Wednesday, September 23, 2020

PHOTO TIP #1 for Ilustrating Your Next Book: Point of View

For many years I worked with professional photographers who illustrated my books with their photos. We worked as a team--I wrote the text and the photographer took the pictures. I learned a great deal about photography from them. For several of my newest books, including Hatching Chicks in Room 6 and Butterflies in Room 6, I have been my own photographer.

As I was cleaning out my teaching files recently I found a list of photo tips from my friend and fellow Grinnellian, Martha Cooper, a professional photographer best known for her photographs of subway art in New York city. She is also the illustrator of three children's books, My Two Worlds, Lion Dancer and Anthony Reynoso: Born to Rope.

At a class Martha and I taught together some years ago, she handed out a list of photo tips. Today, almost everyone is a photographer--we carry cameras in our pockets in our phones. Whether you are illustrating a children's book, creating a magazine story, assembling a slide show or family album, or even just sharing favorite photos with a friend, I think you will find her advice useful. She says:

LOOK and THINK before you shoot. A good eye is more important than a good camera.

Tip #1.  Think carefully about how and where and with what text your photos will be used. Are you aiming for specific documentation or evocative illustration or a combination?
Shoot with a point of view. Concentrate on situations which best express the proposed or existing text. No matter how picturesque or graphically interesting a photo is, it will wind up in the reject pile unless it is relevant to the particular story you are working on. (Martha Cooper)

Example: Both Hatching Chicks in Room 6 and Butterflies in Room 6 are photo essays. In both books I needed to document the growth process in real time, which meant photographing each step of the life cycle--from egg to adult. This involved some close-up photography. But I also was documenting the children's participation in the process and their emotional reactions. This involved wide-angled shots placing the activity within the classroom. One of my favorite pictures in the butterfly book shows the children clearly entranced as they observe the chrysalises in their enclosure.
Photo for p. 15, Butterflies in Room 6
Look for more of Martha Cooper's tips in coming weeks on this blog.

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