Best Books for Photographers, Part 2

I’ve been attending my own personal self-guided photography business school in the past few months, reading, studying, researching, business plan-writing, evaluating my successes and failures so far, implementing new procedures. So far, I’ve shared some of my discoveries in the Best Magazines for Photographers and Part 1 of the Best Books for Photographers series. I have more books to recommend, so here we are with Best Books, Part 2. 

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith

This book is an easy read full of one-liners, but it will still knock your socks off. It’s geared toward business owners that provide a service that’s difficult to measure in terms of performance (i.e. digital photography), versus a tangible product that breaks down in obvious ways (i.e. a car). 

Beckwith advises service professionals that “the core of service marketing is the service itself.” Marketing isn’t a “department” but rather every aspect of your entire business, and that you “market” every time you touch a customer or potential customer. All of those interactions are either positive and encourage business, or are negative and discourage business. Here are a few gems that are particularly applicable to photographers today:

  • Assume your service is bad. It can’t hurt, and it will force you to improve.
  • Who is setting your standards-your industry, your ego, or your clients?
  • Most prospects cannot evaluate your photography expertise; but they can evaluate whether they feel valued.
  • Your biggest competitors are not other photographers; they are your clients. Clients are usually deciding between you, doing the job themselves, or not doing it at all.
  • Win without a fight. Don’t compete with other photographers. Just do something different than they are doing.
  • People don’t hire you because of logical reasons; they hire you because they like you. They buy your personality. They gravitate towards familiarity, even if it’s lower in quality.
  • Ready, fire, aim. Do, then plan. You can’t learn from your strategy. Don’t let perfect ruin good. Start failing so you can start succeeding. (Getting the drift here?) 🙂

Two Books For Commercial Photographers

These next two books are geared primarily towards commercial photographers, although any photographer may benefit from their overall principles.

Readers beware: they will most likely blow your mind and may challenge your entire business model. So, read at your own risk. 😉 On the other hand, if you want to run your business according to professional and industry standards, in a way that honors both tradition and emerging practice, and that doesn’t undercut your fellow photographers (that’s a biggie), then, don’t miss these books. Keep them in your library; they are reference style, and you’ll pull them out again and again as you write estimates, prepare contracts, and tweak your business model.

  1. Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington:  Harrington goes into great detail on all things business, as well as the soft skills such as negotiating and work-life balance. The author has tremendous credibility; he’s an incredibly experienced and accomplished photographer.
  2. ASMP Professional Business Practices in PhotographyASMP provides this book to members for free, but anyone can buy it regardless of their status as an ASMP member. This one hasn’t been updated as recently as Harrington’s, and it’s not as in depth. It’s strength, however, is in the fact that it’s a compilation of writings by many different seasoned pros, so get the best of the best.

It’s somewhat ironic that as I draft this post about books about customer service, that I am sitting with the awkward consequences of mistakes I’ve made recently in my business interactions. I have to remind myself, often, that like Beckwith wrote, mistakes are opportunities. I can make a fresh start, apply what I’ve learned as I move forward, and be better next time. I am grateful for the support of other photographers that are a phone call away, willing to coach me as a relative beginner. I know I am not an island. We bring each other along. I am learning to extend myself some grace. In most moments, I am clear on what really matters; I have a house filled with love and spend my days working on a job that comes from my heart. I am not perfect, as a business woman, a photographer, or as a human being, but I am grateful for the chance to grow, even when it’s tough. 

– 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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