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twirling pages

book photography process header

after reading aimee’s post on how she takes bookstagram photos, i’d decided to share my own process as well! i’m surprised the idea never came to me, but i think it’s because the whole thing is really anticlimactic for me to talk about. (sorry dudes, i don’t have some magically super powers; i just take the pictures and WHAM book photos!) BUT a lot of people have asked me, so i guess it must interest SOMEONE. *shrugs* all my secret are out!! you, too, have a chance to be a book photography queen like me (jk, i’m not the book photography queen but LET’S PRETEND, OKAY. it’s my blog and i can be the queen if i want to *poses*).

the setup

i usually like to plan out my photos before i actually take them. i know what books i’m going to use and maybe a general idea of how i’d like the whole composition of the photo is going to turn out. sometimes it doesn’t work and i’ll need to change/add things, but having a mental sketch of the photo is reassuring for me.

a xan in the wild! i took this picture right when i woke up because we were leaving soon so excuse the messy room and pjs.

i take all my photos on my nikon d3200. i started off taking photos on my phone but the quality bothered me. (i’m very picky with my pictures and quality) my phone camera also started going wacky recently, so i can’t take photos on it anyway *sigh* i use a tripod and self-timer on some photos. these are more frustrating to take because i can’t be 100% sure the the photo will be focused on me (I’M THE STAR, NOT MY BEDROOM) and will need to take a bunch to get one good photo.

the actual photo-taking

i try to take all my photos in natural lighting & on my bedsheets, which are white. you can use any white background – my sister once placed a white sheet of paper over a regular table top to take a photo – for a clean look. bedsheets are my favorite because there are creases and wrinkles that make the photo look more “natural.”

DSC_0275 unedited

DSC_0265 unedited

DSC_0283 unedited

these are a few of my raw, unedited photos, as you can see with my bedsheets and other miscellaneous crap. the second two photos are taken on self-timer with a tripod and the first is with my arm extended waaaaay up. the BLACK WIDOW photo is actually taken at night without natural lighting. i’m really surprised with how nice it turned out considered that! i was expecting lots of warmth and the colors to be totally off, but it worked.

the editing

i edit my photos twice: once with adobe lightroom on my laptop, and again with vscocam on my phone. i use lightroom to adjust the basics like exposure, contrast, clarity, and more. you don’t HAVE to use lightroom because there are lots of other apps that could do the same thing – on android/apple, snapseed is one my all-time favorites – but it’s easier for me because i’ve set it to have an automatic watermark when exported. it’s also easier since i transfer the photos from my SD card to lightroom directly instead of SD to computer to phone to snapseed/vsco.. anyway, it’s just easier for me.

lightroom 1

lightroom 2

lightroom 3

here’s a screenshot of what i did on lightroom. i like to add a lot of exposure and contrast to add vibrance, but also lower the saturation so it’s not too bright. i don’t have a set number adjustment since every photo is different and being one or two numbers off doesn’t make a huge huge difference. it’s also important to utilize the crop tool, which is often overlooked.

after i export from lightroom, i save them into a folder on dropbox so i can easily transport it onto my phone. i immediately export to vscocam and proceed to choose a filter. vsco is my favorite filter app since there’s a large variety and they all have a very nice look. i know many people like to have a consistent “feed” and use the same filter for all their photos, but i choose a filter based on the photo itself. i believe in having a consist aesthetic. for me, that’s having a consist “look” in all the photos; mine (or the one i’m trying to convey) is clean, cute, and colorful. every picture may turn out differently, so it depends on which filter would look best with the photo (as long as it matches your aesthetic). on vsco, i generally use filters in the aesthetic series (A4 – A6) (lol aesthetics!), minimalist (A7 – A10), hypebeast (HB1 – HB2), or bright & clean (S1 – S3).

magnus chase

black widow

passenger

(vsco filters left to right: S1 / A8 / Q5)

welp, the (not so secret) secrets are out! do you want more photography tips? how do you take your bookish photos? let me know in the comments!

Alexandra Ling

alexandra is an eighteen-year-old content creator and avid reader. when she's not on the internet or hiding behind pages, you can find her training to be a professional ballet dancer. she finds writing about herself in third-person strange.

  • Thanks so much for sharing your process Xan! <3 I should really use my dslr more for my photos, I'm often lazy and just use my phone camera instead lol. Ah and you use lightroom! I have access to it but I've never taken the time to learn it, I often just use the new instagram editor for brightness/saturation/ect. The hardest thing for me in taking photos is as a minnesotan it's so hard to have natural lighting because I'm basically at school the whole time the sun is out during the winter. 🙁 Great post!

    • i’m glad my post was helpful in some ways! i’m 95% sure i’m not using LR for its real purpose, but it works for me *shrugs*. and as for natural lighting… try taking all your pictures on the weekend! (or waking up super early on weekdays hahah)

  • Ahh I love this post! I was actually wondering today how I could improve my photos and this post has definitely helped me – thanks for sharing! <3

  • I love this! I am so uncommitted to my book photography that I only use my iPhone for photos. 🙁 But I sort of like the warmth & grain of them – it’s why I’ve never been a digital camera kind of girl. But there’s a reason why YOU’RE now Miss 13.6k!

  • I love your blog. The theme and of course the awesome photos are so clean and crisp and it makes my fingers itch for my camera!!

    My camera is unfortunately out of action though, sad times. So I use my phone. And I rarely edit anything because I’m too lazy! Ha ha!

    I enjoyed reading about your process 🙂

  • Interesting post and lovely pictures, Xandra! And I love you blog’s name!

