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Introduction to Visual Literacy: Resources

This guide introduces visual literacy and why it is important. It discusses how to think about, use, and create images and visual media, and provides links to important resources.



Books with an asterisk (*) are especially recommended or were core texts used in creating this guide.


Visual Literacy, Perception, and Creativity

This is a general category. Some of these books are relevant to more than one of the categories that follow it.

Apkon, Stephen. The Age of the Image : Redefining Literacy in a World of Screens. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2013. * (Especially recommended)

Barry, Ann Marie Seward. Visual Intelligence : Perception, Image, and Manipulation in Visual Communication. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997. 

Carr, Nicholas. The shallows: What the internet is doing to our brains. norton paperback. reprint ed.  W. W. Norton & Company; 2011.

Cozolino, L. J. (2013). The social neuroscience of education : optimizing attachment and learning in the classroom. New York: W. W. Norton.

Cozolino, L. J. (2010). The neuroscience of psychotherapy : healing the social brain (2nd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Co.

Ewen, S. (2008). PR!: A social history of spin. Basic Books. An excellent history of how media messages have been used to influence attitudes and behavior.

Franck, Frederick. The Zen of Seeing: Seeing/drawing As Meditation. Vintage Books, 1973.

Lessig, Lawrence. Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy. New York: Penguin Press, 2008. Addresses issues related to intellectual property and the remixing of images and other media.

Williams, Rick., Newton, Julianne Hickerson. Visual Communication : Integrating Media, Art and Science. New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006.

Rico, Gabriele L. Writing the Natural Way : Using Right-brain Techniques to Release Your Expressive Powers. Los Angeles, Calif.: J.P. Tarcher. 

Sacks, Oliver. (1998). The man who mistook his wife for a hat: And other clinical tales. Simon & Schuster.



Golombisky, Kim, and Rebecca Hagen. White Space Is Not Your Enemy : A Beginner's Guide to Communicating Visually Through Graphic, Web & Multimedia Design. Amsterdam ; Boston: Focal Press/Elsevier. *

See also Patterson (2004) under "Photography" and Block (2007), Mercado (2011) and Mascelli (1965) under "Movies and Video" below.



Cartier-Bresson, Henri. The Mind's Eye: writings on Photography and Photographers. Ed. Michael L Sand. New York, N.Y.: n.p., 1999.  Widely recognized as the father of modern photojounalism. 

Eisenstaedt, Alfred. Eisenstaedt's Guide to Photography: A Studio Book. Viking Press; First Edition, 1978.  A classic.

Orwig, Chris. Visual Poetry. New Riders, 2009. Helpful advice for people getting started in photography. 

Patterson, Freeman. Photography and the Art of Seeing : A Visual Perception Workshop for Film and Digital Photography. Toronto, ON: Key Porter Books, 2004.  A highly respected fine art photographer. 

Peterson, Bryan. Understanding Shutter Speed : Creative Action and Low-light Photography Beyond 1/125 Second. New York: Amphoto Books, 2008.

Image Editing

Bampton, Victoria. Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 5 - the Missing Faq. Lightroom Queen Publishing., 2013. * (Especially recommended for Adobe Lightroom users.)

Davis, Harold, and Davis, Phyllis. The Photoshop Darkroom. Oxford: Focal, 2009.*  (Recommended for  Photoshop users.)


Movies and Video

Bernard, Sheila Curran., Rabin, Kenn. Archival Storytelling : A Filmmaker's Guide to Finding, Using, and Licensing Third-party Visuals and Music. Amsterdam; Boston: Focal Press, 2009.

Bernard, Sheila Curran. Documentary Storytelling : Creative Nonfiction on Screen. Amsterdam; Boston: Focal Press, 2011.*

Block, B. A. The visual story: Creating the structure of film, television, and visual media. Boston: Focal Press, 2007

Ebert, Roger.The Great Movies.Random House Digital, Inc., 2002.* (A great book. See also the second and third volumes.)

Understanding Movies.10th Edition ed. Prentice Hall Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 2004.

Mascelli, J. V. The five C's of cinematography. Silman-James Press Los Angeles, 1965.

Mercado, Gustavo. The Filmmaker's Eye: Learning (and Breaking) the Rules of Cinematic Composition. London: Focal Press, 2011.

Monaco, James. How to Read a Film : Movies, Media, and Beyond. New York ; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.* 

Rabiger, Michael. Directing the Documentary. Fifth Edition. Focal Press, 2009.

Video Editing

Murch, Walter, and Francis Ford Coppola. In the Blink of An Eye: A Perspective on Film Editing. Silman-James Press Beverly Hills, 2001.

Websites and online articles

Websites and online

Learning and Visual Literacy

Visual Literacy: An Institutional Imperative (EDUCAUSE Review)

Wolf, M., Barzillai, M., & Dunne, J. (2009). The importance of deep reading.

ARTstor Image Collections and Services

Visual Brainstorming

Joseph D. Novak & Alberto J. Cañas. The Theory Underlying Concept Maps and How to Construct and Use Them.>

Wikipedia: Mind Map.

Brainstorming. The Writing Center, UNC Chapel Hill

How to use a Concept Map to organize and comprehend information

Visual Literacy - Subject and Course Guides at University of California Irvine


White Space is Not Your Enemy:

Designing Effective Posters (UNC HSL guide)


Cambridge in Color

DP Review (widely-used site with reviews, tutorials, and discussions)

Camera Labs:

Camera Ergonomics:

Introduction to Photoshop (HSL/UNC Libraries guide)


Sheila Curran Bernard, Documentary Storytelling 

International Documentary Association

Center For Digital Storytelling (

Video Editing –

Adobe Premiere Pro video tutorials –

Adobe Premiere Pro (guide from UNC House Library)

Richard Harrington blog (Adobe expert):

Larry Jordan blog (Final Cut Pro expert):

Screencasting examples (some are free) –

For websites of video editing and screencasting software vendors see the Digital Video and Storytelling section of this guide. 

ACRL Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education

ACRL Visual Literacy Standards for Higher Education

The following is a mindmap of the Association of College and Research Libraries (ACRL) Visual Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education. 

For a more detailed mindmap showing the performance indicators for each standard, click the mindmap and the expanded version will appear in a new window.  

The ACRL Visual Literacy Standards document is at


These mindmaps were created using MindNode Pro software.


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