How to Get a Cheap Cover – Part V

(I’ve been running a series on my MySpace blog called “Adventures in Indie Publishing” where I tell everyone how I made a muck up of it all so that they don’t have to.  At the moment I’m exploring “How to Get a Cheap Cover” and, after a suggestion from Ruth, I decided to post it here as a series (because it’s a long, long post!)

In my last post i discussed where to find free or cheap photographs to use as cover art, but what if you just can’t find what you want? well, you can always take the picture yourself!It’s easier than you think to get good photos, especially with a digital camera.

Okay, so you want a photo of something in particular – that cool tree across from your house or the neighbor’s house or – erm. Well, there might be a catch. You see, you can’t just go about putting pictures of people’s houses on your book covers. If it’s recognizable property – eg if someone could look at it and say “Hey, that’s the Smith’s house!” then you have to ask them if they care and/or get a property release. How recognizable does it have to be. Well, a whole house/building shot for sure. However, a lone apple tree in a field not so much. Who’s going to recognize where a lone apple tree came from? The same thing goes with people. If you can see their face then you need a model release from them. Now you see why so many book covers show the back of people’s heads, or cut off at their faces, huh? Jolly big pain in the butt. But, on the other hand, do you want to find out one day that you’re on the cover of a book about a psycho who murders children? Or that the house you’re trying to sell is the cover art for a book about the worst houses ever? No, probably not.

With this in mind, you still have a particular something/someone in mind. Fantastic! I’m going to assume you have a camera, and I’m going to assume you know how to use it. However, being a hobbyist photographer, I feel the need to give you some annoying tips.

You may think you want flash on close up object shots, but you don’t. At first glance they may look fantastic, but when you go back and look you’ll see all these annoying little “too bright” highlights. If you know how to use your manual settings then you’re set, but if not things can be trickier. One way around the flash problem is to take your photos outside, if possible. Not in full on sunlight, though, or you’ll have the glare again. The perfect light – in my opinion, is about two hours after dawn and about two hours before sunset, so long as you’re camera is not facing the east/west respectively.

Another thing is that you only need to have what is inside the view screen “set up”. You may be tempted to create some elaborate setup – but you don’t need to. Some of the photos I have of blood splattered on wood are on a cutting board, but you’d never know it because the edges of the board are cropped off.

(prime example)

bloody cross 2

Cropping is your friend.

And for a last tip, always, and I mean always, check exactly what you’re photographing. Make sure there aren’t ski poles sticking up out of someone’s head (hee-hee). Make sure there’s not an orange glow from a nearby lamp. Make sure your reflection isn’t visible in the chrome. Yes, all these things are fixable in an art program, but it’s so much easier on everyone involved if you don’t have to fix them!

So, enough of my tips! Get your shot and upload it to your computer. To do this you will need to do one of three things: Scan the hard copy photograph or – with your digital camera – plug the camera in via a cable to your USB port or pop your SD memory card out of the camera into the card reader/card slot. Something should pop up, or you can go to “My Computer” and open the camera/card directly from there. (look for something that has either the brand name of your camera or else a drive letter you don’t recognize, like D:) Copy the photo and save it in a place where you can find it – because you’re going to need it!

As far as photo editing goes, I’m not going to say a lot about this because I’ve done tutorials on this before. If you’re interested, you can check out Easy Image Manipulation where I cover the basics of “maniping” (aka Manipulating) or “photoshopping” an image and Photo Effects where I demonstrate a lot of photo effect, such as black and white, clone brushing things like electrical wires out and much, much more.

Handy Links:

All about releases:

All about Model releases (includes a sample release):

Using property releases:

The Copyright Tutorial: (worth a read for all photographers!)

Photo Tips and More:


Digital Photography Tips:

Tips and tricks for Amateurs:

Night Shooting:

Image editing;
Get GIMP – a free but powerful program!

41 amazing photoshop tutorials: (if you have another program and understand it these can be used to give you the general idea)

Photo effects Tut:

Easy Image Manipulation:


  1. It’s insane that you have all this information–but insane in a good way. 😉 I love that you’re detailed and have the links on hand.

    I have found there is a definite art to taking photographs. All of mine pretty much suck, so I’ve bummed a couple from my mother-in-law. And thankfully, they are in the middle of nowhere and no one can tell where the pictures were taken.

    As for being on the cover for a psycho who kills children, I think my kids would look at it and say, “Yes, Mom always looks like that.” 😛

  2. I’m a link collector. my bookmark folders are insane. I’m also a lunatic when it comes to researching things to death and on very friendly terms with the google search 😉

    I think the secret to photos is the balance – both the light/dark and the balance of the objects in it. My art teacher used to stress at me all the time “1/3 black. 1/3 gray and 1/3 white” and, while that doesn’t translate over exactly to colored photographs, the basic idea is the same regarding shadow, highlights and midtones, I think. unless you want a lot of drama, then you want to step up the darkness.

    LMAO!! I’ll remember that if I need a psycho killer book cover! hee-hee!! :p

    1. Stephannie Beman says:

      😀 Your bookmark folder sounds like mine. And I too research things to death.

      I love this series. It is so helpful.

Comments are closed.