Bookworms sure do love to burrow themselves into nice free-spirited bookstores. But much like selecting a new novel, they must get a good look at the covers before they open it up. Followers of our various social media accounts will likely come across a slew of scenic photos of the coziest, comfortable yet tremendously stylish storefronts of the country’s cutest book hubs. One positive attribute of the pandemic was the stunning boom in the independent bookstore market. A time when it was more likely for businesses to shut down turned into a sleeper hit of a revival in the literary community. While the independent bookstores across the nation thrive through tough times, some if not most, are still victims to one of the most avoidable pitfalls that keep readers from sliding their doors open: spectacle.
Every bookstore owner needs to push their brand regardless of how minuscule the details are. The most effective hook an owner can utilize is a set of carefully crafted photos that show what makes your store the locale for a holy literary pilgrimage to bookworms everywhere. A picturesque bookstore, much like a typical Instagram model, is only attractive from a certain angle. Proper photo etiquette can reel in bookish nerds to scroll through your paperback selection rather than pass your photos on their feed. Let’s have a look at the good and the bad and even have some laughs at the do’s and don’t’s of bookstore photography.
1. The photos should always be in focus.
Everybody has a few photos in their library that seem to get more blurred with age and it only becomes more noticeable the more time that passes from the moment the picture was taken. Besides, how professional can you look when the photo of you and your store look like they were taken by a unkempt potato. Focus is an absolute in plain photography, unless it’s intentional in an artsy way which it wouldn’t be if you want the world to see how cozy of a book collection you have.
2. Avoid objects that block the view.
Yes, some of these will be pretty obvious or straight forward, but the fact that this is a sadly but very hilariously recurring theme means it needs to be addressed. Plants, furniture, and hell even people shouldn’t obscure your beautiful store from wandering eyes. You wouldn’t keep a wedding photo where the bride’s face is covered by a ficus tree, so definitely don’t save one covering your store. (Keep in mind that this is for Instagram. So anything that is portrait or vertical mode will have to have the bottom or top cropped. Anything that’s too wide will have to have the sides cropped. Square or 4×5 pictures work best.)
3. Your angles should be squared to the items.
Now even though both of these pictures are very cute, one evenly displays the product as well as having the utmost drip right next to the product. Everybody wants to see the quirks of your scenery that make your bookstore unique while still accurately showing the viewer what you’re there for.
4. Avoid cropping shelves in the middle. Always show them off!
Speaking of showing viewers what they might like, centering your pictures on large bookshelves should be angled as straightforward as the shelves themselves (wow that’s hard to say fast). Keep in mind wide shots of family reunion photos when taking these shots because nobody angles down to cut off the taller relatives nor the shorter ones that kneel in front. All books are equal in the literary family.
5. If you have shelves, leave them in full frame.
Alright, this is pure amateur hour in photography because it’s very easy to dodge, but cutting off the one thing that’s holding up the product should never be done by any means. One thing book lovers love, almost as much as the books themselves, are the bookshelves. These carefully crafted pieces deserve just as much exposure as the paperbacks you want to push.
6. The overall shot of the interior shouldn’t include too much of the ceiling or cut-off bookshelves.
You know what doesn’t need any representation are the ceilings in these wide-open shots. I’m sure each bookstore has a lovely ceiling with great ventilation to boot but unless it’s gonna drop a novel into unsuspecting readers’ hands, it’s not something that should dominate your bookstore pics. Middling snaps of the awesome collections and reading areas will be infinitely more interesting to reel people in than a stale checkered pattern hovering above them.
7. Photographs of the exterior or window front should be shot at eye-level from the front. They should encapsulate the signage and storefront all in one.
You want to give the viewers the allure of what it will look like to enter your fabulous bookstore. There’s no better method than to present it from the eventual point of view, rather than the viewpoint of them walking by your business. Eye-level, front, and center is the best way to show potential customers what they are literally getting into.
8. If your bookstore is very wide in length and is not possible to include everything when shot from the front, you can either move the camera horizontally or further away and shoot at a slight angle.
This is a very specific case-by-case scenario, and must be accommodated depending on the building but angles aren’t the enemy here, just bad photos. If it calls for it a more palatable angle to present, the front end might be a few or more steps away from the business, don’t worry the books aren’t going anywhere. (Always note that if the surrounding environment does not contribute to the aesthetic of the bookstore, try to include it as little as possible.)
9. When taking the photographs, there should be enough light sources (daylight), so that everything is in sharp focus. Also, too much light can also be a problem, so make sure that doesn’t happen either.
Lighting can work for or against you when it comes to the most picturesque time of day to show off your store. The colors your exterior can determine which level of daylight contours your front end into a curvy seductress to lure in curious readers.
10. Feel free to play around with interiors like chairs, ladders, or tables as leading lines into the background. But, keep in mind to not have too much distraction in the photograph or else it would have the opposite effect.
Before I mentioned that furniture shouldn’t obscure the images, but that’s only for the exterior. The interior of bookstores can use them to effectively on two fronts. First, to let people know how large and intricate the selection is. Second, to give people more of a clue on the layout of the bookstore. This one is tricky because too much can hurt the image and too little will make it seem unnecessary.
