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Recommended Business Books for Photographers

Over the years, we’ve come to view the business side of photography to be a great opportunity to be creative and expand our horizons. Our team has a natural tendency to love the business side of things for these reasons, and diving into business books has been one way we’ve come to enjoy learning. 

While there are countless resources available specifically for photographers to learn business from online courses, Facebook groups, YouTube videos, free blogs, networking events, 1:1 coaching and more…sometimes the most valuable insights can be found in business books that offer universal principles and strategies that apply to ANY industry. 

In this blog post, we’ll explore a comprehensive selection of recommended business books that may not be geared specifically toward photographers but contain valuable lessons and insights applicable to photography businesses. 

From marketing and finance to leadership and creativity and self help, these books offer valuable perspectives that photographers can leverage to enhance their business acumen and elevate their careers. 

Many of these books have been essential reads in our own businesses that helped us to get to the level of success we see today!

As you look through our recommendations, keep in mind that we have put this together to feel more like a comprehensive “library” instead of just a couple recommendations. With so many books out there, treating them as ongoing educational materials and looking for authors that you resonate with can be very helpful as you look for continued growth. 

Our Top 5 “Must Read” Business Books for Photographers

While this list is going to be pretty comprehensive as we’ve done A LOT of reading over the years, we want to highlight 5 of our favorites that we feel have been particularly influential in helping us grow our photography businesses. 

The concepts in these books form the backbone of our businesses in many ways, and the way they are written makes the concepts easy to understand and apply to your own situation. 

Start with Why by Simon Sinek:

“Start with Why” explores the concept of the “Golden Circle,” emphasizing the importance of starting with a clear understanding of why you do what you do before focusing on how and what. As photographers, having this underlying motivational driver for “why” you are doing what you do can translate into something that can be put into words and action in your unique selling proposition (USPs) and brand identity to attract like-minded clients and differentiate themselves in the market.

Within our team, we have a lot of conversations about “why” we do the things we do. 

As businesses, one of our goals is (of course) to make money – but making money is rarely a good enough reason to keep you motivated (especially during difficult times, which we all face as business owners!). 

When working in a very saturated industry like photographers typically do, having this “why” is even more important to creating a business that is distinct from what others can offer!

This is a great starting point for exploring why you are truly in business and how to identify that thing that helps separate you from others offering similar services – which goes on to inform your brand visuals, marketing plan, sales processes, and more!

The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber:

“The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael E. Gerber is a guide to building a successful small business by focusing on the importance of systems, processes, and a clear vision. He debunks the Entrepreneurial Myth (E-Myth) that most businesses are started by entrepreneurs with a grand vision, revealing that many are started by technicians who are skilled at what they do but lack business acumen. 

The book emphasizes working on your business, not just in it, and introduces the concept of the Franchise Prototype, which involves creating a business model that can be replicated and scaled.

This book has contributed significantly to practical mindset shifts we have had in our businesses. As sole operators, it’s easy to feel incredibly overwhelmed by having to manage every aspect of our businesses – but setting up systems that allow us to have more awareness of our role, and the roles we are stepping into at times, makes it easier to set our businesses up for longer term success by getting clear on areas where we can delegate, outsource, hire help, etc.

Atomic Habits by James Clear:

“Atomic Habits” is a transformative book that explores the power of small habits in creating significant changes in our lives. 

The author introduces the concept of “atomic habits,” which are tiny changes that compound over time to produce remarkable results. He goes into detail about the science behind habit formation, offering practical strategies for building good habits, breaking bad ones, and mastering the art of continuous improvement. Clear emphasizes the importance of focusing on small, incremental changes and creating systems that support desired outcomes.

For photographers wanting to run a successful business, “Atomic Habits” offers valuable insights and strategies. By adopting the principles outlined in the book, photographers can develop productive habits that contribute to their professional growth and success. 

Whether it’s establishing a consistent daily workflow, setting and achieving business goals, or cultivating effective communication with clients, mastering atomic habits can lead to significant improvements in all aspects of running a photography business. Additionally, by understanding how habits shape behavior and outcomes, photographers can better navigate challenges, stay motivated, and maintain momentum in pursuing their business aspirations. 

