So you want to be on a book cover – A guide.

So you want to be on a book cover. Perhaps you’ve seen other photographers accomplish this but you’ve never quite known how. Maybe you walk through the stores scrutinizing and studying every book. I know I did. It has always been a dream of mine to be on a book cover. Growing up, I was very shy and never had a lot of friends, so instead I read. Getting lost in each character was a comfort. I lived for the smell of the old paper pages. My favorites were used text books and poetry because you could get such an understanding of the previous owner by the writings in the margins.

536349_432018960156029_1977656461_n So how exactly do you go about getting your work on a book cover? When I was starting out I took to my book collection and made a list of publishing companies so I could start emailing them one by one. I wanted to see if there was an opportunity for me. I sent nearly thirty companies my portfolio and asked them for tips. The ones who did reply said all of their cover art is licensed through a stock agency. I’ve always tried to live under the philosophy of, if opportunities are not coming to you, go seek the opportunities. If you are at a point now where you don’t have a lot of exposure and you haven’t started receiving licensing requests on your own, joining a stock agency is a fantastic way get your work licensed relatively quickly. If I have thousands of photos laying around on my hard drives, why not put them out into the world and see if they will make me some money? Since I signed on with my agency in 2011, I have been published on nearly thirty book covers internationally.

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A stock agency is a go between for you and the client. You give the agency the rights to license your photos for you. Unlike in self licensing where you have to be your own lawyer, negotiator, and collector, the agency provides all of that for you. An agency is responsible in providing the clients, contracts, and pricing. All you have to do is upload your photos, keyword them, and wait for an email with an invoice for your payment. Easy stuff! However, they take a portion of the proceeds for their work unlike self licensing where you get 100% of the profits. But with self licensing, you have to wait for the client to find you.


Picking the right gallery. 

Percent – There are a few things I consider when trying to figure out if an agency will work for me. How much of a cut am I going to make? I’m not going to want to choose an agency that is going to give me 15% of the profits. I’m going to go with an agency that is going to give me half or better.

Selectivity – When you join a stock agency, you are giving an agency the right to license out your images on your behalf. In that, once your images are uploaded you don’t have a say on what they are going to be used for so long as the agency, and subsequently you, are paid. I’m more of a fine art photographer who has taken a lot of weird self portraits. I’m going to choose an agency that is going to specialize in book covers, album covers, and the like, instead of choosing more of an anything goes situation where my face could be used on a billboard advertising the latest in scientific advancement in feminine products or something equally as embarrassing. Unless you don’t care. Then more power to you.

Portfolio – Does your portfolio fit with the agency’s clientele? Are they selling for high end advertising? Are they selling to publishing companies for covers? Are they looking for shots of the latest news? What kind of work are they looking for? I want to maximize my potential for profit by putting the right pictures with the right agencies.

Your rights – I want to work with an agency that isn’t gong to take the rights to my photos. Just temporarily borrow them to license them for you, generally in a three year contract. Stock agencies should allow you to sell prints of your work, showcase in galleries, appear in magazine with your portfolio, and merchandising. To ensure exclusivity with the clients most agencies ask that you do not license an image via self licensing or upload same or similar images to other agencies.

Exclusivity – If you have uploaded a photo, you can not then sell that photo on your own or with another agency. This is to ensure to the client that when they purchase an image it will be only on that book in their country. Are you getting a lot of your own requests to license a particular photo? Don’t upload it. If it’s a personal piece you would like to have more control over. Don’t upload it. I’m always concerned about uploading my conceptual work with an agency because I get licensing requests on my own. So I’ve taken to uploading my travel and candid photos. Some agencies even take smart phone photos. Point being, if you have photos lying around, why not see if you can put them to work more effectively. Screen Shot 2014-12-07 at 8.01.14 PM Marketing – How well does the agency market your work? Is your work accessible? I like to stick with the smaller more specialized agencies because my work has a better likelihood of being seen in an agency with 600 photographers, than an agency with 60,000.  MOSCD375_90s-Smooth-Grooves_1500 So after much careful consideration you’ve decided on an agency that is going to give you a fair share of the profits, is going to work well with your portfolio, and you are keeping the rights to your photos! Fantastic! Now, how to you increase your chances of your work being chosen by clients?

How to increase your chances. 

