While I’m definitely not the leading authority on bookstagram, or the most professional photographer, reviewer, etc., I do have some tips that might be useful. Whether you’re just starting out or thinking about starting a bookstagram, or you’ve on on bookstagram for ages, we can always learn from each other.
Starting a bookstagram
Before I took the leap and started my own bookstagram, I’d been lurking at several bookstagram accounts for a few months. My reasons for not starting immediately were mostly rationalisations – no one would like my photos, I had nothing to add, it would either take up too much time or I wouldn’t take enough time to take good pictures, etc. In the end, none of that held up. My photos and captions are personal: they’re something I like, and that’s why I post them. And on the internet, there will always be someone who likes the same things you like. Whether you take hours working on one picture or a few minutes – bookstagram is about connecting people who love books.
Now, some more practical tips for those about to start a bookstagram account: the first things you wanna do are picking a name (ideally something that’s not too long and has something book related in it) and taking a few pictures. You can figure out how often you want to post later, but to start your account it’s best to post ca. three pictures in one go. That way, people will already have some kind of idea what your feed will look like, and they’re more likely to follow you than if you have only one photo.
Of course, what you take pictures of comes down completely to personal preference. (Though, since we’re talking about bookstagram, you’re probably going to want to take pictures of books.) If you’re wondering how to make/keep your pictures interesting, I do have few tips.
- try different places to shoot pictures – maybe go outdoors to shoot some pictures in nature, with a beautiful view, or some interesting architecture. They can all make beautiful backdrops for your bookish pictures.
- try different angles – it might be fun to try a close-up, take pictures of the spine, just the pages, etc. There are many different ways to show off your books!
- try out new props – candles, mugs (with or without tea), flowers, your own hands, stationery, toys, you can use anything to spruce up your photos. Items that have something to do with the book, or just somethings that look pretty, or both.
- get a friend to help you out (or bribe your siblings) – some pictures require the help of a model!
So basically, try something new. Looking at other bookstgram accounts for inspiration always helps, too. And if you don’t like any of this, you can just go for a minimalistic feed! A book, a simple background, and your pictures will look just as great as any crowded flatlay.
Editing your photos
Everyone has their own way to edit – some use instagram filters, some use other apps or photoshop, some don’t edit at all. I take my pictures with my phone (I just feel like taking pictures with my camera and then moving them to my phone would be too much of a hassle, but that’s obviously a personal choice) and then edit them with instagram’s own tools. I don’t use a filter.
When editing, I usually first go for ‘lux’ – the little sun above the picture – which instagram automatically boosts to 50 when you tap it. It doesn’t always make the picture look better, so I see what it does and then either keep it or cancel. Then I go to ‘edit’ on the bottom right and start messing with a few settings. First, brightness. Depending on the picture I make it brighter or darker, but usually the brightness goes up. Then I up the warmth, often to a 100. Lastly I mess with highlights and shadows, once again depending on the picture. (Bonus tip: I often find that, when in doubt, pushing up the brightness a little too much and then toning down the highlights makes for a better picture.) Sometimes I add a vignette, and if the lighting is so bad that I’m still not satisfied, I just mess around with every option I can find until it looks better. (Another bonus tip: if you want to make a black and white picture without using a filter, put the saturation on -100. Maybe that’s something everybody already knows, but it took me a while to come up with…)
I personally have no trouble rambling on about something or other in my captions (which means they’re usually rather long). Writing captions is really a matter of your own preference, but maybe these things will help you if your stuck:
- pick a quote from the book in the picture (or even any old quote). Simple, elegant, everyone loves it.
- talk about the book in the picture. If you can take a picture of it, you can definitely say something about it! Even if it’s just ‘I haven’t read it yet’, you have a caption.
- say something about your day, what you’re reading, etc. This is social media, after all.
- or, go about it like I do and just ramble! About the book(s) in the picture, about a challenge prompt or tag… There must be some people who read it all, right? Right?
Something else a lot of people like to add to their captions is a question of the day, QOTD for short. It’s a fun way to get to know your followers and interact with them. The question can be about anything – I usually ask something related to my caption, but I also love it when people come up with random, weird questions.
If you want people to find your pictures, it’s important to use hashtags! The easiest way to do this is to make a note on your phone with a few generic hashtags so you can copy/paste them into every post. I started out using every generic bookish hashtag I could come up with (#book #books #reading #bookworm #bibliophile etc. etc.), but instagram doesn’t like it when you use too many hashtags. The main hashtag to use is #bookstagram, of course. Then I use a couple of hashtags connected to feature accounts like #igreads and #bookstagramfeature – these accounts are great ways to find new people to follow when you’re just starting out, whether by browsing the hashtag or looking at the featured accounts. With every post I add hashtags specific to the picture: the title of the book(s), the author(s) and things like #bookandtea or #bookandcandle depending on the props I use.
You may notice that some people (myself included) post their hashtags in a comment, and not in the original post. This could be for aesthetic purposes, but I think most people (myself included) do it to avoid losing entire posts due to instagram’s hashtag restrictions. When you use too many hashtags in your post, instagram will post the photo without caption. At least when that happens in a comment, it’s just the hashtags that are lost!
Challenges and tags
A lot of people on bookstagram host and participate in monthly book challenges. (I hosted one in March.) These are a great way to connect to other bookstagrammers, and to keep posting daily (if that’s what you want). As you can see on my bookstagram account, I’m currently doing the #grimdragon and #diversebookmay challenges, and I’ll definitely be joining a few in June.
Tags are like monthly challenges, but instead of being daily prompts, you get tagged to do them. Don’t be afraid to tag people: if they have done tags before they’re probably okay with it, and otherwise it’s only a minor inconvenience (but if someone asks you not to tag them, stop doing it (obviously)). You can always tag me, anyway!
I think I’ve covered every basic topic about bookstagramming – please let me know if there’s anything more specific you’d like me to make a post on! I do have a few more general tips.
- First and foremost: interact! Comment, reply to stories, and yes, even DM people. I’ve never met a bookstagrammer who wasn’t open to conversation. We all love talking about books, after all! Interacting with people is the best way to make friends, find new people to follow, and gain more followers yourself. This is a tip I wish I’d heard myself when I just started my bookstagram!
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. About books, authors, bookstagram terms, etc. No one expects you to know everything, and I don’t think anyone would object to giving book recommendations, for instance.
- Do whatever you like! (Except bullying, discriminating, you know, things you just really shouldn’t do anywhere, including bookstagram.) This account is yours, so if you wanna post a picture of the same book every day, go for it. If you only post about books a handful of people have read, no problem. (You’ll probably make fast friends with those people.) You don’t have to read all the books everyone on bookstagram seems to love. You don’t have to like those books if you’ve read them. That’s not what this community is about! Sure, it’s fun to drool over those books (almost) everyone loves, but it’s also fun to find people who share your love for more underrated books. Perhaps even more so!
I think that’s about it! If you have anything to add, please say so in the comments. And once again, please let me know if there are any bookstagram related topics you’d like me to cover in the future. (Anything from tips, to my inspirations, to things you want to hear my opinion on.)