In our businesses, we have always been “habit driven” (for a lack of better words) – but taking the information in this book and contextualizing it into our businesses by getting better at project management, building better workflows to make us more productive business owners, etc., we’ve been able to get better results over time. 

Overall, “Atomic Habits” provides a practical roadmap for photographers to cultivate habits that drive success and fulfillment in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen by Donald Miller:

“Building a StoryBrand” offers a framework for crafting a clear and compelling brand message that resonates with customers. Photographers can clarify their value proposition, identify their target audience’s needs, and create marketing materials that drive engagement and conversions.

In the photography industry, this has become an increasingly popular approach when it comes to branding and we think it’s so impactful because photography (especially for weddings, elopements, and portraits) is so often tied to strong emotions (both for photographers and our clients), so creating a strong brand that makes what you offer about more than just the pictures is so crucial to standing out and becoming successful. 

What StoryBrand does so well is help put in words the things we often “feel” as photographers and what we want our clients to experience, but struggle to say or visualize. Building a StoryBrand is a natural companion book to Simon Sinek’s Start with Why in many ways since it helps you start to take this underlying motivation and put it into action. 

Rocket Fuel: The One Essential Combination That Will Get You More of What You Want from Your Business by Gino Wickman and Mark C. Winters:

“Rocket Fuel” is a business book that focuses on partnerships, and will be best for those who are going into business together. In the photography industry, it’s common enough to see partnerships including husband and wife photo partners and others. There are many great stories and examples of partnerships that strengthened their businesses by the founders bringing different skill sets to the table. 

Here at Shoot and Thrive, we read this book prior to starting our journey together and have found that our members fit into different roles that can often be quite distinct. The book emphasizes “visionaries” (those people who tend to see things from a higher level perspective, are more dreamers, etc.) and “integrators” (those who tend to be less in the public eye and getting things to work well behind the scenes). 

While it’s target audience is these partnerships, we’ve also found the book’s insights to be useful for identifying what role (visionary or integrator) you naturally fill – which can make it easier for you to have an awareness of opportunities for hiring or outsourcing help in your business in areas you do not excel in. 

Additional Business Books We Recommend for Photographers

These recommendations are provided in no particular order. 

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson:

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” is a refreshing take on self-help literature, challenging conventional wisdom and encouraging readers to embrace a counterintuitive approach to life. Manson argues that the key to happiness and fulfillment lies not in avoiding adversity or seeking constant positivity, but rather in embracing discomfort, accepting life’s inherent struggles, and focusing on what truly matters. He advocates for prioritizing values and choosing what to care about intentionally, rather than striving for perfection or chasing external validation.

For photographers wanting to run a business, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fck” offers valuable lessons in prioritization, resilience, and authenticity. By adopting Manson’s philosophy, photographers can gain a deeper understanding of their priorities, values, and motivations, allowing them to make more conscious decisions in their business endeavors. Whether it’s navigating setbacks, dealing with criticism, or managing the pressures of entrepreneurship, embracing the subtle art of not giving a fck can empower photographers to stay true to themselves, focus on what truly matters, and cultivate a resilient mindset in the face of challenges. Additionally, by letting go of the need for external validation and embracing authenticity, photographers can build stronger connections with clients, create meaningful work, and find fulfillment in their creative pursuits. Overall, “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” offers valuable insights and mindset shifts that can empower photographers to run successful businesses while staying true to themselves and finding joy in the journey.

Profit First by Mike Michalowicz:

“Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz introduces a simple, counterintuitive cash management system that helps businesses ensure profitability from day one. Instead of the traditional accounting formula (Sales – Expenses = Profit), Michalowicz proposes a new approach: Sales – Profit = Expenses. The idea is to prioritize profit by allocating a percentage of income to profit first, then using the remaining funds for expenses.

Many photographers have found a ton of success applying this financial organization system into their business and personal lives by relooking at how they categorize their money. 

You are a Badass by Jen Sincero:

You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero is a self-help book aimed at helping readers identify and overcome self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors, develop confidence, and create a life they love. Sincero combines personal anecdotes, humor, and practical advice to inspire readers to embrace their inner badass and live to their fullest potential.

