Blogtober // How I Create Autumnal Book Photos

Hi guys!
Today’s post is something a bit different but definitely something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. I often get asked about my bookstagram photos, how I edit them, the way I shoot them etc, so I thought I’d do the best I could to talk through my process. Photography, especially fine art portraiture, has been a huge passion of mine for ten years now and I’ve done photography professionally for over half of that time (shooting weddings, model look books, album covers and general portraits) so I at least hope that I’m able to share a few good tips at this point! If anyone’s interested, my old Flickr account hasn’t been updated for years but it’s still there if you want to take a look!


I’ve titled this post taking autumnal book photos, however most of what I’m going to share can be applied any time of the year (weather depending) – these are the techniques I always use and I just tend to have a permanently sort of autumnal theme on my Instagram. (I probably should add here – I’m @becbentliff on Instagram if you’d like to see my full feed!)



Equipment
I use a Canon 5D Mk.II with a 50mm 1.4 lens. You don’t have to have a DSLR for anything I’m going to talk about, but I get asked a lot what camera I use! The 1.4 is my go-to lens as I love depth of field – it makes for beautiful portraits and also works brilliantly for photos of books.



Lighting

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
natural outdoor lighting on a cloudy day

99% of my instagram feed is taken with natural lighting only. This is something I’ve always been very picky about – I’m not a fan of studio lighting or any artificial lighting. When I shoot indoors, I make sure it’s early morning or late afternoon so that I can get the soft light I prefer and it’s still light enough for me not to have to turn on any artificial lights. For indoor flatlays, I’ll always set them up by a window but not directly under it to avoid any glare from the sun or reflections. When shooting outdoors I only ever shoot when it’s overcast – again, this is how I’ve always preferred to take portraits and I find that a lot of what I do for portraits translates perfectly to book photos too. Shooting in overcast weather means you don’t get any unwanted glare from the sun bouncing off shinier books, it means you can better control your exposure and contrast, making the image flatter so you can edit it a lot easier without having to adjust the black and white tones much, and it also gives the autumnal feel I try to achieve in my book photos.



Props

img_0920
(left) location & set up / (right) final image – using both colour themed and cover appropriate props to ensure the photo fits with my feed

I rarely take a book photo, especially when it’s indoors, without a few props these days. If I’m doing a flatlay, I tend to put it together on the floor of my front room which is a dark wood laminate floor and sets off the feel I’m going for. To add to that rustic, autumnal atmosphere, I use blankets, candles, wooden decorations or objects (such as milk crates), fairy lights, or metal or glass ornaments. I always stick to the same colour theme – yellow, black or grey blankets, ornaments that are made with a gold or bronze, and candles that are a white or cream colour. Laying a thick knit jumper or scarf underneath or around the book also gives a photo that instant cosy, autumnal vibe. For outdoor photos, use nature to your advantage! I live in a Yorkshire village by a castle, so often just positioning a book on an old wall in the village will make the perfect photo for me. At this time of year, of course, I love to use fallen leaves. Even when it’s not actually autumn, trees are definitely my go-to for outdoor photo settings – you can perch the books amongst the branches, or take someone with you to hold the book up through the leaves with the leaves hiding their hand.



Location

img_0919-1
(left) location and set up / (right) final image

I’ve pretty much covered this in a way already but, use the locations you have on your doorstep to your advantage. I have a few places near to my house that I’ll visit over and over to take book photos – the castle down the road and the cobbled streets surrounding it, a wheat field, and a nearby forest. When I can’t or don’t want to go out to shoot, I have my go-to in house locations – a flat lay on the floor of my front room, or the door of my garden shed which has a very rustic look to it and fits my theme perfectly. It’s very rare that I’ll post a book photo that isn’t taken in one of these five locations, however, switching up the angles, props and the book positioning means your photos will always fit your theme but won’t look identical to each other.


Framing

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
Despite there being a few things going on in this photo, the book is still the main subject due to its positioning in the frame

Use the rule of thirds to your advantage (every image is, basically, split into three sections – left, middle and right). Your eye will always be drawn to the middle of an image, so make sure that’s where your subject is positioned! Placing the book you’re taking a photo of at a slight angle or in a way that raises it off the ground if it’s a flatlay will also help to draw the eye in, as well as positioning props to the sides and not too close to the centre of the frame. I’d also say that layering within the image is important – obviously your main subject is in focus, but having items in the foreground or background that are out of focus due to the depth of field will help draw the eye in to the main subject even more.

Processed with VSCO with a6 preset
An example of using depth of field to centralise the subject – the slightly in focus branch in the foreground which leans towards the subject, as well as the blurry branches and leaves in the background, draw the eye to the centre of the image and frame it. Also, sticking with my yellow/orange/brown toned theme – this image is slightly greener than I’d usually shoot and edit, but the scarf, hair and even the cover to an extent help to fit it in to my feed in terms of colours.


Editing

img_0921
before & after editing with VSCO preset A6 and adjustments
before & after editing with VSCO preset A6 and adjustments

For all of my photos, I use the VSCO iPhone app and start off by editing with preset A6. This is a preset only available if you pay for the full version of the app – I believe it’s around £11 per year which is definitely worth it for me as I use it so often. (I also use a Photoshop preset inspired by this which you can buy on Etsy for PS or Lightroom). After applying the preset and adjusting according to the photo, the next thing I’ll do is increase the sharpness to +12, then on white balance, increase the temperature for those warmer, orange tones. After that I’ll tend to play with exposure, contrast, saturation and tone when and where necessary. The main goal for me is to get a warm toned, sharp photo that isn’t overly contrasting or saturated.

Below is a quick speed edit video of how I’d typically edit a photo using VSCO on my iPhone!


I really hope this was helpful in some way – do let me know if you have any questions or any of your own tips for curating that perfect themed feed!

love,
Becky

LOGO2019

2 thoughts on “Blogtober // How I Create Autumnal Book Photos

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s