10 Indispensable Books Every Professional Photographer Should Read
Becoming a better professional photographer isn’t just about learning the latest photography tips and tricks , or finding the coolest actions for in Photoshop or Lightroom (although some of those are undeniably cool).
It’s also about expanding your business horizons to see what’s going on outside the photography industry. Adopting new concepts from business and marketing thought-leaders who are not photographers can actually breathe new life into the way you see your own photography business.
In fact, I can honestly say I made much more progress when I looked outside photography for business inspiration than I ever got from within our industry.
I also believe there’s so much stale information doing the rounds at the moment that we’ve ended up in a state of confusion, with a lot of people buried beneath worn-out ideas and strategies that simply don’t work anymore.
Yet, those same ideas persist purely because of their own inertia.
No wonder photographers are stressed out and fed up with the fruitless search for more effective marketing!
Sadly, many photographers mistakenly assume they can only learn from other photographers and so are doomed to fall into the same pitfalls as everyone else.
So I would like to take a few minutes here to breathe a little fresh air into the industry for you with 10 of the best books I’ve found to inspire new thinking and motivate you into renewed action.
This is not just some random list – I’ve personally bought and read every one of the books I’m about to recommend to you – some of them more than once because they’re simply that good.
I promise you, if I didn’t honestly believe in them or their authors, they would not be on this list!
Okay, let’s take a tour of my bookshelf.
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Want to improve your business as a professional photographer? The best place to look is outside the photography industry. Here are 10 indispensable books...
These are in no particular order of importance. I’ll also be sure to include handy links to Amazon for these books in each section so you can easily get them for yourself. The links are mostly for the Kindle editions, but you can just as easily pick up the print versions instead if you prefer.
I just happen to love my Kindle!
#1: “Youtility” by Jay Baer
I was immediately hooked when I started reading this one because the ideas Jay talks about are central to any service-based business, such as a photographer.
Most of the photographers I know hate the idea of selling, even though making sales is critical to their business survival.
But selling doesn’t have to be sleazy or make you feel like you have to take a shower afterwards, and Jay points out the power of a subtle shift in thinking about helping people instead of selling to them.
Another great idea in this book is this:
Instead of competing for attention against other photographers, especially in the world of social media where much of the book focuses, you’re actually competing against your customers’ friends and family and all those viral videos and weird Internet memes, not to mention the prevalence of spam.
To win the closely-guarded attention of your prospective clients you must ask: “How can I help?”
I personally loved this book because “Youtility” offers you a new approach with marketing that’s actually useful to people.
#2: “The Impact Equation” by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith
One of the big mistakes I see in the realms of social media is the idea that the platforms themselves are what’s important. For example, everyone talks about using Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or Instagram without seeing them as tools for doing something much more important.
In a sense, many people are confusing the medium for the message.
In “The Impact Equation”, we discover that to make people truly care about what you have to say, you need more than a good idea, trust among your audience, or a certain number of fans and followers.
You need to figure out how to make a real impact on the folks who are connected with you.
You can use the impact equation to figure out what you’re doing right and wrong, and you can apply the principles you learn to your blog, social media updates, or a YouTube video.
As the authors point out, the traditional channels for marketing are vanishing and the nature of prospect attention is changing into a hard-earned asset. The Impact Equation gives you the tools to guarantee your message will be both heard and felt.
#3: “Email Persuasion” by Ian Brodie
Contrary to popular belief, email is far from dead, and it’s even proven to be more effective than social media at making sales or building meaningful customer relationships.
Ian is a great writer who gets across his ideas and methodologies very well, making this an easy book to read for anyone.
If you aren’t using email marketing in your business right now, I recommend starting today, and this book will put you firmly on the right path to understanding who your ideal clients are, how to get them onto your email list, and how to use email marketing to communicate with them effectively.
#4: “Elite Minds” by Dr. Stan Beecham
Shows how much I knew, right?
I’m not even a big fan of sports, but I was intrigued enough by the idea of competitiveness and how it manifests itself in business, so I thought, “what the heck, let’s give it a go!”
What a lovely surprise I found in those pages!
This is one book I couldn’t put down. Every time I tried, I’d find it back in my hands again 10 minutes later because it was so easy to read and yet the ideas within it were incredibly powerful.
