Bookstagram is undoubtedly where a lot of romance readers (that I know, anyway) hang out and interact with one another. Heck, I’m more active there commenting-wise than in the book blogosphere. In fact, one of my popular posts is my post Bookstagram Props that don’t Break the Bank.
This time, I will show you how I take Bookstagram photos using my mobile phone. Disclaimer: I am not a professional photographer (not even close) and I do not claim to take the most spectacular photos, but I do have a style that works and I have had people comment on how they like how my Instagram feed looks. I can’t promise that your photos will turn out spectacular BUT I can promise that you will be able to take better photos by getting to know your equipment and learning how to use it!
If you are curious and want to take a peek at my Instagram feed, I am @zerisse on there!
This is going to be a LONG post.
So sit tight, and let’s get started!
Know Your Equipment
What I Use
2022 Update: My current phone is a Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra.
Previous Phone: Samsung Galaxy S10 5G (started using this phone in December 2019)
I absolutely love this phone and its cameras.
This phone has 6 cameras, five in the back: 108MP Wide Lens, 12MP Ultra Wide, and 48MP Telephoto, the front camera is a 40MP PD AF.
This phone also shoots videos on 8K @ 24fps (I need to utilize this more).
My photos are fantastic! I’m really obsessed with Samsung Cellphones because the cameras are really out of this world! #notsponsored
This phone has 5 lenses, three in the back, which is the one that I use – 12 MP telephoto, 12 MP wide-angle, and 16 MP ultra-wide-angle lenses. This phone is very similar to the Samsung Galaxy S10plus – heck, I think they are exactly the same!
I really love how my photos come out. I hardly edit the brightness of my photos now.
Prior to the Samsung Galaxy S105G, I used to have a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ and the photos from that phone were still FANTASTIC. I swear on Samsung camera phones. #notsponsored
First, you do need to know how to use your camera phone. GET TO KNOW your camera. No matter what camera you use – a point-and-shoot, a DSLR, or a camera phone. You need to learn how to use them. You will need to be one with the camera (I know that’s dramatic LOL). What I mean by getting to know your camera is basically knowing how it works, the settings mainly but also include knowing what would work on your flatlay. I have mine on auto-setting.
What I do love about mobile phones now is that you have the pro version (not sure if Apple phones have this option). My new and old camera phones have it and if you do know how to adjust the F-stop and the Shutter speed, ISO, and white balance – USE it! As I said, I set mine on auto setting because I don’t want to fiddle around with it.
If I want the bokeh effect on auto-settings, turn off autofocus and touch your finger on the part of the set-up you want to be focused/crisp. It won’t give you a complete bokeh, but it will give you a nice blurred background without using any app!
This is the bokeh I got using my DSLR. (I personally love taking macro shots!)
Photos Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S10 5G
Photos Taken with a Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+
Note that there is hardly any difference between these two sets of photos, even though my newer camera is way better. I do feel the difference in the way the photos come out SOOC (straight out of the camera – i.e. unedited) because my new phone is able to capture more colors even in not-so-good lighting. But don’t feel pressured to get a high-end camera or phone. Whatever you have right now will work!
Framing Your Flatlays
Disclaimer: I am not an expert.
I took a photography class YEARS ago, but I have used the things I learned from that class here. And while I used to use a DSLR, the theory is still the same.
Rule of Thirds
The rule of thirds is a “rule of thumb” or guideline which applies to the process of composing visual images such as designs, films, paintings, and photographs. The guideline proposes that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally spaced horizontal lines and two equally spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections. – Wikipedia
I personally use this rule. If you are having a hard time imagining the grid lines, you can activate this option on your phone! Easy peasy!
Samsung: Settings > Camera Settings > Gridlines > select 3 x 3
(Samsung S10 has the Shot suggestions option which can be toggled on/off to help guide you frame your shots)
iPhone: Settings > Camera > toggle Grid on
How to Use this Rule
The idea is to have your subject hit the intersecting points of the grid, but not smack dab in the middle of the frame. In essence, place the subject off-center.
This is what it would look like when you take your photo. As you can see, the subject of the photo – the hand holding the romance reader pin – falls slightly to the lower left of the frame.
Here’s another example where the subject is on the bottom third of the frame, leaving the top part with negative space.
This rule can apply to any photo you take! Here are a couple of photos I took using a DSLR.
Whether you use artificial light or natural light, the idea is to have enough light on your flatlay. I personally use natural light, so I take my photos during the day. I have a place in my house where I set up because that’s where I get natural light.
If you read my post Bookstagram Props that don’t Break the Bank, I use a white poster board to bounce the light to my flatlay and minimize shadows. (Shadows are okay if you intentionally use shadows for drama, but the shadows I mean are just those that are not “artfully” placed.)
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Once you have gotten to know your camera very well, you just need to practice. Practice. PRACTICE. And take a lot of photos. I always take a lot of photos, moving my angle, zooming in and out, that sort of thing.
Look for Inspiration
When I first started, I really had a hard time getting used to taking bookstagram photos. My earlier photos were not that great and it did take a while for me to find my aesthetic.
My personal style is more minimalistic with an eye toward negative space/white space. I had to look through a lot of feeds that I enjoyed looking at and matched them to my style. I don’t exactly copy their set-up, but I use their set-up as an inspiration for the look and feel of my photos.
So, if you have a favorite Bookstagrammer, take a look at their feed and feeds like that, and practice by setting up your flat lays similar to theirs.
Next week, I will be sharing the apps I use to edit my photos!
If you like this type of post, you can check out my other how-to posts:
Do you bookstagram?
What do you use to take your photos?
Do you have any bookish discussion suggestions? Please submit them here!
Aj @ Read All The Things! says
Helpful tips! Finding good lighting is one of my biggest struggles with Bookstagram. My rooms don’t get much light, especially in winter. I’d take the books outside, but currently there are several feet of snow out there. That seems like an unpleasant idea.
Aj @ Read All The Things! recently posted…Review: No True Believers by Rabiah York Lumbard
Ohh snow… that’s too cold for me… but snow is good for a wintry backdrop!
Glad my tips help!
I’m like you – I use a lot of white space and do very minimal shots. I tried to do clusted/a lot going on for a while because that seemed to be what was popular – targeted audience – but it was me and didn’t feel right.
I love your tips – thanks!
tonyalee @ http://vivaciousbibliophile.com/
SAME! It was just so hard for me to do so I just had to find my own aesthetic and improved upon it!
Malka @ Paper Procrastinators says
Wow! This was such a wonderful guide to taking pictures! Our Instagram is currently on hiatus because of how time consuming it can be to take pictures, but I still learned so much! I’d heard of the rule of thirds before, but I never quite understood the concept until I read this post! Your pictures are so beautiful, and I’m so happy that you took the time to share your methods with us!
Malka @ Paper Procrastinators recently posted…Review: The Guinevere Deception
Glad this helped you, Malka! The rule of thirds really works and helps you frame your photo 🙂 Hope you guys get back to bookstagram! I know how time consuming it is to post there!
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction says
LOVE all this advice. The rule of thirds is helpful advice I’d forgotten for the most part (I think about it sometimes, but not always—I added the grid to my phone now). And I’d also forgotten about the white posterboard you use—I really should try that because shadows are so frustrating!
Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted…Book-Related Anxiety. It’s a Thing (and I Have It). Let’s Discuss.
Happy to help, Nicole! The grid on the phone really help! I don’t turn mine on now, but it helped me before.