Six great ways to enhance your bookshop event photography, by Matt Bialostocki

SLR_cameraIf you know how to use it, an SLR camera will always be better than a point-and-shoot. What follows is some fairly general suggestions for recording the events in your bookshop:

  1. Decide what you’re taking a photo of and focus on that subject. It’s going to be a book, or a display, or a speaker, or an author, or a staff member who just started dancing behind an unsuspecting author. Almost all cameras bought in the last 3 years will have an auto-focus feature, which should suit you fine – as long as you choose what you want to focus on.

    The Luminaries_Matt_Bialostocki

    The focus in this photo is on the title.

  2. Bookshops have low lighting and a lot of events are held at night. Whatever you’re photographing will always show up better if it is well lit, no matter what setting your camera is on. Try to set up books and stand/seat authors in a well-lit part of your store before photographing them.


    Poor lighting (but beautiful silhouettes) versus strong lighting – compare the faces in both shots

  3. When you’re taking photos, think about what you want to take away from the event. Flooding a website or newsletter with forty photos is overwhelming and busy – really, what you want is to take away seven or eight good shots. So what are the seven things about the room, or throughout an event, that you most want to record? Snap away, take as many as you need to, but when you’re deciding what to use at the end remember that its’ easier to look through 5-8 good shots than it is to look through 16 dull ones.Good examples: The Author/speaker, the book/books, the crowds, display, happy customers, the author with the staff. A photo of people listening can be as valuable as one of someone speaking.


    Eleanor Catton, a quite-happy author.

  4. When you have more than one person speaking, try to photograph each person from a slightly different angle. It adds variety to the photos.
  5. Sometimes a mediocre photo can become great with a little touching up. There are several free programs available online that have great tutorials as well. Picasa and iPhoto are both good, but do some research into which one is right for you. Surprisingly, there are also books available for most of them.
  6. It’s important to acknowledge that some people just do not like to be photographed. Try to be aware of how people are feeling around you. At the beginning of an event check with the author to make sure it’s ok to take photos of them. If someone is uncomfortable being in a shot, let them out of it. People do not have an obligation to be involved!

Matt Bialostocki is a writer, photographer and bookseller based in Wellington. You can see his work online at, and a collection of book launch photos at Contact for more info.

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