John Harrington sent me his latest book “Best Business Practices For Photographers” and at over 500 pages It’s a real door stopper. It has the look and feel of a college text book: loaded with examples, little notes sections along the way, 32 chapters and a cover image/design that screams textbook. For anyone looking for a place to understand the business of photography this seems like the place to start. At one point I considered getting an MBA and while doing research discovered the personal MBA website and this manifesto:

MBA programs don’t have a monopoly on business knowledge: you can teach yourself everything you need to know to succeed in life and at work. The Personal MBA features the very best business books available, based on thousands of hours of research. If you’re serious about learning advanced business principles, the Personal MBA can help you master business without the baggage of b-school.

I’ve since read about 15 business books (some of the list but many based on Amazon reviews) including 4 that I think should be the cornerstone of any personal business learning: Good To Great, Built To Last, What They Don’t Teach You At Harvard Business School, How To Win Friends & Influence People. All of these I checked out at the local library.

Right now I’m really into a book called Ready, Fire, Aim by Michael Masterson that I would highly recommend for photographers and any other entrepreneurs. When you look at the principles that underpin a successful business you see the world in a very different light.

The great thing about reading a business book while you own a business, instead of while you’re in school, is that when you discover something important you can put it to work immediately. These books also prove to be awesome motivators.

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  1. Right on, Mr. APhotoEditor.

    Built to Last and From Good to Great have more wisdom and insight in them than most MBA’s have when they graduate.

    Not a slam, just an observation. Because business isn’t about theory, it’s about humans and all their complex motivations and actions.

    As a business owner myself, nothing replaces testing your theories in the marketplace. The key is to not be afraid to experiment and come up with new thinking and new approaches. It’s what will fill up the business books to come.

    But it’s almost more important to think like an anthropologist than like a business person.

    Doug Lowell

  2. I personally dig the ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography, 7th Edition,

    For Advertising Photography, I like Lou Lesko’s Advertising Photography: A Straightforward Guide to a Complex Industry. I love the Lou talks about his mistakes and how he learned from them. That is so rare in this industry!

    I use both of them in the course I teach on Business Practices for Photography.

    • @Greg Ceo,
      thanks for suggesting Lou Lesko’s book. I ran down to the local library and started reading it already. I like his candor and he has a lot of good, practical advice.

  3. I grew up around photography, and always felt confident in my chops. What I didn’t feel comfortable with was my ability to run a business, so I went to college and earned a degree in Strategic Business Management. (I skipped out on the MBA simply because I was tired of writing papers!)

    I’ve never been to an art school, but I can honestly say that I feel I have benefited more from the business school than from any photography class I could have ever taken. I wouldn’t trade my Fast Company and Inc. subscriptions for PDN any day, and marketing books in my library outnumber photo books by a huge margin.

    I couldn’t tell you who has won what contest yadda yadda..I’ve just always focused on my own thing and so far it’s worked out just fine. I own a commercial photography studio , so the work and approach is different than editorial, and I’ll readily admit that a lot of the photography is almost like a commodity, so we’ve found the effort dedicated to relationships and creating a fun atmosphere around our brand/studio has been more successful than spending countless hours trying to shoot like ABC or loosing sleep over XYZ because he’s a hack and was awarded the 12345 award when “I could have shot better than that”.

  4. I believe that Skool is absolutely correct, it is about the relationships! But it is also about providing great work to the clients that meet or exceed their expectations.

  5. Thanks for all of the recommendations. I’m always interested in a good book or two.

  6. Thanks as always Rob for bringing photographers back to the business aspect.
    As you are all running creative businesses it ‘s key to read books that focus on key aspects that you might other wise marketing business AND creativity.
    More additions?

    The Tipping Point :Malcolm Gladwell
    Guerrila Marketing:Jay Levinson
    War of ART Stephen Pressfield
    Focus (oldy but goody) Al Reis
    Waiting For your Cat to Bark(using emerging media to promote)Jeffrey Eisenberg
    The Do-It Yourslef Lobotomy(cretative thinking)Tom Monahan
    Word of Mouth Marketing Andy Sernovitz

  7. May I add the new book from Gary Vaynerchuk, “Crush It” as a fantastic addition for photographers book lists. Small (perfect for our short attention spans) and packed, PACKED, with up-to-date info. Cannot recommend it highly enough.

  8. John Harrington’s book IS comprehensive. Great stuff on contracts, and just good, solid nuts and bolts stuff on a photo business. His legal knowledge of the photo business is amazing and he encourages one to copy his forms. I shot him an e-mail question about contract language in the vain hope of a reply and he frickin’ called me on the phone to answer my question. Highly recommended.

  9. I think the first business book I ever read was Everyone Poops by Taro Gomi.

    hahaha just kidding, but on a serious note. I found the Art of War quite correlating to daily business practices as well. Thank you for the heads up on this book and I will be sure to check it out.

  10. Wouldn’t trade my MBA for all the books on business ever written. Not the same, though that’s not to say you can’t learn a lot on your own.

    Wouldn’t spend money on an MFA.

    THAT, I can learn on my own.

  11. Now if we could get Mr. Harrington to switch the colors scheme on his blog from the (give me a screaming headache after reading one article) black with white type, to a easier reading dark text on light background I would be grateful…

  12. I read John’s first book and paid attention to some speaking he did for Photoshelter before it partially imploded. I’ve been very impressed with him and observe anything he has to say with plenty of attention but at times, I think it can be easy to fall too far into “covering my ass against my clients” mode or become a little too much of a hardass towards potential clients. John obviously is good with his clients but I did feel from his first book and after talking with other photographers further along in their career than me that he could have focused on the kinder more win/win side of client interactions a little bit. I guess, what I mean is that he could stand to project a tad more sunshine if that makes sense?

  13. Thanks for the list of references. I checked out the website and it looks like I know how I will be filling a few more hours.

  14. A must read book but – “Bankers are math people who look to make sure that if they loan you the money, you’ll be able to pay them back; they have a vested interest in making sure you can do so and that you’ll remain in business (p.7)” seems naive and out of date.

    • @James Warden,
      Yeah, it should read…
      “Bankers are sales people interested in making their monthly numbers and as long as you can convince the computer that you have income and a decent credit score then they’ll cut you a check and not worry about it because they probably won’t be working there anymore when you may or may not default.” That’s basically it for big banks, community banks and credit unions may be different.

      • @Lou, I hope that in general you are wrong about the lowly loan officer! But I pulled this quote to remind the banking customer that they have to run their own numbers. They should be smarter about their own business than the banker.

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