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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.

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