Tuesday, April 5, 2016


      Traditional and independent publishers alike often turn to stock photography when designing book covers. If you’re a stock photographer, you can increase your chances of seeing your work on the cover of a book by following a few simple suggestions: 
       Orient your photos vertically. A book is itself a vertical object; it needs a vertically-oriented picture for the cover. Even if it’s an e-book, an author or publisher will most likely choose an image that’s oriented in this fashion (horizontal images don’t make attractive thumbnails on Amazon pages, and stacking or blending multiple horizontal images to make a vertical cover can get clunky fast). When doing my own image searches at stock image sites, I immediately filter out any horizontal pics. 

       Don’t center your pictures. Publishers need space on the photos to insert titles and author names. Place your subject to the side, top, or bottom, leaving plenty of (sky, walls, road, etc.) to function as blank space where a publisher can insert text. Remember, too, text needs to be instantly readable—so think about what kind of texture your “blank space” has—brickwork, too many clouds, etc. can sometimes be too busy for any text to be incorporated in a legible way. 

       Add emotion or drama. When looking for stock images for my own cover, I’m not interested in perfection—I’m interested in a cover that will make a potential reader say, “What’s that all about?” The cover needs to draw them close enough to read the jacket copy. I need a picture, then, that promises my book will be an emotionally satisfying experience. Think about photographing imperfect objects (a torn wedding dress in the mud conveys far more drama than a pretty wedding dress hanging on a closet door). Think about taking photos during inclement weather. Think about photographing people when they’re not smiling. 

       (Also, as a side-note, think about taking headless photos. Headless photos on books are so prevalent, they really seem cliché. But there’s a reason they get picked: you wouldn’t believe how many times I find an image I love but can’t pick because the subject has a different hair color than my main character.)

Really, though, maybe the best thing you can do as a stock photographer is to regularly visit your local bookstore or library in order to keep up with the latest trends. Be sure to check out several different genres—they really do follow their own conventions (romance covers and mystery covers can be completely different animals). Best of luck—and on behalf of independently published authors, thanks for the hard work you do; you provide the “face” for our own body of work!

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