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.