Photographing Handmade Books

I sometimes get questions about how I photograph the handmade books that I post on Instagram, Facebook and this blog.  It’s very simple and something most bloggers do but as it’s National Photography Month, I figured I’d share the (not very glamorous) process.

Natural Light

I photograph my books using natural daylight coming from the side ie next to a window not in front of a window. It’s not always possible, but I prefer to take pictures on bright but cloudy days because sun can create shadows.

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

White Background

To create a seamless background, I use a large piece of white paper that is long enough to curve up against the wall. I clip it in place if necessary.

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Tripod

This is the one piece of equipment that I can’t do without and is well worth the investment (although it was a Christmas gift from my husband several years ago). It keeps my camera or phone very still so that I get clear, crisp images, especially if I’m trying to get a close-up shot of the book. I use a SLIK Pro 700 DX because it’s heavy and doesn’t tip forward when I have my camera mounted on it. There are many tripods on the market at many different price points, but I would strongly advise getting one.

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Camera

To take photos I use two cameras: a DSLR and an iPhone. The DSLR is an older model – a Nikon D7100 – with a fixed focal length 35mm lens and manual settings. When I was shopping for a new camera several years ago, I took a free class on Creative Live called How to Choose Your First DSLR Camera  and took one of their paid fast start camera courses.

For images to use in Instagram and Facebook stories, I use my iPhone and if I’m photographing a book with my iPhone, I will attach it to the tripod using an inexpensive tripod mount. Don’t feel that you have to invest in an expensive piece of equipment – the phone camera is amazing.

Shots

Here are the type of shots I take and I will do at least 3 types for each book:

  • from above, closed and flat on the table
  • from above, open – flat
  • from side, open – standing up
  • low view – spine stitching
  • low view – texture
  • with tools
  • group shots

Here are some examples:

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Above flat

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Flat, open

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Above open

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Low view stitching

Photographing Handmade Books | Vintage Page Designs

Texture shot

Editing

I try to do as little editing as possible, but I always give my pictures a tweak on my laptop using Photoshop.  I resize it for the right platform, generally increase the brightness and sharpness and correct any color cast. If I want to create a collage or include graphics on the image, I use the free version of Canva.

When I’m in a hurry and uploading a photo directly from my phone, I use 2 free apps: Photoshop Express or Camera+.

I hope this has been helpful. Please ask any questions in the comments and feel free to add your own tips.

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6 Thoughts on “Photographing Handmade Books

  1. Susan Singer on May 15, 2019 at 12:34 pm said:

    I like to take pictures of work I’ve done in my Visual Journal, but have trouble getting the pages to stay open, so I usually get my fingers in the shot. Do you have any tips for this situation?

    • Ali Manning on May 15, 2019 at 7:38 pm said:

      Hi Susan – I think that I’d pick up some attractive binder clips or over sized paper clips next time i was at the office supply or craft store to hold back the pages.

  2. You do very nice work. Thanks for tips, especially about the tripod. It should be obvious that a tripod is necessary, but somehow I ignored that though in the back of my head!

  3. Sometimes a small stone is enough to hold a page open.

  4. Thank you for these helpful tips.

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