Today, we have the pleasure of chatting with Mike Heath from Magnus Creative, the photographer who shot all three covers of the Cadence of Grace Series. When I first saw the cover for Be Still My Soul, I couldn’t pass up the chance to email him and say thank you for his amazing work. Recently, I asked him if he would be interested in sharing a little about the process behind a book cover photo shoot and I’m so excited to share it with you all today! So lets jump right in!
When did you first begin doing photography? How did you start out?
I began as a designer for a magazine and I began seeing a need for a particular type of photography that not many people were doing. I’m a composite photographer where I take many pictures to make one complete image that would be either impossible or very hard to capture on location as the setting, time of day, atmosphere etc would have to be perfect (and our budgets and timeframes don’t allow for us to wait around for that perfect moment).
You have some amazing work on your website, including book covers for companies like Random House, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, and many more. What do you enjoy about photographing for book covers?
Thank you! I enjoy the narrative opportunities within photography-how can we tell a small portion about the story underneath the cover.
The model selection process has always fascinated me—how a team of people can draw from a story and pin down just the right person to fill that role. What is this selection process like? Who’s involved in making the decisions?
I work with a representative from a model agency. I give them the parameters from the art director so they know what we’re looking for. We typically get 2-3 options to find the right person.
When I saw the cover for Be Still My Soul, I was thrilled with how my character, Lonnie, was portrayed. The model, Rose, captured Lonnie’s character so well from her body language, to the simple and sweet emotions in her face. What type of preparation do you do prior to a shoot to understand the story and begin a vision for the visual interpretation of a setting and group of characters?
I ask the art director many questions-what are we going for? what is the character feeling in this moment? what is her body language communicating? We then direct the model on set accordingly and take LOTS of pictures to find that one gem that the art director can use in his/her cover design.
We’re mostly writers and readers here and few of us have ever sat in on a photo shoot. How does the process work? Does it begin with hair and makeup and move into selecting the right costume and lighting? Will you tell us a little about what it’s like inside the studio on the day of the shoot?
The minute I get an assignment I ask for model options. While I wait for those, I get to my wardrobe supplier and look for costume options. Once we select a model and costume, we set a shoot day, hire make-up and hair assistants and when possible invite the art director to oversee the process to ensure we’re shooting what he/she wants. I spend the most time thinking about the lighting and how I will light my subject in the studio to match some pretty outdoor setting. This makes the composite much smoother and realistic.
I COMMUNICATE BETTER WITH PICTURES.
I’m no oratory genius but I can tell a good story visually. That’s probably why I switched from studying business to art during my sophomore year of college. I graduated from Colorado State University in 2000 with a degree in fine arts, concentrating my efforts in the areas of photography and graphic design. I spent the first four years of my career as a designer and then as an art director directing three publications. My photography evolved while working in the editorial and book publishing world creating work for magazine spreads and best-selling authors. The most exciting work for me is when the client is looking to tell a story or narrative in a single image—it’s a great challenge! All of my work is created with location and studio photography coupled with 3D renders when something simply doesn’t exist.
I currently live out my passion to create through Magnus Creative, communicating through photo illustration and motion graphics.
I’m most inspired when exploring the beauty of Colorado and beyond with my wife Michele and three children.
Ohhhh!! This was SO cool!!!!
I sure hope they have Native American models for my book’s cover shoot. Or I may have someone in mind…
Very interesting post Joanne!
Jennifer, I am SO looking forward to hearing more about this book…and seeing a cover one day! My mom’s side has a good bit of native American so that culture is very dear to me. Not to mention our mutual fondness for a particular movie 😉
Magnus? Was it JUST me, or did you read “Magua”?
great! Now I’ve got men in leggings on my mind 😉
This is the coolest! I’ve always wondered how this works!
Hi, Katie! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. I’ve always wondered myself!
Thanks for this look behind the scenes, Joanne and Mike! This is utterly fascinating! I’m enthralled with this entire process.
Of course, I think as authors, we know what we want/don’t want for our covers, but I’m aware we don’t have much control over the process. So good to have photographers and models who get your vision! I love the cover of your book and I’m looking forward to the next ones!
Heather, so glad you stopped in! There’s something fun about getting to learn about the process that happens behind the making of the book. I was so thrilled when Mike was on board for answering some questions. He was a great sport.
