Guidelines for Authors Supplying Their Own Photos

Taking Photographs

  1. Many of our best-illustrated books are done with photos taken by the author, or by a photographer under the author's guidance. After all, the author best knows exactly what story the pictures are to tell. On the other hand, some author photographs are blurred, distracting, scratched, or otherwise less than an asset to the text. We know a great deal of time and care goes into taking your own photos for your book, and these guidelines are meant to help you get the best results. If you have questions, contact your editor, or send in some sample photos and our production department will advise you on specific points.
  2. Do not use a digital camera. Most of these cameras do not provide images of high enough resolution to be used in book production. Digital cameras currently on the market are designed for quick personal use. They provide images with resolution suitable for web use only, not for printed materials. If you have no other means of shooting, please contact your editor for additional guidelines. We will require an initial sample of a digital photo, shot at the highest dpi available to your camera (300 or higher) to consider for print quality before you will be cleared to shoot digitally for the book.
  3. If your contract calls for black-and-white photographs, shoot with black-and-white film. An image that looks great in color can look very muddy in black-and-white, since many of the tones that appear as distinct colors on a color print blend together as a common gray on a black-and-white print. It is expensive to convert color photos into black-and-white enlargements, and the result is usually a foggy print with deteriorated detail and definition. The image quality lessens with each stage of production.
  4. If your contract calls for color photographs, shoot color slide film whenever possible. Chrome (slide) films create a rich image best suited for book printing. Please note that we cannot accept color images for black-and-white usage. Please contact your editor if this is a problem.
  5. Avoid super-fast film; the results are grainy. Use film speeds of 400 or less.
  6. Polaroid (or any instant develop pictures) do not reproduce well. Also, since there is no negative, the chance of such photos getting lost forever in the mail is increased.
  7. Don't forget the basics. It happens to us all -- in the midst of a large list of do's and don'ts, the simplest matters can be overlooked. Make sure you remember to take your time, load film correctly, remove the lens cap, and turn the date stamping feature off. Don't let a great shoot be marred by basic errors.
  8. Make sure you have adequate lighting. Images reproduce darker than they originally appear, so an image that looks a little dark now will appear much too dark (lacking most definition) in the book. Most built-in flash units have a very limited range. If the flash is too close to a subject, it will be washed out. But if you shoot a large classroom with only overhead lights and a camera flash, most of the shot will be too dark.
  9. Get the picture into sharp focus. A little extra time spent focusing accurately pays off in clear, sharp pictures in your book. If we have to work with a blurred photo, it will still be blurred in the book.
  10. Good candids, as in a classroom, take patience. Hang around with your camera for a long time- perhaps taking practice shots- till the kids get used to you. If you take this extra time, you'll have pictures of people really interested in what they are doing instead of stiff poses for the photographer.
  11. Compose your image carefully. Decide what is the most important thing to show in each picture, then walk forward looking through the viewfinder until your subject fills the frame. Then snap the picture. Don't plan to crop at the print stage -- image quality is much better when it is cropped before you shoot, in the camera's viewfinder. While print cropping a print can help zero in on the center of interest in many photos, don't use it as a substitute for good picture composition in the first place.
  12. Pay careful attention to the background. The worst problem that we see in author-supplied photos is busy backgrounds. Always look at the playground and analyze it. If you want children on a swing set, don't pick a playground with a parking lot behind it. If you're in a classroom and want to concentrate on the pupils' expressions or activities, ask the teacher to take down the bulletin board so you'll have a blank wall in the back. If you are photographing in a home, cover distracting upholstery, such as plaids or loud florals, with a solid, neutral fabric, such as a sheet. This is a particularly critical matter in "how-to" photos, as in many of our sports books. In this case, find a blank wall that has a well-lit area in front and pose your subjects there. Or drape a dark blanket down the wall to hide the radiator, fire extinguisher, or whatever. If you're showing how to grip a golf club or tennis racquet, don't take the photo in the playing field, but in some kind of studio arrangement, however makeshift (even next to the brick wall of the gym will do). Distracting backgrounds can ruin otherwise fine pictures. Also be aware of seasonal images in the background. A picture of a classroom with a bulletin board full of turkeys or ghosts and witches won't be believable as the first day of class.