Upload often – The bigger your library the better you’ll do. You want to saturate the market. This will show the client and the agency that you are continuously updating your portfolio. The agency is going to want to market a photographer that is constantly bringing in new work. You’ll have a more diverse portfolio for clients to choose from.

Keywording – Keywording is the best opportunity you have to get your work seen by the clients. Increase you chance of discoverability by keywording effectively. If a client has a book about a girl on a swing, they are going to search for a girl on a swing. If your photo is of a girl, put girl. Is there a swing set? What is the mood of your photo? For example if I had a photo of a girl in the woods in a blue dress in the winter. I will keyword like: girl, alone, woman, alone, young, nature, forest, brunette, scared, eerie, scary, blue, dress, snow, ice, frozen, winter, dark, moody, mysterious. Anything I could possible use to describe the photo.  Screen Shot 2014-12-06 at 8.46.38 PM Do your research – Go to the book stores, check out the new releases, and see what is selling. Keep up with the latest trends and be aware of what your agency is going to want.

Keep your releases on hand – You can upload photos without a release but there is a possibility it will dissuade the client due to liability. They don’t want a model coming to them with a lawsuit for the feminine product billboard just as much as you don’t. So make sure you have your permissions in line before you upload. IMG_6137 There are no words quite accurate to describe the feeling of walking into your local bookstore and having a little scavenger hunt to find your latest book cover. I love being able to hold something tangible in my hands and say, I had a part in this. It’s really fun when a book does well and you can see some of the promotional material. A self portrait of mine was licensed for a best seller that has sold more than 140,000 copies in the UK. I have photos I licensed on books being sold at Walmart. Posters of a book was life-size in a subway station in The Netherlands. It’s kind of a fun little thing.

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And a book even made it into a Kindle Fire commercial!


A walk in the woods with the Sony A99

I was leant a Sony A99 by one of my dearest friends and I was just able to take the opportunity to try it out. Even with the kit zoom lens, I was impressed by it’s quality and how easy it was to use it. I’ve always been a Canon user, so it was nice to get myself acquainted with a different brand.

I really love the A99. From it’s moveable LCD to digital viewfinder to peaking focus and duel SD slots it makes the user experience delightful. It’s giving the Mark III a run for it’s money on deciding of which camera I would like to upgrade.

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Behind the scenes look at “Haven”

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Thoreau

Here are some behind the scenes and a nice walk through the foggy woods in Maine. I wanted to create the piece “Haven” as a way to find my connection to nature again. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Thoreau’s quote and what it would be like to be one with nature.

We had spent some time wandering around the woods in my backyard when we stumbled upon a mossy stump in the middle of a clear patch of forest. It was so foggy, quiet, and peaceful, I knew I had to create something there. I wanted to play on the idea of camouflage. That maybe if I stood still long enough, nature would take me back. I’ve been longing for solitude and wanting to feel connected to nature again.


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Behind the scenes shots of making the evergreen wings.

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Behind the scenes look at “Where She Lies”

Now that I’m off the road and back at home, I wanted to take the opportunity to give a bit of a behind the scenes look at my process. I’m staying in Maine for some time and I plan to take full advantage of it’s landscape. My beautiful Lulu Lovering came to stay for the weekend and we took a trip down to the town beach. I didn’t have a concept in mind when planning to go shoot, but as soon as I got to the boardwalk that takes us through the woods down to the beach, there was this lush moss with patches of light and I knew I didn’t want to waste the opportunity. So, wonderful Lu was kind enough to lay in the squishy moss for me.


After wandering around the scene trying to find the angle I preferred, I decided I wanted to work from a lower angle to capture the emotion in her face. When shooting the photo, I thought I wanted to bring out the reds and greens in the scene, but after taking it into Photoshop, I wanted to give a bit of a warmer feel to the photo to highlight the light on her face and make it seem more like sunset.

You can see how I edit my photos in this speed edit I put together.

My ultimate goal in creating any photo is to tell a story, draw attention to my model, and eliminate any distractions.


