Dabbling in the World of Bookstagram

Posted January 30, 2017 by Tara in Review /// 3 Comments

One of the things I discussed in my post on what I’m looking for in book blogs I love is the great images in a blog design. I attributed this to the rise of Bookstagram and other image-heavy social media, such as Tumblr and Pinterest. Being the trendy lady that I am, I decided I wanted to dabble in the world of bookish photography to see if I could add more creative images to my site content and personal Instagram account.

What is Bookstagram?

Bookstagram is a corner of Instagram devoted entirely to photos of books and bookish things. It is not a formally bounded community that one joins, but rather a loosely bound collection of users, images, and hashtags. Many users devote their entire Instagram account to book photography, maintaining a consistent “theme” across the images (ie, all the photos have similar backgrounds/styles/editing). Some users, like me, just post occasional photos using a smattering of related hashtags in order to promote the image to others interested in that hashtag. Some examples of popular Bookstagram hashtags include (click the links to see example images on Instagram):

Bookstagram photos capture books from a variety of creative angles. Perhaps the most common photo style is the flat lay image. Flat lay photography is taken from directly above a collection of objects. But Bookstagrams also take pictures of stacks of books, bookshelves (#bookshelfie!), books pages, book spines, reading spots, book stores, e-books, bookish quotes, and more.

My Initial Attempt

My husband and I bought a nice DSLR camera for our honeymoon. This inspired me to try taking some high quality photos of books to see what the whole Bookstagram craze is really all about. Since my husband actually knows how to use the camera well, I enlisted him to be the official photographer for my bookish shoot.

(above) First attempts.

Turns out Bookstagramming is harder than it looks! When I first attempted flat lay photography I thought, “how hard could this be? You just throw a bunch of objects down and take a photo!” NOPE. We immediately had to take many elements into consideration:

  1. Surface. A flat lay background needs to allow the objects to shine. Many surfaces in our house were too scuffed or had tiny imperfections that looked HUGE in our first photos. We landed on some fabric scraps and scarves that made our photos pop.
  2. Lighting. Indoor lighting resulted in photos with a lot of shadows and grey/grainy areas. To get the best lighting possible in our very dark, old house, we decided to take our photos on our deck in the natural light. Natural light it key for a good photo! Now I have found that the best light in the house hits our coffee table around 10am, so that’s where I take my photos.
  3. Objects. I didn’t think I had any cute stuff in my house to feature in my layout. Oh how wrong I was! We managed to easily toss in knick knacks from every room in our house to complement the books.
  4. Layout. Though Bookstagram photos look effortless, I played with dozens of layout combinations that just looked silly. I almost gave up and said I just didn’t have the eye for how to make my photos look like the ones I’d seen on my feed. But we eventually found combinations of objects based on size and color that worked with the books. I’m slowly learning how texture, laying, color, size, and balance come together to create a visually interesting image.
(above) Some behind-the-scenes shots of the piles of props on our patio table.

Results

After about a hundred photos, we finally snapped some that I felt had that Bookstagram “feel.” Now, obviously these aren’t to the level of the complex and layered photos I’ve seen from Bookstagrammers with a lot of time and practice, but I was definitely getting the hang of the style. Here are some of my favorite shots:

Moving Forward

I had a lot of fun with this! I’ve taken some book photos before, but never while specifically trying to mimic the complex layouts on my Bookstagram feed. While I won’t be turning my Instragram feed into 100% bookish photos, I have been playing with props and layouts over the past few weeks to create visually interesting featured photos for my blog posts. I quite like how some of these have turned out, and how they make my main blog page look. I definitely think this is a skill I would like to continue building, and I hope to share updates with you along the way!

Have you dabbled in Bookstagram photography? Do you have any advice or tips?

Tara

Tara is a PhD student studying education. Her dissertation will be on digital book communities as public pedagogy (ask her about it!), though she often takes a break from all of that to read books about oppressive governments and sassy teenagers. In a former life, she was a middle school teacher and middle school librarian. In her future life, she's a professor of YA lit. In her free time, she drinks a lot of coffee while planning her next grand adventure (there's always something).

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3 responses to “Dabbling in the World of Bookstagram

    • Thanks! The main motivation has been images for my blog, so I’m only taking 4-5 photos a month right now…I definitely lack the time to really had a Bookstagram account. But it is fun, and I like that it adds something unique to book reviews!

  1. I’m always so interested to hear about how other people get into Bookstagram! I’ve been “trying” actively for about a year now (I dabbled a bit before then but never with any purposeful intent) and it really is HARDER than it looks! It also astounds me how Bookstagram has taken off to be so HUGE in the online book community, and how some people use it as their main platform rather than a blog itself.

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