  13. Take more than one shot of each picture you want. Shoot the same subject -- animate or inanimate -- from different angles. Shoot the same subject at the same angle at different lens openings (f-stops). It is always best to have a few options and be able to choose the best than to have only one option.
  14. Watch the horizon. It's unsettling to see an ice skater on a tilted lake, or have buildings swaying to the left or right. Be sure the camera is level with the horizon when you snap the shutter.
  15. If your picture shows people who are recognizable (if you can see their faces) you must get a signed model release from each person. Basically, this grants you permission to use the person's picture in the book- or protects the privacy of those who do not wish to appear in print. If your picture shows children, the release must be signed by the child's parent or guardian. Please read the section on Permissions. Allyn & Bacon model release forms are available for download at this location.
Quick Reminders
  • Check the lighting.
  • Focus.
  • Compose your image.
  • Watch the background.
  • Keep the horizon level.
  • Take more than one shot.
Printing Photographs
  1. Have your negatives custom printed (enlarged). Don't expect good prints from batch processing via your local drug store or discount photo developer. Images should be printed at 8"x10" whenever possible; they should be no smaller than 5"x7". If you are using 35mm film, have a contact sheet made. This way you can view the images and enlarge only your selections, which will save you money on printing costs.
  2. Have prints made on glossy paper -- this reproduces much better than satin or matte finishes.
  3. If possible, request that prints are made slightly lighter than normal, since prints will darken in the book.
  4. Look over your prints carefully. Make sure there is not too much or too little contrast. Look for a rich array of mid-tones (grays).
  5. The Production Editor will mark photos for cropping where needed, so do not have the photos cropped in the darkroom. Send a print of the whole film frame.
  1. You are required to obtain a model release form for all individuals who are recognizable (you can see their faces) in your photos. For minors, you must get a parent or guardian to sign a minor model release. Both of these forms are available for download as part of our Copyright and Permissions Quick Guide (238Kb, PDF).
  2. If you obtain a photo from an outside source (a charity or foundation, a manufacturer, a schoolboard, etc.) you must have a representative sign a permission letter. This information is available for download as part of our Copyright and Permissions Quick Guide (238Kb, PDF).
  3. Please attach a photocopy of each photo to the corresponding model release or permission letter for identification purposes.
Sending Photographs to Allyn and Bacon
  1. Never write on the glossy side of a photo. When writing on the back, use a soft pencil or a felt-tip permanent pen. Some inks will not properly adhere to the smooth surface of the photo paper and will bleed, so be sure that any ink dries thoroughly. Never use ballpoint pen; it will dent the paper and distort the image.
  2. Do not paperclip, tape, or staple anything to a photo- or the photo to anything else. Any of these procedures may compromise the reproduction quality of your photos.
  3. Do not cut the photos -- especially the white frame around the print. If you want to indicate where the photo should be cropped, indicate cropping on a photocopy of the photo or write instructions lightly (in pencil or felt-tip permanent pen) on the back.
  4. If you require letters, numbers, arrows, etc., to be added to a photo, please make these notations on a photocopy of the photo. Again, you must not write anything on the surface of the photo.
  5. To key photos to the manuscript, write an ID number ("Photo 2-2") in a soft pencil lightly on the back of the print in the margin (not directly behind the image). If the photo is tiny, put it in an envelope, and label the envelope. Complete photo captions should be typed, double-spaced, in a list accompanying each chapter of the manuscript. To show where you want the photo positioned within the chapter, key it to the typescript this way:
    	- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
    	Photo 2-2 here
    	- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
  6. If you have already typed the manuscript, you can key the photo by writing the figure number in the right hand margin of the appropriate manuscript page.
  7. Send photos in a separate manila envelope from written materials to avoid scratches. Pack with stiff cardboard so the prints cannot be bent in shipment. Include all photo permission letters and model release with the manuscript.
  8. Retain the negatives (dupes of color slides) in case the package is lost or damaged.
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