Bookstagram: How I Take My Photos || Flay Lays and Book Stacks

Hi everyone! So today, I thought I would share with y’all how I take my photos for Instagram!

Before I get to deep in this post, I’d like to go ahead and say that what works for me with how I set up my photos might not be the solution for you, but I hope that you’ll get something out of this post even if it’s you deciding that don’t want a bright theme or don’t like flat lays. I also do not know how to digitally add things to photos, so I won’t be explaining that process, but Xandra @ Starry Sky Books has a great post on adding digital book covers.

I’ve been on bookstagram for almost two years now, and I’m at a place right now where I’m happy with the photos I’m taking and editing. In the beginning of my account, I had no idea what I was doing with setting things up or how to edit photos. It took me a while to figure out what my theme was and later to decide that I wanted to change it up. The left photo is my old theme while the one on the right is the current one (photos are visible in the web browser not the WordPress app).

This is the very beginning of my account. As you can tell, I was kind of all over the place, but I was trying to figure out what was best for me and the space I have. FYI: the top left photo is not mine, it was a repost for a giveaway. When I started, I didn’t even stop to think of turning my photos so it could be facing the right way, and to be honest I didn’t know who to do it, so I would take the photo a bunch of times so the photo would be facing the right way when posted.

Where do I take my posts?

I take all of my photos on my bed on top of my blue and silver comforter. I have taken a couple else where like by a tree, near the pool, and on the floor, but about 99% of them are on the bed because the comforter isn’t really distracting and my book case is in the background if I do a book stack.

Laying the stuff out:

In my mind, I like for everything to be laid out straight as if it was on a piece of graph paper. I don’t know why that is, but it’s how my brain works when it comes to taking bookstagram photos. Sometimes, I pick one thing (like the book) and have that item be the one that I set up to be straight and be the focus when I go to edit the photo, and everything else is arranged but not straight.

The Basics:

Before I get started in how I set up my photos, I want to talk about some of the basics that I have in my photos. Obviously these things aren’t like the make or break of a bookstagram but things that I have in most of my photos.

  • Fairy Lights
    • To me fairy lights are the small lights that have the thin wire that stings them together not Christmas lights with the thick wire.
    • I have use the ones from the January Fairy Loot box which is the same kind that I had before my dog broke them. They are a white light and star shaped.
    • I tried to used the colored and the warm fairy lights but they were harder for me to use because the emanate that color and changes the tone of the photo.
  • Candles
    • I recommend having smaller candles (2 and 4 ounce) with a couple of different color wax colors. The primary colors that I use are white, red, blue, and a lavender. I want to get a couple of candles with black wax but haven’t found any yet.
    • The smaller candles work better because the don’t take up a lot of room in the photo and brings small pops of color to help break up some of the things in a photo.
  • Bookmarks
    • I like book marks that have quotes on them because even if it isn’t from the book in the photo, it could be something that correlate with the theme of the book.
  • Art Prints
    • Similar to the bookmarks, I like both quote prints and character art to help enhance whatever I taking a photo of.
    • The thing with larger prints is trying to fit it in some photos can be difficult at times.
  • Light
    • This is a big part to my photos. I try to take mine in the early to late afternoon when the sun comes through my window the most. I also have a bright desk lamp that helps when it’s darker outside.

Other things that people use:

  • Clothing
  • Blankets/scarves
  • Flowers
  • Food
  • Pets

In other words, you can use basically anything in a photo or nothing other than the book itself!

Flat Lay for a Book Review

The following tips also pertain to flat lays in general, but this particular photo was for a book review.

This is behind the scenes for my photo that went along with my review of More than Maybe by Erin Hahn.

How did I decide what to use?

I try to use the book cover as guidance for most of my photos, so I started to pull books that were red, orange, and blue since those were the main colors of the cover. It also helps if you have read the book that you’re taking a photo of, so you find more specific items. This book had a strong connection to music, so I my mind was looking for music related things that would fit in the photo, and I also love Luke so I was looking for book boyfriend items.

Laying out the photo:

The main star of this photo is the book (obviously), so I wanted that to be the thing that your eyes are drawn to when you look at the photo.

