The Book List for Photographers

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If you’re a photographer and/or a business-person, your education never stops. Once you commit to life-long learning, the sky is the limit!

Books have always, and will always, be one of the best ways to guide your personal learning. They offer the focused and dense information necessary for true understanding. Forums, blogs, and workshops should come as supplements to good ol’ fashioned book learnin’.

So here you’ll find a book list for photographers. It is in constant development, so check back often! And if you have recommendations of your own, please feel free to leave them in the comments! We’re always on the lookout for more books that can help photographers succeed!

Note: Most of these books have Kindle editions, which means you can start reading them right now. To learn more about why we think the Kindle app is a new, and better, way to read, check out our review.

Essential Reading

Annie Leibovitz At Work
by Annie Leibovitz // Photography, Creativity

A fascinating look at the career of Annie Leibovitz, as told by herself. She describes the book as an attempt to answer every single question about how her work is done. The insights into the life of a photographer, and the thought processes behind great work, are invaluable. Photographers of all genres can benefit from learning what Annie Leibovitz thinks when she’s at work.

How To Win Friends and Influence People
by Dale Carnegie // Business, Client Interaction, Subject Interaction
 
A look at the fundamentals of human nature, and the importance of great people skills. A classic book that still remains relevant over 70 years since being first published. For photographers, this book will not only help greatly in terms of basic business skills, and handling clients, but also in interacting with the subjects of your images. For more details, check out our Book Report

The War of Art
by Steven Pressfield // Creativity, Productivity
 
Resistance to work is a problem that plagues the creative professional. The War of Art boldly exposes resistance for what it is (in all it’s forms); an obstacle every artist needs to overcome. As professional photographers we’re creative artists and business owners and as such we need to become aware of resistance and develop the discipline it takes to overcome it.

New photographers will take away an understanding of the mindset necessary for artistic success. For more experienced photographers this will be a wake up call and and an invitation to constructive self evaluation.

The Thank You Economy
by Gary Vaynerchuk // Business, Social Media, Marketing
★☆
Social Media: it’s the newest disruptive technology and its not going away. How is it transforming the landscape of consumer behavior in the market place, and what does this mean for business owners? Opportunity, as author Gary Vaynerchuk sees it!

Gary comes to us from the trenches to share his experience and insights with social media. The biggest revelation: caring about your customers and building relationships leads to success. Photographers will absolutely benefit by reading this book. For more details, check out our Book Report

Getting Things Done
by David Allen // Productivity
★☆
The challenges of productivity are nothing new. We all want to work as efficiently as possible. The difference now is the number of knowledge-based workers doing self-directed work (the move out of the factories and in front of computers).

Professional photographers will be acutely aware of the unique challenges associated with “what to do next”. Process those images, schedule that shoot, respond to e-mails, review that new camera, design that clients album etc. etc. (on top of the rest of life’s seemingly full time to-do list). David Allen shares an elegant framework that will organize your life and help you move your projects and business forward efficiently.

Purple Cow
by Seth Godin // Business, Marketing
★☆
The rules of marketing have changed. With advertising becoming so overwhelming, you need to do something remarkable to stand out. You need to create something worth talking about: a purple cow. Photographers are faced with an increasingly competitive market, and this book will inspire you to find out what makes you different, embrace it, and find your unique success.

Rework
by Jason Fried & David Heinmeier Hansson // Business
★☆
An example of less is more, this book is a collection of short, to-the-point, “brilliantly simple rules for success”. For photographers, this is a great way to get your business gears going, and think about how powerful small business can really be.

Outliers
by Malcolm Gladwell // Business, Learning
★☆
A fascinating look at the “story of success”. What makes some people
successful, and others not? Malcolm Gladwell argues that there’s more to it than previously understood. Photographers will be able to take away the concept of how much work it takes to become great at something (the 10,000 hour principle) and that success comes to those who are prepared to take advantage of it.

Optional, But Still Awesome

Art & Fear
by David Bayles // Art, Creativity
★☆
“Art & Fear explores the way art gets made, the reasons it often doesn’t get made, and the nature of the difficulties that cause so many artists to give up along the way.” There’s not much more that can be said about this book! It is incredibly valuable for anyone who hopes to create good art, consistently and productively.

Blink
by Malcolm Gladwell // Psychology
★☆
A look at decision making, and how thinking without thinking sometimes produces the best results. It has a few too many stories, and not enough content, but if you’re interested in the topic it provides some surprising new insights into thought processes. For photographers, it can help you understand how your clients make decisions, and give you some guidance on how to make your own.

Crush It!
by Gary Vaynerchuk // Business, Social Media, Branding
★☆
Gary Vaynerchuk’s first book is an inspiring and motivating look at the power of pursuing your passion. He discusses the importance of using social media to get involved with your customers and the value of building your own personal brand. For photographers it not only shows you how your passion for photography can create a very successful business, but also how your own personality is the centrepiece of that business.

Making Ideas Happen
by Scott Belsky // Productivity
★☆
A common problem with today’s super-information-filled, creatively-charged environment isn’t the amount of ideas people come up with—it’s the ability to execute on those ideas. Scott Belsky (the creator of the indispensible the99percent.com productivity blog), provides an in-depth look at our addiction to creating new ideas, and case studies of how future-forward companies are overcoming the problem. While the focus in this book is mainly the tech/web industry, photographers who read this with an open mind will certainly take away valuable information on getting results.

