Justine: Finding My Own Cover Models and Staging a Shoot (part 1)

photo shootThis will be the first in a many-part post (which will happen over several months) about finding my own cover models and doing a custom photo shoot for my future book covers.

It stems from a lovely conversation-in-the-comments the Eight Ladies had with Ron Miller from Black Cat Studios, who designs many (if not all) of Lois McMaster Bujold’s covers. He talked about the creative process and showed us, via a series of links, how he goes from a simple picture of his wife or daughter (frequent models for him) to the final cover.

This and other conversations on various Facebook groups got me thinking that it might be worthwhile to find my own cover models, because here’s the problem in historical romance: there is a lack of original stock photography (assuming one wants a lady or man in proper historical clothing…I could always go for the 80s prom dress look as some authors have done, but that doesn’t suit me).

His Lady Protect Sml-1

These faces have been on dozens of covers.

A handful of sites, such as Period Images (where I got the couple for my first two book covers), Trevillion, Hot Damn Stock, and Lee Avison (just to name a few) use a regular cadre of models whose faces have graced many a cover, to the point that when scrolling through book covers, I can identify some of the models by name.

I want my covers to be a bit more original. And I also want a particular look from my covers, namely the hero looking at the reader, not the heroine. There’s remarkably few stock images where the hero is looking at the camera.

So when Ron started telling us about what he did to find models and use them for his covers, I started thinking that perhaps I could do the same thing. I can see that I’ll have some challenges, but I think I can overcome those, and the best part (I hope) is that I’ll have a collection of original stock photography using fresh, never-before-seen faces to work with to create both covers and a variety of associated marketing materials, as well.

My first challenge was actually the easiest….finding a model. My next door neighbor’s son, who attends college here in Arizona, is quite a hunk, if I’m to be honest. And he’s blond, which is different than the two men I already have on my covers, making his look unique. I ran into him the other day and asked him if he’d be willing to model for a book cover. I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth before he was nodding his head and saying, “Yes, absolutely. Yes!” When I showed him some of the photos from Period Images (to give him an idea of what I was going for), he said casually, “I’m doing a weightlifting competition this spring, so I should be even more ripped than those guys.” He even offered to grow sideburns!

Ahem. Well, okay. If he insists. *grin*

His girlfriend was with him and she also agreed to be a model. And when I asked him if he had friends who might be interested, he said absolutely. He even had a friend who is into photography, wanting to build her portfolio, so I might have that part covered, as well.

So…models? Check. Photographer? I won’t say “check” yet, because I want to see what she’s done, but I have a good, solid lead.

My next challenges are wardrobe and the legalities of copyright and usage. More on those in a future post.

What would you do if you were able to create your own cover shoot?

7 thoughts on “Justine: Finding My Own Cover Models and Staging a Shoot (part 1)

  1. What a fantastic idea! (It allows a new and exciting way to be creative outside of writing, too.) I was working on a historical romance novel, and I encountered the same issue you mentioned with finding good images for a cover. I found it discouraging. I’m looking forward to reading your future articles about the process!

    • Thanks, René! I think it’ll be interesting to see how I bring all these things together…if I end up using fellow students from the college my subject attends, I may end up doing all of it down there (about an hour and a half away). Logistics are just one consideration…then there’s hair, makeup, etc. Fortunately, with a few instructional YouTube videos, the girls can probably help each other in that regard. I’ll keep you posted!

  2. This is a great idea! In my post yesterday, I talked about some of the covers from the 1930s, and one thing that stands out in my mind is that there was a community. There was a local focus (I think it was Chicago, and the magazine changed a lot when its offices moved). The main cover artist was in Chicago. She had worked at a local speakeasy/salon of ideas, so was in touch with a lot of creatives. She worked in a delicate medium that didn’t go through the US mails easily. Her publisher was in Chicago, and many of the writers were also from Chicago, too, I believe. They also had an extended network — instead of the internet, they exchanged a lot of correspondence.

    There are creative people anywhere. I believe even in the smallest town, there are community theaters that support seamstresses and actors and set designers. If you can create the community, it benefits everyone! Can’t wait to see the fruit of your labors!

    • Michaeline, you make a great point about community. It wouldn’t be a bad idea for me to reach out to my local neighborhood FB group to see if there are any aspiring photographers out there who wish to add to their portfolio. I have no problem with a photographer using any of the images they capture to showcase their work; I just don’t want them SELLING them. Same goes for costumers or the like. There are plenty of theatrical companies in the Phoenix area (and even some high schools that might have students interested in costuming) who I could try to find, as well. Thank you for the suggestions!

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