Best Books for Photographers, Part 1

Approximately 2 bajillion books for photographers exist. I haven’t read all of them yet, but these three are among my favorites so far. Not only do I recommend these books, but I also suggest reading them in this order.Their content kind of flows logically this way from the broadest forms of encouragement to the most specific business planning. What photography books would you recommend? Please share in the comments below! (P.S. I admit, I snuck my Valentine’s Day flowers into the shot above. Isn’t that arrangement so, so pretty? I’m so lucky.)

1.  Art & Fear by David Bayles & Ted Orland
Here are some of the gems from this book, without commentary, since they speak for themselves.

  • Making art now means working in the face of uncertainty; it means living with doubt and contradiction, doing something no one much cares to do, and for which there may be be neither audience nor reward.
  • In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.
  • …fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception by others prevent you from doing your own work.
  • To require perfection is to invite paralysis.
  • For most artists, making good art depends upon making lots of art.
  • There’s little reward in an easy perfection quickly reached by many. … making [technical excellence] the primary goal puts the cart before the horse. We do not long remember those artists who followed the rules more diligently than anyone else. We remember those who made the art from which the ‘rules’ inevitably follow.
  • To the viewer, who has little emotional investment in how the work getsdone, art made primarily to display technical virtuosity is often beautiful,striking, elegant…and vacant. .. Art that deals with ideas is more interestingthan art that deals with technique.
  • Over the long run, people with the interesting answers are those whoask the interesting questions.
  • The only voice you need is the voice you already have.

2. The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber
While Art & Fear gave me the heart to make the leap to full-time photography, The E-Myth gave me the mind of a successful business owner. The E-Myth told me I should analyze my existing business practices more from the standpoint of what the business needs rather than what I wantEffective entrepreneurs work on their businesses, not in them. They design systems that run the business, and then find people to run the system. Their businesses are therefore systems-dependent, not people dependent or expert dependent. That’s how businesses become replicable.  The hypothesis of The E-Myth book is threefold:

  • That most small business fail.
  • They fail because the owners don’t run them effectively – not because the owner is lousy at his/her craft.
  • Therefore, it’s not what you are selling but how you sell it that matters. 

The product of a business isn’t the commodity being sold, but rather, the way customers feel about your business. In other words, people buy feelings. This is particularly true with photography; anyone can attest to the fact that there isn’t always a direct relationship between a photographer’s talent and success. Often, average photographers that effectively connect with their clients are extremely popular and successful (and, vice versa). 

That’s why successful entrepreneurship doesn’t being with having a vision of what your business will do, but rather, for whom it will do something. Business owners that adopt the former mentality often struggle with the perception that the market is a place that doesn’t accept them, doesn’t appreciate their genius, doesn’t allow them to fulfill their dreams, and that always wants something they can’t or don’t want to give. 


Once a business clearly identifies and connects with their target clients, the next step is standardizing your process in such a way as to make your business replicable. This is true for creative businesses, like photography, as well. 

“But,” you may be thinking, “isn’t replicability contrary to the nature of being an artist?” Well, yes. As artists, we have unique gifts, and we feel compelled to share them – and we should. The more we define our uniqueness, the better we cultivate a brand. In light of this apparent contradiction, this is how I’d translate The E-Myth’s message for the photographic community: Don’t just copy other artists, or dilute your artistry into something that everyone else can copy; rather, standardize your business practices so you can focus on creating. 

Finally, the best part of this book is scrawled on the inside cover“Holly, I wish you all the best in your business and career. Thank you for being a great colleague, mentor, and friend.” – Eric Figeuroa, 12/2010. Eric, a good friend, former colleague, and the photographer behind Deeper Meaning Design, gave me this book as a going away present when Nathan and I moved to OKC. Thanks for this book, Eric. See all that’s happened as a result of your little gift? How can I ever repay you? 🙂  


3.  The Fast Track Photographer Business Plan by Dane Sanders

Fast Track specifically distills the message of The E-Myth into action steps for photographers, culminating in a point-by-point business plan template. Sanders emphasizes the need to identify your distinct vision, but further, the importance of creating standard operating procedures for client communications, post-processing, marketing, and financial management. The book is so rich and full of detailed, concrete advice I won’t bother sayinh much more, other than that you should pick up a copy and get to work! 

I am still working diligently on my business plan. If you decide to do so as well, just know that it will be a long process, require lots of mental aerobics, patience and honesty. But it’s so worth it! Give me a call sometime and we can brainstorm together, trade notes, and encourage each other.

I will be back with Part 2 of my best books for photographers list soon. Stay tuned!

Have you read any of the books I mentioned here? What were your take-aways? What other books would you recommend? Please post your thoughts below!


– HBA
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About Holly Baumann Photography

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, a commercial and portrait photographer based in Central Illinois. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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One Response to Best Books for Photographers, Part 1

  1. >Holly,I am so glad that you found the E-Myth to be as useful as I did. You're more than welcome and your friendship is repayment enough 🙂 – Eric

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