I often see posts from book bloggers giving advice on how to grow your bookish Instagram, affectionately known as bookstagram. (You know you’re cool when you have an Instagram full of pictures of BOOKS…) And while I find some helpful tips in these posts, I get frustrated when I see things like “Fake flowers from the craft store make great props and are so cheap!” Um, excuse me? I don’t call ten bucks for a double hydrangea bloom cheap.
A lot of bookstagrammers and book blogger are high school and college students who don’t have extra money to throw around on luxuries like a light box or an entire series of hardback books. Others of us are working parents who don’t have time to DIY everything in the whole world, or spend hours on bookish photo shoots. And, sadly, I see very little advice that is useful to folks like us.
So, I thought I would offer up some of the practical advice I have figured out while bookstagramming over the past year. Note that I do bookstagram as a hobby, and if you’re interested in gaining thousands of followers and get 600 likes per post, this is probably not going to be that helpful to you.
It is well-known that good lighting makes all the difference when it comes to great photos! Natural light, or sunlight, is the next best thing to professional lighting, if not better. This is also not a secret, and so I see a lot of bookstagrammers taking their books outside. Bonus, free backdrops! However, direct sunlight, especially in the summer, can give your photos quite a bad glare.
My recommendation is to find the room in your house with the biggest or most windows, and set up your pictures in there. Bay windows work the best, because the sunlight filters in from several directions and leaves fewer shadows. Another good way to avoid shadows from the windows is to build a faux-light box by setting up a white poster board parallel to the window to reflect the light.
You can see how in my set-up I make light box using my bookcase, however a second poster board, or even three poster boards could be used to create the same effect if you don’t have white walls. Masking tape is your friend and doesn’t peel paint.
If you are heading outside, I suggest doing your photos in the morning or afternoon when the sunlight is less direct. But don’t wait until shadows are getting long either! 9 AM or 3 PM seem to be like relatively ideal times where I live.
Photographing Library Books
Bookstagram photos of library books notoriously do less well because library books “aren’t pretty.” First off, screw that. Libraries are valuable resources and we should be celebrating them, so the more high quality photos of library books, the better. I’ve started flaunting my library books this summer.
However, I have found a few ways to make your books’ library-status less obvious.
Open Book Photos
When your photo features book pages or open books, the library spines and plastic dust-jackets are less visible.
Cropping Your Book
If you’re going for one of those pictures will a TON of books in it, try lining your books up so that the spines are up, but only the top half of the spine is in the frame. Make sure to adjust the angle so the lighting isn’t making your dust-jackets too shiny!
Book Stacks and Piles
You can get creative here to stack your books so that the library stickers are covered.
Everyone knows that all those accounts that have a kajillion followers use professional cameras and equipment, and honestly probably Photoshop everything as well. However, your phone camera is likely good enough to do the job for Instagram, especially if you have an iPhone or Android. Even old models have fantastic cameras!
That said, I know that not everyone has an amazing smart phone, especially young teens. My suggestion is to find a filter that makes the lower quality images less glaring. Also, learn to use the advanced settings! You can do a lot in there to make a bad photo look better!
As stated, flowers and bookish merch aren’t cheap props. Personally, I prefer prop-less photos anyway! But if you feel like you need something to fill up space, head over to the dollar store, you’d be surprised what you can use. Here are a few cheap suggestions I’ve seen used very effectively (most of which are available at either the dollar store or Wal-Mart):
- Oragami Stars (love LOVE these, and they’re so easy to make!)
- Christmas Lights
- Playing Cards (ooooo, no one is making card castles that I know of, but that would be cool!)
- Craft Glass Gems/Stones
- Home-made confetti
- Blankets and Pillows you already have at home
- Popcorn, candy, or other pretty snacks
- Buttons (you can get these cheap at Wal-Mart, actually.)
- YOUR SHOES!!
- Cute hand-drawn pictures or journal pages (note-sized looks great!)
- Twine or yarn
You do NOT have to spend money on backdrops! There are so many less expensive options! Personally, I use white and black poster board, which you can get for like, fifty cents at the grocery store. Blankets and bedding also look lovely if yours is nice, and I find that several of the tables in my house look great. If you want something more fun, scrapbook paper is less expensive than backdrops, and is always on sale at Hobby Lobby.
Your personal library will grow in time. Keep entering giveaways, keep asking for books for your birthday, keep treating yourself to a book you adored from time to time. Remember, Instagram life isn’t real. Don’t get your self-worth by comparing your lack of books or subscription boxes or Funko Pops to everyone on Insta. You are amazing because of who you are, not because of how much junk (or books…) you have!
And maybe start following liking and commenting on more bookstagrams like yours. I’ve started following the hashtags #library and #librarybooks so I can see more Bookstagrams like mine. Trust me, they’re a great community too!