brands, for photographers

November 9, 2020

Favorite books for small businesses and creatives


My clients and other photographers often ask me about how I got started. And while the actual origin story is for another day, the way that I kept going was by reading. A LOT.

If you do a search of the most successful entrepreneurs across industries, the common thread is that they all recommend reflection and reading. Warren Buffett, one of the most wealthy investors and CEO’s ever, said he reads 500 pages a day–“that’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will.”

Listen, I have 2 small children, a growing business, and a dog who barks at leaves blowing… I’m not Warren Buffett.

But I do make an effort to read regularly. I go through seasons where I’ll read more than others, and seasons when a Friends marathon on the couch with a bowl of cereal is all I can handle.

As this article in Leaderomics points out — “ 85% of successful people read two or more self-improvement or educational books per month…to prioritize reading is a habit that offers a huge return on investment that hours spent on TV and social media just can’t match.”

My Book Backstory

When I first started my photography business I knew barely anything about photography or business. There was a little book store about 2 blocks from our 700 sq ft apartment in Hawaii and I’d walk there all the time, browsing for business books to sink my teeth into and the scouring my camera manual at night (read about how how that bookstore influenced my photography perspective here). 

These days, I still read every book with a pencil in hand.

And back in the day, I majored in English because I fully believed that my calling as a leader was to lead 9th graders through Homer’s The Odyssey.

Life journey curveballs aside, I’ve discovered time and time again that even the tiniest nugget of wisdom from someone else’s perspective in a book can plant a seed. And with every seed, your perspective, and world view, shifts.

Not everything counts though – I mean, true, Guess How Much I Love You does have some deep stuff, but reading for self-improvement and growth is the gold mine here. It doesn’t have to be boring. My favorite categories are books on business and leadership, biographies and origin stories, and books on mindset. 

All of them directly influence how I operate and create. Biographies help shape my vision for the future and what’s possible. They also help me with brand sessions and photographing entrepreneurs, including the questions I ask them, and how I can create images that speak to their real story. And marketing books not only help me craft my own message and vision, but also engage with business owners I’m photographing over strategy and insights, to make suggestions that will inspire them about how to USE their photos. It’s pretty common for me to make a photo and then immediately share, ‘oh I could see you using an image like this for your ____ page or a post about xyz.” 

2020teamphotos-0066.jpgBook Recommendations for Small Business Owners and Brands

As the holiday season approaches and we prep our new years’ resolutions and reading lists, our cozy quarantined winter escapes (yikes)… consider this list of my favorite book recommendations for creatives to give your buddy or sister or cousin or dad… or invest in yourself, you beautiful, budding boss.

These books are great for budding photographers, but also for business owners looking to uplevel in any industry.

*all links to Amazon, but please take the extra step and order from your local small bookstore! Here in Charlottesville, the people at New Dominion Bookshop are great!

Books on small business

Leaders Eat Last




Biographies and origin stories

The Magnolia Story


Start something that matters

Books on mindset

Mindset : The New Psychology on Success

The Tipping Point

Simply Tuesday

Atomic Habits

As you’re searching for books this season, go outside your industry. These are not just books for photographers – in fact, you’ll see that actually none of them are specifically about photography. Look for options that speak to life and business to build a basis of practical knowledge, healthy mindset, and deeper inspiration. Happy reading!