4. Choosing Stock

For this section we’re going to look at stock. If you haven’t done this before, it seems exciting at first but rapidly turns into a soul-destroying experience. :) So many white toothpaste smiles, so many fashion and advertising shots that are unsuitable for a book cover. Very little in the way of action shots or proper costuming unless you go with a more expensive genre-specific stock site. 

How much of your cover do you need to purchase stock for? “All of it” is the simplest and most accurate answer. I know that seems expensive but it is nothing in comparison with the risks of using unlicensed images. There are, however, a few things that you can do to bring the cost down.

  1. Watch for sales. I normally use Depositphotos, as they run yearly specials where you can buy large amounts of stock for very little. I’ll usually buy two or three of these packages of 100 images at a time which brings my stock cost down to under £1 or so per image. I’ve learned from past experiences to try as much as possible to keep stock purchases to a single site so that you don’t have wasted blocks of credits on a lot of sites just sitting there. 
  2. Start a library of images that you can reuse bits of for composited images. I have a library of commercial stock images and my own photography that I can use for skies, birds, ground cover, the perfect braided hair or loose curls that can be applied to other models. 
  3. Fonts need to be purchased as well. I try to use fonts which are licensed free for commercial use (I’ll donate to them as well as a thank you for that), reasonably priced fonts from small designers, and a smaller set of expensive commercial fonts, mostly from places like Letterhead Fonts. These I’ll usually wait to purchase until they run a sale.
  4. Take your own images. Modern smartphones usually have a camera that is good enough for taking supplementary images: be aware of great sunsets, interesting woodland paths, clumps of wildflowers in the sun, stone walls, etc., that you can photograph. This won’t be adequate for model shots, but will be fine for background images. Photograph things around the house as well: old books, keys, feathers, etc. All of this is usable and will cut your stock costs down.

So, stock images. Aside from having the right look, age, colouring, etc., I also look for good lighting. For the purposes of this tutorial we’ll be adding a head to a different body, as you need to do that all the time on covers. Below is an example of how the lighting can make your job easier, or much more difficult.

The first image is nicely lit with a good balance of shadow and light. The middle one is washed out, with flecks of light that would need to be painted out, and the third is lit much too harshly with dark shadow on the face (this is the one that I grab locks of hair from, though!).

When you’re matching a head with a body the lighting will have to be relatively the same, with the main light source on the same side and in roughly the same range of tones (or be fixable to be in the same range of tones, more on that later). Look for a good expression on the face, with some life to it (as though the model was actually thinking something). Again, the first image is a good example of that.

These are the images that I’m going to be using later on as my base stock:

The body is an image that I’ve created in a 3D program and the head is a stock image that I’ve been dying to use as I love her expression, but unfortunately she doesn’t have many other images available which makes her a bad choice for anything that might turn into a series. We’ll be doing a (hopefully!) badass urban fantasy cover.

In the next installment we’ll start putting this together…finally. I know, right? 

1 thought on “4. Choosing Stock”

  1. Enjoying all of your articles, but especially your ongoing how-to series concerning the basics of cover design. Thank you for the info and the links.

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