Shooting with Print in Mind

Whenever I try to compile images for a printed purpose (calendar, photo book, magazine, …) I often struggle to find suitable photographs for given layouts. E.g. for book covers where I want to wrap the cover image around to cover the back side as well, I hardly find many suitable photographs for that purpose in a given context (e.g. a suitable photo from that holiday the book is for). Especially, I tend to not shoot enough “b roll” for that purpose, and I often do not leave enough room around the subject to allow such crops. How are you dealing with this issue? Do you have that in mind while shooting? Do you use layouts that are flexible regarding the picture choice? Are you heavily manipulating the photographs to make them fit your layouts, e.g. by adding additional sky on the top if needed (or by other methods)?

I have limited experience with this but can still think through the problem with you.

I think it depends on the purpose of the photo and the purpose of the physical publication. What is the main objective of the photography and photographer? E.g., are you taking city photos for fun or as a tourist and then deciding that it would be nice to include in a book on architecture? Or did you want to make a book on architecture and are taking photos to complement the text or theme? Is it somewhere in between?

These questions will inform your framing as you make your photos.

Another thought that came to me are stock photos. They are compelling, though possibly generic and lifeless, because you can crop and fit them pretty much anywhere, be it digital or print. What makes them different from other photos? Part of it is that they aren’t so busy or have too much going for them at once. E.g. it may have lots of people but they are probably doing the same thing or part of the same interaction.

Tony Ray-Jones, who trained as a graphic designer, used to get angry with himself for shooting photographs like a graphic designer — leaving space round the subject for captions/headlines, simplifying the subject neatly, creating elegant compositions, arranging the composition to allow the editor extra space to crop if necessary, etc.

As a creative ‘street photographer’, Ray-Jones got furious about the way these habits kept affecting his pictures, turning them into ‘illustrations’, and making them look how pictures “ought” to look.

Sounds like you need to go in the opposite direction, and intentionally design the visual space of your pictures to allow for the wrapping and captioning you will want to insert later — more like a graphic designer would!

Go for it. Do it intentionally.



@afre, @archiemac, thank you so much for your inputs.

@afre: Yes, the kind of photographs and the purpose are impacting this topic. In my case, it’s mainly the backlog I am talking about. This is a lot of holiday photo books that I want to complete for ourselves and the friends or family who were with us (we tend to travel in larger groups :wink:). That means many pictures of people “in action”, and landscapes or cityscapes as b-roll and for the mood.

I am not a graphics designer but I have some idea how I want things to look, not too crowded, simple, maybe a bit elegant or antiquated, but not too artsy. More like a coffee table book than what you often get from the photo book companies. But I struggle to get there, especially because I am not a designer. Anyway, I fail on my standards. Therefore I try simple things that will work in many cases, such as full-page or full-spread images and text overlays, especially for the cover page.

But what does this teach me for shooting? I probably do not recognize that a situation would qualify for a cover. It’s much easier for planned work where I can think about it beforehand, but with two little kids that’s not my typical holiday setting :wink:.

Yes, I think I try to get images tidy and uncluttered anyway, with a clear subject or framing, you might call it lifeless but I think the life comes from the subject, e.g. the facial expression or the interaction between people.

@archiemac, I think I have to google Ray-Jones work, but the main problem is that I do not think about while shooting, not even when I have the time, e.g. shooting a landscape. I am too much focused on the subject. However, now that I wrote it down, who knows what will happen next time, maybe this already helped. I still wonder if there are techniques that could help.

But I will try to do it more intentionally.

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If you are shooting full frame 35mm and your view offers an APS-C mark, would it help to compose to APS-C for awhile and then have the extra full frame background to play with?

Probably, but for a wrap-around cover I would still need to anticipate the possible use of the image. And, I do have a camera with a mirror, which will not give me the required overlay. However, since I wrote the text above a couple of weeks ago, things already improved. I am thinking now more about possible uses while shooting. Writing this down really helped.

Chris, I have the same problem. Possibly more than you do. I am quite bad wrt composition and framing. The crop and rotate tool is the 1st thing I go to when I start editing. I’ve now started to shoot a bit wider than needed, and leave it to the crop tool to salvage the shot.