Aug 20, 2015

My Bookstagram Evolution

People use Instagram for a number of things, but we all use it for a main purpose: posting (and hearting) pictures. Food, cats, family, concerts, sunsets--the possibilities are endless. But a lot of the accounts I follow on Instagram, and what I like to post most, have something to do with books.

For the Throne of Glass photo I had some fun with glass and a hammer.
In elementary school, I wanted to be an artist. Fridays were art days, and I loved messing with paints and creating whatever we created. I took an art class in middle school and one in high school, but that was it. I'm a writing major in college, so art classes aren't something I'm really taking. And then I started to really get into taking pictures on Instagram, and I was reminded of my love of art again.

Like the Vengeance Road photo above, All We Have is Now utilizes a new favorite medium: chalk.
When I post a picture on Instagram I don't want to just take a picture or post a picture--I want to do something with it. So I thought it'd be fun to show you my process.

Planning the Picture
First and foremost, I come up with an idea. (I even have plans for books I don't even have yet or will be reading in the near future.) I think of what I could do with the picture, and I try to match the book somehow. Once I have an idea (usually beginning with a book), I plan the schematics: where I'll take the picture and what "equipment" I'll need.

Sometimes putting together a photo doesn't require much preparation. But sometimes I do something a little crazy and preparation is necessary.

For this photo I put gold glitter paint on my hands--I didn't have gold paint--but it didn't show well, and I used
my forearm as a test area to see how glitter on the black and white paint would work (I didn't use it).
If my face is showing, I want my hair and makeup to look good, but my pictures don't show my face often. A certain outfit, though, maybe. I might take time drawing something, or I might take time doing chalk art (I'm starting to really get into this), or making props, or maybe I'm painting my hands.

I painted my hand white as a base, then used black metal paint (out of regular black paint)
to blend with the white and try to make my hand look somewhat ghostly.
You never know, because I never know. But in the end, it's all fun! (Just make sure to clean up after yourself, because if you're like me, you're making messes.)

The paints I used for preparations, and the stool--and risers/things to lean on--
I put my iPhone on for some pictures, aka my camera stand.

The Photoshoot
I take a lot of pictures. I might like the first shot, but I want to make sure I get enough angles to work with in edits and that this is what I want the photo to be. I usually have to take photos myself, so I'll set up my phone on something and set it to a forward-facing camera with a square photo and a ten second timer. Sometimes I'll move around if the lighting is bad (I tend to get the best lighting and photo quality outside, but I live in Washington, so we'll see how long these outdoor photos last), or I'll move the camera closer or farther away or to the right if that works better. Once I have a few pictures that I like and feel like I've taken enough photos, I move on to the next step.

I tried taking photos outside and wasn't satisfied and got awkward pictures--and my gold hands
didn't show--so I went inside and didn't like the lighting, then I went back outside and
tried again (and had then painted one hand differently, then tried using both).

Editing, Editing, Editing
I might take more time editing pictures than I do actually taking them. I can take FOREVER just choosing between how highlighted or contrasted I want the photo to be. Sometimes I go back and forth with what photo I want, or what filters I like on Instagram (I only use what edits Instagram has), and I'll take screenshots so I can compare photos better outside the app.

These are just filters--I go back and forth on lux and brightness and shadows and everything--
except for the right photo--that's almost my final product, but with no blur.
When messing with edits, I look at a lot of things. Does it change the color of a part of the picture, and do I like it? Does it give the picture better focus? Is something harder to read or see? Do I want this part blurred or not? (Honestly, for this photo, I probably spent at least ten minutes deciding whether or not I want the hand on the right to be blurred.) After quite some time, I come up with a product that I'm at least somewhat satisfied with, and...

The Final Product

All this was taken in one shot. With my iPhone 5c propped on the stool with all the settings set and the timer ticking down, I held the book with my right, gold-glittered hand, then tried to make my left and ghostly hand have a reaching-in effect. All edits were done on Instagram, and I ended up blurring the ghost hand to give it a more ghostly look.

I've seen people post such gorgeous photos of books on Instagram with nothing but a white background, and I wonder how they do that because there is not one spot in my house that is white enough to do that. (I've tried to use my mother's sheet, which just thrills her, especially when I bring it outside.) Really, I just like to have fun, and it's my chance to be artsy, which I love. Plus, it's BOOKS. Does it get much better than this? (If I could draw, then yes, possibly.)

If you post pretty pictures of books on your Instagram, leave your username in the comments! And if you'd like to follow me and see more of my bookish photos, I'm @beautyandthebookshelf.

Do you go through a process when posting photos to Instagram?


  1. I'd like to know how people do those beautiful white backgrounds as well!! I really like taking bookstagram pictures too. Although mine aren't near as cool, creative, or time consuming as yours!! I just try to take interesting pictures that look good. I'm not very artsy otherwise :( I like your instagram account, so I hope you keep doing the coolness!!

  2. Your pictures are amazing but damn that process!! You have it down! I do agree I take a bunch of snaps just in case. Also, I have no idea who these people with things that stay white in their home are either. I tried a sheet once and it just didn't look the same! I tend for books and a breakfast theme for most pictures. Love Bookstagram! Great post!

  3. I LOVE this. I'm always working on my Instagram game mostly just because I've always wanted to be a photographer. Didn't have to be professionally but I LOVE photography and using it as an art form. My pictures just used to be point, shoot, upload and now I'm trying really hard to make them interesting, creative, and unique. I think it's so much fun to share with everyone and I LOVE seeing other people's awesome Instagram photos. Yours are some of my favorites!! :D

  4. Holy crap, I LOVE THIS! I wish this was my process but... no. I have a very hard time, like you said, finding a decent background. My house doesn't have much natural light, and even when I try to take pictures against a white (or even grey) surface, it comes out looking yellow, which is weird, because I have a good camera, and I have messed with all the settings, but ugh, I cannot! One of these days, I will have to take a field trip with a wagon full of books or something to a nice outdoor location.

    I also really wish my phone took such nice pictures! My phone is crap, so they're grainy and blurry and useless for Instagram purposes- I feel like NOT having to use a DSLR would make things a lot easier! But I LOOOOOVE your pictures, thanks for sharing your process with us!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

  5. Your photos are AMAZING!!! I just use my crappy pj=hone camera and apply filters ans that's it


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