I’m always asked, “Mikaela, how do you take your beautiful bookish pictures?”
(Okay, just kidding, I’ve never been asked that.)
I asked my followers on Books Amino whether they wanted to see a tutorial of how I take and edit my photos or how I make my blog graphics. By a small margin, the photos won out, so I decided to post this one first (though how I make my graphics will be coming up sometime later this month; don’t worry)! Obviously, I’m no photography expert – I don’t own a camera and I literally have zero previous experience in photography – but I think my pictures look all right, so I’m going for it anyway!
But what if I don’t have enough books or buy a lot of books?
That’s totally fine! You might think judging by bookstagram that you’ll need an entire library and to buy ALL THE NEW BOOKS, but you really don’t. Some of my books look like trash because I’ve had them for a long, long time, and that’s totally fine! It’s really nothing to worry about.
But what if I don’t have a good camera or can’t buy one?
I don’t own a camera. If you asked me what types of cameras I could use, I wouldn’t even know the answer. I use the camera on my iPhone, and it works perfectly fine and produces great pictures (at least, I think it does)
But what if I don’t have any money for props or a fancy background?
I worried about this when I first started out because I saw all the bookstagram accounts use props, but you really don’t need them! And as for the fancy background, I literally use my hardcover books and lay them spine-up on a desk in my room. It costs zero dollars!
But what if I have no skills to take pictures?
Unfortunately, I don’t have any of my old pictures because I deleted them a while ago, but trust me, they were ugly as all hell. It took me a couple of months before I started taking pictures I was satisfied in, so you WILL improve with time. Trust me.
#1: Choose your background and photo-taking space.
Personally, my space is in the corner of my bedroom, on my desk, which is pushed against my window. I decided that the best course of action was to have my desk pushed up against the window because natural sunlight is always the best light! I highly recommend taking your pictures somewhere where sunlight is provided, or anywhere close to light!
This is a picture of my set-up and shooting place! I took this photo at 7 at night, so, of course, it looks like trash, but let’s pretend this photo looks absolutely stunning.
Regarding your background, it could be anything! Some people use their bedspread, some people use the floor, some people actually buy backgrounds, some people use a table, some people use their bookshelves. There are endless choices out there! I know I personally struggled with finding a background I liked because nothing was working for me, and my room is (unfortunately) in no way aesthetically pleasing. I decided to start using books as a background, and I found myself finally satisfied! Be creative – there’s no need to spend a lot of money doing this.
#2: Set up the shot.
Obviously, it’s up to you what you include in the photo! I know there are some people out there who plan their photos and write down their ideas when it comes to them, but I’m more of the type of girl to just do a photo shoot and just come up with photo ideas on the fly while I’m taking pictures, so it’s all up to you! You can choose if you want a theme to your photo, what books you want to use, what props you’re using them, if you are, etc.
Then, you’ll decide how you use them and where they’ll go! This is when you arrange your shot, use your props the way you want to, decide if there’s going to be a theme concerning your photo, what angle you’ll take the photo at, etc. There are multiple styles out there – flatlays, stacked books, multiple books in one shot, a pile of books, naked books, book rainbows, etc. There are probably a lot more I’m missing out on.
#3: Actually taking the pictures.
Since I use my phone, this is a pretty non-complicated process. I usually take my photos in a wider shot, because I always end up cropping them once I edit (and I like having empty space and such). Personally, I usually only take one or two photos and then move on, but I know there are people out there who take several photos and then choose from all of them which ones they like best and trash the others, so it’s all up to you!
Feel free to change things up in the photo-taking process – take the picture from a different angle, put in a prop that you think will fit in, change the book’s position, etc. I also always look closely at all the photos I’ve taken just in case something looks off-center or doesn’t look right. Usually, I’ll take a picture, look at it to see if it’s easy on the eyes, and if it is, I move on. Definitely not everyone’s photo-taking process, but it’s mine!
And, also, don’t feel like all the pictures you take have to be THE PERFECT SHOT. I struggle with this all the time honestly – I’ll look at a picture and get frustrated with it because it’s not to my liking – and I really hope I can fix this terrible habit. Trust me, editing is a wonderful, magical process, and can make even the ugliest of pictures look like masterpieces.
I’m sure there are many a photo-editing apps out there in the world, but, personally, I use PicMonkey. It’s a free app, and it makes my pictures look less ugly, so it’s a win-win. If you don’t have a phone, you can also use the website on the computer. Since I take my pictures on my phone, I also edit on my phone, so I’m going to show you how I use the PicMonkey app.
Here’s the “Before” picture! I took this one last month for one of my posts in May.
Once you download and open the app, just click the picture you want to edit, and it’ll take you to this screen. On the left hand corner of the picture, you’ll see the “Crop” button, so click that.
Usually, I’ll choose “Instagram” for my cropping needs. Obviously, you can crop your photos for different social media sites, such as Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter, but since I just use my pictures for my blog and for graphics, “Instagram” is the best for me.
After clicking the check mark in the top right hand corner, you’re brought back to where you started. Usually, this is when I really start editing. Personally, the only thing I play around with regarding editing my photos is “Adjust” (I’ll go more into detail about what I specifically use next), but you also have Effects, where you can choose from a variety of themes; Draw, which is pretty self-explanatory; Stickers, which is also self-explanatory; and Text, which allows you to type things and arrange them on the photo.
After clicking “Adjust,” I usually edit using four buttons: Contrast, Clarity, Levels, and Saturation. All of these things come together to make my photos look less dull and ten times brighter. I have specific settings for each of these things (you have the ability to scroll left or right on how much of each you want), but you can play around to see what works for you. There are three buttons I don’t use: Brightness, because I take my photos near natural sunlight (though this might be helpful for those who don’t have that); Temp, which just makes your pictures “warmer” – brighter – or “colder” – duller; and Blur, if you want to focus on a specific part of the picture and blur everything else out.
Once I click the top right corner check mark, I click “Save” in the top right corner, click the first option, “Save to Camera Roll,” and that’s it! Here’s the final product of that picture I showed earlier:
And that’s basically how I take and edit my pictures!
Hopefully, that was helpful to some of you who wanted to know all the behind-the-scenes about how I do things! I’m hoping to do two more tutorials this month (which will be how I make my graphics and how to write the perfect discussion post), but if you guys have any specific tutorials you want me to do, feel free to leave me a suggestion!