I’ve been working on covers again. Cover work involves a lot of sorting photographs and vector files. After searching many a file, I have some advice for photographers (more like a plea) who do photo shoots and hope to sell the shots to people like me:
1. People should be in neutral settings–preferably a contrasting background to their clothing. Blue backgrounds are preferred because the blue is easy to blend into a sky or even a nighttime setting. White is fine too IF the model isn’t wearing white.
2. Mostly we don’t want a lot of expression on the model’s face. The cover is often a neutral scene. We don’t need growling, screaming, panting, surprised, etc very often. Try to have one where the model is just looking good. And this goes for male and female.
3. Put some clothes on the model. Not every book needs to have a guy without a shirt. For the ladies, we are badass. We do not generally run out of the house with a gun/sword/dagger in our underwear. Honestly, we don’t. I guarantee we do not take time to put on strappy high heels. We prefer the cover of the book to have us at our best–usually in jeans and a regular shirt. If we are dressed for dinner out, the outfit may include that gun, but we do not wear fishnet stockings and a bra with a swimsuit coverup over the top. Just sayin’.
4. Speaking of weapons, will someone explain to me why so many sword and dagger pictures have the model holding onto the naked blade (rather than the hilt) with one hand??? Look, the general idea behind swords is that they are sharp.
Additional note on blades: Most people don’t go around “testing” the blade with a hand or finger either, so no need for multiple poses where a model attempts to draw blood from her own hand. If we are about to use the thing, we are either pulling it, waving it or stabbing. But for a front cover, just holding it is fine. Even better? See, number 5.
5. Do not use too many props in photos. It is far easier to ADD a sword or gun than it is to erase it. By props, I also mean jewelry. Many of the models have loads of eye make up or jewelry or fans or swords or what have you. Have the models pose as though they could have something in their hand, but leave the hand empty. We’ll grab the object we need and put it there. For urban fantasy, jewelry can be very important and we might want to add our own.
6. For the love of Mike, if you pose a model with a dagger, do NOT have all the shots be of the model stabbing herself/himself. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I promise you, I do not need a model licking a knife blade EVER. This may be fine for horror, but most of us are not designing covers where the main is committing suicide. We GENERALLY prefer the main ready to fight (so the dagger is nice in the hand, but we don’t necessarily need to see our great hero with teeth bared.)
7. If the model is posing with a knife and looks prepared to use it, it is important that the cutting side is pointed AT THE threat–not at the model. So when posing in a stabbing motion, having the sharp side pointing UP or pointing at the model is ridiculous. If she’s going to use it, she wants the sharp blade pointed at her enemy.
8. Not all medieval women need to have their neck exposed and appear to be in the throes of passion. It’s okay to have them standing there in medieval garb looking mysterious or neutral. Let the background fill in the atmosphere. Some of us might want a medieval woman who is not too dolled up, carries a dagger or has her hand held such that she can carry a magical object, a baby dragon or yanno, stuff that we all tend to carry.
9. For the love of Peter, if you pose models in shirts or jeans, try not to have the brand show. A button down, open at the collar can be used in just about any time period–but not if it has a polo horse on it! A nice tight t-shirt showing off muscles is great–but not if it has Motley Crew, Undead or other decorations all over the front.
10. Dark photos also don’t show up well when sized small (and guess what? Most book covers on B&N and Amazon and Kobo aren’t very big.) Check your lighting and effects in small sizes.
Just a few thoughts. Getting a cover right is very difficult. We need odd props like skulls, various landscapes, piles of money, shiny stones, magical flares…and we need a LOT of photos to sort through!
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