Book Cover

For the book cover, I have chosen "The Godfather" book.

I have always been fascinated by this theme and the story. Moreover it is a great opportunity  to use the studio creatively, specifically low key lighting, moody atmosphere and more. I do also consider photographing in black and white to make it more vintage and closer to the story itself.

In Puzo's novel, Vito Corleone is the head of the Corleone crime family, the most powerful Mafia family in New York City. He is depicted as an ambitious Sicilian immigrant who moves to Hell's Kitchen and builds a Mafia empire, retaining (and strictly adhering to) his own personal code of honor. Upon his death at the end of the novel, his youngest son, Michael, becomes the Don of the Corleone family. Vito has two other sons, Santino ("Sonny") and Frederico ("Fredo"), as well as a daughter, Constanzia ("Connie"), all of whom play major roles in the story. He also informally adopts another son, Tom Hagen, who grows up to become the Family's consigliere.

There are a lot of other examples of book covers, posters, DVD covers and more. Below are some of the examples by other people's work approach and style. It also helps me to create my own style with a different perspective.

Most of these book covers are emphasizing on Red and White colours, making them more aggressive in the way and  serious. Perhaps It could make associations with a blood and violence at some level which this book is about in the way.

The logo used by these examples is the standard and available to download online. These are the official book covers by professional photographers and designers.

I really like this Rembrandt style lighting and high contrast. It gives this strong meaning and representation of the whole book. It is a very serious book, therefore book cover has to represent it in the right way. Low key lighting enhances the overall mood and the retouch is adding the finishing touches which makes it look intelligent and serious.

This is one of the Movies official poster. Again it is in low key lighting style and very contrasty, the detail is almost lost but in this case it makes the cover even stronger.

Here is slightly different approach. And yet again it is very Rembrandt style in terms of lighting. this example has interesting background lighting effect, but still in low key setup. It is important to use low key lighting setup because it is creating tense, serious and moody atmosphere. 

This is one of my favourite covers. It is very contrasty (even too contrasty in my opinion), I like the dark background, smart dressing code and the composition within the frame. It is simple but very strong example. It reflects the seriousness of their business and characters.

This is a very similar setup to above mentioned, Rembrandt/ Closed Loop style lighting. It is working very well with males and jet again similar circular gradient highlight for the background is creating vignette which is working as a frame and directs our attention on the face. Which in this case is represented very serious and intelligent.

This is the cover of the Part II DVD. As it is representing different person and earlier story of the Corleone's family the cover is created accordingly to it. It is more brighter than other examples. The lighting style is very close to the natural light through a window. There are two kicker lights (hair lights) which separates the main subject from the background and Key Light with fill in light. In my opinion these photographs has to be strong in the sense of mood, smart clothing and the look through the eyes which sends the message of the serious danger which is the base of the story. The Revenge, dirty business, violence and at the same time love to the family. 

Another movie poster, beautiful lighting, composition but in my opinion it is slightly on the soft edge. It does not look as serious and dangerous as black and white examples with and older man shown above. I like the layout if the text and the logo. The portrait blends very well with the design of the poster. Al Pacino is a great actor and suits the character, but the hands in the praying position makes this cover to appear not as tough and dangerous as others. It possibly represents this tiny soft and positive (worrying) side of the story which is important within the Mafia's big family.   

The look by this person is perfect. It makes this cover an excellent representation of the book. The background lighting setup is quite common nowadays, it is neutral and at the same time directs us to the main subject.

Here is a book cover by other student. Again we can notice some similarities between above mentioned examples, especially one with Al Pacino as a model. The black and red is dominating which is perfect colour combination for something serious, mysterious, violent and intelligently criminal like the story.

I did inspire from this book cover. I like the represented detail on hands, the cigar, rings and the wrist watch. It is very moody and at the same time I feel this photograph is a little bit cliche. 

Here are my best shots for this project before retouch. First ones are silhouettes and all the rest in low key with Rembrandt approach.

Here is the lighting diagram for Silhouette shots.

It is a very simple setup. As the ceiling of the studio is white the light was bouncing off slightly and causing a bit of trouble with the black levels, but once the blacks were increased my Silhouettes were looking good.

This is the first shot. It is quite flat and really does not express as much I wanted. But it has a very strong contrast between white and black. I thought of this as a binary opposition, similar than in the story. The Criminal - Intelligent. Revenge - Love, and so on. therefore this setup is expressing only my own viewing on the story. 

I did pay attention to the detail, like the cigar and the hat. These two element gives the special mood and sets thing in the right way. This is my favourite silhouette in this project.

With the hat on results are better and more realistic. I did also have a fantastic model for this project. His nationality is Portuguese and therefore has common similarities between people from the south such as Sicily where the Corleone's family was from. He was very easy to work with and has amazing character to make this project work much better than with other possible models. Also he is very similar in the way of the main character.
This is my second favourite shot. I tried to explain my visualization and from that point we were working in the same direction. The overall photo shoot session took me only about 40 minutes and the result was superb.  

Here I tried to compose slightly wider, just to see how the proportions would work.

