photographing your books

Tuesday, 18 July 2017


If, like me, you're a bit partial to beautiful imagery, you might be tempted to bypass the standard 'author with cheesy grin and book' photo, and think about ways you can capture your titles in more creative, eye-popping ways.

While flicking through my instagram account recently, reminiscing over all the stunning pics talented people have taken of my books, it struck me how droolworthy beautiful book photos can be--both for posterity purposes, and of course--for promo.

Don't be scared--beautiful book pics are not difficult to create. Here are some tips and ideas to get you clicking.

The above pic, by @kidsgiftsandtoys is simple but striking in terms of composition and theme. A clean background, retro 'road trip' toys in complementary colours and a little natural light is all it takes. And how refreshing to show a book's spine rather than a typical cover shot. Love it.

My gorgeous friend, author/illustrator Sarah Epstein (@sarahepsteinbooks), recently took to Insta with a series of shots of Australia Illustrated. And the results are just divine. The following four shots showcase the cover and also internal pages as flat-lay.

Notice how Sarah has also used complementary colours and themed objects in a really brilliant way, to make the cover and pages pop. From foliage to chocolate squares, she's just nailed it when it comes to flat-lay.

She's also used natural light. I almost exclusively use natural light in my pics, but almost always adjust them on my computer, to lighten even further. All PCs and devices have some kind of editing program that allows you to do this--so experiment. And I highly recommend playing with filters, too, and try lightening highlights and shadows, too, if your program allows it. Another thing you can do is adjust the colour saturation.





I really love the look of flat-lay imagery. Make sure you can get high enough to shoot directly downward. I've always found the floor the best bet--to save tumbling from a chair! And it's easier on the back. I usually lay items in front of a large floor-length window, and you may find the use of photographer's lamps really helpful, too (affordable on ebay). Use fabric, papers, wood, metal and other textured items to give yourself a backdrop, or just use white cardboard. Bunnings have enormous sheets of thin plywood that can be used as-is for a Scandi look, or can be spray-painted. I had about 10 sheets of various colours when I was doing photography for magazines and for handmade living. and they were so handy for backdrops.

You can also create angled flat-lay, as Lizzie from KidsGiftsandToys has done below. Play around with angles and positioning... if you do a lot of photography, you'll know that there's a big difference between what the naked eye sees and what the camera lens captures, so moving objects around and positioning them in seemingly awkward spots, can really make for a stunning picture. Just keep playing.


The incredible Kelly (@thestylingmama) has an infallible eye for both beautiful products and how to put them together in a way that makes you want, literally, every single item in her pictures. Kelly shot Australia Illustrated in a series of shots for her Christmas gift guide last year, and they absolutely blew me away.

Your book cover doesn't always have to be the hero of a shot, front and centre. It can be part of a larger scene that's either thematic (Australiana theme in the shots below) or colour-coordinated.

You can experiment with the book's placement--near, far, front-on, side on, flat-lay or being held and enjoyed by a child (or yourself!). Why not shoot the book with only half your face showing or your eyes peeking over the top? What about lying down, surrounded by your books? For inspiration, look at things from a different angle...




In the following images, you'll see the book in close-up, then further and further away. Notice the composition and use of natural light. Due to the placement of the book, it still commands attention, no matter how far the camera pulls back.




My enormously talented friend, Lisa-Marie of @bear.sparrow, is one of the most stylish people you'll ever meet. She photographed Australia Illustrated flat-lay, again, using beautifully-relevant props. Don't you just love her use of background here? The way she's angled and cropped is beautiful, too. Remember, it doesn't always have to be front-on and square.



One fun thing I've done with my books is add characters to the photo mix. I printed my characters onto card, then stood them up in front of the book. If you're tech-savvy, you can also do this sort of thing digitally.


For Smile Cry, it was a little challenging because the book actually has two covers, front and back. One of the first shots I took was a flat-lay clutch of the covers, filling the frame. Repeat covers like this look really effective.


I crocheted the book's characters from Smile Cry, and shot them both on their own and alongside the book (and do you think I can find the latter--no! sorry!). Again, these sorts of props make for gorgeous pics.


And here is a simple flat-lay.


Here, the book was used in a picture showcasing my art space. Strategic product placement!


Here is another shot from Lisa-Marie of Bear and Sparrow, using character props. Lisa actually made and painted these wooden characters from the book--can you believe how gorgeous? They were used at the book launch Jess Racklyeft held in Melbourne (while my crochet versions attended the launch in Canberra!).


Here, she takes the characters, and the book, to the wall. Literally. With one of her bananas-beautiful products--the wooden camera.


And now for more from Kelly, The Styling Mama... this time a series of shots with Smile Cry included. Some of these make a feature of the book and some don't, but they're great for styling ideas (and for oggling beautiful kids' rooms). If you have more than one title, you could showcase all of them in a bookcase, as per the image below. Making it angled and subtle is a beautiful way to showcase your work (as opposed to up-close, front-on, in-your-face).








Another lovely way to showcase your book is to have a child read/play with/enjoy it. The following shots absolutely warm my heart. Be sure to get permission, naturally, for the use of photos of any child online.

First image by gorgeous photographer Christine Pobke (@pobke). Subsequent images from The Styling Mama.




A teacher in Canada (@missarraial) recently posted this image of A Canadian Year, surrounded by Canadian paraphernalia for Canada's 150th birthday celebration. How cool does it look? Colours, themes, natural light and a nice tight crop.


The following shot of Peas in a Pod included thematic pinks and greens. With lovely natural light.


And here is a shot of An Aussie Year during its 2013 launch. We printed off speech bubbles for guests to use in photos, and arranged them around the book. Looked kind of cool. Book launches are a great time to get good book shots, because you often have a heap of themed goodies and festive items you can use as props. Get to the venue 30 mins earlier than planned, and take the time to get some photos before guests arrive.


For Tottie and Dot, I used some shelving in our house, and some Christmas lights (it was Christmas!) to create a 'bookstore' image of the cover.


And lastly, if you simply, simply must capture the 'author-with-book' photograph (I find them awfully twee), do it in a way that's non-posey, artsy or in some way creative. This shot was taken by Martin Ollman for HerCanberra last year. It was an unplanned shot and is the ONLY shot I'd use of myself with a book.


I hope this post has inspired you to start snapping and capture some beautiful book imagery of your own. You can use such imagery on your website, blog, on social media, for media outlets, in any promotional material, or even to stick on the fridge! We must, after all, celebrate our hard work.

Get clicking!


4 comments:

Vanessa R said...

Thanks for sharing - great tips!

Sandy Fussell said...

I've been looking at Instagram and wondering where to start - being a total visual blockhead. Thanks for sharing.

Sheryl Gwyther said...

Wow, this is so interesting, Taz! I'm hooked!! I love every image here.:) Now, how to I figure out a photoshoot of an upcoming novel called Sweet Adversity? **grinning with glee** :) xx

Karen Tyrrell said...

Thanks Tania, this post is truly inspiring. You've got me dreaming up my next book snaps. Thanks for the creative photography ideas.I'm bookmarking it... Cheers, Karen :)

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