11. When trying to emphasize a certain section of the bookstore, make sure to not cut out too much from the frame. The environment should always be recognizable. Please note on the “don’t” picture, the angles do not line up to either the table or the shelves.
This more or less builds on number 7, in that it’ll allow the customers to get a feel for the sections they’ll rifle through when visiting your store. As always, cutting off edges is the main no-no of proper etiquette and everyone wants to see how fashionable your sections look. This calls for a little more focus than usual with these types of pictures. The key is to keep things eye level as that’ll give each section the air of familiarity that almost borders on deja vu when they finally arrive. If the customer doesn’t question their sanity from there then a worthwhile purchase isn’t far off the radar.
12. An overall view of the bookstore should be included. Remember to have as few as possible distractions in the photograph. Give the photograph as clean a look as possible.
This one should be the easiest photo of all because it only requires you to clean up the overall shot before you snap the pic. That means cleaning up any remote distractions like obscuring furniture, signs, posters, and hell even the people are too distracting from the spanning shot of your fabulous interior… unless of course, that person is an owner in which case strike a pose (not really save that pose for a picture that doesn’t show the majority of what your bookstore looks like).
13. If you want to have products other than books included in the photo, make sure the edges aren’t too cut off and still have books as the center of attention.
Books, Books, Books baby! We all love to show off all the little knick-knacks that catch the eye of booklovers scrolling through their feed, but let’s not forget what they’re there for. Every bookstore needs that touch of personality to distinguish them from the others, but not at the cost of the paperbacks being the focal point of the presentation.
14. Since the purpose is to show off your bookstore, it’s better to have the bookshelves as the main focus as the cafe area is in the background. (Also make sure not to leave too much empty space in the photograph)
If your bookstore is among the elites they might also serve some bookish Gatorade in the form of a cafe area. However, there are some stipulations. While it is great to show off the cafe, the books do need to be the primary focus of the photo selection. (Also, make sure not to leave too much empty space in the photograph. I know that seems like a no-brainer but some of these ‘don’t’ photos prove otherwise.)
15. If you want to include a photo of the cash register area, keep in mind that the photo is not too crowded with people or it defeats the purpose.
Booklovers tend to not like people all too much, I amongst them, so they definitely shouldn’t pollute any parts of the register area when you want to attract them. It might seem counterintuitive (that’s a counter pun for ya), but the focal point of the cash register area should just simply be the cash register area. We’re here to show off the stores, not necessarily the people that populate them, that’s for after they look at your location first.
16. Avoid messy areas to show up in the photo.
You might have noticed that there’s no correct photo example above. That’s because the correct photo would quite literally be any photo of the bookstore that isn’t bombarded with messy tables or uneven stacks of books. No one shopping anywhere wants to step over a pile of products to grab the one they want to buy, so it’s definitely one that shouldn’t appear forever in photograph form.
17. If you have a spot that is surrounded by books, use it.
Imagine that you are a chocolate fanatic (I assume you’re already there) walking into a section like the ones above where in front of you and to both of your sides are nothing but shelves of chocolate from all over the world. Each one is unique in origin and flavor. You’d lose your mind in glee in just mere moments. Now replace chocolate with books and you have the same effect on bookworms. Sections like these are perfect displays of how expansive your inventory can be to new customers, so use them wisely. (However, do keep in mind the proportion of the shelves and other elements in the room be appropriate.)
18. For photos that are using bookshelves as leading lines into the background, make sure that the camera is not angled at a 90-degree angle so that the perspective is distinct.
This one should be simple enough because it involves the photographer taking a half step further away from the side shelf for a better leading line. As long as you have two functioning feet beneath you then all is well.
19. If there is a cozy corner in your bookstore that you want to show off, remember not to cut off edges or leave too many unnecessary empty spaces and keep it neat.
These pics are the favorites amongst Bookstr’s social media photos as everyone wants to hop on these comfortable zones for spending countless hours pouring through the latest read. Customers will absolutely love giving their soon-to-be purchases a test drive before landing at the register. As long as these spaces remain clean (both in and outside the pictures taken) bookworms will flock to these hotspots.
20. Choose an appropriate time and angle to take the photo of your window display so that the reflection doesn’t appear too distractive.
This one is more of an extension of number 9 which detailed carefully using daylight to show off the storefront. Here the same method is needed. But more so, avoid the cluttered reflections from the windows that display books to onlookers. Keeping them in check will definitely add to the aesthetic of window shoppers and will push them into becoming actual shoppers soon enough.
Whether your store is a simple cozy corner spot or an all-out cafe with books encompassing it, the way you present the locale will always play a large role as to whom will give your store a shot. A whole pandemic couldn’t keep the independent book market down, so don’t let a few poorly taken photos sully the reader’s adventurous spirit. After all, taking pictures of your lovely book burrow should be a fun endeavor.
While you keep these tips at heart remember to put yourself in the shoes of an onlooker and think, ‘What’s the one thing this bookstore has aesthetically that would compel me to stop in for a gander?’ and I’m not talking about goose here. As much as readers love text, they equally love visuals to accompany them toward the next series of pages. With all that in mind, your bookstore should echo through the halls of social media until every reader is enthralled to stop by for a purchase.
If you’re wanting some inspritation, check our Bookstr’s webpage here!