The latest fad in social media seems to be Instagram lately. I am constantly seeing people post gorgeous pictures of their books. For book bloggers, bookstagram seems to be almost a necessity. But where do you even start? With this post of my best bookstagram tips.
What is bookstagram?
Bookstagram is exactly what it sounds like. Bookstagrammers are people who take pictures of books and post them on their Instagram accounts. I recently did a round-up of some of my favorite bookstagrammers out there and since writing that post, I’ve upped my own Instagram game.
When bookstagram first started catching on, I wanted no part in it. I was against the idea of staging photos, yanking my books on and off the shelves, finding cute props to go with it, learning about photography, etc. I didn’t have that kind of time. That was before I decided that I wanted to make my blog my career.
When I decided to take my blog to the next level, I knew that Instagram needed to become a focus.
When I first started, I remember feeling very overwhelmed. How could I possibly compete with the big accounts out there who take stunning photos that are unique, yet also branded? It’s not as hard as you think and I really wish I had had a bookstagram mentor of sorts when I first started. It would have made me feel a little more reassured that I could do it and be successful.
I want to be your bookstagram mentor.
Why I Started a Bookstagram
I wanted to use my own photography on my blog. When I first started blogging I made terrible graphics that looked like a third grader made them. Sound harsh? Well we are our own worst critics. Even worse, sometimes I would Google images and then use them on my site. I thought that crediting where I found the photo was good enough. It’s not. Don’t do this. Somebody owns that image. If you don’t want to use your own photography, there are stock photos – some free, some paid – that you can use, but please please don’t grab random images off the internet. It can actually get you in serious trouble.
I didn’t want to spend hours looking through stock photos. I’ve always been creative and I wanted to do it myself. I also didn’t want to use book cover images in my reviews anymore. It’s so difficult to make your reviews stand out among the sea of book reviews out there. People are very visual. So I thought “hey, maybe if I take cool pictures and utilize them in my reviews people will be more likely to click through and read”. And once I started taking the photos I couldn’t stop.
Photographing books in unique ways gives me the perfect creative outlet.
Just getting out my camera and shooting starts my creative juices flowing. I normally spend all day Sunday blogging. And most days I start out with my camera. It jump starts my creativity and gives me the energy and the brain power to keep going the entire day. Bookstagram also gives me a great excuse to drool over pretty pictures of books all day. And who doesn’t want to do that?
My Best Bookstagram Tips:
The first thing you should do before starting your bookstagram is to establish a theme. Your pictures don’t all have to look identical, but you should try to come up with a theme. Be true to your brand. Yes, we’re talking about branding again. Please don’t skip the valuable branding lesson. It is so important to your growth as a blogger! My bookstagram theme is clean, white backgrounds. I like bright photos and am a bit of a minimalist as far as props go. Some great examples of bookstagram brands are the.literary.omnivore, brooknicole.reads and abi.s_cupboard. What these three specifically have in common is their ability to theme their accounts. They are great at it. If you go to their feed you see a cohesive brand. Their pictures are gorgeous and they match. They’re recognizable. I can tell as I’m scrolling that a picture belongs to them without even having to see their name because they’ve done such a fantastic job of branding themselves.
Gain brand recognition and you will gain followers.
Okay. You’ve chosen a theme. Now what do you do? Step Two of the bookstagram tips: gather your tools.
Bookstagram Tools in My Arsenal
Yes, I use my fancy DSLR to take all my photos. No, you don’t necessarily need one. Although I will say if you’re serious about turning your blog into a money-making machine you should probably invest in a nice camera and learn a thing or two about how to use it.
Visual content is a vital piece to your blog being the best it can be.
I use the Nikon D3300. I really like this camera because it’s super easy for a beginner to use. I seriously knew nothing about photography when I first got this baby. When I started out I shot on automatic and played with the different effects modes I could put it on. I wasn’t getting very good pictures. So I learned a bit about aperture, ISO and shutter speed and now I only shoot on manual mode. If I can learn it, you guys can too.
Again, you don’t necessarily need a high end DSLR to curate a gorgeous bookstagram account. I’ve seen some gorgeous accounts from people I know only use their phone cameras.
Just because you don’t have the coin for the nice camera yet, doesn’t mean you can’t get started today.
