The Photographer's Playbook

Book Review: The Photographer’s Playbook

The Photographer's Playbook: Book Review A Great Book To Stretch Your Creative Muscles Holy cow! 307 photographic exercises

The Photographer's Playbook: Book Review

A Great Book To Stretch Your Creative Muscles

Holy cow! 307 photographic exercises and ideas to help photographers exercise their creative muscles all in one spot. The Photographer’s Playbook will definitely help you grows as a photographer, drag you kicking and screaming out of a creative rut, or simply push you creatively.

This is definitely not a book that you pick up and start with page one and just plow through… If you are like me, you will do a few exercises, put the book down, and pick it up a week or two later. In the past year, my copy has become a little torn and tattered…

My rating: 4 of 5 Stars

Below are some of my thoughts.

Who the Book Is For – The Non-Beginner:

Most of the exercises in the book are designed to stretch the reader creatively. Anyone stuck in a creative rut, bored with their current photography, or lacking inspiration would benefit greatly. If you shoot primarily with a point and shoot or smart phone, you will also get a great deal out of this book.

The Photographer’s Playbook won’t teach you the basics of the exposure triangle or how to use your camera – it is not geared toward beginning photographers regardless of camera choice. Most of the exercises assume that you either have the technical skills down or that you are using equipment that handles the technical things for you.

Some Great Things About The Photographer’s Playbook:

  • Every exercise comes from an artist – this contributes heavily to the variety of content
  • The exercises are meant to be done one off – one is not dependent on another. This also makes it so you can start anywhere in the book
  • There is a huge variety in the exercises from very literal (photograph something specific) to very conceptual (photograph someone’s aura)
  • You will learn as much about the craft of photography as you will improve your photographic skills
  • The exercises in the book are generally short and can be accomplished in an afternoon or two
  • The artists featured provide valuable input and insight – they don’t just rattle off something to go do
  • There are short biographies of the contributors in the back of the book – those are an interesting read by themselves
  • My Favorite: nothing is labeled with a skill level. This is huge as it doesn’t let a label intimidate the reader out of an exercise.

There are several exercises that are designed to stretch you creatively without a camera. One example is handing your camera to someone else and asking them to photograph you. The point of the exercise is to articulate to the other person what you want out of the picture. This won’t sharpen your camera skills, but it will help you learn to define what you want out of a photo before you take it.

Room for Improvement:

A word of warning… A few of the exercises are really out there (‘Mother’s Nightmare’, ‘Auras’ & ‘Inside Out’ and a few more). The ‘Mother’s Nightmare’ exercise is especially weird. As a parent, I can’t imagine helping a mother visualize her worst nightmare… ‘Inside Out’ could be interpreted is so many different ways you almost don’t know where to begin. There may be a few exercises you wish to skip over because they are too far outside of your comfort zone to try. Good thing the exercises don’t rely on one another…

One improvement that I would propose is that the exercises could have been organized by topic. Instead, the table of contents is ordered alphabetically by artist last name. Great if you are looking for someone specific, but not as helpful if you are looking to flex a particular creative muscle. In books, my brain favors logical organization – this book is designed to pick exercises at random.


The non 5 star rating is based on the odd assignments and illogical (at least to me) organization. That said, The Photographer’s Playbook is an invaluable asset in helping a photographer stretch creatively. The interdisciplinary approach of the exercises and sheer variety make The Photographer’s Playbook a valuable addition to any photographer’s books shelf.

If you have a copy of The Photographer’s Playbook, we would love to know what you think in the comments below. If you don’t have a copy yet, get one at HERE today.

Disclaimers: has no relationship with the authors, publisher, or distributers of ‘The Photographer’s Playbook.’ The book was purchased independently and reviewed because the author found the book useful.

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