Picking the right images for your book

BookMachine Oxford

This is a guest interview with Rebecca Swift, Director of Creative Planning at iStock (speaker at BookMachine Oxford during BookMachine Week)

1. What advice would you give to publishers to help them pick the right images for their books?

Choose images that you love. Don’t compromise on imagery, it does not mean spending lots of money but being focused on what your imagery is representing in your book. Don’t allow the images to be space fillers. The modern visually literate audience is subconsciously aware of images that are not chosen with care and consideration. At their worst, images are deemed cliched and outdated.

2. Which publishers have made a success of using striking imagery well?

I always go back to Dorling Kindersley when I get asked that question. Especially their large format reference books. Huge double page spreads and large close up images. It is truly engaging. This combined with the classic DK white space makes their publications instantly recognisable. My personal favourite is Taschen although that is cheating somewhat because their titles are mostly on visual arts and design but their use of imagery is fabulous.

3. What did your team learn from working on the Lean In project?

Lean in has made us think about all the enduring stereotypes that we get annoyed at or are so used to seeing, we don’t think to get annoyed. The depiction of women in the media (in advertising photography especially) is an on-going debate and is discussed in all media circles but has yet to be resolved. We made the decision to start using our power and reach to do something about it. As a result we are also rethinking age, disability, body shape and ethnicity.

4. How do you see the way images are selected evolving over the next 5-10 years?

We have spent the last 5-10 years being over excited by the huge choice of imagery available to us. User generated photography has been the most exciting episode in photographic history since the invention of the art itself. There has been a shift from a few technically skilled experts with expensive equipment to the availability for all and the world very quickly learned the necessary skills. The next 5-10 years will settle down with a better understanding of what is skill and what is cheap and readily available in photography. There are still huge swathes of content that have not been captured – diversity is still not well represented in imagery for example. Localised imagery will become the norm.

5. What training do you think people need to be well placed to work with images, used both online and offline?

There are formal training programmes offered as night classes or even as higher education qualifications. It is worth doing these courses if they have strong industry links. The best image people are those that take an interest, have a passion and are constantly seeking visual stimulation.

6. Many of your projects are very collaborative. What would be your top tip for making partnerships work?

Collaboration is hugely satisfying if it is effective. It works best when collaborators are either equally skilled in the project they are completing or if they have complementary skills.

Rebecca will be talking about this and more, at the BookMachine event in Oxford on Thursday 26th February

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