Outside of a dog ...
"Outside of a dog, a book is man's best friend ..." is a famous quote by Groucho Marx. Nothing is truer than for a beginning photographer. In a fact a good book on photography is probably the most valuable piece of equipment a budding photographer can have. Often it appears that people on APUG just jump into photography with the belief that if any problems arise they can find a solution on the web. While the web is good for researching specific problems there is a paucity of sites that offer a truly comprehensive learning experience. Here is where a good book on photography is important. There are many to choose from. The Ansel Adams' series specifically The Negative and The Print come to mind. Maybe if more people did some reading we would not see the same questions being asked over and over again.
A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I agree, RTFM is the first thing you should do, then get some good books, they are usually plentiful and dirt cheap(used intro to photography books in particular), they pretty much cover most common problems encountered with cameras and film development. Photography has been around for a long time, there is a plethora of information out there in books before the web was created.
Black and White Photography: A Basic Manual by Henry Horenstein
Lootens on Photographic Enlarging
The Art of Black and White Photography by Garrett
Introduction to Photography by Rosen & Devries
Way Beyond Monochrome by Lambrecht & Woodhouse (a bit more advanced)
All of these can be found used super cheap on sites such as amazon.
I love reading all kinds of books and photographic books are wonderful. I remember finishing a book, realizing that I had gotten one good photographic tip out of it and thinking that it was worth reading the whole book just for that one tip. I don't mind people asking questions when they can't find the answer or don't know where to look; I mind when they say "I know this is probably been answered but I am too lazy to search...", especially when the question has been answered multiple times before (might even have a sticky on this forum). To not even try to research (especially with the ease of Google), I have no time to answer those questions. It is no different that people walking into a store and asking for the $5000 camera, because their friend has one and it takes beautiful pictures and they want beautiful pictures; it completely degrades the decades of experience and effort people put into their efforts. You don't want to spend the time entering a Google search or the trouble of using the public library, I don't need to spend my time providing a response.
I also recommend "The Art of Photography" by Bruce Barnbaum and "The Tao of Photography" by Gross & Shapiro. Less specific on technical aspects but more on the philosophy behind good photographs and visualizing prints.
Once a photographer is convinced that the camera can lie and that, strictly speaking, the vast majority of photographs are "camera lies," inasmuch as they tell only part of a story or tell it in a distorted form, half the battle is won. Once he has conceded that photography is not a "naturalistic" medium of rendition and that striving for "naturalism" in a photograph is futile, he can turn his attention to using a camera to make more effective pictures.
I think the whole quote needs to be shared:
Originally Posted by Gerald C Koch
Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read
I have been a firm believer in photography books for a long time. My wife says I have too many, I also usually find at least one gem of wisdom in a book to make the whole book worthwhile.
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Dunn & Wakefield, Exposure Manual, 3rd or 4th edition.
Out of print but available used.
Mark Barendt, Ignacio, CO
"We do not see things the way they are. We see things the way we are." Anaïs Nin
The Zone VI Workshop by Fred Picker
Also, go browse your local indie used booksellers to find them. Many of the standards, like the Horenstein, and Saint Ansel's series will be right there waiting for you, faster than searching for them online and much more fun.
I always say: better to buy one book that you need - than another lens or camera that you don't need .
My favorite books are from that I usually study and recommend to others: The man, the image, the world and Photographer from Bresson and Migrations, Other americas and Workers from Salgado
I still have have some of these books packed away somewhere. The Adams series (The Negative, The Print, The Camera) are probably second edition but I bought the Zone VI Workshop by Picker when it first published. I think I was fifteen? I coveted those books like a lusty teen boy with naughty magazines. I bought them just after first moving into sheet film. I have boxes of books... somewhere. Memories...
there are many excellent books, sure, but there's still nothing like having someone who knows it tell you in person -- or on a forum like this.
each of you guys IS a book, and you should be flattered at the steady stream of newbies coming to you for inspiration and help ... I always am, always take a question as a chance to spread the magic and mystery, to get a new person interested, then tell them to find a good book.
the ansel adams books, by the way, I've always found impossibly impenetrable -- too technical -- the zone system is good for the technician, but will scare most people away. John Hedgcoe had some good basic books in t he 70s and 80s with lots of illustrations that are far better for a beginner.
but there's nothing like someone who knows. So be patient with newbies, guys -- they're the ones who'll make sure Ilford stays in business.