Write your own success story: changing your definition of success

“I’ve often said that I wish people could realize all their dreams and wealth and fame so that they can see it’s not where you are going to find your sense of completion. I can tell you from experience the effect you have on others is the most valuable currency there is because everything you gain in life will rot and fall apart and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart.” – Jim Carrey

I used to get so caught up in numbers. My success was defined in social media status. My self worth was how many followers I had. My talent was how many comments a photo received. If a photo didn’t do well, I wasn’t good enough. My work wasn’t good enough. From talking with the generations under me, this is the shifting psychology caused by social media. A whole life’s worth defined by how many Instagram followers a person has. Value and importance placed upon numbers and not kindness, connection, and love. It was a life of always chasing never resting. I never had time to realize and reflect on the real triumphs I was achieving every day because I was too concerned with one-upping my last accomplishment knowing that each success might be the highest point in which my career will ever get. And in that feeling the shame and anxiety in that thought. I was never satisfied and nothing was enough. Until I changed my definition of what success is. Success is not always big clients, big jobs, and big paychecks and if you define yourself by that alone you’ll always be disappointed chasing the next big thing. Success is not the number of internet strangers you have collected. It is not the amount of money you make. It is not defined by the successes of other people.

Photo by Vanessa Paxton

Photo by Vanessa Paxton

I’ve been learning to shift my success into moments and in that, embracing the idea of gratefulness. This year I was bit by a tick I never saw and got really sick. As a chronic sufferer of migraines, I didn’t recognize the significance of a headache that refused to let up for a month. I didn’t recognize the flu-like symptoms, the fevers, the fatigue. The moment I knew there was something seriously wrong was when my fingertips started hurting, as fingertips shouldn’t hurt. If you’ve never seen Lyme disease, it feels a bit like you happened to catch the flu on the same week you’ve broken every bone in your body. And of course as most things go, the timing was impeccably awful sitting on the cusp of needing to sell all my possessions, give up my jobs and my home to dedicate myself to a four month road trip and workshop tour. I have never felt exhausted like that. I remember my mom and step dad graciously driving the three hours from Maine to New Hampshire to paint my apartment for the showing that weekend because I could not psychically remove myself from the couch. I remember my sister running my errands and picking me up from doctors appointments and 1am ER visits and nursing me back to health. This is where I learned gratefulness. This is where I learned success is having the energy to sit up. This is where I learned success was being able to answer all of my emails or go to work or edit a photo. My Lyme was caught early enough that I’ve made a full recovery with no lingering side effects that I can see. Now months passed those four months of struggle I have a better understanding on what is important to me and how I want my life defined.

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I define my success in the present. Success is every email I get from someone I never met saying how they felt themselves in my photos. Success is someone saying my photo got them through the day. Success is meeting someone who started photography because they saw my photos and said to themselves, “You know, I can do that too.” Success is in the connection. It is the time spent with my mother and sister. It is somehow ending up in a cafe in a town I’ve never thought to be at an ungodly hour speaking with people I will never see again. It is 6am sunrises after camping on top of a mountain. It is being able to spend four months in the positive light of my best friends. It is the wonder of feeling so small in the Redwoods of California. It is watching the northern lights by a cabin near a lake in British Columbia. It is every hug. It is every kind word. It is every day I got out of bed and faced the world. And for every day I get of bed, I am grateful.



Don’t let anyone assign your worth. Don’t define your worth based on the success of other people. You are as valuable and important as anyone else and you have your own journey. To quote the Dalai Lama, “Today think as you wake up, I am fortunate to be alive. I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it.” I recently got this tattooed on myself as a reminder. You are worthy because you exist and as such, every day is a success.

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If you don’t want your photos stolen don’t post them on the internet.

“If you don’t want your photos stolen don’t post them on the internet.”

This is an argument I have heard over and over again, mostly from people who have never had their work borrowed. Which of course is like saying, “I know you were home, but if you didn’t want your belongings stolen, you shouldn’t have left your door unlocked.” I have never been partial to that argument as there is a whole world of opportunity the internet has to offer. For every negative word or stolen photo due to posting my photos to social media, I have gotten five fantastic opportunities to further my career or reach people I never would have had the chance to reach. My career and income is built primarily on the opportunities I have received because I’ve taken to marketing myself on social media. But I can say with the most unfortunate yet utmost certainty and confidence that if you post your photos to the internet, they are most likely going to be borrowed. And I prefer the term borrowed. I try to think of the good in people and that in most cases, the offender simply didn’t know they were doing wrong. We are in a lack of attention span, everything is up for grabs, internet generation where most people believe that if it is on the internet, it is free to distribute and use. We are upon a generation that believes that any and all information and media posted is without owner and copyright laws. Which of course, isn’t the case. At least not legally. As such I believe awareness and understanding is the best way to combat and reduce the instances of copyright infringement. I believe in the saying of, “giving credit where credit is due.”

