Two of our magazine projects—the DAR’s American Spirit and the Marine Corps League’s Semper Fi–regularly include book review sections. Although publishers happily send cover images, we’ve found that photographing the books adds–as you might expect–a custom look to the page.
While several of us have done this job, lately we’ve called on designer Ben Stewart to handle the tasks. There are a couple of reasons for this: Ben originally minored in photography at Middle Tennessee State University before switching to graphic design, and his Canon Rebel EOS is ideal for capturing the quality images we need.

Once he was assigned the responsibility, Ben quickly improved our process, which had been to shoot the books against a simple white background. Ben took a small lightbox that has been rarely used since digital images virtually replaced slides and set a “cubelite”—a white translucent nylon cloth cube used to eliminate shadows when photographing objects—on top. He added a makeshift cardboard box stand to prop up the book. By setting lights on either side and using the lightbox underneath, he gets bright, clear, shadowless illumination.
“I use a lot of angles to help give the book more dimension than a straight-on cover shot would give,” Ben says. “Sometimes we stack several books to hold up the one that’s being reviewed, which gives it even more dimension and substance.”
The evenly surrounding illumination also eliminates the need for a flash, thus preventing any glare off a shiny new dust jacket.
It’s a small touch, but one that makes a difference to our book review pages.