan Peterson explains the relationship between aperture and shutter speed, including how to achieve successful exposures in seemingly difficult situations.

7. Understanding Shutter Speed: Creative Action and Low-Light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second

With clear, jargon-free explanations of terms and techniques, plus compelling “before-and-after” photos that pair a mediocre image (created using the wrong shutter speed) with a great image (created using the right shutter speed), this is the definitive practical guide to mastering an often-confusing subject.

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Topics include freezing and implying motion, panning, zooming, exposure, Bogen Super Clamps, and rendering motion effects with Photoshop, all with helpful guidance for both digital and film formats. Great for beginners and serious amateurs, Understanding Shutter Speed is the definitive handy guide to mastering shutter speed for superb results.

8. Beyond Portraiture: Creative People Photography

Great portraits go beyond a mere record of a face. They reveal one of the millions of intimate human moments that make up a life. In Beyond Portraiture, renowned photographer Bryan Peterson shows how to spot those “ah-ha!” moments and capture them forever. A teary child…old people laughing together…a smiling girl with big, big hair.

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Everyone remember pictures like these, usually taken by a mother, a father, a friend holding a camera, forever preserving small yet revealing vignettes of our personal histories. But we always relied on pure luck and chance to catch those moments. Peterson’s approach explains what makes a photo memorable, how to spot the universal themes that everyone can identify with, and how to use lighting, setting, and exposure to reveal the wonder and the joy of everyday moments. Beyond Portraiture makes it easy to create indelible memories with light and shadow.

So there you have it. This is the list of our photography books. We have other books in our library regarding the business of photograph, but that’s another post.

What book to you recommend? Have you read or used any of these? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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Meet the Author

Bryan Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. He is a travel blogger and content marketer. He is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

8 comments… add one
  • JP Apr 9, 2013, 12:49 pm

    Dear Bryan,

    I found this web very interesting and useful for all the Expat community and the public in general in Ecuador. I have to congratulate the good editorial stuff on the web and the information in general is pretty reliable.

    My self is a travel journalist and photographer, I work for a local magazine called “Ñan Magazine” and we are currently working on a edition for Cuenca to be released first week of May.

    I have also worked and own a web portal for inbound tourism promoting Ecuador as main destination in South America as other countries in the region.

    Please I will be very interested in receiving your news letter and please do not hesitate to let me know anything you need on my side.

    With Best regards
    Juan Pablo V.

    • Bryan Haines Apr 19, 2013, 10:11 am

      Hi JP,

      Thanks for your feedback on the site. Please send me a link for the magazine once it is released. I would love to see it.

      You can subscribe to the newsletter here.

      I’m sending you an email right now…



      • Dominic Hamilton Jan 15, 2017, 8:27 pm

        Dear Bryan,

        I hope you’re well. I’m sure you came across the issues of Ñan that we produced about Cuenca a while ago now. They were very popular, and issue #4 has totally sold out.

        Perhaps you can share our website, which we finally got launched and running last year, with your readers? We hope they’ll find inspiration and information for their travels in Ecuador!

        Best wishes
        Dominic Hamilton

        • Bryan Haines Jan 16, 2017, 6:41 am

          Very nice – congratulations on your success. Your publication looks beautiful.


  • Marcus Spiker Mar 2, 2013, 7:50 am

    My wife and I are seriously considering leaving the US. We are very interested in Ecuador but we speak zero Spanish. That can be remedied. I am 58 and my wife is 60 and we have had our fill of the US. I understand that Ecuador is one of about 40+ countries that the US government will allow Social Security checks to be deposited. What can you tell us about retiring in Ecuador. We need facts not hyperbole. Who do we talk to?


    Marcus Spiker

    • Terry Doyle Mar 6, 2013, 5:09 pm

      Not sure about the depositing of SSI checks but, as I’m sure you’re aware, any bank VISA/MC/whatever can be used in ATM’s in Ecuador or anywhere else.

      You’ll probably say that there are fees associated with this but there is at least one card that does not charge and there are probably more: if you have an account with Charles Schwab, you can get worldwide withdrawals for nada. No fees. Not sure what the minimum deposit might be but it might be a better bet that trying to get your money into an Ecuadorian bank.

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