As photographers wanting to run successful businesses, often one of the greatest challenges to overcome is ourselves and the mental hurdles that get in our own ways. We know this from experience 🙂 

Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo:

“Everything is Figureoutable” by Marie Forleo is a motivational self-help book that empowers readers to tackle any challenge with the mindset that every problem has a solution. Forleo shares personal stories, practical exercises, and actionable insights to help readers overcome obstacles, achieve their goals, and live a fulfilling life.

The Passion Conversation by John Moore, Geno Church, and Robbin Phillips:

“The Passion Conversation” by John Moore, Geno Church, and Robbin Phillips explores how businesses can harness the power of word-of-mouth marketing by creating genuine, passionate conversations with their customers. The book emphasizes the importance of understanding what drives people to talk about brands and how businesses can foster those conversations to build loyal communities and drive growth.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert:

“Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert is a guide to living a creative life, encouraging readers to embrace their curiosity, face their fears, and pursue their passions with courage. Gilbert shares her insights on creativity, inspiration, and the process of bringing ideas to life, drawing from her personal experiences as a writer and from the experiences of other creatives.

Uniquing Your Brand by Nikki Bradley:

“Uniquing Your Brand” by Nikki Bradley is a guide to building a distinctive and memorable brand in a crowded market. The book focuses on helping businesses identify and leverage their unique qualities to stand out from the competition. Bradley provides practical strategies for defining a brand’s unique value proposition, communicating it effectively, and creating a consistent brand experience.

The One Page Marketing Plan by Allan Dib:

“The One Page Marketing Plan” by Allan Dib is a comprehensive guide to creating an effective and simple marketing strategy that fits on a single page. The book breaks down the marketing process into nine key components, making it accessible and actionable for businesses of all sizes. Dib emphasizes the importance of planning and executing a marketing strategy that attracts and retains customers.

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield:

“The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield is a motivational book that delves into the struggles and challenges faced by creative individuals. Pressfield introduces the concept of “Resistance,” a force that hinders creative work and progress. He offers strategies to overcome this Resistance, emphasizing the importance of discipline, persistence, and embracing the professional mindset to achieve creative success.

The Psychology of Money by Morgan Housel:

“The Psychology of Money” by Morgan Housel explores the complex relationship people have with money, emphasizing that financial success is less about what you know and more about how you behave. Housel shares timeless lessons on wealth, greed, happiness, and risk, illustrating how psychology and personal experiences influence financial decisions more than numbers or data alone.

Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business by Gino Wickman:

“Traction” by Gino Wickman presents the Entrepreneurial Operating System (EOS), a comprehensive framework for running a successful business. The book outlines practical tools and strategies to help business owners and leaders gain control over their companies, achieve consistent growth, and solve common business problems. The EOS focuses on six key components: Vision, People, Data, Issues, Process, and Traction.

The Infinite Game by Simon Sinek:

“The Infinite Game” is a thought-provoking exploration of business strategy and leadership. Sinek introduces the concept of the infinite game, contrasting it with the finite game approach often adopted in business. In an infinite game, the goal is not to “win” but rather to keep playing and advancing over the long term. Sinek argues that successful businesses should embrace an infinite mindset, focusing on long-term goals, building strong organizational culture, and prioritizing sustainable growth.

For photographers wanting to run a business, “The Infinite Game” offers valuable insights into building a resilient and purpose-driven enterprise. By adopting an infinite mindset, photographers can shift their focus from short-term gains to long-term success. This involves nurturing relationships with clients, fostering innovation, and continuously adapting to changes in the industry.

Moreover, “The Infinite Game” encourages photographers to define success on their own terms and to view competition as an opportunity for collaboration and growth rather than a threat. By embracing the principles outlined in the book, photographers can create businesses that are not only financially successful but also contribute positively to the industry and society as a whole.

How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie:

“How to Win Friends and Influence People” is a timeless classic in the realm of self-help and interpersonal communication. The book provides practical advice on how to navigate social interactions, build meaningful relationships, and influence others positively. Carnegie emphasizes the importance of empathy, active listening, and genuine interest in others’ perspectives. He outlines various techniques for handling people, winning them over to your way of thinking, and becoming a more effective communicator overall.

