After I started making photo books about 9 years ago, my approach to how I take photos underwent a change. Nothing too drastic, but I came to realize I have a different eye and a different thought process when composing my images now that I’ve begun to make photo books. You start to think about not only conveying a feeling or meaning within a single photo, but also about how a series of photos come together to tell a story. To me, photo books are more than just a physical record of what you did on your summer vacation. It’s about sharing an experience with your viewer, attempting to take them on the journey so they feel like they were right there with you. Admittedly, not all my photo books have such lofty goals, but we can always try right? I quickly went through my photo files to grab some examples of what I mean.
1) Shoot a Vertical and Horizontal Photo of the same subject
One may work better in your book layout than the other. That way you have options and you don’t have to do any cropping that may not work as well. My photo teacher in high school called the tendency to shoot all your photos horizontally, as “horizontalitis” – like a disease that prevented people from taking vertical shots! So, be sure to grab both orientations if it makes sense with your subject matter.
2) Shoot Photos For Use as Neutral Backgrounds
i.e. sand on the beach, waves crashing on the shore, the sky, clouds, patterns in small tidepools, color or graphic elements. Essentially you’re looking for close ups that can act as backdrops for your other photos. This is of the wooden planks on a pier in Alaska.
3) Compose Photos Off Center with Layouts in Mind
Place your main subject off to the side to accommodate other photos like I did with this flower below. The photo itself looks more visually interesting anyway than if it were smack dab in the middle. Composing your subject off center follows the principle known as the “rule of thirds” (and it will make you look like a fancy photographer). By doing this, I can add use the flower photo as a backdrop.
4) Shoot in Continuous Mode
This mode which rapidly fires off several shots when you hold down the shutter, is really helpful when taking photos of kids or of action, so you can make sure you get the shot and that at least some photos are in focus. For photo book purposes, I use it to get a photo shoot look (multiples of same shot much like a model photo shoot). B/t/w/ this isn’t an actual layout but just a screenshot of my photo database. If I were to lay this out, I’d probably do it vertically like a photo booth strip, or decrease the spacing in the middle. I know I’ve talked about the photo shoot layout pretty frequently in my blog. Admittedly, I like it and use it often – what can I say?
5) Don’t just shoot photos of your family, take a lot of establishing shots that set the scene. It helps the viewer experience what it was like to be there with you, sights, sounds, colors, street scene, landscapes, detail shots. Like I said, you’re telling a story with your photo book so, get those shots that help bring out that narrative!
6) Shoot a Bunch of Photos – now that we don’t have to develop expensive film, click to your heart’s content (or to your card’s capacity, that is). Pros doing a commercial shoot will take lots of photos, with varying lighting and poses to get the final perfect shot, so don’t pressure yourself to get it right with just a few. It’s great practice to try different settings on your camera, and again will give you lots of options when you go to layout your photo book.
Has your photography changed since making photo book? Would love to hear from you – please comment below!