Who here among us hasn’t spent hours upon hours scrolling through the gorgeous photos produced by the bookworms of Instagram (aptly called bookstagram)? The creativity and sheer awesomeness of readers never ceases to amaze me. Being a visual social network, authors who can take fab photos have an advantage at being seen organically on Instagram. Being seen means more possible sales!
As such, I’ve invited couple of my absolute fave bookstagrammers, Garan and Christy, to share their top tips to help authors take better and more creative promotional pics of their books. Take it away, guys!
Garan: Lighting is EVERYTHING. Always take your photos in natural light if you can. Artificial light tends to skew the colors of the book cover or casts an ugly glare that can really throw your photo off balance.
Christy: Lighting is your best friend. No matter what gear you have lighting can make or break your photo. I use natural lighting whenever I can and rarely use the flash. Night time is not helpful nor is artificial light. Most of my pictures are taken in front of the window in my office.
Props & Layout
Garan: Including different items in your photo that relate to the featured book is a really easy way to take the photo to that next level. You can essentially use anything you want. Mugs, candles, collectibles, art prints? You name it!
Christy: I tend to be a bit minimalist in my photos and don’t have too many props, but just a few added touches can really make a photo pop. I love flowers in my book photography (both real and artificial), cups of tea, sweets, and whatever little things I have littering my shelves. Craft stores like Michael’s or Joann’s always have coupons and sales. I tend to get a lot of my props with the changing of the seasons when things are on sale. Thrift stores are a treasure trove as well. Find your aesthetic and find what works for your book. I have used Funko toys, pens and papers, and even bits of clothing. Maybe you want a color to pop on the cover or have objects that mirror the cover. This is your chance to showcase your work. Make a mess and have some fun.
Your background for your photo can be a throw from your couch, your kitchen table, your floor, or even your porch. The backgrounds I use are pages from an old wallpaper book, scrapbook paper, and a cheap backdrop I got from Amazon for around $10. I have also used contact paper and wrapping paper. I have a friend who created a wooden background by piecing together some wood. Keeping your background simple, I think, is key. You want your book to be the focus, not a busy background. Again, it is all about finding what works for you.
Garan: I typically take all of my photos with either my Nikon D3100 or my iPhone XS Max. If you are using a camera that, after editing, make your photos turn out to be blurry or grainy, you will not be getting the type of response from your community that you want to see. Investing in some type of camera may not be the best option for all but it is something to work toward and will really step up your game in the long run.
Christy: While there are a lot of accounts that have professional lighting setups and are taken by fancier cameras, this is not absolutely necessary. I would love to own a $3000 DSLR (oh would I ever), but I do not have a fancy DSLR. I have a phone. To be specific, I have a Galaxy S8. This is my camera that I take everywhere. It also takes some fairly great photos. It is amazing what smartphones can do now. I basically point and click.
Garan: How you edit is something that can make or break your photo. I always edit on my phone or laptop with Adobe Lightroom. The mobile app is free and it has been such a game changer for me when it comes to photography. You can instantly adjust the light and shadows and colors to make the photos feel more like how you want them to. I created my own filter in the app (which is incredibly easy to do) and I use that same one for all of my photos so that they all have the same vibe. I could talk about how incredibly helpful Lightroom is ALL. DAY. LONG.
Christy: Sometimes the sunshine gods do not shine in your favor. It happens. This is when editing software or even Instagram’s in app editing can help with that. On occasion I will usually adjust the brightness and warmth levels slightly. Play with your settings and your editing to find what fits you.
Garan: The most important tip that I can give you is to HAVE FUN! Don’t be too overwhelmed with getting the perfect shot. The more you get out there and experiment with, the more comfortable you will become. Get outside and play around with featuring your books in nature. Do bookshoots at your local bookstore. Go buy that 8 dollar coffee just to take a photo of your book beside it. Do whatever you feel like you need to do to make sure you’re having fun and your work will thrive because of it.
Christy: Take lots of photos. I wish that one shot was all it took. That is rarely the case. For every finished photo, there are between 3-7 shots. I play with angles. I change up the props. The worst thing is when you think you grabbed the perfect picture, but the title is out of focus or the shot is too close or too far away. The most important thing is to have fun. Welcome to the community!
Christy is a voracious reader living in the Bay Area. She is dedicated to all things geek, a proud Hufflepuff, and definitely not a Cylon. She also takes a lot of pictures 📸 Instagram.