Shooting erotic book cover photographs is not difficult but requires a little thought and preparation.
Start The Right Way (Up)
Book covers are generally vertical. Even e book readers are usually used in vertical format. No publisher is going to redesign their book to fit your horizontal photo, no matter how good it is. I have sold hundreds of pictures for covers and only one was horizontal. The publisher wanted to wrap it around the front and back covers.
This may sound obvious but I recently saw a mass of entries for a magazine cover competition. The publisher stated ‘our magazine is vertical format so we need an upright picture for the cover’. Nearly a third of the entries were horizontal.
Many years ago, when the only things that were digital were your fingers or your watch, I won a photographic magazine’s cover girl competition. Not me personally you understand – one of my photographs.
A couple of weeks later an excited young photographer and his girlfriend, who just happened to be the scantily clad subject of the winning photograph, arrived at a posh Park Lane hotel for the prize giving. I don’t remember much about the event apart from one rather disparaging comment from the editor. ‘Your picture won because you were the only one who left space for the title.’ This was probably not the most tactful thing to say to an aspiring young photographer about his first competition win.
Over a hundred book and magazine covers later, ‘You won because you left space for the title’ turned out to be good advice. As photographers we strive to create a well composed image which often means tightly cropped. Designers love something they call copy space. That is blank or featureless background they can drop copy or logos into.
More published work
The titles of some of these books do appear over the subject but the designer has plenty of blank space to put the logo on.
Know Your Market
Silvermoon’s books were generally on the themes of BDSM, submission and spanking. Bums (butts, bottoms, derrieres) sold books. A lot of sales were of real books so the covers could be full or three quarter length as they were being viewed paperback size.
The e book publisher above preferred closely cropped, anonymous images as these were being viewed as thumbnails.
No Nipples Please (and now knickers please).
Nudity is fine* but most of the major distributors and retailers, both in the real and virtual worlds, have a policy of no visible nipples or pubic hair. Amazon does seem to relax this for photo book covers but fiction publishers seem to err on the side of modesty probably to make sure their books are accepted across all platforms.
* Since I originally wrote this most of the major online retailers have tightened their criteria even further. Bottoms are forbidden, unless covered by a pair of knickers that wouldn’t make your granny blush. Most of the Silver Moon covers would now be deemed unacceptable due to their fondness for showing the female behind in all its peachy glory.
Creating the Scrap Yard Nudes Calendar – more published work
Want to know more?
Free Stuff & Discounts
Subscribe to my Newsletter and receive a free copy of Using Window Light to Photograph Nudes plus exclusive updates, free critiques and a discount on prints and books.
Simon Pocklington is a professional photographer with a wealth of experience.
He has published several books on photography.