Bookstagram Pic How To
Some of you, whether during a live chat or in the comments on one of my pics, have expressed an interest in learning more about how I create my pictures.
I’m by no means a photography expert, and most of my frame of reference for how I compose my photos is from years of art classes, but never any photography.
I hope this means that my explanations, examples, and tools will be accessible to everyone. If any of the content below makes you think, "Well, duh, obviously," know that I've purposely written this with the intent of being as accessible to any beginner as possible.
How I create my pics may not work for every person, and you’ll notice that I have a specific style, at least in my preference for clean white backgrounds. There are many other accounts and photographers that have much more varied styles that I personally just don’t use, but know that in the techniques I suggest it’s not me finding my ways superior, but rather simply the methods that work best for me.
Let’s dive in!
I use my iPhone 6 to shoot, white foamcore, Instagram for editing, and 99.9% of the time, only natural light.
These are the staples from any time that I’m taking pics. The books and props change, but these are always the same.
I have three different sizes and styles of white foam core. The smallest opens into what I usually use as a bottom and backdrop, the middle size is a single flat piece that is good for flat lays, and the largest is a trifold that is large enough to accommodate book box unboxings. All were purchased at a craft store. For scale, They are laid out on my hardwood floors.
Because I live in an area where it’s winter for about 6 months of the year, natural light can sometimes be hard to come by, which means that sometimes I take advantage of a day with good light and take enough pictures for 4 or 5 postings. (Which can translate to 50-80 pics to get those 4-5)
If you live in an area with abundant light, awesome, if you live in a greyer climate, get used to caching pics in advance.
I NEVER use flash in any of my pictures. More often than not it blows out everything in the pic.
One of the reasons I use the white foamcore for my background is because of how easy it is to edit the brightness of the photo. The more colors and textures, the harder it can be to get an even quality of light across everything.
I also happen to prefer the white background. If you were to come over to my house you would see my bright white walls with white art shelves and white bookcases because I think they give my art and books the best opportunity to shine. That’s the aesthetic that makes me feel the most calm and satisfied.
Some techniques to think about:
My biggest focus when I’m taking a picture is often not the items themselves, but the negative space. While the edges of the pic create the most literal frame, the negative space creates focus and flow.
Always use the same filter. Even if you use it at 100% strength for one pic, or 32% strength for the next, it’s still going to give all your photos the same look, creating a kind of continuity that most people find pleasing.
I use Clarendon for all of my pics, to various degrees of strength, because it gives me the cleanest color quality, including whites. The only downside is that the white often has blue tones from the filter, but that can be negated with a hint of warmth.
Let's look at the process in a few stages.
Get used to taking a lot of pictures, exploring not only large changes as you move props around, but micro change that allow you to better balance the space and color. Normally there were be double the amount of pictures for one intended shot, but I wanted to keep things on the easier side for the sake of this post.
Know that so much of the final product you see comes not so much from good composition, but from editing. The Instagram app has plenty of great editing features built in and that's all I ever use. However, often the most stunning pics you seen on Instagram are taken with digital cameras and edited with software with a greater range of features than what's available through Instagram. But for me, it's more than enough.
Like I said before, I use only Clarendon for my bookstagram pics, but rarely do I use it at full strength. And when you're using the editing tools trying different degrees of intensity and know that your picture may best be served by very little of one and a lot more of another. Be patient and play around with the settings.
As you play around with some of the settings and some of the various styles of the layout you can always save your work in drafts and flip through side by side to see which version you like best before posting.
Now, let's talk about some of the more technical aspects of actually creating the image through both layout and editing.
One technique that I rarely use, but can be extremely effective in highlighting small details, is providing a greater depth of field. Most of my pics, especially my flat lays, don't have much in the terms or foreground and background, the book and the props are almost always on the same plane.
In this case I created a deeper field of depth that included the book in the background for reference, flowers for color, and put the pocket watch in the foreground.
I often use "the rule of thirds" (this was a thing I did before I knew that a term existed to explain it, which just goes to show that doing what feels natural to you, or looks pleasing to you is always important sans fancy terminology) to anchor the focal point of my picture to one corner, either left of right, to create more visual interest.
Notice that there is a good balance of postive and negative space in this picture. The triangular space of the white space at the top right hand corner mimics the traingluar formation of objects in the bottom left hand corner, all supported by a white rectangular space that functions almost like a frame.
I'm most often looking for balance in my photos and even in situations where the objects in the pic are of different sizes or heights, I purposely try to arrange them in a way that allows the eye to travel in an easy path.
In the photo below the book is the highest height, the coffee cup the middle height, and the slice of cake the lower height, they have been arranged in a small zig zag pattern with two equal sized objects on either side to anchor the image.
In addition to balance, which is apparent in the picture below, we can't forget about content. In the context of Bookstagram, content means what particular books and fandoms you're including in your pic. Nothing will ever be as popular in the Bookstagram community as Harry Potter content. It's a fandom that permeates all corners of the world, and as such will garner more likes than much of your other work. It doesn't mean you should do all Harry Potter all the time, unless that's your shtick, but rather, be mindful of the fact that other pics that receive less likes are not necessarily less successful in their beauty, but rather they're not necessarily going to get the same eyes that HP content does.
Mostly I want to encourage you to highlight what makes you uniquely awesome.
There are a lot of Bookstagrammers whose work I greatly admire, but they do it in a style or a color palette that doesn't come naturally to me, so rather than try to emulate them, I work on perfecting what works for me.
You can steal like an artist, absolutely, and I wouldn't share some of my techniques if I didn't think that other people would put them into practice, but the accounts I love the most are the ones with pics I recognize without any name attached because their style is so specifically them.
And above all, I appreciate the hearts and souls behind the accounts, the readers who are passionate about books, the people who are looking to be a part of a community, and the friends that are eager to encourage and support.
If you have any questions about what I've shared here, please hit me up in the comments.
If you have questions about anything I didn't cover here, again, let me know in the comments I'll do my best to address them, but sometimes I keep a few tricks of the trade to myself to help keep my pics uniquely mine.
So, was this helpful?