Thursday, April 23, 2015

Sakura in Central Park

After a particularly harsh winter it was a relief to see spring finally arrive in New York City.  Perhaps nothing so poetically marks the change of season as the sakura now fully in bloom in Central Park.  I took these photos yesterday while walking about among the tourists who thronged the pathways.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Using Photos in Book Cover Design

The importance of having an attractive cover when publishing a novel cannot be overstated. When it comes to selling a work of fiction, whether online or at a physical location, it's very often the cover that determines whether a reader will purchase a given work or move on to the next.  The decision is usually made within a matter of seconds.  While in non-fiction, it is the content of a given work that is of primary importance to the reader, this is not the case with a novel. Here it's more a matter of appearance. The reader is not buying the book so much to obtain needed information as to have an enjoyable literary experience.  The purpose of the cover is somewhat analogous to that of a movie trailer - in the most exciting manner possible, it must offer a preview of what's to follow. 

If a reader is considering purchasing a novel by an unknown author and for which no critical reviews are available, he or she really has very little to go on in making a decision.  This is why proper cover design is mandatory.  To be truly effective, it must catch the eye of the reader and hold it.  In other words, the cover must not only reflect the mood and tone of the work within but must also be enticing enough to induce the reader to part with his cash.  It thus becomes the primary marketing tool available to the author.  

As a photographer, I have one advantage when designing covers for my self-published ebooks and that's that I have an extensive supply of images at hand from which to select.  It is usually not necessary for me to set up a shoot solely for the purpose of photographing a cover.  Instead, I can often find the right photograph simply by browsing through the large number of prints already available.  In deciding which to use, I try to find the that which is most in accord with the spirit of the novel.  After all, this is not a gallery show where the work displayed is that which best represents my skill and artistry as a photographer.  Instead, it is the image deemed most appropriate to accompany the text that is chosen.

Show above is the cover of my novel New York Sonata; immediately below it is the photo I decided to use in its design.  The emphasis here, as in the title of the work, is on the city itself.  The rainy evening weather parallels the opening paragraphs of the novel.

The photographs themselves, both those above and below, were originally shot on black & white film and printed in a wet darkroom before being scanned.  Although I wanted to preserve the integrity of my photographs, I didn't hesitate to colorize them to create a more appealing visual effect.  A book cover is more graphic design than fine art.

Above is the cover of my novel Lucid and the original photo chosen for it.  I wanted something dreamlike, and the use of infrared film conveys that impression very well.  It is not an image that is clear and sharp so much as it is evocative.  Here the model seems to be inviting the reader to participate in the dream itself.  Her pose holds out a promise of mystery.

It should be noted at this point that when using a recognizable likeness of an individual on a book cover, or for any other commercial purpose, it is essential to have that person sign a full comprehensive model release that grants all publication rights to the photographer.  For this purpose, the release shown on the ASMP website is an excellent choice.