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I will always remember my first stolen image. A friend of mine happened to stumble upon someone who had found one of my images, photoshopped my model out, and photoshopped themselves into the photo. I remember feeling so hurt and so angry. I couldn’t believe someone had taken something I had worked so hard on and done something so awful to it. I played with the idea of never posting my work again. I wanted to quit photography. I was fuming and wanted to find this person and ask them why they thought doing that was okay. I took a few days to think about the situation and cool down enough to find the right words. I tried to look at it from their perspective. It was just some kid who thought my photo was cool and wanted to be a part of it. They didn’t know they were doing wrong. So instead of sending a message berating this kid and telling them to remove the image immediately or face legal consequences, I sent them a calm message letting them know that it wasn’t the right thing to do and if they could remove my image it would be preferable. Over time I’ve gotten used to it and become more accepting of it.

Face blurred for protection

Face blurred for protection

I’ve had my photos borrowed for book covers without payment. My self portrait has been used in an art gallery in the Netherlands under another artist’s name. I have been photoshopped out of my own photos and replaced with another person. My photos have been used to advertise upcoming parties at clubs, church websites, and other artist’s editing skills. They’ve been used to sell posters, prints, and albums. And even more recently, my photo has been borrowed to advertise a very popular app in the Itunes store. People have slapped quotes on them and they’ve gone viral on Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest with no credit.

Used in an Art Gallery

Used in an Art Gallery

Viral on social media

Viral on social media

Book cover that has since been paid for.

Book cover that has since been paid for.

In our Wild Ones Workshops we teach a segment on how to protect yourself from image theft. We encourage our students to google reverse search their images and there is always at least one student who finds some of their work reedited or used without their permission. It seems regardless of reach, following, or subject, people are going to take and they are going to use. Regardless of watermarks, disabling downloading, and uploading low resolution, your photos will be borrowed.

Unfortunately in most cases without having your lawyer on hand, the best possible outcome you can hope for is the image to be removed or your credit added. When confronted, especially if you are sending over an invoice for usage, most emails either go ignored or the “borrower” fights tooth and nail over the fact that they didn’t know the image was yours and that there are copyright laws in place.

Reedited to add a new background

Reedited to add a new background



I’ve been mulling around about this for a few years now and I’ve picked up a few tips on dealing with the issue of copyright infringement. First, know when to pick your battles. At this point, my images have been borrowed so many times if I spent all of my time sending out cease and desist I would no longer have a photography career. I would work full time policing my work and dealing with copyright infringement cases. I have over five hundred images that have been borrowed and edited sitting on a folder on my desktop and those are only the ones that I’ve found. I know this is only the tip of the iceberg and there is a whole world of my borrowed images waiting to make their way back home to me. So I’ve learned to choose my battles very carefully. When I come across an image being used without payment or permission, I ask myself these questions:

  • Is the person making money off of your image? Have they slapped it on a t-shirt, book cover, or are selling prints?
  • Are they using your image to promote hate or slander?
  • Are they slandering your business?
  • Do they have a big social media following?
  • Are they using your image to market or promote their business?
  • Could going after this person bring a negative outcome to your livelihood?
  • Is the infringement located in a country with similar copyright laws?
  • Is the monetary value worth the energy of the inevitable battle?

I am more likely to send a cease and desist to someone using my images to make a profit than I am some teenager that found my work on Tumblr, happened to like it, and doesn’t have a good understanding of copyright law. It is not worth the energy to me to get into a battle if the outcome will not benefit me monetarily or further market my business.


Advertising a festival

Photoshopped me out added themselves in

Photoshopped me out added themselves in 

I have yet to find a good way to protect my images from theft. I’ve learned if someone wants your images, they will do what it takes to get it. If you use a watermark, they will crop it out. If you disable downloading of your image, they will take a screen shot. If they want it, they will take it. However, there are a few good ways to protect yourself IN CASE they are stolen. Of which I can almost guarantee they will be.

Learn how to Google Reverse Search your images. This tool is my new best friend. There are quite a few other reverse search engines in place but I’ve found Google to be the best at locating my images.