Have you ever wondered how people get those stark white backgrounds in their photos? The answer is so simple you’re going to smack yourself; I know I did. Poster board. There’s the facepalm. You can buy poster board at your local craft store or even Walmart or Target for like $3 for a pack of 10 sheets. You can also buy a couple of white foam boards as they tend to work better for the standing up background. No matter how much tape I put on my poster board, it always falls down and drives me crazy.
Please, please, please don’t take a picture with your blender in the background or other obscure objects. This is a surefire way for people to skip right over your photos. The background needs to be clean. It doesn’t necessarily need to be white, but we shouldn’t see that crumpled up blanket in the corner in the background of your photo.
Other ideas for backgrounds include:
- Wood – boards from decks or patios work great
- Nature – books in the grass, in a tree, etc.
- Fabric – Any color fabric will do although I would recommend lighter, brighter colors so your photo doesn’t come out too dark
- Your bookshelf
- Your desk/work space (make sure it’s clean!)
I have a whole box of props in my house that I use just for bookstagrams. It includes mirrored plates, silk flowers, mason jars, little glass jars with corks, fairy lights, candles, etc. Many of these things I found lying around my house. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to get props. You’ll be amazed at what you find.
I once took a photo for my review of The Shadow Queen and used a Halloween costume from when I dressed up as the evil queen. And when I shot my photos for Mistborn I pulled some foreign coins out and scattered them around the book.
Try to find props that fit with the book – especially if the photo is for a review
The crown and velvet skirt fit perfectly with The Shadow Queen being a Snow White retelling. And for Mistborn, the main character is an Allomancer and uses coins to push and pull her way through the air. (Okay, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but that series is amazing so you should really check it out!) I love finding props that fit in with the story. And both of those things were already in my house!
Other great places to find good props are craft stores. Think Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Both of those stores are so dangerous for me to go into alone. It’s worse than Target… Garage sales and flea markets are also great places to spot weird, obscure things that will go well with bookstagrams.
If you’re into flowers and nature, I would definitely pick up some silk flowers. Every picture I’ve ever had on Instagram that features flowers do better. I’m serious. People like flowers.
To sum it up, props can come from anywhere. I once bought some macarons and refused to let my husband eat them until I was done with photo shoots. Because they were so pretty and I just knew they would be perfect. I was also at work last week and the fruit guys who (you guessed it) deliver fruit once a week brought a dragon fruit in. It was so pretty!! I had to have it for a photo shoot.
You can find props in the most unexpected places. Utilize anything & everything.
Okay so this tool isn’t always in my bookstagram arsenal. But some days it’s perfect. There’s one rule that you should always always follow.
Always shoot in natural light.
I’ve tried. So. Many. Times. To shoot in artificial light and the pictures just don’t look good at all! The natural light is one billion times better. Artificial light washes things out and your camera flash isn’t helping matters. This makes winter bookstagramming pretty freaking difficult because by the time most of us get home at night, it’s pitch dark!! Which is why I typically shoot all of my photos on the weekend.
Early morning or late afternoon/early evening are the best times to shoot. Smack dab in the middle of the day when the sun is at its brightest can cause harsh shadows that don’t look good on your photos. If you’re shooting inside (I almost always do) try to set-up near a window where lots of natural light floods in. I set up literally right next to my huge living room windows and then start snapping away.
This has been the biggest game changer for me in terms of bookstagram. I used to post one, maybe two photos a week. Not because I didn’t have a backlog of photos. Because of the time it took to post them. Instagram is different from Twitter in this respect. Longer captions are expected. I often times feel as if I’m writing a miniature blog post in my Instagram captions. And that’s really difficult to do from your phone! Autocorrect, fat-fingering the wrong keys, deleting one word and holding the delete button down too long so it deletes the entire thing. Not to mention typing in all the hashtags. Um, no thanks. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Then I discovered Later and it literally changed my bookstagram life. Later allows you to upload your pictures right on your computer, type out your captions & hashtags and schedule a post for Instagram. Now it doesn’t actually post the photo for you. Instagram won’t let that happen yet. But you download the Later app on your phone and it sends you a notification when it’s time to post. Click the notification and it will automatically copy your entire caption (including your hashtags!) and redirect you to the Instagram app. Your photo appears, you crop it, add a filter, whatever, paste your caption and post. Takes literally 5 seconds. Now I can post a photo a day, sometimes more, with no problems.
