business books for photographers

Leon’s list of Top 5 Business Books for Photographers. (With honorable mentions.)

I’ll be up front: None of these books are technically “business books for photographers.” They are simply books on business, marketing and customer service!

However, I still think this collection of books will help anyone in the photography business, as the concepts simply revolve around the interaction of business, creativity and profit!

This list happens to be the 5 that I feel have influenced me the most. If my house was on fire, I would grab these books first!


1) Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Clever, minimal and provocative. This book challenges the norm with topics like:

  • Meetings are Toxic
  • Good Enough is Fine
  • Say No by Default

More like a collection of short blog posts, this is a quick read and I pretty much have highlights or underlines on every single page.

2) Orbiting the Giant Hairball by Gordon McKenzie

ULTRA-CREATIVE! The “hairball” symbolizes the corporate machine and how we as ultra-creatives can still orbit, function and contribute within that organization without getting caught up in the messiness.

Now as a professional wedding or portrait photographer you might not think this applies, since you’re not governed by the machine or “the man.” However, this book brings a fantastic freedom to be creative, to own your artistry and how to do so within the context of running a profitable business.

I have gifted this book and given my own copies too many times to count. Sadly, I don’t even have a copy at the moment!

3) Linchpin by Seth Godin

Seth is really the guy who set it all off for me. Many years ago when I was in “editor” mode, working for someone else I was criticized for something I said. It was a goofy, off-the-cuff comment and not meant to be taken seriously.

It backfired.

My boss looked at me with a furrowed brow and said,

“Well we’ll make sure to never put you in charge of marketing then…”

It set a fire in me to learn everything I could about marketing. Seth’s ancient book “Unleashing the Ideavirus” was one of the first books I picked up after that moment and it inspired me to begin the process of working for myself.

Linchpin is focused on developing that person inside you who owns unique talent and perspective that makes you 100% indispensable.

This book is another that I have gifted or loaned many times, and my copies have not returned back home. I’m okay with that!

4) Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath

Strengths Finder 2.0 is less of a book and more of a personality test.

The book is really just a first chapter to set the stage for why we want to find our top five strengths. Once you read the intro, you go to the back of the book where you find your secret code to take the online test.

This book is based on the premise that if we know what our strengths are, we can stop wasting time and effort doing the things that don’t come naturally to us. (You’re not off the hook though- the author doesn’t suggest just shrugging our weaknesses!)

The ability to focus on what you’re REALLY good at and outsource or delegate what you’re not will ultimately make you way more effective, efficient and is more rewarding in the end.

Example: I’m not a numbers guy. I hate accounting and bookkeeping. It makes sense for me to educate myself as best as possible, but then hire a professional to do the heavy lifting to ensure everything with my business accounting is air-tight.

What’s crazy is when I read my top five personality strengths I felt like someone gathered my best friends and had them write a description of ME. It was fascinating insight that has really helped me grow my business.

5) The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber

This is required reading for any small business owner! I resisted reading this book for years and I just don’t know why. Everyone told me I’d love it. I should have listened earlier!

The E-Myth tackles this uncomfortable subject of why most businesses don’t work and why. Mainly the concept is that just because someone is an amazing carpenter, doesn’t mean they make a great business person!

This is such an easy read, I bet you could read it over the weekend!

Yet it has so many rich lessons and illustrations to learn about your decision making mindset and running your business.

The key phrase from this book is “Working ON your business and not IN your business.”

Honorable mentions:

EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey catches some flack for having an “in your face” approach. Buy you know what? Sometimes that’s just what I need: someone to call me on my laziness and lame excuses!

This book is a road map, a “how to” that I think every business owner wishes they had before they started their biz.

It covers everything from technology, customer service, hiring, firing and financial strategies for success.

Hug Your Customers by Jack Mitchell

This book is kind of old school! It’s about a men’s suit shop that went to INSANE lengths to know their customers so well they could predict their next move.

Ever heard those stories of a 5 star hotel concierge going the extra mile to make a miracle happen? Yeah, this book is an anthology full of them, all to illustrate how much your clients will love when you remember detailed personal information.

The idea is that detailed, personalized service that meets people’s needs and solves their problems will bring you the best fortune through client loyalty, referrals and good will.

I have always taken great pride in my level of client care and customer service, but this book alone took things to a whole new level.

How about you? Do you have some personal favorite books that have helped you as a photographer? Shout out in the comments below!