For photographers wanting to run a business, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” offers invaluable insights into client relations, networking, and business communication. By applying the principles outlined in the book, photographers can enhance their interpersonal skills, build rapport with clients, and foster long-lasting relationships. Whether it’s effectively communicating with clients to understand their needs, building trust and credibility, or networking with other professionals in the industry, the strategies presented in the book can help photographers establish a strong foundation for their business success. Overall, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” serves as a practical guide for photographers seeking to navigate the complexities of human interaction and build thriving businesses based on genuine connections and mutual respect.

“The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries:

“The Lean Startup” offers a revolutionary approach to building and growing a business by focusing on iterative product development, rapid experimentation, and customer feedback. Photographers can apply the principles outlined in this book to refining their photography services, testing new markets, and adapting to changing client preferences.

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman:

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” explores the two systems of thinking that drive human decision-making: intuitive, fast thinking, and deliberative, slow thinking. Photographers can gain insights into client behavior, decision-making processes, and pricing psychology to inform their marketing strategies and client interactions.

“Good to Great” by Jim Collins:

“Good to Great” analyzes why some companies succeed in achieving greatness while others falter. Photographers can learn about the principles of disciplined thought, disciplined action, and the importance of building a strong team to drive sustainable growth in their businesses.

“Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable” by Seth Godin:

“Purple Cow” encourages businesses to stand out from the competition by being remarkable and memorable to their target audience. Photographers can learn about the importance of innovation, creativity, and differentiation in attracting and retaining clients in a crowded market.

“The 4-Hour Workweek” by Timothy Ferriss:

“The 4-Hour Workweek” challenges conventional notions of work and productivity, advocating for lifestyle design and passive income streams. Photographers can explore strategies for maximizing efficiency, automating tasks, and achieving work-life balance in their businesses.

“Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster” by Alistair Croll and Benjamin Yoskovitz:

“Lean Analytics” provides guidance on using data-driven insights to make informed decisions and accelerate business growth. Photographers can learn how to measure key performance indicators, analyze trends, and iterate on their strategies to optimize their businesses for success.

“Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath:

“Made to Stick” explores the characteristics of ideas that resonate with audiences and endure over time. Photographers can learn about crafting compelling stories, messages, and branding strategies that captivate clients and leave a lasting impression.

“Rework” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson:

“Rework” challenges traditional notions of business and productivity, advocating for simplicity, flexibility, and innovation. Photographers can gain insights into streamlining processes, embracing constraints, and focusing on delivering value to clients.

“The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business” by Charles Duhigg:

“The Power of Habit” explores the science of habit formation and how habits shape our lives and businesses. Photographers can learn about cultivating positive habits, breaking bad habits, and leveraging habit loops to improve productivity and performance.

“Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World” by Adam Grant:

“Originals” explores the traits and behaviors of creative thinkers and innovators who challenge the status quo and drive positive change. Photographers can learn about embracing experimentation, overcoming fear of failure, and cultivating a culture of innovation in their businesses.

“Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World” by Cal Newport:

“Deep Work” advocates for focused, undistracted work as the key to achieving meaningful results and personal fulfillment. Photographers can learn strategies for minimizing distractions, maximizing productivity, and achieving creative flow in their work.

“The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail” by Clayton M. Christensen:

“The Innovator’s Dilemma” explores why successful companies often fail to innovate and adapt to disruptive technologies. Photographers can learn about the importance of agility, experimentation, and embracing change to stay ahead in a rapidly evolving industry.

“Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future” by Peter Thiel with Blake Masters:

“Zero to One” offers insights into the principles of entrepreneurship and innovation that drive transformative change. Photographers can learn about creating value, identifying untapped opportunities, and building sustainable businesses that stand out in the market.

“Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh:

“Delivering Happiness” shares the story of Zappos and its commitment to delivering exceptional customer experiences. Photographers can learn about the importance of customer service, building a strong company culture, and prioritizing happiness and fulfillment in their businesses.

“Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products” by Nir Eyal:

“Hooked” explores the psychology behind habit-forming products and offers a framework for creating products and services that engage and retain users. Photographers can learn about designing client experiences that encourage repeat business and foster

Have any books that didn’t make the list?

Share them with us in the comments below!

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