I’ll do a more extensive post on Later in the future, but if you’re looking to get started Amanda at Nellie & Co. has some great information on how she uses Later to make her bookstagram life easier. I also highly recommend following her if you want to up your Instagram game. She posts some awesome tips and tricks and regularly hosts fun bookstagram challenges.
Getting Noticed on Instagram
So now you’ve got some gorgeous pictures. But how do you get people to tap that heart, comment on your photos and ultimately click that follow button?
Go forth and comment
You know when you first started blogging and everyone told you a great way to get noticed is to go comment on other people’s blogs? (Consistently and with a comment that actually adds value!) It works the same way for Instagram and other social media outlets. People don’t know who you are! Get your face out there. Go like other people’s photos. Comment on them. Again, with comments that actually contribute. Not just obscure emojis or a “fantastic!”. Write something thoughtful. You may have to comment on a lot of photos, but eventually people will start to take notice. The most important thing you can do is be genuine. It will be really obvious if you’re commenting for the sake of commenting.
Be genuine and thoughtful in your comments and people will start to take notice & return the favor.
Something I think a lot of people forget is that Instagram is a social media outlet. Keyword being social. You don’t just post your pictures and walk away. Social media is about forging relationships, making friends and being – you guessed it – social!
Hashtags can be a game changer on Instagram. Use them! But don’t overuse them. I normally put mine directly in my post after I write my caption. I try to keep it to 8-11 hashtags. If you want to use more you can always put them in a comment on your own photo. But don’t just use any hashtags. Use ones related to your niche. For us, that’s bookstagram! Here’s a list of some popular ones I use regularly:
#bookstagram #bibliophile #booklove #bookworm #reader #booklove #bookporn #bookphoto #ireadya #bookish #bookblogger #booksandflowers #booklove #coverlove #lovebooks #bookobsessed
I store my hashtags in a note on my phone and my computer so I can just copy and paste when I’m posting to Instagram. Then I add and/or delete as needed depending on my photo. You can do some hashtag research on your own as well. Look at the bookstagram accounts that you follow and pay attention to what hashtags they’re using. Jump on them! And then… browse them! And comment and like other people’s pictures!
I participated in my first ever bookstagram challenge this month and it was so much fun! It was hosted by Amanda from Nellie & Co. and Erica from Novel Ink and I had a great time participating. It gave me a community to participate in and I’ve found some amazing bookstagrammers to follow and chat with through the challenge. There are always challenges going on so find one (or more!) and participate. You don’t have to post a photo every day to “win” at a challenge. I did this past month, but that obviously won’t work for everybody. So participate as much or as little as you want to!
Actually doing the work
Coming up with photo ideas can be one of the hardest parts. That’s another great reason to participate in a challenge. The prompts are already there for you. I’ve also created an awesome list of 50 ideas for you to get started which you can download at the end of this post. Don’t be afraid to reuse the same ideas with different books. That’s the best thing about bookstagram.
You can take the same picture with different books and get a completely different effect.
Books and flowers for example. I have lots of pictures featuring the same flowers on my Instagram, but they’re with different books, shot from different angles, in different light, etc. so they look completely different!
Practice Makes Perfect
You’re not going to become a master photographer overnight. If you look at my Instagram I think you can see my progression from mediocre to getting better. I still don’t think I’m great, but I’m more proud of my pictures every week because they’re getting noticeably better every week. Nobody expects you to be perfect right away. It’s takes lots of practice, but you’ll get there. Play around with different angles and lighting. Take pictures outside and inside. Find out what works best for you! And if there’s a bookstagrammer you love, reach out to them and ask them for tips. I think most of us are more than willing to chat and help each other out.
One of my favorite things about book blogging is the community and that community extends to bookstagram.
Ask for advice in a real way though. Don’t just go ask them to follow you or share your photos. That’s not cool. Be nice. Tell them how much you love their photos and then ask your question. Build relationships. Forge a community. Be yourself. Use that creativity to drive your bookstagram and your blog to the top of the charts.
Wow that was a crazy long post. Thanks for making it to the end! To get you started, I’ve created a list of 50 bookstagram photo ideas you can try out! Comment on this post with your Instagram handle so I can go check out your gorgeous pictures! You can follow me @unboundpages.
Are you just starting out as a bookstagrammer or are you a seasoned veteran? What tools do you use to up your Instagram game? If you’re just starting out, what theme are you going to go for? Don’t forget to leave your IG handle in the comments so I can go check out your account!