There are few things more exciting than being approved for a highly-anticipated e-arc on NetGalley. But when it comes to sharing reviews of ebooks on bookstagram, many members struggle with how to best show the cover, take the photo, and overall make the post as engaging as the ones with physical books. I started my bookstagram in 2019 and have learned a lot over the course of posting nearly 300 photos (42% of which include e-readers!). Here I’d like to share tips for how to stage, shoot, and share photos of ebooks to help NetGalley members who want to talk about the e-arcs they’re reading and reviewing on bookstagram. Keep in mind that these are things that have worked for me, and there is no right or wrong way to share the books you’re reading to bookstagram.

If you’re completely new to bookstagram, check out this post first for tips on starting your account, equipment recommendations, basic photography advice, and more!

Consider covers
When photographing an e-reader, you can choose to have the cover displayed on the screen or you can use a free tool such as Canva to add the cover afterwards. Take a look at these two photos to see the difference: the first features the cover on my device’s screen and the second was added in Canva. Pick the approach that works best for you.

 

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If you choose to use your e-reader’s screen to display the cover, you’ll want to be aware of any lights casting glares on the screen when you take a photo, as this can show up in your picture. You can also raise and lower your screen’s brightness settings to find the one that looks best in a finished shot.

If you choose to add the book cover later, there are many free programs (such as Canva) that can help. You can either download a hi-resolution version of the cover from the publisher’s website or take a screenshot (if your e-reader has this capability). I prefer to take a screenshot because it ensures the dimensions will be correct when it is superimposed onto the blank screen in the finished photo. Using Canva you can upload both the book cover and your photo with the blank e-reader screen, and from there resize and rotate the cover until you’re happy with the finished version.

Utilize natural light
My biggest tip for newbies is using natural light. Find a place in your home or outside, and don’t be afraid to test photos at different times of the day to see how it impacts your pictures.

Flat surfaces are your friend
Whether you’re using your e-reader’s screen to show covers or adding them after, flat lays are the easiest way to stage photos. A flat lay involves arranging objects on a flat surface and taking a photo from above. 

 

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I take pictures using my iPhone. In Settings, under Camera, I’ve enabled the Grid. I find this helps me when I’m framing my shot because a small plus sign will show in yellow to show that your phone is perfectly straight. 

That said, photos where your e-reader is held in your hand or standing upright are still possible! They simply require a steady hand and a good eye for keeping things level.

 

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I also always use the Square option (to the right of Photo when your Camera is open) to ensure that my bookstagram photos are all the same size and won’t be cut off (as rectangle photos are) in your profile’s grid. 

Think about composition
In photography, composition refers to how the elements of a picture are arranged. This includes your e-reader and any props that you choose to add. Looking at bookstagram photos you find aesthetically pleasing can help you get a sense for how you should arrange your own pictures—but be sure to never intentionally directly copy another bookstagrammer’s shot.

The more photos you take, the easier it will become to sense when something feels off or missing from your photo. Don’t be afraid to try different things and experiment. In the below, the shot was feeling too static for me so I added my hand reaching for a macaron and it changed the entire photo for the better!

 

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Don’t be afraid of simplicity
When you’re starting out on bookstagram, it can be hard not to judge your photos against the ones you’re seeing in your feed. This is especially true when you spy pictures positively overflowing with gorgeous props. If you find yourself comparing your grid to others’, first remind yourself that this is your corner of the internet to be creative so you don’t need to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Next, lean into the fact that simple can be beautiful. All this photo needed was my comforter and e-reader.

 

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Use props you have on hand
It can be tempting to want to stock up on the props you see all over bookstagram such as book carts or letter boards, but first take a look around your house and you’re sure to realize you have more props handy than you first thought.

This is one of my favorite photos and yet I didn’t buy anything special for it! I used items already in my home: a used candle, a pink scarf, a book and book sleeve, and some flowers I had bought for myself.

 

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No props? Use other books!
If you’re sitting there saying “Seriously, Kelly, I have ZERO props” then I encourage you to turn to your bookshelves! In these two photos, all I did was place my device on top of books I already owned. It makes the background more exciting than simply placing my e-reader on the table, but also doesn’t require multiple props or time spent staging them.

 

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Play with pairings
There is no denying that photos with physical books in them draw lots of engagement from followers, and including them in photos with your e-reader is one way to show the best of both worlds, when it makes sense. If you’re reading an ebook and own a physical book by that same author, pair them together as I did here with Helen Hoang’s novels!

 

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Add some depth
Just because you’re creating flat lays doesn’t mean you can’t create depth within your pictures. In this shot, I used a tall water glass beneath my e-reader to raise it above a grid of books I laid out. I added a blur effect to further differentiate between the cover I was highlighting and the books beneath it.

 

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Get in the habit of taking photos
If you’ve decided to add book covers to your pictures using Canva, you don’t need to wait until you’re ready to share a post to bookstagram to take a photo. I frequently snap pictures of my e-reader in different settings, creating a nice stockpile of images that are ready for whenever I eventually need them.

For example, when staying at an AirBnB I saw this fascinating blue bowl that I knew I wanted to get a picture of. At the time, I had no idea which cover I’d eventually add to the picture. When I read a Little Mermaid retelling, the blue bowl’s ocean-like waves came to mind and I was so glad I had the picture in my phone and ready to be edited.

 

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Reuse photos
The best part of sharing bookstagram photos of ebooks is that they’re incredibly easy to reuse with a simple swap of covers! Check out these two photos:

 

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I posted one in May of this year and the other in September with a new cover and slightly different filter. Absolutely no one noticed or minded that I was using the same shot with a new book. After all, it’s the book they’re all interested in! Don’t stress yourself out trying to create unique photos for each and every book that you want to share. Find shots that you’re excited to reuse and recycle away.

Take multiple photos
I tend to have short bookstagram photoshoots that enable me to take multiple photos that can be saved and used later, rather than taking a new picture every single time I want to post. It saves time (since any props I’m using are already out) and offers the chance to create subtle changes that offer different options. In these two pictures, the only change is that I added headphones! I took them on the same day and posted them a month apart.

 

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Draw inspiration from the book
Taking photos in advance can be incredibly helpful, but don’t let that stop you from creating shots specifically catered to a book. When I read a New Year’s Eve-themed novella I knew that I had to stage a picture with some prosecco and gold confetti. You’re likely already taking notes for your review as you read, so jot down anything that strikes inspiration for a bookstagram photo as well!

 

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Filters
You can choose to add filters to your photo before or after you’ve added the cover. I typically choose after to keep everything in the same color palate.

As you grow more comfortable with your photography skills, you may want to start doing more to photos than simply adding an Instagram filter. The free editing apps that I use most frequently are VSCO (which includes filter options that I like better than Instagram’s) and Snapseed (which has great tools that help you adjust the exposure, saturation, and temperature of specific parts of your photo). 

If you want to create a bookstagram page with a specific color palette, filters are a great way to ensure consistency. Be aware that certain filters have the adverse effect of whitewashing characters of color on the covers of books. Using the advanced editing features in the apps mentioned above can help to give you more control over saturation, lighting, and more.

Do you have a tip to share for taking e-reader bookstagram photos? 

Share it below!

Kelly Gallucci

Kelly Gallucci is the Executive Editor of We Are Bookish, where she oversees the editorial content, offers book recommendations, and interviews authors and NetGalley members. When she's not working, Kelly can be found color coordinating her bookshelves, eating Chipotle, and watching way too many baking shows.

2 Comments
  1. So many great tips here Kelly! Bookmarking this so I can refer back, can’t wait to try some out! Lacking inspiration recently so this was definitely the uplift I needed 😊

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