Harry Wilkins Photography

Finding a photographer for ebook cover images


For my part, it’s fun writing and self-publishing eBooks about vampires, demons, werewolves, sorcerers and other supernatural creatures. But those dynamic eBook cover images require finding a photographer or an illustrator.

My love of cinema demands that I go with live model images. To this end, I recruited a team to help create the new images for a revitalized “Shadowdance” saga. That team includes the following:

  • A photographer
  • A makeup artist/ hairstylist
  • Models

In this post, I’ll discuss looking for a photographer. Posts next week (don’t want to get lost in the “Batman vs Superman” cloud!) will cover looking for models and makeup artists. A final post will discuss the legal aspects of all this stuff.

And yes, there are legal aspects — unless you’re self-publishing for fun and not profit. But you’re looking for some profit with that fun, right?

Finding a photographer – pro vs. amateur

It’s a temptation to just use your phone to capture your images. Then your promo work might look like Kim Kardashian’s Instagram posts. With clothes on (hopefully?).

That’s great for social media; not so great for the banner above your convention table or the web ad on Goodreads. People already think self-publishing is all ego and amateur; don’t support that idea by having amateur images.

This doesn’t mean you have to go with an expensive pro shooter (but if you can afford it, do it!). Keep in mind, though, pros have the experience. They can get you locations or studio space at a reduced rate (or maybe even free!). They know models, makeup artists, hairstylists and other networked contacts that will make your life easier.

When talking to the pros, always share your concept of the book and your desired images. That expensive pro shooter may love the concept and work a deal for a lower rate or some other quid pro quo just to be a part of the team.

If your budget won’t allow for the pro shooter, ask around. You may have a friend, colleague or familiar who loves photography, has an eye for it, and is willing to work with you on a low-to-no budget basis.

You may even get lucky and find someone who is a pro shooter, moonlights in another field and is dying to get back in the photography game.

Never know until you ask.

Keep in mind that an amateur probably won’t have the insider access to models, studios etc. that a pro would. This means more work on your end.

If you’re really stumped, try searching Model Mayhem for photographers. I’ll have more on that site in the “finding a model” discussion.

What to look for in a photographer

The first thing you need to see from a photographer is their portfolio. Most photogs worth their effort have a website with their images on display. Portrait and wedding work can illicit some interesting images, but it’s the world of fashion that really lets a photographer bust out his inner Da Vinci.

When looking at the photographer’s work, see if their style matches the world of your book. You spent all that time laboring in the development of a world; don’t dishonor that work by misrepresenting it in your promo images.

How to secure your photographer

Once you’ve decided on a photographer, you have to negotiate the deal.

Pro shooters will have a set rate, usually hourly with a minimum number of hours or a flat day rate. If you’re shooting a single model with minimal clothing changes, you can probably get away with a half day, which most people hold to four or five hours.

Decide on the half/ full day thing at the outset. Whatever you decide, that time will ripple to the other players in your shoot.

Also be prepared to pay a percentage of your fee up front to book the photographer. This is a standard “good faith” practice that shows you’re serious about the job.

If the photographer demands the whole nut up front, I’d be wary. This shooter better be either a good friend or “Vanity Fair” worthy. Also, don’t offer to pay a percentage. Only do so when asked and if reasonable.

Once you’ve worked out payment with the photographer, book your date for the shoot. Book an alternate day in case of, particularly if you’re planning for an outdoor shoot. And then, before you sign any contracts, figure out the legal stuff.

Since the legal is fairly similar to the models, I’ll cover that in a separate post.

Next week, I’ll include links here to info on finding models or makeup artists. The following link will take you straight to the boring (but necessary) legal stuff.

Have questions? Comments? War stories? Post them in the comment section below or post to @Shadowdancesaga on Twitter or Facebook.

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