Shooting with Photo Books in Mind

I been making a photo book a year for a couple of years now, and over that time I have (unwittingly!) developed a shooting style that helps me more easily develop page spreads that look good together in my family photo books.  I still end up with a few pages of random photos, but for the most part, the pages look more like they were "meant" to be together, and I can put the thing whole together more quickly.

This is what I aim for when shooting day-to-day stuff that I know will make it into my photo books, but I think the following tips would apply if you are a lifestyle photographer and want to be able to sell photo books too. 

1) Overshoot!

Yes, yes, I know that many photographers will say to be more purposeful when shooting, and I completely and totally agree with that, but sometimes it can be lovely to photograph the same moment with several identical frames. For example a series of six images from the same set up can look great in a album spread, or even on a collage on the wall! I love it when I get a mix of similar shots but each with a different facial expression for example.  

2) Shoot Wide and Shoot Close

I always make sure I get a mix of both wide and details shots.  Again, details shots may not be frame worthy on their own, but they look great in an album, and really help tie the images together and tell a story. (you can read some tips for capturing the details in lifestyle photography here too!)  Mix these together in a spread to help bring your story to life! 

4) Shoot a little Wider

I also try (but often forget) to step back a bit and leave more room around the subject - this gives me a little bit of leeway with regard to cropping to suit a particular page spread.  (I try to follow these cropping tips) This is true with both wide and detail shots - that little bit of wiggle room can really help make finding suitable spread layouts much easier! 

Shooting with photo books in mind

5) Shoot with a beginning, middle and end (if appropriate) 

If you are documenting an activity - say a trip to the beach, then you can also shoot with a story in mind - have an image of you unpacking the toys etc, the things you do at the beach, and then heading back to the car, so that you have a start and finish point.  Of course not all images in your photo books are going to be "stories" so this doesn't always apply! 

6) Agressive Culling! 

I don't want 20 different detail shots in one page, so I cull each "session" down to around 12 - 20 images when editing (depending on how many I have to start with) and then I'll  usually have to cull them further to suit the photo book when I get around to doing it.  When I'm doing this I want to make sure that I have the whole "story", and a mix of different shot types, so I cull with that in mind. 

7) Edit in the same way

Obviously as I doing an album for an entire year, I don't edit all my images in exactly the same way for every single "session", but I do have a relatively consistent editing style, which I add or detract from depending on my mood, or more likely, how much time I have.  This does give the book an overall cohesive feel. I do also make sure that each spread is edited in the same way, so I don't have a mix of clean edited images and let's say, filmy romantic edits in one spread. That said, one of the reasons I love remaining a hobbyist over being a professional, is that I can do whatever I want, and I do exercise the right to add in anything I like :)  If I were doing a professional photo book, I would suggest keeping the entire photo book to the same look and feel.  The other thing I do is make sure I don't have several page spreads one after the other in either black and white or colour - I like to mix them  up so it doesn't feel repetitive at any point.


Over a year I will be shooting in many different light, locations, time of day and so on - since I am not a portrait photographer who may stick a specific style or place (say warm, buttery backlight) so there is no way that a yearly photo album is going to have the same feel throughout.  But by having a bit of a shooting formula, and an editing style, the books have a little bit of consistency that keeps them looking a bit more "together", and also helps make putting them together a whole lot easier!