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Monday, April 1, 2019

Bookstagram for Newbies: Photo tips

I conducted a poll on Twitter about social media platforms and quite a few people commented that they would be more likely to use Instagram if they could take better photos.
I'm assuming they mean bookish photos since my entire network of people on Twitter is primarily focused on books: Reading them and Writing them.
The temptation is to think, "Why bother?"
But if you're looking to engage with other readers, build a brand, promote *anything*, spread the word, boost the signal or sell yourself (your reviews, your books, your whatever) than Instagram is as good as any. It's free and it has a lot of users.

So here are some simple tips on how to take good photos on Instagram.

1. ALWAYS, ALWAYS use natural light. If it's dark or cloudy, don't bother. Never use indoor lighting such as lamps or overhead lights-anything with a bulb. This will create grainy, yellow, dark photos that are unappealing. In this photo, I'm in the kitchen where I get natural morning light:
I haven't edited it in anyway. I took this with my iPhone. The pink square is one of my painted backgrounds. I have a lot of props that I use to fill negative space (blank spots in the frame) just to make it more appealing to the eye:

I'm generally drinking coffee in the morning and I love drinking a warm beverage while I read so it's a good representation of who I am. I also collect vintage typewriters and cameras so I'll use those in my photos from time to time. I also have some fake foliage that I'll throw in for added drama but you can just as easily do what is comfortable to you. Here I have taken the same items but eliminated the painted background, doily under the coffee and the typewriter. I just put them on my floor:

The result is just as nice, I think. It's natural light and the colors are true. I will emphasize that no filter is needed-Instagram suggests filters but I think they change the quality of the photo. I don't think photos of books arranged on carpet or anything with too much pattern look as neat & tidy. Too much visual textures that confuse the eye and distract from the beauty of the book covers.
For Night Worms, I use a simple, black canvas:
I also adjust the "black point" on my photo editing features on my phone. Just to really emphasize the black tones. See here:
You can mess with a photo too much in editing so I only recommend doing that if you really need to, which you shouldn't if you're using natural light. Another tip is glare. Some books are shiny so if you're using direct light from a window, you'll need to move the book around to find the spot without glare. I'll show you:
I have a wall next to a window that I like to use to show a book in my hand. If I angle the book towards the window, you get a glare and you can see the residue from a sticker that was on the book cover (why do publishers DO THAT?!)

But if I angle the book towards me with a slight twist of my hand, the glare goes away:
I also edit my "book in hand" photos with the "black point" tool to really make those book covers pop:
So those are some easy tips with zero pains in the ass and minimal props. You can ask me questions anytime on social media or tag me in a photo where you used my tips! I'd love to see your new photos!

Mother Horror


  1. Thank you for this. I get the glare on a lot of my photos that I post on my blog so now I'll try natural lighting and see how that comes out.

  2. Thanks for the great photo tips! I have been blogging (including one - and at one point two - book blogs) for over 12 years, but I am still pretty low-tech. I could definitely use some pointers - everyone else's photos always look so professional! I figured out the one about natural light on my own, but you included some other great advice here - thanks!


    Book By Book


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