  • Your website is gorgeous! I love your pictures♥ its so nice to see a bit of behind the scene of such masterpieces 🙂
    I just would like to know how did you get this page? Did you used an specific website launcher or something? I’m trying to start a website like this one (dedicated to books!) but I don’t know where to start.

    Thanks 🙂

  • This is a great post! My aesthetic is more on bright, poppy colors, and I just use a PSD for it. What I hate, though, is uploading it and losing the detail. :/

  • Amy

    This is totally cool! I always wonder how people do their pictures. Yours are very professional; I would definitely consider you a princess if not the queen. 🙂

  • This is pretty awesome! I like what you say about using a white background. I use my bedsheets a lot, but they’re a forest green. Using a blank sheet of paper sounds like it’d work nicely! I’ll have to try it.

    Sometimes I edit my photos, but at the most often I just crop it. Usually, I like to use the raw photo if the lighting worked well enough. I usually have an idea of what I want, but sometimes I just walk outside with a book in hand look for something that has something to do with the contents.

  • I’m saving this post to favourites forever! I love your photos so much!! Now next is a tutorial on how to decorate your bedroom like a queen 😉

  • Thanks for the tutorial! You take amazing pictures and your bedroom also looks amazing!

  • AHH! This is such a great post Alexandra. I’ve always adored your photography skills, so I am glad to know some of your secrets now. 😉 *cackles evilly* Definitely going to take your tips to mind and try and take some photos now. Thanks for sharing this and, as always, fabulous post! ♥

  • aHHHH THIS IS SO AMAZING THANK YOU FOR DOING THIS. I have been curious about your process for ever. Except I thought you had like a clone or something or a dragon servants or SOMETHING that took your photos with you in them. Instead it’s a timer. That’s disappointing, tbh. *sighs dramatically* STILL. Dragons aside, yessss I LOVE THIS. I think having an epically aesthetically pleasing room helps too. 😉 I’m a bit of an outdoors-and-leaves-and-flowers sort of book photographer, BUT IT’S RAINING RIGHT NOW AND I’M SAD.
    I’m also tempted to sign up to lightroom for, like a month or something, just to see if it could be useful. I usually use picmonkey but it’s SUPER slow these days and keeps crashing upon me. Wah.
    Anyway. I’m utterly rambling. SO! I’ll dash off but your photos are sooo gorgeous and I think you’re my favourite bookstagramer OF EVER JUST SAYIN’. <3

  • NOW I KNOW ALL THE SECRETS TO YOUR MADNESS MUAHAHA Thanks so much for sharing though! Love your pictures so much and it was really interesting to see your process! I always thought someone took your photos for you and YOU TAKE THEM YOURSELF!? I can’t even image how much time it takes to a take a photo now wow. Nevertheless, great post and thanks for sharing! 😀

    ~Kaitlin

  • This was so nice to read! I love reading about other people’s bookstagram processes I just find it really interesting. My process is so simple but honestly sometimes I get into such a rut cause I feel like all of my pictures look the same. ugh. such is life.

  • I wish I had like 2 hours to leave a comment on this blog post because IT WAS JUST THAT GOOD. I looooved getting to go behind the scenes with you, especially because you totally ARE a book picture queen. Sometimes I’ll just stare at your photography and am like HOW. Good thing you showed your techniques here. 😉

    My dad has a DSLR but honestly, I’ve always been a little afraid of using it. I think I’m going to break it out soon and experiment with it (maybe second semester when I’ll be able to have a life?!). I also totally need to get Creative Cloud so I can get access to all the Adobe editing stuff! On my wishlist forever, but I’m thinking I’ll have to buy it for myself. 😉 I also adore what you said about trying to keep the same aesthetic- that’s EXACTLY what I’ve been trying to nail lately. It’s been tough, but I think I’m slowly starting to get the hang of things.

    Excellent, excellent post, Xan <33

  • SQUEEE, i just stumbled upon your blog via Instagram and YES I LOVE YOUR BLOG AND YOU AND YOUR PHOTOS AND BASICALLY HEY NEW FRIEND (*hopes i’m not being too weird..it IS way past my bedtime *cough* and i have been sleep-deprived of late (thanks college). BUT YES, thanks for the tips, how have you set lightroom to have an automatic watermark? (i have photoshop cs6..)

  • You DEFINITELY are the queen, Alexandra! I love your IG feed so much. <3 I personally don't plan our my photos beforehand, which is probably why it takes me a bajillion hours to pick a position. xD And your editing skills are spot-on! I adore the transformations of your photos from unedited to edited. <3

  • Yay! Thank you so much for posting this. I really love the way you take pictures for your ig feed. You inspire me as well. x

  • May

    Everything you wrote is on point! I totally agree with you. I’m glad I found this post when I was lurking around Instagram. I just recently started bookstagramming, so this will extremely helpful and relatable. Thank you. My instagram is @teariffic-books

    Oh, vsco for the win! Love that app!!

    ^^

    Happy blogging/reading/instagramming! 😀

  • Aradhna Kaur

    Such a good post! I’m just starting to take more book photos, trying to figure out what works for me, and this is super helpful. Thank you!

  • I think I actually saw this a long time ago (whoops!) but this time around I gained so much more from it! I have just recently started to seriously bookstagram, so these are very helpful tips. 🙂
    -Amy

  • Jumana

    This is super helpful!! I’m trying to get more into photography so thanks for the post!
    Also VSCO cam is the best hahaha I edit on it as well

    Jumana @ Books by Jay