Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Book Cover Photography

Photography, like writing, is both a craft and an art, as I discovered when setting up my indie publishing business. The plans were to build a family business. My daughter was a photographer and my grandson was studying graphic editing. Eventually we would do all the formatting and cover design, but until we became proficient, we'd contract out the various jobs.
Then I read a blog post by Karen Witemeyer about how her covers were photographed, and I said, “Even if we're not ready for cover design, we can do the photography.” Thanks, Karen.

My daughter used mostly portrait shots in her business, but she had one of those cameras with lenses that cost more money than the camera itself and was willing to take on my project. Sometimes portraits work for book covers. Bethany House used portraits for Susan Anne Mason's Courage to Dream series. Here is a photo I was originally going to use in a book on crocheting, and will someday, but I also have it in mind for a book set in the flapper era. Yes, that's one of my crocheted hats.

All covers must convey the genre and the mood of the story. My first releases were a series of mail-order-bride novellas, and I’d read enough of those to have a clear vision of my covers. Trouble was, my heroines were a brunette, a blonde, and a red-head. Yep, that required three models.

I find most of my models from college students. They are cheap, but they’re not professional models, so it takes dozens of pictures to find the right look. I’ve learned you must take advantage of the model’s attributes. The slope of this girl’s neck (below) shows the tightened cord in her neck, indicating tension.

Usually, the subject shouldn’t be smiling unless it’s light romance, but it was important that the blonde in my second novella show her dimples. It took a dozen poses to catch just the right smile.

It’s also important that the clothes fit. The redhead in my third novella was so thin, her dress didn’t exactly fit, but Photoshop can usually fix problems like that. In fact, you can do all sorts of marvelous things with Photoshop, like putting one model's head on another's body. 

Almost all photos have to be edited. There was a problem with the dress worn by the model for my first novella. The left sleeve of the pink dress is badly wrinkled. It didn't matter, because we cropped the whole shoulder off. Ha ha. A good photo editor can make almost any photo look good.


It takes a good cover designer to change the photos into a good cover, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find designers who will work with custom photos. Although I still use stock backgrounds. I always give the designer several mockups to choose from.

Why go to all the trouble, you may ask. I’ve asked myself more than once. Most indie authors use stock photos for subject and background. The most important reason for custom photography is it allows the author to fit her vision of the book. Besides, it creates a unique cover that will never pop up on another book.

I don’t always agree with the designer. This is the photo I wanted for my first full-length novel, Pursued, Book 1 in my Intrigue under Western Skies series. The designer used another shot, saying it conveyed fear better, and it does, as you can tell in the book cover below. But I’m still not totally satisfied. I’m a perfectionist and always want to do another photoshoot. That’s OK. When I finish the series, I’ll probably redo all the covers. One of the benefits of indie publishing.

There you have it—a small glimpse of how book covers are created.

The second book in my Intrigue under Western Skies series, Surrendered, will be released later in October. It requires the hero on the cover, and male models are hard to find. For now, I’m using my grandson, who also does the mockups for me. It’s important not to show much of his face, since he’ll have to model for future books.



Which of the three mockups do you prefer? All comments during this week will be entered to win an Amazon giftcard for an e-book copy of Pursued.  

 An idealistic librarian and a troubled rancher fight wickedness in high places.

Carianne Barlow never expected to leave her comfortable Philadelphia townhouse and travel to the wild west of 1884, but when she inherits a fortune, conditions are attached. She must carry out her grandmother's vision of a western culture center anchored by a large library. Such an undertaking takes political support, and no one is more influential in the west than Rhyan Cason, a handsome cattle baron with the reputation of hardened businessman and rabble-rousing lobbyist with a preference for the ladies. Carianne gets on the west-bound train with no thought of the treacherous world awaiting her in the little prairie town near Rhyan's sprawling ranch.

When Rhyan asks her to catalog his library, Carianne jumps at the chance without considering the ramifications. Then she learns too late Rhyan is pursued by a sinister enemy determined to destroy everything he cares for--including her.


  1. Cute crocheted hat. As for the mockups, I like the last one. The man looks awkward in the other two.

  2. It's fun to see and read the process. I actually like aspects of all three. I like the man in the first, the background of the second, and the distances of the third.

    1. Hi Mary, I'm like that too, take the best parts of all photos and make them work together.

  3. I am going with number 3. Have a great day!

    1. Good Morning, Melanie. Hope you have a great day too.

  4. Wow, crazy how much goes into covers!Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Susan, Glad you stopped by today. It's a long learning curve for good covers.

  5. Elaine, thank you for sharing what all goes into a beautiful cover. I like something about all three mockups. The front view without a lady in the first one, the bright blue sky and golden grain in the second one, and the light blue sky and ready to harvest. Keep the guy in number three and add a brighter sky. God bless. I definitely will be adding Pursued to my TBR list. Glad you have your daugther and grandson to assist with being models and the designs. God bless.

  6. Thanks Marilyn, those are good suggestions. I have a feeling my designer will find a better background and she might cut part of the guy off. Always happy to have you stop by.

  7. I like the last mockup the best. I prefer the lighter blue sky as the background.