While creativity is an author’s forte, sometimes the more practical side of our brain can be lacking, especially when it comes to the business aspect of writing. But reality eventually hits home when we have to put out more than words: Sometimes we have to put out cash.
This was the case last April when I arranged for a photo shoot that involved several factors. I needed a location, a model, a Colonial American costume, a makeup artist, and, most importantly, a photographer. And I needed to accomplish all this on a shoestring budget.
This is where that creativity can come into play and help an author take “the path less traveled” in order to make it successful.
I must add here that this photo was not required by my publisher. I chose to come up with this venue to illustrate an idea for my book cover. As usual, I took the idea and ran with it. Thankfully, my husband was on board with the elaborate dream.
So, for a photo shoot, when we think of “model,” most of us assume professional. On a shoestring budget, that is not happening. After searching various venues to find just the right young lady for my proposed book cover, I was blessed with seeing a photograph of my future model on a Facebook friend’s post. I knew she was the right one when I saw her image. But if you don’t have an unprofessional model in mind, I would approach either a high school drama coach or community theater group to try to find the person with the right “look” for your cover.
If you need a costume, that can get tricky, but again, a local drama department might have resources to refer you to a seamstress. Always check around and spread the word; your friends can be the best connections to resources. Be aware that this requires paying for the material for the outfit, as well as paying the seamstress. You may be able to get a good bargain, but everyone that you hire for any part of this photo should be compensated in some way.
Since my photo shoot required disrupting the owners of a Colonial American house for a couple of hours, I made sure that I paid them a small fee for their time and trouble. I also brought the food and bottles of water so the homeowners did not have to provide us with anything extra. I chose the food carefully—simple sandwiches and a plate of cut fruit—because it was easy to clean up and provided healthy nourishment for a tired group. Photo shoots take energy!
I knew the photographer was going to be my biggest expense and here is where you must choose a professional. If a photo is going to be used on a book cover, the high-resolution image must be perfect and the lighting just so. Uncle Harry may be asked to photograph a family wedding now and then but, unless he is actually a professional, just smile and graciously decline his offer. While professional photographers are expensive, especially if they have to travel to a location, they are the only ones to hire.
It so happened that my photographer was a friend from church—but she was definitely professional. I viewed some of her images online and was satisfied that she could do the job. She was not only capable but this photo shoot was something new for her resume and she gladly accepted the assignment for the opportunity to add to her credentials. She was so excited to be a part of this photo session that she agreed to a fee that I’m certain was a reduced one.
The last person I needed to hire was a makeup gal. I had no idea there was an entire sub-culture of makeup artists who charge fees to do professional makeup jobs either in your home or theirs. Our artist was delightful and knew just how to apply the right amount of makeup so my model looked natural, without worry of the lights washing out her skin tones.
Every one of these aforementioned participants required a payment. Obviously, the amount can be negotiable but you must pay them a fee that makes their time worthwhile. Once a fee is agreed upon, be sure to include that in the contracts that you and the participants sign.
Now we have segued into an extremely important aspect of this photo shoot: Release forms and contracts. These are the documents that will hopefully protect you from running into any legal trouble that might result from the photo session.
First of all, the homeowner needs to sign a form stating that you have been permitted to use their home for the purpose of a book cover. You need to keep the homeowner’s name and location confidential. I cannot stress that enough!
You also need to state on the release that you are liable for any damages to their home that might occur from the photo session. Be sure to add that you hold all rights to the photos taken in their home.
You can download photo release forms and each one needs to be tailored to the specific individual.
You should also download some kind of copyright agreement with the photographer and model to make certain that your ownership of the photos from the shoot is yours. You do not want someone seeking royalties from an image. It must belong to you.
If the model is a minor, the photo release form must be signed by the parent or guardian.
Each release form or copyright agreement form should include two signatures (yours and the individual person making the agreement), along with complete addresses of both parties.
And of course, always include the date.
I hope this series on creating the photo for my book cover has been beneficial in some way to other authors. This photo session took some money, a lot of organization, creative thinking and mostly, a Divine hand that seemed to guide me each and every step of the way. I am still in awe of God’s blessing on the project. And I am delighted with His handiwork. 🙂