Going UnderCOVER with Evan Schwartz

The cover of a book is often our “first impression”, and considering how choosy readers can be, it’s got to be a really good one. The finished product is what catches our attention, but it all starts with a drawing or a photo. The primary image, the person or scene, that the cover is built around sets the direction for the rest of the design, and can ultimately be a deciding factor for that picky purchaser.

Today we’re very lucky to have photographer Evan Schwartz’s insight, and some thoughts about his process. You’ve seen Evan’s photos in the covers of books by L J Smith, Scott Westerfeld, Alex Duval, and Thomas Snellgrove.

1) How did you get started working with authors/doing cover shoots? Was it always a goal?

It was never something I considered or thought about as an area of work. I got introduced to the art team at Simon and Schuster while assisting another photographer on a cover photo shoot. They really liked my personality and a few months later asked if I did my own work because they were opening an in-house studio. I showed them my work and the rest is history.

2) Do you schedule interesting shoots, just to have stock photos available for possible cover designs, or do you shoot specifically for a project?

I shot for specific projects.

3) How much do you need to know about the book in order to decide the style of photos you want shoot? Are you involved with the authors, or just the book’s marketing people?

I’m not involved with the authors. Sometimes I read a little of the book or the art directors will tell me what it’s about or the theme of the image they’re looking for and we take it from there.

4) Have you ever finished a shoot, and decided it wasn’t working for you, and had to redo with a different design? Have you ever had to redo after the client sees the photos? How far into the project is “the point of no return”?

I would say the point of no return is deadline-based. But it’s not usual that I have to reshoot a project. But, like in any creative process, there are always tweaks and changes that happen depending on the situation. I try to communicate as clearly as possible with the client before shooting so to avoid any unwanted surprises.

5) What’s your favorite project to date? What makes it stick out in your mind?

I don’t have a favorite cover that I can think of but one I was really proud of was for Lisa Rinna’s book, “Starlit” because I was able to make fake diamonds look real.

6) How does the collaberation work between you and the designer who uses your photos to finish the cover? Is there back and forth, or do you just hand over your photo and hope for the best?

With the publishing company I just hand over the photo after they’re approved at the shoot. They take it from there.

7) Do you have any interesting experiences involving a cover you shot for? Memorable reactions, comments from the author, etc?

I wouldn’t say interesting, but satisfying. I was told that the whole team flipped for one of my covers. And it’s always nice to see your work in public, like at a major book store.

8) Can you tell us what you’re working on now, or what your next project will be?

I’m not shooting any covers now but have been shooting a lot of jewelry and cosmetics. My next big project will most likely be fine art based.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to Evan for taking some time, and¬†chatting with us. Evan’s busy this weekend, but said he’ll be happy to answer an questions left for him in the comments below. So… if you ever wondered about cover art photography, now’s your chance to ask a pro!!

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