One of my favourite parts of book blogging is definitely #bookstagram.
“What is #bookstagram?” you might ask if you’ve been living under a rock and haven’t seen its wildfire takeover across the blogosphere. WELL. I will explain all.
#Bookstagram = Instagram for books.
Most people with instagram accounts like to post pictures of their food, their children, their selfies, the poltergeist in their bathroom, their coffee, their engagement ring, or new car they just bought or…BASICALLY THEIR LIFE. When it comes to bookstagram…we bookworms are also posting about our lives. It just happens to be 100% books.
Today I shall guide you throw how to kick start your #bookstagram obsession.
Because you probably don’t have enough to do already. And it’s also super fun and you don’t want to miss out on how fun this is. Trust me. I know everything. But before we dive in, feel free to follow me @paperfury…just sayin’. I’m friendly and probably won’t eat you.
EDIT NOTE: This post has been updated November 2018.
This part is rather obvious. But hey I’ll say it anyway. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ The only tricky part here is that you must have a smartphone (or an iPod touch or iPad) to actually be able to use the app. It is not available on the computer. I AGREE THAT THIS SUCKS. Someone talk to instagram. Make them change their ways and threaten them a little with dragons and the promise of a life with no snacks if they don’t comply.
Sign up. Create yourself a user name. Write a bio. Admire the blank screen.
- Pick a username that matches your blog. Or your name. IF YOU CAN. Obviously the user name you like might already be taken and you’ll have to be creative. But shortness is key. If your user name is Books-Are-My-Best-Friends-In-All-The-World-Of-Ever-I-Love-Them-So … I will 100% die. Try to keep your name to two or three words. Making it match your blog is super handy, too, because it makes you easier to find. FOR INSTANCE: I am @paperfury absolutely everywhere.
- Writing bios is HARD. And don’t look at mine, it’s atrocious. But maybe put 4 or 5 words about yourself. Ideas include maybe your country, your age, your favourite cake, your favourite author, your hobbies. Make it brief. Mine also includes my book title since i’m an author.
- Add a link to your blog. You only get to have one link, unless you use something like linktree, which I thoroughly recommend because then you can use a whole stack of links and truly live again.
USING THE RIGHT CAMERA
People assume you have to have DSLR. You do not! You can affably use an iPhone camera. But I will say — the better the quality, the more people are going to like your shots. If you take grainy photos…..eh.
However I do have DSLR and it’s a Nikon D3200 and I only ever use automatic BECAUSE I KNOW NOTHING, JON SNOW. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
Yet I still get pretty far, so there you go.
Anyway. Feel free to use whatever camera you have on hand. If you have a relative/friend with a nice camera, steal from them too. I stole from my parents for about 6 months before buying my own camera.
“What the mangled monkey does that even mean anyway????” you grumble because now I’m just getting pretentiously complicated with this tutorial. BUT KEEP YOUR POLKA DOT SOCKS ON. I shall explain.
Actually I’m going to screenshot a dictionary. Ha.
Basically “aesthetic” on bookstagram relates to how you want your feed to look. Is your aesthetic consistent? Do you automatically know who’s photo that is when you see it? Does your feed match? Is your feed aesthetic black and white…super colourful…a consistent background???? Etc. Etc.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:
(They’re totally not frequently asked…but they could be. I’m being organised just in case.)
- DO YOU HAVE TO HAVE A CONSISTENT FEED? No you don’t. You can do whatever the heck you want because guess what….it’s your bookstagram.
- WILL A CONSISTENT FEED GET ME MORE FOLLOWERS? I personally noticed a huge increase in my followers when I started trying to get a theme going.
- HOW DO I GET A NICE BOOKSTAGRAM AESTHETIC? You take photos. They don’t have to be identical. But you work with patterns. For instance: my theme is cluttered and colourful. Someone else might be simplistic. Someone else might take 90% of their photos outside.
- CAN I STILL POST PICTURES OF MY DOG ON THERE? Aren’t you listening, dangit? YOU CAN DO WHATEVER YOU WANT. But. Be ye aware that often people follow accounts that look visually pleasing all the time. If you want to grow your account, make sure it’s like 98% books and 2% your dog. Or better yet, put a book on your dog’s head. That works.
Props are a scary thing because WHERE DO YOU GET GOOD ONES FROM IF YOU DON’T WANT TO SPEND $89093840 DOLLARS?
Calm down. I’ve got you covered.
You don’t have to spend money on your #bookstagram account if you don’t want to! After all those books are downright expensive by themselves. Another PRO TIP is to use what you already have about your house.
