This blog is part of a four-part series of bookstagram tips, split up from my original post on this topic for easier readability. This second post focuses on bookstagram photo tips.
Let me start with a quick caveat: I think what makes a “good” photo on bookstagram is extremely subjective. If you love it and it looks good to you, then I am strongly of the opinion that you should do your thing.
This should go without saying but the first thing I want to point out is that you should always take your own photos – don’t ever take a photo from another person’s Instagram account and post it as if it were your own.
People put a lot of time and creativity into their posts and you should, too!
That said, many people struggle to take what they consider “good” photos for their feed.
My bookstagram photo tips for a brighter, clearer, scroll-stopping feed
It’s 90% the lighting.
Find your lighting and put it behind what you’re taking a picture of so the light isn’t overwhelming the colors. Preferably, find a natural source of light like a room with a large window. Or, take the photo outdoors if you don’t have natural light in your home.
If you only have the option of indoor photos and don’t have great indoor lighting, consider investing in a ring light to make your own bright light source. There are a variety of styles and sizes for as little as $15-20 online.
You can get great photos with whatever indoor light you have available to you though – it’s all about how you set up the photo compared to where the light is!
Find your angles using the grid feature.
I only take pictures with my phone, not a professional camera. I use the grid feature of my camera to help line up shots and find angles I like. Especially for things like book stacks, because I have shaky hands and generally bad eyesight. You can turn the grid on in your camera settings.
Check your screen brightness.
For digital books, lower the brightness on your e-reader/phone if you’re photographing something on screen in a bright room. This helps minimize the glare and any mirror effects your screen might be giving you.
Vary your backgrounds.
This is my personal preference. Plenty of people have the same color background in everything and that works really well for them. Personally, I get bored taking the same photo and like to switch it up. So when I post, I may have one day where my fireplace stone was the background. The next day I might have my white kitchen counter or grey wall in the background. The next day I might have my grey wall in the background.
I try not to have two of the same background back to back. Doing this creates variation in your feed, but your photos will still feel like they “go” together. I don’t always plan posts in advance, so sometimes I do have back to back. I’ve made my peace with it because ultimately this should be fun.
Use the style that inspires you and have fun.
Use props. Don’t use props. Use your flooring. Hold books up in front of your walls. Use your backyard. Add your pet in the mix. This should feel like a fun hobby, not work. And you don’t have to spend a bunch of money buying cute decor or props to take good photos, either (unless you have the money and that’s the style you desire – whatever sprinkles your donut).
Take time to include alt text with your photos.
Instagram auto-generates it, but the auto text isn’t very descriptive. I usually include the title of the book and a bit about the photo’s composition. “A hardcover of the book Red, White, and Royal Blue sits on a white counter with a mug of iced coffee to the right.” Taking the time to add alt text will make your post more accessible for readers who use screen readers. You can also include a photo description at the end of your photo caption for an extra step toward accessibility.
If you find Instagram’s in-app editing features to work well for you, you may not need the tips below. I like to be able to manually adjust things like lighting and contrast and find that easier to do outside of my posts, so I use a few different photo tools depending on the photo.
Photo tools I use
Lightroom Mobile app
The Lightroom Mobile app is free, and you don’t need to pay for extra features for editing your book photos.I do all my photo editing in Lightroom Mobile. I have a few filters I’ve purchased (my favorite is from this set). But usually I just use the auto feature and then manually change the brightness/ color settings to my liking.
You can easily find free mobile presets on Google if you don’t want to pay for them. Lots of photographers offer them complimentary and there are tons of different styles based on what suits you. You may want a more dramatic filter to make your feed very cohesive, or you may just want a filter that will automatically brighten and adjust the lighting in your photo.
Either way, just make sure they’re for Lightroom Mobile vs. the desktop Lightroom platform if you’ll be editing on your phone.
I finish editing in the Instagram app, usually just using the auto feature at about 5-10%, but I’ll occasionally use an Instagram filter at a very low percent too.
Canva for story templates and graphics
If you want to make a text graphic or story template, I highly recommend Canva. While there is a paid version of Canva, many of the features are free and this tool is incredibly user friendly. I do find it’s much easier to maneuver on a laptop, but there is a mobile app you can use when you’re on-the-go. It’s a great way to make story highlights covers too.
Wordswag is another app that lets you add text to backgrounds or photos. It’s nice for story text graphics with no design elements and quick text-based graphics for your feed.
Apps for easier eBook and audibook photos
Usually for eBooks and audiobooks, I just take a photo of the cover pulled up on my phone. It takes some trial and error to get the right screen brightness that will give you a clear photo with no reflection, but it can be done!
If you are struggling to get the lighting right, you can use this cover tool to make a mockup as well.
Then use the free app PicsArt to overlay that on top of the photo you have taken.
If I’m doing this, I typically skip that tool and just use an image of the book’s cover only and do the same process. But some people find it useful. My e-reader/ phone just don’t match up with the templates on the site.
In PicsArt, use the freestyle collage feature. Drag your photo into the background and size it full screen. Send it to the back. Add the book photo on top, adjusting the sizes as needed to line them up.
I like to keep things simple and not spend more than 10 minutes maximum per photo (including shooting and editing), so those are all the apps I personally use. There are loads of other free editing apps out there, so if the above aren’t the right fit for you – don’t give up.
Have any favorite photo apps or bookstagram photo tips I didn’t cover? Feel free to drop them in the comments below.