It’s really true, there’s not a lot of control. My publisher has been amazing as they let me share my vision through an initial Q&A that’s pages and pages long and they really use it during this process. I’m so thankful in how they captured the story.
Thanks for posting this information! I’ve always wondered who the cover models were and how the artwork was decided upon.
My pleasure, Debbie. So glad you enjoyed it! I’ve always wondered the same thing. 🙂 Thanks for being here!
I love this!! Love the BEHIND THE SCENES look 🙂
I’m so glad, Jaime!! I’m so thankful to Mike for taking the time to share with us.
Very fun. This is the most fascinating parts of creating a book. Great to learn more about the process, which is very near and dear to my heart just now. Love the photo from the shoot. She’s perfect for Lonnie. I just finished reading Be Still My Soul and look forward to reading more of Lonnie and Gideon’s story.
Lori, I’m excited as I think about your story in the process of all this. I can’t wait to hear all about the moment when you first get to see Willa come to life through the cover art 🙂 I am so glad you enjoyed Be Still My Soul. Coming from you, that means a ton!
What a cool interview! Thanks for sharing. 🙂
Thanks, Lindsay! Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
It was fun also seeing a couple different shots of Lonnie. Great interview and very interesting to read about the development of the book cover.
That was such a treat to see some of the outtakes. Glad you enjoyed the interview!
“My photography evolved while working in the editorial and book publishing world creating work for magazine spreads and best-selling authors.”
Yes, indeed, I agree!
I really enjoyed this interview and the outtakes! Wonder if more of the first ones will go into your second and third book ~ would be neat if they would put photo pages in the middle of the book like they do on auto/biographies. I am looking forward to reading of the further journeys of Gideon ~ and Lonnie, ha ha, since he seems to be the one journeying! Love, love, love your writing! Kathleen
I’m so glad you enjoyed the interview with Mike and the outtakes. It was so neat to see the pictures he sent me. There are more, but for the sake of surprise, I ended up just posting the ones from Be Still My Soul. So neat to see the model in action 🙂
Yes! Gideon is the journeying kind of man, always going to and fro getting in and out of scraps. Praise the Lord for three books to tell that man’s story. 🙂
Joanne, I loved this post! Thank you (and the photographer) for explaining something that always puzzled me. I love hardbacks, tooled and obviously not always affordable.
Too often however the latest ‘new’ paperbacks have covers befuddle me! I often wonder about the models (too much makeup for i.e. particularly when Amish genre, brunette when heroine is blond etc…), the lack of accurate details for the period, clothing, background which often has little to do with the story.
Och, Never, ever trust a cover!
I am also told once the story is sold, title and cover are no longer the author’s? Who better than the author to decide these?!
Lonnie’s representation perfect fit. Photographer captured the right feel for the story and great model!
Always glad to learn yet something new,
I am so glad you enjoyed it! Yes, huge thanks to Mike for taking the time to share with us these details.
I’ve been befuddled by covers as well and have noticed some of the same things as you! I was thankful that Lonnie had light makeup and natural hair and they did such a wonderful job with the way she is dressed. And Gideon walking away…so very Gideon 🙂 It’s true that the publishing house most often has the final say in cover and title but I have been amazingly blessed to work with a publishing company that listens to my input and am thrilled that they approved all three titles I suggested for the Cadence of Grace series. They’ve been a great pleasure to work with 🙂
I always enjoy seeing you here, Noelle! Och, is it possible that you hail from bonny Scotland?!
What a great post, Joanne. A peek behind the scenes is always so fun. Thanks!
Thanks, Mona! I so enjoyed a peek into your own covers. See you Saturday!!
Very interesting to see how the cover process works with a photographer. Thanks for sharing!
Hi, Jennifer! Great seeing you here. Glad you enjoyed the interview!
So fascinating! I’ve always wondered about book covers.
Thanks so much! It’s so neat to hear that others enjoy the peek behind scenes as well. So glad you stopped by!
SO interesting! I absolutely love looking at a gorgeous pic so needless to say that I enjoyed reading this. And speaking of the debut ( cover looks GREAT, btw) guess what Mrs Bischof? *Smiling* My library ordered it! I’m still very interested and so are a good number of other readers apparently . You can check it out if you’d like.
Thank you for the post!
Ganise, what great news! I am so excited to hear that your library ordered the book. And thanks for the link! That’s the first time I’ve ever seen what Library Journal wrote…so that was fun!
I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. It’s such a joy when you come by!
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