Taking Pictures of Books

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Hey there friends, Rikki here, with some nerdy photography tips and tricks for you today. We've had such a warm reception with book photos that we share here on our site and on Instagram. It has been the most encouraging thing ever as we've gotten ourselves off the ground and immersed in this online bookish community over the past year. It can be really scary to start something new, something you're passionate about, wondering if anyone will think so too. 

Michaela and I have learned each other's strengths and played on those to create what you see here. It is very much a partnership that doesn't really work without the other. We are all too aware of how incredible it is to have a friend so interested in the same thing you are, and the photos are just one part of what makes this space special.

Before I go into talking photography with you, please keep in mind, that for the past seven years or so, I've been a professional photographer for weddings and family portraits. That being said, I have professional gear and have spent years honing my craft. For those who have asked and those still curious, I shoot with a Nikon D700 and a 35 or 50mm lens, on manual 100% of the time. This is not really a realistic option for most people, so don't feel discouraged. Everything mentioned here is applicable whether you're shooting with your phone or any sort of camera. Learning begins at the most basic level, with what you have. 

A few of the most important things I can think of when photographing anything, with any kind of camera:

  • Lighting | Avoid using artificial light at all costs

    • Ideally, this means no flash or fluorescent lighting. Find any window light or head outside.
    • In the winter, this can mean you have to get a photo taken before lunch time because the sun starts to fade very early. A little thinking ahead will save you here; consider taking a photo a day or two in advance. However, if you don't, find any small light source, preferably with a 'daylight' light bulb to avoid the harsh orange tones from 'warm' light bulbs.
    • If you can't adjust your exposure on camera, avoid harsh sunlight
      • Shoot in the shade
      • Having decent lighting will ensure your photos are crisp and clean looking. If you're not familiar with backlighting or editing your photos, ensure the light isn't direct and harsh but is providing ample exposure for your photo.

 

  • Make it look good | Set your scene so it is aesthetically appealing. Take a photo, then continue to adjust as needed

    • It's going to take a couple tries to get it right usually. Keep any visible lines straight, move things around.
    • Framing is equally essential here. Look at what you've set up and try to view it as a photo; fill the space, leave some blank space, move your focal point around (hint: it doesn't always have to be in the center of the photo, rule of thirds).
  • Avoid clutter

    • It can be done right, but it's more intentional than it might seem. If you don't have a main focal point, you might want to re-think your setup.
    • If you have a lot going on in a photo consider pulling the book far forward, so it's clearly the focus, and the stuff in the background is softer and less busy looking.
    • Try to have a non-distracting background if you have a lot happening in your photo.
      • Unless you're shooting a flat lay, you need to create some distance between your focal point and your background, if your camera can create a blurry background, this is how it will happen (hint: on smart phones, you can close in on your subject, touch it to focus, and the background will blur, giving a little depth of field).

 

  • BE AUTHENTIC

    • I can't stress this enough! If you are pulling inspiration from somewhere, that is great (I do all the time)but you have to adjust things to work for you. Trying to copy something completely will often lead to disaster and your audience will ultimately see the lack of consistency, because again, you're trying to do what someone else is doing, not what is true to you.
  • Natural colors | Stop using unattractive filters and desaturating colors

    • Timeless and true coloring on photos is important to create a consistent look, plus it keeps your photos from becoming dated and losing quality. This is ultimately a personal preference, and filters can be used well, thankfully we can now tone down its strength with the slider on whatever app you're using.
  • Editing | If you feel the need to edit, or touch up, any of your photos, keep it clean

    • The whole point of editing a photo is to enhance it to look its best, not change the entire photo (this is a very subjective statement, but bear with me). For simplicity, you want to clearly see your subject (adjust exposure, not too bright or dark), you want colors to look natural (warm up a blue tinted photo, cool down an orange tinted photo) - these things can easily be done on an photo app, including Instagram (I'm not talking about filters necessarily either).

There is so much to learn about how to take good photos. This is a topic I could go on and on and on about, but for the sake of not writing a book, I'll leave it here. You are welcome to message me your questions any time. However, practice is just about the only thing to do to ultimately improve your skill. It can be frustrating and it can take more patience than you care to use, but if you have the desire to take better photos in general, you'll have to start somewhere. The days of just pointing your camera and quickly snapping a photo is fading. We want beautiful photos to remember moments by and we don't always have a professional on hand to do that for us. The trick? Start practicing!