Want to improve your book photography skills, or find new ways to take photos for Bookstagram? I put together some helpful tips for taking book photos on your phone, from lighting and editing to photo styling ideas!
Keep in mind: there are no essential “rules” to follow here. I’m sharing these tips to help inspire you creatively – do with them what you will!
Your book photography (whether it’s for Bookstagram or another medium) is your chance to let your creativity and personal style shine.
Books are the perfect subject. They’re unique and universal at the same time. They can be photographed in so many ways: standing up, flat, open, stacked, shelved; the options are endless.
The best part: one image can spark an endless number of discussions.
You don’t need any fancy equipment to take book photos. Good lighting and a decent camera phone can go a long way!
I’ve been taking book photos for years (first for my online bookshop, and then for Bookstagram). While I am definitely not perfect – nor do I think book photos need to be perfect in the first place – I wanted to share some of what I’ve learned (for anyone who’s interested). 🙂
Now, let’s talk about some of the different types of photos you can take.
Types of Book Photos
Below, I’ve listed some popular types of Instagram photos. They vary by arrangement, angle, and a number of other factors.
(These are not meant to constrain you; only to inspire you. There are no strict rules when it comes to book photography!).
These days, the word “selfie” is pretty widely-known. It’s a photo of yourself! It can be taken up close or further away.
If you don’t have someone to take your photo for you, you can buy a phone stand and use a bluetooth remote control to take photos of yourself.
The Subject Shot
This is a photo of someone other than yourself (like your child, your friend, your dog, etc.).
The subject can be smiling at the camera or posing, or you can take an action shot. Either way, the focus is on them.
Often, this is shot straight-on, but it can also be taken from unique angles.
The Hold Up
An example: someone’s arm holding a cup of coffee or an ice-cream cone in front of a colorful wall.
Basically, you stand beside a cool backdrop, like a painted brick wall or your bookshelf, and hold something out (like a book!) as the focus of your image.
This is one of the most popular types of photos on Instagram. Basically, you put together some props – or whatever you have lying around your house – to create a stylized (or purposefully chaotic) photo.
You can use as few or as many props as you wish.
You can also switch it up by making it a selfie flat-lay. Lay down on the floor with books or other props placed around you, and take a photo from above.
The Whole Space
These are typically lifestyle shots of an entire wall, room, or space.
For example, you can showcase your favorite reading spot, or how you decorate your desk at home.
Whole space shots can be styled or relaxed/behind-the-scenes – whichever you prefer!
Here are 30+ book photo & post ideas for Bookstagram to help inspire you!
Taking High Quality Photos (Using Just Your Phone!)
You don’t need a fancy camera to take great photos. All you really need is a camera phone and a few tricks up your sleeve.
- Determine a focal point.
By this, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have anything else in the picture. What I mean is that there should be a clear focus to your image, whether it’s yourself, your books, or something else entirely.
Here’s a quick tip: when you’re taking your photo, hold down your finger on the screen over where your focal point is. That puts the focus on it within the image.
2. Find good lighting.
Whether you prefer bright, white photos or darker, more dramatic photos, knowing how lighting works is invaluable. Using artificial light in your photos – like most indoor lightbulbs – or using a flash can create weirdly-shadowed or yellowed photos. Natural light (near a window) is usually best!
If you’re inside and the light coming through the window is too harsh, try hanging a diffuser (like a sheer white curtain) in front of your window.
And, if you can, turn off any artificial light sources.
Another tip: if you’re outside in direct sunlight, it’s usually best to take your photos in the shade from a building or underneath a tree. That way, your photos won’t be over-bright or washed-out.
3. Avoid zooming in.
Using the zoom function on your camera phone can cause the image to become pixelated.
Instead, move closer to your subject before taking the picture. You can always crop it later.
For even more tips & tricks on book photography (plus in-depth Bookstagram info like how to work with publishers), check out my Ultimate Guide to Bookstagram!
Book Photo Styling Tips
The way you style your photos is completely up to you. You may want to choose a particular theme to work around, such as the book you’re wanting to highlight.
As an example, let’s say you’re taking a photo of a book about self-care. You might want to include a candle, some bath bombs, your favorite tea: all things that focus on your theme.
Or, you can just use anything you have on hand at the time. You do you!
Now, let’s go over the individual pieces that make up a styled image.
Backgrounds & Backdrops
A background is essentially the canvas you use to “paint” (photograph) your subject(s) on.
This can be a wooden table, a couch, your bookshelf, a wall, or any number of things.
Keep the angle of your photo in mind. If it’s a flatlay, anything vertical will work (a table, floor, comforter, etc.). If it will be taken straight-on, a wall or draped cloth might work better.
Use a few props (or a lot, if that’s your style!) to make your photos more interesting. These can be candles, houseplants, blankets, bookish merch; the options are endless.
You can even organize your props on multiple levels using a stand or supporting prop, like floating shelves and trays.
I’ve put together a list of prop ideas to inspire you and help get those creative thoughts churning.
Another great way to make your photos unique is by adding texture. This can be anything from fabrics and textiles to brick and clay. Think interesting, mostly natural materials.
Luckily, you can probably find a wide variety of textured materials in your home!
For example, bundle knit sweaters or chunky blankets around your focal point to add a cozy feel to your image. Or, spill some coffee beans over your background to add an extra layer of interest.
Editing can make a huge difference in improving your photos.
Of course, it helps to start with a quality image to begin with. But editing is useful for making enhancements after the fact, like touching up your lighting, cropping, or fixing discoloration.
Here are a few of my favorite photo editing apps for book photos:
- Adobe Lightroom is my favorite editing app (and it’s free!). You can use it to adjust brightness, contrast, saturation, temperature, clarity, and lots of other aspects of your photos You can also use Lightroom Presets to add a consistent filter to your photos.
- Canva is a free tool that’s perfect for adding graphics, text, or any other embellishments to your photos (including animations!).
- If you don’t have a phone camera that has Portrait mode but you want your photo to have a blurred background, you can use Facetune to blur the background.
One last caveat: your book photos don’t need to be perfectly styled or polished. Taking photos for Bookstagram should be FUN, not stressful. Spend as much or as little time on it as you like.
I hope you found these book photography tips helpful! 🙂
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