Photos and visual media can be great ways to promote your book and increase your audience engagement on social media. But displaying your work for a viewer’s eye can be challenging, especially without a professional studio on hand. We sat down with Richard Wylde and Chelsea Fone of PRH’s Consumer Marketing Creative Media team and learned that there are plenty of ways to achieve professional-looking photos of your book with tools that you can find from the comfort of home. Read on for four tips to help you fine-tune your own flat-lay photo taking skills.
Choose Your Photo Background
A book makes a great centerpiece, but you still need to account for the rest of the photo’s open space. Fun countertops and tables can work well, but there are plenty of other ways to diversify this part of your image. Foam board or foam core is great for a clear white background. Two pieces can be arranged to give the illusion of a white room or void. To create a more colorful background, lay Canson paper or wrapping paper over the foam board. For an even higher-quality look, Replica Surfaces makes textured backgrounds specifically for taking professional flat-lay photos.
Light Up the Scene
If you have an adjustable light source, you can take a great flat-lay photo. Direct light that eliminates harsh shadow is ideal. Ring lights are great for photos and often are sold for less than $20 on Amazon, but there are also plenty of DIY options around your home. Try removing the lampshade from a table lamp, adjusting the angle on a desk lamp, or moving to a more well-lit room in your home for the photo.
Take Advantage of Free Photo Editing Tools
Photoshop is the professional standard editing tool, but it can be a costly investment for an occasional user. Luckily, a wide array of photo editing tools can help you achieve the perfect flat-lay for free! GIMP is free and can be downloaded on MacOS, Microsoft, Linux, and other operating systems. Microsoft PowerPoint has a surprisingly detailed array of photo editing tools. You can digitally paint details on your photos with Microsoft Paint or Krita. Never forget that your cellphone can bring a variety of free editing opportunities right to the palm of your hand, too! Adobe Lightroom Mobile and VSCO are also both free, though with certain restrictions for non-subscribers.
Let the Internet Be Your Guide
It’s true—you can learn just about anything on the internet, especially how to edit a photo. Not only is the web a great place to find inspiration, but there are quite a few platforms that host detailed instructions for beginners from highly experienced photographers. A simple YouTube search can produce a long list of helpful tutorials. Skillshare is an online learning community with classes taught by some very notable photographers. LinkedIn Learning is another great place to find intuitive advice from industry professionals.
Overall, the most crucial step in taking a flat-lay photo is not to stress out. Choose colors that you think flatter your book. Let your cover art speak for itself. The most eye-popping book photo will exemplify the great amount of care that has already been put into its subject.
Jacky Bethea is Associate, Author Development for Penguin Random House.