Want to know where to go for advice on how to put together a stellar photography book? Darius Himes. Darius is the lead judge for our 2010 Photography Book Now competition and he’s also an acquisitions editor at Radius Books, a non-profit publisher of books on photography and the visual arts that he co-founded in 2007. In 2008, Photo District News (PDN) named him one of the 15 most influential people in photography book publishing
Read on for his take on what makes a winning book. We know it’s a little longer than our usual serving, but it’s great information – especially if you’re working on your Photography Book Now submission.
Dissecting a Winning Photography Book
by Darius Himes
What is exciting to me about the Photography Book Now contest is seeing the wide range of submissions from around the world. There are so many styles and voices –cultures and sub-cultures within photography, that are represented in the contest and that I find fascinating to pore through during the judging process.
Several things stand out when it comes to producing a fantastic and potentially “winning” photography book. They include:
What is this book about? Can you summarize the subject in one clear sentence? The subject matter needn’t necessarily be of deep importance or pressing social relevance –anything is a legitimate subject for a book. But that subject should be readily identifiable.
Strength of the Photographs
It goes without saying that a “winning” book entry contains absolutely stellar work. But you’ll be surprised to know that individual images can be strengthened by the company they keep, which is why editing and sequencing photographs is so important.
Editing and Sequencing
Editing a body of photographs is a unique skill. The goals of the editing process –deciding which images to include and which to leave out – are clarity of vision and a powerful artistic voice. Sequencing those images is the next logical step of the process. I always encourage photographers to research the photography book market and really study the books you like. Be especially attentive to the selection of images and sequence of the overall book.
The placement of the images on each page as well as the consideration of the entire double-page spread is key to the impression a book makes. Page layout is extremely diverse – images can run across the gutter (the seam joining the two facing pages of the book), can bleed off the page, and may vary greatly from page to page and from spread to spread. When you’re designing a book, does the placement of images seem based on conscious choices or do they feel haphazardly situated? Is there a visible logic to the design of the spreads and the presentation of images? How do the photographs relate to the captions and any other text on the page?
Fonts and typefaces are an art form with a rich history, and typeface design is a craft to which people devote their entire lives. As with any and all aspects of the design of a book, it’s extremely helpful to get advice from designers or those whose design taste you trust. A great photography book will be one that has a sophisticated and considered use of text and fonts. You can really become attuned to fonts by studying some of the classics of any genre.
Consider several different images for the cover as well as the cropping of the image, the placement of the title, and the overall impact of the cover design. There are all sorts of schools of thought when it comes to cover design, and the best one for your book rests on a variety of factors. The first factor is about the type of audience you want to attract. The second has to do with what cover most appeals to you and you feel represents the work.
Voice of the Photographer
When you bring all of these factors together you have something that adds up to more than just the sum of the independent parts. A thoughtful, well-designed photography book represents the voice of the photographer, a symphony of thoughts, ideas, creative expression and photographic delight.
Thanks, Darius. For more info on sequencing, typefaces, and book design, check out How to Make a Gorgeous Photo Book. It’s filled with tips from expert book designers and pro photographers.
Just a reminder, the deadline for Photography Book Now submissions is July 16. So, there’s still time to enter your book and take a shot at winning the $25,000 grand prize. We look forward to seeing your submission. Happy bookmaking!