This is about what I wanted to achieve in terms of composition proportions. A little bit of torso and the head with arms. Again the details such the cigar or cigar cutter was specifically added to strengthen the overall outcome.

Series of Silhouettes, I like this detail shot. It would work better if he did have some wrist chain ( ideally with a religios symbols such the Cross)  That was one of my initial ideas which I actually did not turn into the final piece.

Here are my series of the black and white low key lighting.

Here is the lighting diagram for the rest of the photographs.

As I was very excited with lighting achieved by cool light I accidentally forgot to check my shutter speed and shot everything at 1/50th second which is very slow and may cause some camera shake if I did not hold my camera properly. Cool lights need longer exposure than strobes therefore I had to either increase the ISO sensitivity on lower the shutter speed considering that the aperture was already opened at maximum 5.6. So it was a little technical error which I wont let happen again. However the results were very good as far as I could read from the Camera's LCD screen.

I really like the facial expression and the overall mood.

This would have been a great shot if the face was not blocked completely by the hand, but even though it is a nice representation of my visualization and ideas regards the Mario Puzo book "Godfather"

One of two potential final photographs. It was exactly what I was looking to achieve
The one of the final Photographs. I consider this photograph to be best and most successful, therefore it will be used in my final book cover editing. It is all about the look, expression, detail, black and white and the low key lighting which makes this photograph interesting and suitable for the cover.

If I did the back cover this still life style photograph  would go at the back of the book with the description and short review by critics. I do really like this photograph and I could see it as a successful photograph for my still life project.  From technical aspect it is shot with the same setup as other photographs, but the camera was set on the tripod. It would fit very nicely with front cover and make the overall book cover even better.

Here are the very best shots, which I am going to use for my final selection.
I did apply more clarity, contrast, blacks and whites in order to make them pop more. My goal was to achieve very contrasty and moody look.

Original RAW version

Original RAW version

Pushed to the limits in terms of contrast and clarity. Similar effect to above examples. Very contrasty and scary.

Same effect as above. Although I think it is too harsh.

This is an interesting photograph, I could see this as a very good book cover, however it is not as strong as other two photographs.

Here I did pull the clarity all the way up, it gives it more sharpness, graininess and makes it stronger.

Below are few of my ideas about layout, little graphic design and format.Idea is pretty simple. I guess this is inspiration from Alexander Rodchenko's graphic design work, emphasizing on geometry, shapes and lines. The colour of stripes had to be red in order to make more aggressive and stronger.

Graphic design template, created in Photoshop. The logo is downloaded from the internet. And the Red stripes is my imagination and graphical element to the cover. It creates this mood of trouble, danger and also crime. While the white colour is more peaceful symbol which would reflect the relationship and love within the Corleone's family.

First thoughts of layout, however It does not work as good as the second idea of parallel red lines from top to bottom. 

More contrast and clarity. This is an example without the graphical touch of red stripes. I think it looks too plain, therefore the graphical kick is vital.

Less Contrast and clarity, makes it look better, it is balanced between low and high level. Once the sufficient level of them both is determined I was able to apply my final three shots to the template. Results are shown below.

Here are the selection of my final three shots, each in two versions. One without a red graphical lines.

This is how I made the first version of the final cover. I was not happy with the proportions of the cover, it is square instead of rectangle with a approximate A4 format, therefore some further improvement needs to be done. Also I do want to bring the clarity and contrast slightly down in order to preserve important details.

Due to relatively slow shutter speed some movement blur is noticeable, If I did a second chance for this project I would fix this problem.

This is very good photograph, however it represents more secret or misery rather than a gangster style scenario.

And here is another comparison without the red stripes.

I do not like the proportions of the photographs. Therefore I did expand the photograph vertically as it can be seen below. 

This is the very final version with extended canvas and reduced contrast. It definitely looks much better than example below. The only problem is that the portrait is too small on overall scene.

Although it is not as bad, still I prefer less contrasty version.

Final Version of the finished project. Portrait is enlarged, so that it fills the frame and contrast is set to the optimal level which still creates this roughness, seriousness and criminal intelligent mood. The Godfather logo reflects the idea that The Corleone is the boss of everyone, he can do what ever he wants to everyone he wants to. He is like a master of puppets. Also the Red colour was specifically selected in order to strengthen this argument. It is a very aggressive colour emphasizing the Corleone's character.

In Conclusion. If I did have more time for this project I would try to set another studio session and correct my technical errors (1/50th of a sec). Also I would try to compose my photographs by leaving some dead space for the graphical elements, such logos, headings etc.

This project was very interesting. My favourite studio setup for the low key lighting. It was an excellent practice to communicate with my models. Also it took me a while for thinking, planning and preparation. As I had idea visualized it was much easier to recreate my vision and the workflow was much more productive.

I could have done some more research.
I would definitely try to create the back cover with my second photograph of cigar. It was not an easy project to do. As I did use the same lighting setup for my personal work I did not have any problems to work with professionalism and self confidence which made my project more successful. 

The longest part of the project was the post processing the research process and the blog editing.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful insight into the book cover photography process. The project definitely came out swell!
    The final product really communicates the overall theme of the book, and it is stylistically impressive. Excellent job indeed!