I suppose it may be classified as ‘vanity publishing’ but I would encourage any photographer to produce a book of photos by ‘print on demand’ company Blurb.co.uk My experience shows it has sharpened my photography and provided a handy sized means of showing my photography. There is a big difference between posting photos to Instagram, and holding the printed version. Principally, thank you to Daniel Milnor and his YouTube channel. It may his job to be a ‘creative evangelist’ for Blurb in the US, but his humour and understanding of art was a great encouragement to get my photos printed in ‘trade book’ and ‘magazine’ formats. So, what have I photographed to put in these books?
My back garden
I am a long way from the death-defying nature of those photographers whose work features in newspaper websites and goes on to be venerated books. I just photographed the flowers, fruit and vegetables that have been cultivated in my back garden. It surprised me that there would be technical issues with such a tame subject. For a start, the sky obviously figured in several shots, and reviewing them on the screen of the Fujifilm XA-7 showed the sky had burned out in several shots, and even in the highlights on courgettes. I was unthinkingly adjusting the exposure compensation to get detail in the shadows, without considering the range of contrast in the scene altogether. Then there was depth of field issues. Once the first ‘trade book’ was printed, I saw how I had not taken time to ensure depth of field in the right place. I was more concerned to avoid camera shake. I now see the benefit of using a tripod. After all, even runner beans don’t move that fast. Which leads me to consider creating ‘still life’ in the style of the Dutch Old Masters. Well, my wife is proud of the vegetables, so an exercise in classic composition would be a good lesson for me.
What I learned
I am about to produce my third publication, a magazine. I realise that any subject may need a variety of shots in landscape AND portrait format to suit the layout. Also the format: 3:2 or 4:3? That can influence how the photo fits on the page, sometimes allowing for text. Ensure that the subject in focus is first in the sequence of objects in the frame. Even a small out-of-focus object can be a distraction in guiding the viewer around the frame. Using Velvia film simulation for flowers and plants works really well.