For any photographer struggling with the mindset of being in business, or who feels like they’re suffering at the hands of constant setbacks, read this book today.
I guarantee it will change the way you see yourself in business forever.
#5: “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek
Having spoken to Simon personally several times, I can say with all honesty that this is a book written by someone who not only has an unshakeable belief in what they’re saying, but he also lives his life by the very same principles.
As the saying goes, Simon walks the walk as well as talking the talk.
The essence of this book is the idea that people need to know why you’re a photographer, what inspires and motivates you to create your photographs, before they can fully understand what you do or how you do it.
Using real-world examples of businesses and movements who make this work, Simon shows you the way to do this for yourself in your own photography business.
Definitely worth the read!
#6: “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber
Basically, armed with a camera and lens, some good photography skills, and the passion to get started, anyone can do it.
But a lot of people mistake the technical skills needed to create great photography as also being the requirements for running a successful photography business, which is a big mistake.
As Michael points out in this wonderful book, being technically great at something doesn’t necessarily translate into being great at running a business where you do the same thing.
In this book, you’ll see how you can wear different hats in your business – from technician to CEO – to achieve different things, and how it forces you to think more strategically than you might be doing right now.
I would say this book is a real life-saver for the technically-minded professional photographer who wants to adopt a more serious business approach.
#7: “Predictably Irrational” by Dan Ariely
So when I came across this book by Dan Ariely, I wasted no time in ordering a copy for my Kindle.
In it, Dan explains how many of the seemingly-irrational decisions we make every day are actually quite predicable, and he illustrates many of these ideas with practical examples from his own research.
Why is this helpful for photographers?
The ideas in the book can give you a look inside the minds of your prospects and clients, and how they react to things like pricing structures, for example, or why they buy a certain package from a selection of possible choices.
Don’t mistake this for a book on how to manipulate your clients in any way because doing so won’t get you very far, but it’s wonderful as a means to understanding the hidden forces shaping our everyday decisions.
#8: “The Freaks Shall Inherit The Earth” by Chris Brogan
Do you rebel against the everyday labels people might attach to you, your personality, or the way you do business?
If so, this is a good thing!
The freaks in question in this book are those who like to be unorthodox in their approach to business, or do things in ways others might see as a bit quirky.
But not every freak is someone outlandish or crazy.
Most are normal folks, like you and me, who have a way of looking at business in ways that illuminate dark corners others might miss.
This is the second book by Chris Brogan on my list, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone who wants to create a highly personalized and individualized business that thrives on its differences.
Think about that for a moment – how many times have you heard marketers and coaches like myself tell you how important it is to be different?
Now you can find out the real value behind doing that in this great book.
#9: “Fascinate” by Sally Hogshead
This occasionally comes to the surface when I’m discussing how to write an “about” page for a website with a photographer, and they tell me they simply don’t feel all that interesting to other people because nothing remarkable ever happened to them.
If you’ve ever felt like this, or have ever wondered what it is that makes one person fascinating to others while other people seem rather ordinary and uninteresting, then you’re going to love this book by Sally Hogshead.
In it, she describes the seven fascination triggers – personality traits, if you like, which we all have in varying proportions.
Based on her extensive research, she identified 49 personality archetypes, along with ways to use your specific combination of primary and secondary triggers to attract and fascinate the people in your audience.
This is a great book if you’re looking for more effective ways to communicate your message and personality to your target audience – the people who will most naturally resonate with who you are.
#10: “Buyer Legends” by Jeffrey Eisenberg and Bryan Eisenberg
The concept of buyer legends describes a business process that combines the emotional power of storytelling with actual data to optimize your sales and marketing in a way that comes across as being quite genuine and sincere to your audience.
In a nutshell, what this book helps you do is to reverse engineer the experience people have from working with you all the way back to the time when they first heard about you.
The goal is to look at every step in the process to see how you can elevate it and improve it to make it as exceptional as possible.
You’ll also learn how to communicate the intentions and core message of your brand story and how each critical touch point in your business impacts the way people talk about who you are and what you do – these are the legends created about you by your buyers, hence the title.
This is one of the last pieces photographers need to complete the puzzle of creating a truly experience-based business, such as a boutique photography studio, and is a very quick read, so well worth the time.