When I lay out book spines with colors of the book cover I usually either go fully across the area of what you’d see in the finish photo, a small portion like this one, or diagonally. I tried to do the first option that can be seen in the top left photo, but it didn’t look right with the other props I got and I couldn’t get it set up to my liking, so that was out. The diagonal lay out didn’t work for this photo, so that left the other option.

I wanted to use my computer as a prop since it has a cosset tape on it, but I couldn’t get all of the book spines in the photo without it having a lot of empty space so the top right photo was out of the running.

Then, I put the book spines in the top left (my usual place for them in a photo) and the book towards the bottom right. I use the candles as a filler in photos to make them look less empty without adding a lot of added content to it, but I did have a book boyfriend and song of the ballad candle, so I had to place them without having a glare from the light on the label. The enamel pin wasn’t to hard to squeeze in since it’s super small.

After taking sever photos of moving around candles, I got the bottom right photo and cropped it down to what you see. Then I had to turn up the brightness on it with the editing tools that Apple has in the photo app and I also worked on balancing the photo by tilting it and turning it slightly. Then I went to Instagram and added my usual filter Clarendon that further brightens my photos.

Open Book Flat Lay

I don’t know how other people do this, but I find hard cover books that naturally want to stay open without me needing to crack the spine. If the book doesn’t want to stay open, I simply put it aside and look for another one.

I typically use this set up for when I have to take a photo of a book and have absolutely no idea what the book is about.

These are a bit tricky because you have to a) ensure that the pages won’t turn and b) lay out the books in a way that will have a finished photo that is easy to balance.

I start with laying out the books and leaving the middle open until the end; then I put an open book there. I tried to start in the middle before, but the structure is different and harder to balance stuff on top.

Once, I laid out the books, I typically put my iPad in the middle add a bookmark, some candles (about 2 or 3), and my fairy lights and start taking photos.

Book Stacks

Book stacks are one of the easier types of book photos for me to take because all it’s just a stack of books (at least mine are).

With book stacks, the key is structure. Because I take my photos on a bed, that can be hard. I normally put a thin hardcover book on the bottom at the base of the stack to start the stack.

Next is picking out the books. Are you just wanting to post a stack of books that you randomly pulled? Is it for a photo challenge? A new haul?

When I go to stack the books, I like to put the hardcovers at the bottom and the paperbacks on the top because the hardcover books are generally bigger and heaver and can knock over the stack. I also tend to trying to arrange the books in an ombre type fashion. With the stack to the left. I mixed the hardcover and paperback books together and I went with a dark blue book then light blue and started alternating as I went up.

For the photo above, it was for a photo challenge for a book release where we had to spell out the word “Today” with book titles.

I went with books that started with each letter (not those that started with an article: a, an , or the). Then, I was looking for books to put between the ones that spelled out the word to give it more height. At first, I just turned around some hardcover books so all you’d see was the pages. Then, me being me, I wanted to do something slightly different and use books that had sprayed edges instead of the plain edges. So that opened another door of decision making.

There wasn’t really any thought process behind where I put the colors at this time. I was just taking photos with different arrangements until I found one that I liked (and sometimes you just have to play around and move things as you go).

I hope this helps!

Other bookstagram posts I have include:

If you’d like me to do another bookstagram post on how I set up my photos just let me know! I also plan on doing an updated post on how I edit photos before the year ends!

Happy reading until next time,

8 thoughts on “Bookstagram: How I Take My Photos || Flay Lays and Book Stacks

  1. Pingback: OwlCrate Unboxing August 2020: Written in the Stars | Lala's Book Reviews

  2. I found this incredibly interesting! Photography is a skill I’m trying to improve upon, so it was helpful to read your thoughts on staging photos.


  3. Thank you for this post! I’ve been thinking about having a bookstagram too for a while but I’m doubting because I don’t know which style use to take my pictures, so any tips are welcomed. Nice pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Love this post! I find it so interesting reading other people’s photography/ bookstagram process!! I’m trying to improve my photos so some of your tips were super helpful


  5. Oh this was really helpful! I haven’t touched bookstagram in a long time (mostly because it intimidates me) but you’ve made it seem like something that’s doable and fun 😀 Thanks so much for sharing Lauren!


  6. Pingback: August 2020 Wrap-Up and Haul | Lala's Book Reviews

  7. Pingback: Currently Reading & Booktok and Bookstagram Updates | Lala's Book Reviews

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