FREE OR CHEAP PROP IDEAS:
- ORIGAMI. I am an origami lover. I frequently use lucky stars and kusudama balls and paper cranes in my photos. Which anyone can make! Better yet, get that old ARC you don’t want, cut it up, and turn it into art. VOILA. Genius. Or, to be even more of a genius, you can hop over to my Etsy store and I WILL MAKE THEM FOR YOU. (Support me. I’m poor.)
- YOUR BOOKSHELF. It makes a grand backdrop. Especially if it’s organised. Go do that.
- FAKE WOODEN PHOTOGRAPHY MATS. Okay, I have a love/hate relationship with mine. It was $7 off ebay…which is really not a lot. Mine is basically a sheet of material that looks like white floorboards. The problem is…it scrunches and looks like material. I assume you can get expensive, better quality, ones that don’t do this. But have we met? My name is Scrooge. (EDIT 2018: I actually ended up drawing my own rainbow mat! Not super cheap once I used up 50 million pens, but very pleasing to behold and helped keep my theme cohesive.)
- PAGES OF THINGS. I use ripped out pages of a very old, browned book. I also use atlas pages and scrapbooking pages. (Remember how I run that etsy store? I have a lot of pretty paper lying around.) If you don’t have anything on hand, may I suggest a thrift-store? Or 2nd hand store? I buy atlases for around $3 each and often get my books free because they’re old and spotty and no one else wants them. (THANK YOU LIBRARY.)
- MUGS. This is super easy. Every house has mugs.
- ART SUPPLIES. Like me you might not be an artist at all. Also like me, maybe someone else in your family is. Steal from them. They’ll understand it’s books before bros. I also use old tins/cans that I’ve saved from cooking, let go a little rusty, and then fill with pencils. BECAUSE AESTHETIC. I also have a lot of Bic markers, which are fake sharpies. They look fabulous in photos.
- RANDOM THINGS ABOUT YOUR HOUSE. Honestly just trawl your house and nab stuff. My mother keeps peacock feathers. I found a wooden little elephant in the cupboard. I found hessian sacking too. SCORE. Pretty plates? Knick-nacks? Buttons? Jewellery? Skull bones? Old photos? Food? Musical instruments? ALL CAN BE USED.
- FLOWERS: Fake flowers are best, but also keep an eye out for other people’s abandoned bouquets. I tell you Valentine’s day is a fabulous time. You can also get wildflowers from florists that last a long time because they dry out instead of die. That’s what I have…although they shed like nothing else omg.
- YOURSELF. Your face, your hands, your feet. Kidnap a child and make them pose too.
- PLAIN WHITE BACKGROUND: I bought a small piece of white cardboard from a Newsagency. (What is that in American language? An art store? IDEK.) It was like $1.
Now how do you actually take the photos?
This is an excellent and mysterious question, my fiends, and I will actually not give you many tips because, like I mentioned, I KNOW NOTHING.
But here are some general guidelines I’ve acquired during my short #bookstagram career. (I’ve been going for about 1.5 years, I believe.)
- NATURAL LIGHTING. Everyone says this…but what does it mean??? Take your photos near a window. Don’t use flash. Don’t take your photos at 5pm in the afternoon.
- FLAT-LAYS VS ANGLES. Why can’t we have both? I do a lot of flaylays (the camera is directly above the book arrangement) but angles are fun too.
- FIGURE OUT YOUR STYLE. This will help you know how you want the photos to turn out. Do you want a messy throw-everything-in-there style? Will your photo just display the book? Are you using a backdrop or taking them on your bed or by a wall or with your bookshelf in the background?
- BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. What’s in the back of your photo? Your messy kitchen? Are you taking the photo on your kitchen table? IS IT CLEAN? Are you taking it with a window directly in the background? It’ll probably be too bright and washed-out-looking. Are you taking it outside? NOT IN FRONT OF THAT SCRAPPY BUSH. MOVE TO YOUR LEFT.
- DON’T COPY OTHER’S STYLES TOO CLOSELY. I mean duh. But this needs to be said REPEATEDLY because it really sucks to have your style stolen! Trust me! Be inspired by other people, but don’t copy exactly.
EDITING YOUR PHOTOS
I’ve discovered that most bookstagrammers don’t edit their photos. WHICH IS COMPLETELY FINE. But I am a perfectionist and editing is where my photos actually turn out…nice. (Plus I use my DSLR and don’t have a phone, so I have to send the photos to my iPod anyway. I might as well edit them before that.)
But the basic idea is (A) make it brighter, (B) sharpen it up so it’s really cripsy like a bacon sandwich, (C) crop out anything unsavoury…like my feet which always end up in there, and (D) add a watermark.
