This is a simple lesson I originally learned as a photographer. When taking a picture, you have to decide what elements you want in or out of it, and a number of factors are then involved in framing your choice - your distance from the subject, the angle of the camera, the placement of foreground and background objects. Simply put, to achieve a visually pleasing photograph that will need no editing afterward, you have to develop a good eye for balance.
Last time, we talked about proportion. This time, I want to talk about balance, especially in the area of cropping. Cropping is taking the original photograph and adjusting the sides inward, eliminating unnecessary elements and achieving better balance. In photography, I very rarely ever crop because I have framed the photo correctly in the lens. But in book cover design, I crop all the time.
There are a number of reasons, the biggest of which is balance. But the future placement of the text is also a key factor. I have to have clear space for titles, author's name, and any other elements that go on there and sometimes, the original picture simply doesn't work "as is."
Here are two examples:
In this original image, there were two things I didn't like. One, the white spaces on either side of the boy and girl's heads. Two, the piece of a wall showing in the top right. Both are distracting, and in looking at the picture for a while, I decided the simplest choice was to crop it.
The girl's elbow is also slightly distracting, so I decided to crop off the left-side of the image and remove both a portion of that and the white space. To do this, I tilted the picture left slightly. I then zoomed in to remove the wall on the right.
Here is the end result.
This is a much more eye-appealing view of this couple and way more balanced. Text will ultimately be an issue with that checked shirt she's wearing, but I'll work through it eventually.
Here's another example:
Now, frankly, this is not a very good picture, though I did find it on a stock photography site. I chose it thinking several things at one glance. First, that the girl and boy's expressions are great for a YA (young adult) book cover. Second, that with a little work and some cropping, it'll be perfect.
In order to discuss what I did in my final results, I must first list what was wrong.
* The boy's chest. Not super for a Christian YA book cover.
* The gray background. This is the result of bad lighting on the photographer's part.
* The color is a bit off, too pink.
Since this is a horizontal image, I started by taking a 6"x9" crop of the couple (this being my ebook cover size). I then changed the color to black & white. This eliminated the color problems entirely. (For those who wanna know, I used Channel Mixer/Monochrome in Photoshop.) I then changed the background to black (not going to go into how to do that at this time).
Here is the result:
If they aren't just the cutest things now, and all it took was a few minutes of my time.
Getting yourself used to "seeing" what an image could be takes time and experience, and it seems like such small thing to nitpick over, the slight tilt or movement of an image. But in the end, your understanding of proper balance and proportion will create much better book covers, and better covers will create a better image of your books or the books of the author you are working for. That, ultimately, is what's important.
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Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.
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