While we at the Riot take some time off to rest and catch up on our reading, we’re re-running some of our favorite posts from the last several months. Enjoy our highlight reel, and we’ll be back with new stuff on Monday, July 11th.
This post originally ran March 21, 2016.
Instagram rocks when it comes to bookish goodness. There are so many different ways to connect with other book people on there, whether you’re just throwing quick reviews up, posting super artsy pictures of your collection, or even just taking random pictures of your open book over your stylish leggings. And some of the more popular book accounts are filled with artsy shots that showcase covers in vivid color or with cool backgrounds. Now, I know many folks feel like they aren’t “artsy enough” to be successful posting like that on Instagram, and I’m here to tell them that they don’t need any art skills. Just a little planning.
By the by, the links on this post are all from just browsing book tags – they’re photos I found in the wild that relate to whatever text they’re linked over.
Step 1: Identify the subject of your photograph.
Are you going for a color scheme (rainbow, etc) as with the photo above, or just showcasing one or two particular titles? Are you posting because you think the cover art is interesting, or because you want folks to know you’re having an amazing afternoon reading with a furry companion? Decide what the point of your photo is, and you’re on your way.
Step 2: Consider some props.
If you’re reading in some beautiful location, you probably don’t need any props. The ocean is gorgeous enough without your help! But if you’re just posting from home or some other general location, consider adding something extra. A small toy or two, a scarf if it’s autumn, some shells or pieces of jewelry, or even a cup of tea. Sometimes, it’s easy to match some props with the subject of your book. If you’re reading a book with loads of flowers on the cover, you could add some more around it. Sometimes, you can create a funny image incorporating the cover into its surroundings, like I did with Gulp recently. Other times, the cover has body parts or a partial face on it, and you can keep it going with your own. Bonus: our own Jamie used a dog’s body to keep a cover image going.
Step 3: Pick a background.
Now, this is where it starts to get only slightly (just a little bit, I promise) complicated. In general, you don’t want to clutter the photo too much, because then whoever is looking at the photo won’t know what it is they’re meant to look at in the first place. Remember step 1? Keep the point of your photograph firmly in mind. Frame the image so whatever it is you want to show is the obvious, main point of the photo and draws the eye.
The background could be a wooden surface, your tiled floor, a wall, a table top, a pretty bed sheet or other cloth that isn’t too wrinkled up. Look up the complementary colors of the main shade of your book and try to use contrast to your advantage. If your book is blue, you can use a yellow or orange background to really make it pop (or vice-versa as with the image above). If the cover is super busy, consider whether it might get lost in a patterned background. Use your judgement! Try different things until you get something you like or is visually appealing. Simple is great. Cluttered can also be great. Partial views of the book(s) can look nice, too. Mess around a little.
Side note: consider depth. Want your background to be blurry and low-key? Make sure it’s far away from your subject so your camera doesn’t capture it in focus. You can also make certain things look much bigger (or smaller) than they actually are by placing them at different distances from the camera lens.
Step 4: Lighting is important, too!
I find that working with natural lighting (light from the sun) yields the best results. You can filter sunlight through white-colored materials such as curtains to make sure you get some nice, soft coverage on your subject, or use shades to your advantage to make cool patterns. If you need a little bit more light on one side of your image, grab something reflective, like a white piece of poster or cardboard, or even some aluminum foil to bounce a little more light onto your subject. Hey, or don’t. Uneven lighting can be interesting, too. And if you must rely on artificial lighting – again, it works just fine.
Step 5: Lose the filters.
Don’t rely on the Instagram filters! Some of the most interesting photos come out of folks tinkering with the general settings. Skip the filters, and just play around with the contrast, fade (for a softer look), highlights, and other tools. You can play with colors, make the image sharper or less in focus (I love blurry photos), isolate just one spot you’d like to be in focus, and a zillion other things.
Your job isn’t over once you’ve snapped the picture – always, always do some touching up. At the very least, make sure the colors are on point using the contrast, brightness, warmth, and saturation tools. Some tips: warmth goes from blue (cold) to orange (hot). If you’re indoors and your photo is looking a little yellow because of the lighting, just slide the warmth bar to the left and cool your photo down a bit. Saturation, on the other hand, tends to add a bit of a red, so those are the colors that’ll be affected the most if you slide them right. If you slide it left, you’ll take your picture to black and white.
Need some inspiration? Check out some book-related hashtags, like #bookstagram and #bibliophile. Our own Book Riot account is a great place to look for ideas too, since all of us contribute images to it. There’s a super wide range of photos you can share, and as I mentioned before, you don’t need any special art skills to do it. Have any additional tips? Share them in the comments below.