I post images all the time of completed works, but never really talk about the technical aspects of making the image. Sometimes an image can appear to be quite simple, when a lot went into making it. Other times a complex looking image was very simple to do.
In the making of Shadow Soldier, I had drawn the silhouette of a military figure in vector format, and then was looking for the right setting to place him into. I am always trying to think like a storyteller, and how can an image help tell a story. What kinds of stories are being told and the characters that might be needed is always something I’m paying attention to. The suspense genre is popular, and I love making images for this category of literature.
I had originally been thinking of a night scene. Maybe a forest or barren landscape, but when browsing through my photo library, I spotted one of a darkened corridor of a brick building. A narrative instantly popped into my head. The image had some problems I would have to overcome in order to make it work. Mainly that it was in landscape format and had unwanted elements (either side) of the composition.
I wanted the figure placed towards the back of the corridor. Needing room for copy space, I couldn’t just crop out the sides and get to the right vertical dimensions needed for a book cover. I would have to ‘invent’ some of the top and bottom of the scene; make up the cement of the sidewalk and bricks of the building.
I took several hours to come up with a convincing recreation of the building to fit the correct format. I also wanted to simplify the fencing seen in the background by the window so the background of the soldier wouldn’t distract the eye. I used quite a few different brushes to try to match the wall on the left side in the background.
Then playing around with colours, curves, textures, and such, I arrived at a the following image which has a strong narrative and would be perfect for a thriller, suspense, or historical novel.
What is the narrative in your mind when you see the finished image?
I split my photography between photos for the wall decor industry and the book publishing one. When shooting for book covers, I need to adjust my thinking quite a bit from that of the fine art or decor market, which is more concerned with producing a pictorial image that can enhance a living space.
For the book cover market, I am looking for the story, or the potential story. There are times when the two can overlap, but I usually put myself into a different frame of mind for covers. Since I like a good mystery or suspense story, I often try to think in terms of that genre when out shooting. The resulting images often have a bit of a dark undertone to them. Like this bison skull, below. It has a clear bullet hole in the head. Overall the image tells a story that could be successfully used on the cover for a variety of stories, besides the stereotypical western genre.
The image below of the old fashioned workshop, could be used on the cover of a suspense novel. Perhaps a story about a mass murderer, or the disappearance of an important person. But it could just as easily be about the breakdown of a marriage. The loss of a grandparent, or a story set in the past. What about a story about a seemingly idyllic neighbourhood with a dark secret. Is it the caretaker?
Even seemingly random subjects can make great book covers. I would never have thought when I snapped a photo of our cat on the fence with a specialty camera set up that it would end up the cover of James Patterson novel, but it did.
The book cover industry engages my creativity and imagination and allows me to become a bit of a storyteller in seeking out and composing my images. It’s a job I truly love.