The Professional Photographer's Bookshelf


Photography is one of those “doing” fields. Meaning that you'd rather be doing photography than reading about it. Especially when the topic is the business of photography.

Nothing wrong with wanting to be a doer, but there's much to be said for the insights and reflection that are prompted by the reading of a good book. Following are four that will help you grow your photographic business.

Need to Grab Some of the Best Professional Photography Business Books?

  • Best Business Practices for Photographers, by John Harrington.

    Now in its second edition, this book is rapidly gaining acceptance as the go-to business text for photography students. And that's a good thing, since photo school programs generally don't devote much attention to the business side of things. Harrington is a veteran Washington, DC photographer. Keep this in mind as you read through the book's detailed descriptions of his negotiations with clients.

    Metro DC is one of the most affluent areas in the United States. Which means that there are plenty of people who can pay the high fees that Harrington charges. But “can pay” doesn't always translate into “will pay.” Harrington includes more than a few negotiations that don't end in a deal. The takeaway lesson: Sometimes it's best to just walk away.

    Conclusion: A good reference for the rookie and veteran pro alike. And, if you're new to the field, treat Harrington's fees as goals for your own photographic business.

  • Photographer's Market, edited by Mary Burzlaff Bostic.

    This is one of those annuals that your public library probably has in the reference section. So, head over to your library and spend a couple hours browsing through its 1,000-plus listings for ad agencies, design firms, magazines, book publishers, greeting card companies, stock agencies, galleries, and more. Did you come up with a big, long list? Good. Now, buy the book.

    Seriously. You'll be surprised at how many times you'll be coming back to it – especially during the middle of the night when the library's closed. Since Photographer's Market is published by Writer's Digest Books, it's filled with how-to information covering such areas as starting your photography business and sending queries to those who might want to buy your work.

    Conclusion: A good reference for those wishing to sell photography beyond their hometown. But be forewarned that there's a lot of competition out there. Breaking into some markets can take years.

  • Business Basics for the Successful Commercial Photographer [or, How to Use Your Left Brain, Too.], by Leslie Burns.

    Leslie Burns has to win the award for the Most Provocative Photography Business Book Titles. She made her first foray into publishing with this one. It's now in its second edition. It covers such oft-glossed over subjects as handling your business paperwork, creating estimates (not bids – those are for price shoppers and you don't want them as clients), and figuring out how much it costs for you to do business – and how much you need to make to stay in business.

  • Tell the World You Don't Suck: Modern Marketing for Commercial Photographers, by Leslie Burns-Dell'Acqua.

    The fun doesn't stop with the book title. Burns refers to her dream client-finding system as the Sparky System. (Who's Sparky? Whoever you want him to be.)The best part of this book? It's long on how-to information for creating a marketing plan for your business. Then it pivots to tips on how to actually DO the marketing.

    A Double-Conclusion: Behind Burns' wacky book titles is a lot of good, solid information. She does a great job of demolishing the notion that books about business have to be dull. They don't.

Quick Cost Benefit Analysis

In doing the research for this article, I found that some books' prices varied on a daily basis. So, follow the links to see what the latest prices are. If you're planning to buy all four, I'd set aside around $125 for doing so. Compared to the cost of photographic equipment, that's a bargain.

Photo credit: Some rights reserved by Juhan Sonin.

Related Posts
  • Photography
    10 Things You Need to Know Before Becoming a FreelancerFreelance pre
    As permanent and contracted photography jobs become scarce, many aspiring photographers are left with no choice but to become a freelancer. However, going freelance isn’t for everyone and there are plenty of new challenges along the way, so here are a few tips on how to avoid falling at the first hurdle.Read More…
  • Photography
    The Ultimate Bridal Show Survival Guide (for Photographers)Ben lucas bridal show prelg
    Are you a wedding photographer looking to get more business? Have you been thinking about wedding and bridal shows, but don't know where to start, or if they're even worth it? In this tutorial, I'm going to show you what you need to know to market yourself successfully at a wedding show, and how to figure out if it's the right move for your business.Read More…
  • Business
    Shopify or Not? A Cost-Benefit Analysis of ShopifyShopify cost benefit analysis
    When starting an e-commerce venture, one of the first and foremost considerations is where to host your online shop. I know this because I just helped my family business through this major decision. My uncle has been in the promotional product manufacturing business for most of his life. His father started the business over 50 years ago and he inherited its legacy.Read More…
  • Photography
    Venturing into the World of Corporate PhotographyCorporatesb prelg
    If you’re anything like me, you didn’t start taking photographs so you could take photos for other people, you started taking photos because of your creative energy and for the sheer pleasure of it. However, taking images for pleasure doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. For any photographer taking the step to make a living from their work, it’s important that you’re able to deliver high quality images for a client that meet their expectations. Having ventured into this realm of photography myself, I thought I’d share some thoughts based upon my experiences, having found that it’s an extremely rewarding experience that has expanded my skillset. Read More…
  • Photography
    How to Sell Your Used Photography EquipmentSellyourgear prelg
    It's called "Gear Acquisition Syndrome," and photographers all over the world are being diagnosed with it. It's a disease, that effects us all at one point or another, and causes us to desire new and upgraded camera bodies, lenses, lights, and other various piece of gear. So when you get the bug, what do you do with your old gear? In this tutorial, I'll try to help you get the most out of selling your used gear.Read More…
  • Business
    25+ Resources for Starting a Freelance Photography Business25 photography resources
    “Photographer” is one of those professional titles that many people want. And why not? Taking pictures is fun and exciting. However, reality isn't so glamorous. According to a report prepared by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), “More than half of all photographers are self-employed, a much higher proportion than for most occupations.” The BLS adds, “Salaried photographers—most of whom work full time—tend to earn more than those who are self-employed.” In short, what we have is a business that isn't a hotbed of jobs – or high earnings for those who aren't employed as photographers. Not a pretty picture. The BLS continues with the killjoy theme by saying, “Most photographers spend only a small portion of their work schedule actually taking photographs. Their most common activities are editing images on a computer—if they use a digital camera—and looking for new business—if they are self-employed.” However, similar things can be said about the music business. But people still pick up guitars and start to play. Likewise, the theatrical arts. It's tough to make it onto the stage or screen, but somewhere, there's an audition attracting hopeful actors right now. Okay, so I've acted like your parents and given you the “Tough way to make a living, but I know you want to do it!” speech. Now let's get to work on helping you succeed in the business of photography.Read More…