NOTE: Watermarks are, of course, very optional. I use them because my photos constantly get stolen. Or “reposted”…but the person reposting says NOTHING ABOUT THE FACT IT’S MY PHOTO IN THEIR CAPTION. They just tag me for goodness knows what reason. So I can see they’re using my photo like their own??? HELP ME CONTAIN MY DRAGONISH WRATH. Ahem. So use watermarks if you want. Or don’t.
What’s a hashtag? It’s a GLORIOUS way for people to find your photos. I just click on #bookstagram and thousands of photos and accounts will come up for me to browse. Do not underestimate these!! People browse them all the time, and if you want new followers — HASHTAG IT, FIENDS.
Here are some common hashtags you could use: #bookstagram #bookworm #bookphotography #bibliophile #booklover #bookaddict #instareads #book #bookblogger #instabook #reader #bookish #bookgram #beautifulbooks #reading #booktag #prettybooks #coverlove
Make sure you ONLY hashtag what’s in the photo though, okay? It’s super annoying to be looking at #bibliophile and be bombarded with selfies of humans outside admiring their toenails or whatever. I mean. C’mon.
2018 EDIT UPDATE: I’ve since learned that you can use 30 hashtags, but it’s better to use maybe 10? And many hashtags are shadowbanned. You can check and see if your photos/hashtags are being shadowbanned on this site. Which is helpful ya. But use a few big ones (like #bookstagram and #booksofig) and then a few specific ones depending on your photos (like the book’s title or #anticipatedTBR or #bookishfonts or something).
Up until a few months ago I had NO IDEA HOW TO DO CHALLENGES. But holy cake crumbs they’re fun. They’re also inspiring when you don’t know what to take photos of!
What the heck is a “challenge”? WELL. A blogger will host it and give you a list of prompts for every day in the month! You can interpret them as you like and join in the challenge’s hashtag. For example I’ve been doing the #RFABJuly16 hosted by my glorious friend Charnell @ Reviews From a Bookworm! I make sure to tag my photo so it shows up in the challenge list LIKE SO:
Honestly challenges are great for inspiration. When it’s Day 13 and it’s “book and snack”? I GOT THIS.
I like to hang out on @bookstagramchallenges to see what upcoming challenges are happening!
Just some more random #ProTips from your FAVOURITE PERSON IN THE WORLD. (Spoiler: that’s me.)
- You’ll get more likes if people recognise the books in the photos.
- I also notice I get more likes when there’s multiple books in my photos. So lines of books, stacks of books, towers of books — ALL THE BOOKS.
- Build things with your books! Build towers, chevrons, windows, hearts, circles, squares, mazes, etc etc. SO MANY OPTIONS.
- Like and comment on people’s photos. INTERACTION IS GRAND.
- Don’t worry if you don’t know what your “style” is! Just keep taking photos and it’ll come to you. And you do not have to have a consistent theme if you don’t want.
- If you don’t own many books, take photos of your ebooks with your ereader! Use your library! (Although those shiny library jackets are THE PAINEST OF PAINS.) And take photos of the same books. Pfft, have you seen my feed?!? It’s 87% Maggie Stiefvater and I have no regrets.
- Write interesting or fun captions!
- Post consistently! I post 1 to 2 times a day. You don’t have to post everyday, but I’ve noticed it definitely boosts the follower count if you do.
- Instagram hates allowing paragraph gaps in your captions…WHICH IS JUST SO RUDE. But if you type your caption in your Notes App, this should help. I also put lots of dots (like so: ••• ) because that helps keep the paragraph gap too. DON’T ASK ME WHY.
Before I wrap up this gargantuanly mammoth post…I want to give a shout out to some of my favourite #bookstagram accounts!
Plus this’ll help you know who you should be following. AND will give you inspiration! AND LET’S JUST ADMIRE PRETTY BOOKISH PHOTOS, OKAY?!?! Okay.
Aaand…I’d like to mention the other 147 accounts I follow, but I shall RESIST. (For now.) (You can always go stalk who I follow on my instagram page.) (It would be a good life decision FYI.)
ALSO SOME OTHER POSTS YOU MIGHT LIKE…
SO THERE YOU ARE! GO START YOUR #BOOKSTAGRAM ACCOUNT!
And hopefully you aren’t too entirely overwhelmed by all of this. But seriously — baby steps. It’s not hard! Just take photos of books and post them, basically, and enjoy yourself. Super easy.
If you’re really serious about your account and want to, like, become rich and famous (good luck with that, by the by) then utilise hashtags and network by commenting and liking other photos. Or else just have fun with this!
BECAUSE WHAT TRULY IS AS GLORIOUS AS THOUSANDS OF PHOTOS OF PRETTY BOOKS???? It’s honestly a dream come true. Oh, excuse me. I need to run away and marry bookish photos. Goodbye.