Lessons from Photographing a Book Cover

Shooting a book cover always fills me with great pride, and not just because it is - the first thing buyers see. I’ve loved reading every since I could pick up a book. Back then the Internet didn’t exist, so none of that e-book, digital-edition spew we’ve been seeing lately. There is a certain joy in pulling out a book from the shelf, and holding paper between your fingers.

The Brief

99 Rules for New Dads is written by Shan Wee - a DJ with 91.3FM - and is published by Straits Times Press. Every one knows photographing celebrities can have its challenges. But Shan was very down to earth, and didn’t want the shoot to be bogged down into a full-day session with intense wardrobe and makeup changes. He arranged for the props and a personal stylist so that I could focus on the lighting and photography.

The concept was brief and exciting: Shan would be an infant-carrying badass armed with baby gear. It was a cross between macho and parody, but ultimately we wanted people to pick up the book just by looking at the cover. 

The Tricky Part

I’ve photographed babies before, and even as a father myself, capturing them with the right look is tough! It was one of my main concerns going into this shoot, as not event parents can control a baby’s temperament. So we decided to be smart about it. I would photograph’s Shan’s solo shots before bringing the baby in. When the little one did come in, there was a big enough entourage to keep him excited and curious.

Here’s the full cover, front and back with flap. We took about 2 hours to photograph the three different sets, including time for styling. 

The Verdict

I found my lack of creativity holding me back. Considering the theme, I could have gone with really harsh lighting to bring out Shan’s raggedness. But I was afraid it would look bad on the baby. In the end I went with a big soft box camera left and a hair light to the right. I’m happy with the results, just wondering how I could do better.

In a lot ways the timing of this shoot was impeccable. My son was a month old at the time and the book’s subject couldn’t have been more fitting. Lately I’ve also been keen to pursue more long term projects - books being a prime example. I really hope more of these will come.

Star Wars Brings a Galaxy Together

Star Wars fans, despite being crazily passionate and vehemently opposed to Trekkies (Star Trek fans), are all about community. We carry so many stories – different experiences of how this saga has shaped our lives, perspectives, and values. Essentially, we are as different as human beings can get, but it is this bond – The Force, if you will –  that binds us together.

I was really surprised to hear the news a few years ago that George Lucas would be selling the entire franchise to Disney. Great because Disney has the resources to take the story further as Lucas was adamant on not creating more films. Bummer because corporate sensibilities would be taking over a visionary’s dream. How will this sale affect the saga? That story is still being written.

Our story, as fans, is going on strong. We’ve had Episode VII: The Force Awakens last year, and now for the second year running a massive fan screening was held. Tremendously grateful for the organizers Hansen and Suhaimi (de facto leaders of our community) to give me the opportunity to capture this giant group shot. It’s far from a perfect photo. I’d admit that there should be more fill light. Nevertheless it’s with great pride that I had a hand in creating it. Being a part of this community means a lot to me. Find one that you feel strongly about, and the rest will fall into place.