Book Review: the Photographer’s Playbook

I rarely post about books on this blog, but that is probably partly because there are so few books on photography out there that are equally accessible, inspiring, and worthwhile. Finally though, I have found one worth talking about, so here we go.

The Photographer’s Playbook is a collection of 300-odd ‘assignments and ideas’ for, well, photographers. As the blurb on the back puts it:

The best way to learn is by doing. The Photographer s Playbook features photography assignments, as well as ideas, stories, and anecdotes from many of the world s most talented photographers and photography professionals. Whether you’re looking for exercises to improve your craft alone or in a group or you’re interested in learning more about the medium, this playful collection will inspire fresh ways of engaging with photographic process. Inside you will find advice for better shooting and editing, creative ways to start new projects, games and activities, and insight into the practices of those responsible for our most iconic photographs

the Photographer's Playbook coverNow I know what you are thinking, because I have been down this road before many times as well. We’ve all come across the countless books that trot out the same old tired ‘challenges’ such as ‘shoot for a full day just with one lens!’ or ‘look for symmetry!’ or ‘take a photo of a stranger!’. Often the language of these feels childish, and while those kinds of prompts are all fine and well for folks who are maybe just starting to experiment with photography as a hobby, they miss the mark completely for those of us who have been shooting for longer.

Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to find resources that consider photographic expression at a deeper level which doesn’t land firmly in the serious art theory camp, and it’s been an itch I’ve been looking to scratch for years. This is where the Photographer’s Playbook comes in. Rather than just providing a bunch of tasks to complete, inside is a fairly substantial collection of musings, insights, and tips which are designed to help you ponder your perspective on photography. The entries themselves are drawn from a wide pool of notable contributors, including teachers, students, and famous photographers such as Stephen Shore.

This book provides a more grown up, philosophical approach to kickstarting creativity – with a myriad of different examples ranging from the practical, to the more reflective, to the downright bizarre.

I really love this book, partly because it serves a number of purposes. When I feel completely uninspired I can simply open it up to any page and start to get sucked in again to the questions around why I loved photography in the first place. When I am already feeling that compulsive itch to shoot, the book provides a way to both stimulate and satiate that feeling – as opposed to just reading through endless gear review sites or same-old same-old YouTube videos. It’s a brilliant resource, and I heartily recommend it to anybody.

the Photographer's Playbook

Where can I get it?!

Currently the book is only available in physical copies, which seems appropriate. You can pick up a copy from Amazon for about £12 at the time of writing, and it’s well worth it. I’m not getting paid by the publishers or anything to punt this book – I just like it – but if you use the referral link above then Jeff Bezos might chuck me 13p as a thanks. Which would be nice.


5 thoughts on “Book Review: the Photographer’s Playbook

  1. Florian Ziegler April 23, 2020 — 21:50

    Thanks for the review. I had this on my wishlist for a long time – and just ordered it. 😊

  2. I’m also tired of the same old repurposed tips that most photography books share. I’m not an expert but I’m not a beginner either who needs to shoot in one setting to understand how it works how it doesn’t. This book sounds exciting, unfortunately I’m unable to buy from Amazon as all flights are canceled. I was hoping to get a digital copy from Apple Books but doesn’t sound like it exists there. ;(

    1. Sorry to hear that! Yeah, there doesn’t appear to be a digital copy. Hopefully you’ll be able to pick up one sooner rather than later.

  3. I bought this book ages ago but have never made the time to properly sit down and read it 😬 I must take another look 👍

    1. You should! It’s great.

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