The Non-Designer’s Design Book
by Robin Williams // Graphic Design
★☆
A fantastic introduction to basic graphic design principles. Geared towards the non-designer, this will help all photographers produce better graphic pieces. With a bit of thought, the concepts will also apply to photography itself! A must-read if you design your own marketing and promotional materials. (The dated clipart is the only downside)

The Portrait Photographers Posing Guide
by Nigel Holmes // Posing
★☆
A surprisingly fantastic little book on posing. It looks a bit sketchy, filled with cartoon drawings. However, the use of cartoons instead of photographs is quite helpful! They allow you to concentrate on the concepts behind great posing, so you can adapt the ideas to any pose. Tons of information in a quick read.

The Richest Man in Babylon
by George S. Clason // Money
★☆
The principles behind building wealth seem simple. That’s because they are! The Richest Man in Babylon is a parable about how to accumulate wealth with any profession. As photographers we’re often self-employed, with photography being our sole source of income (or that’s the goal as we transition from our day job). Learning the principles of retaining the income you earn will make you a much happier photographer.

The Tipping Point
by Malcolm Gladwell // Business, Sociology
★☆
An interesting look at the concept that little changes can have big effects. While too heavy on stories, with not enough content, the basic ideas are still interesting. Gladwell describes three different types of people that can help spread your message. For photographers, understanding what makes an idea (or business) tip can be very useful.

Thinking With Type
by Ellen Lupton // Typography
★☆
A primer on typography that goes beyond definitions, and discusses the critical thinking behind great design. It’s beautifully laid out, easy to understand, with a great sense of humor thrown in. A must-read if you’re wanting to learn more about typography.

Final Notes

We have personally read all of these books, and analyzed their relevance for photographers. Most books are geared towards the professional photographer, so there is a strong focus on business skills.

The star rating is based on our perception of how useful the book would be for a photographer: 
★ – Extremely useful, a must-read
★☆ – Very useful, especially if you are interested in the subject matter
★☆☆ – Moderately useful. You’ll get a few nuggests of helpful information.
This list is in constant development
, so if you don’t see a book you think is useful for photographers, please leave it as a comment below! We’re always working to find great books that help photographers.

All links in this post are Amazon affiliate links, which means that if you purchase the book by clicking on that link, we’ll receive a small commission for the referral. It doesn’t cost you any more to purchase that way, and the support helps us to continue with Photography Concentrate!

Happy reading!

Lauren Lim

Hey friend, I’m Lauren! I’m a photographer and head ninja here at Photography Concentrate. I’m downright obsessed with photography, and love sharing it with super cool folks like yourself. When I’m not shooting, or writing, you can find me cooking (and eating!), traveling, and hanging out with wonderful people.

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Comments

9 Comments // Leave a comment

  1. Awesome!

  2. This is an excellent list.

    Here's a few of my favorites:
    Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson is a great introduction to basic camera concepts. Someone recommend it to me right after I picked up my first DSLR. I was shooting on manual the weekend after I got it.
    http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_1_22?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=understanding+exposure&x=0&y=0&sprefix=understanding+exposure

    I also LOVE my most recent book, On Camera Flash by Neal Van Niekerk. Neal is a big advocate for leveraging bounce flash to make flattering light for your subject (and by flattering, we're not talking about how most people bounce, 90 degrees straight up…). He's incredibly easy to understand and his solutions to complex lighting problems are incredibly pragmatic. Highly recommended:

    http://www.amazon.com/Camera-Techniques-Digital-Portrait-Photography/dp/1584282584/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303772797&sr=8-1

    His website is also an incredible (free!!!) resource. http://neilvn.com/tangents/

  3. Erin Wilson says:

    David duChemin's Vision Mongers is a must read on my list. Lots of folks out there talking about the 'how', but very few talking about the 'why'.

  4. Thanks so much for the suggestions guys! We're definitely going to check those out!! :)

  5. This was a great place to stumble on. I have read some of these books, but many I have not. Time to sit down with my reading glasses again.

    Thanks for the post. Regards, D.

  6. Right on David, glad you enjoyed it! Happy reading!

  7. You guys should sign up for an Amazon affiliate account and make a store. Then when you recommend stuff it links to your store and if we buy it you get your fee. I have one – haven't sold anything on it yet but with your lists you'd probably do well. You can customize how it looks – you can see mine down the right hand side of my site – http://www.herviewphotography.com/ – click on it and see how it looks. You can add categories, movies, camera gear, you name it. Anything for sale on Amazon.

  8. Very useful list, looks like I have some reading ahead of me! I've put six of the books on hold at the library, looks like they are all quite popular. Thanks for posting this!

  9. Bethany Bee says:

    I just got done reading Visual Poetry by Chris Orwig. He’s very uplifting and inspiring. There are assignments in there as well to help you get out of a rut.

    http://www.amazon.com/Visual-Poetry-Creative-Engaging-Photographs/dp/0321636821/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1369787368&sr=1-1&keywords=visual+poetry

    Also, I’d like to share, Beauty is Embarassing. Its an amazingly hilarious documentary about Wayne White, a puppeteer and set designer for Pee Wee’s Playhouse and new to the art world. It’s on
    Netflixs.

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