Know your rights. Read up on copyright law. Here are a few good links I’ve found in passing:

Watermark your images. If they crop out or remove your watermark it goes to intent, thus later they can not say they “didn’t know” the image was yours. Slap it across the image so it makes it really difficult to remove. Make them work. Or you can make it so small that only you know it’s there and upon asking to prove if the image is yours, you can zoom right in and see your name. Self portraiture and tattoos I’ve found are also really fantastic organic ways of easily proving you are connected to the images because they are undeniable.

Register your images with the Library of Congress or any similar resource in your country. I know in the United States the moment you click the shutter button, the image is yours. You own it. You own the copyright. It is not necessary to register. However, if you register your copyright with the Library of Congress you have a fantastic paper trail, it’s a lot easier to prove the images are yours, and it allows you to sue for a higher rate. It’s a relatively easy process, though tedious and time-consuming. You can upload your photos online for $35 or send in a disk and the paperwork for $65. I register my photos yearly by collection. I send in disks with low resolution JPGs under the names, “Sarah Ann Loreth Collection of Images 2010” and so forth. A year or so later you will receive a certificate verifying the copyright for those images. You can find some great reading on registering here:

Only upload low resolution images to the internet. That way, when they are borrowed, they are not able to blow them up to larger sizes or it will look horrible and pixellated. Photoshop has a quick and easy “save for web” feature that allows for ease of saving.

Add your copyright information into the metadata of your photos. On most DSLRs if you go into your menu it allows you to insert your name and copyright information digitally to each photo.

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You can find 400 or so more borrowed images on my Facebook.

The Traveling Photographer: My Photo Survival Kit!

The whole setup

The whole setup

It is important to note the gear does not make the photographer, the photographer makes the gear. You are only as good as the ability in which you are able to use the tools given to you. With the practice of lighting techniques, creativity, and the functionality of your camera I believe you can create an incredible quality of work with just about anything.

Life on the road is fun but a challenge. You can’t bring much with you when traveling in a van for four months with a couple other people. The gear that I have choosen is based on what will work well with my style of photography, with the limited space of the van living situation. I recommend going out and trying different brands to see what will work best for you. I started on a Canon Rebel XTI four years ago to learn basic camera functions and have stuck with the brand ever since. I have loved every Canon I’ve used from the Rebel XTI, Rebel T3I, EOS 7D, and most recently the 5D Mark II. I have also tried out Sony and Nikon full frame bodies. While all brands have their pros and cons, Canon has made me pretty happy all around during my photography career.

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II

MacBook Pro Retina Display – Besides my camera, my MacBook Pro is my most important tool. The retina display makes my photos pop and it’s light and portable so it makes editing on the road easy. It has saved my sanity numerous times this tour by giving me something to do on those 9 – 12 hour drive days and made keeping up with my business and the nonprofit so easy. This computer was a Christmas gift to me from 20+ of my friends and I cherish it every day.

Canon 5D Mark II – With it’s full frame 21 megapixel sensor and high ISO capability the Mark II has proved to be my favorite camera I’ve ever owned. It works so well in low light shooting wedding receptions or conceptual work after sunset. On year two of using this camera I don’t have much to complain about other than focusing in low light. I wish Canon had the focusing light like a Nikon but if I’m having a problem I switch over to live view and focus manually. It’s sturdy and fast and the weatherproofing has come in handy so many times shooting in the rain. To me, it is what I know, love, and it feels like home. It has withstood a lot of bumps, drops, and other catastrophe’s of a conceptual photographer and has retained it’s quality. It has become an extension of myself in I spend less time worrying about the functions and more time worrying about getting the perfect shot. I’m hoping to upgrade to the Mark III or 6D within the next few years.

Canon 50mm 1.2L – This was my dream lens that I saved and saved every penny for and the lens I use primarily. I had upgraded from the 50mm 1.8 after I had broken it. It’s sharper, faster, and sturdier which is a huge help since clumsiness is one of my more charming qualities and I needed something to withstand a lot of bumping. It has retained it’s sharpness and quality through two years of use. I don’t often shoot wide open, but when I do the depth of field is beautiful.

Sharpness at 100% zoom

Sharpness at 100% zoom

50mm 1.2 RAW file

50mm 1.2 RAW file

Canon 35mm f/2 – I use this lens mostly for fashion and underwater work because it gives me a little bit extra room in the frame while keeping a really great depth of field.

Canon 35mm f/2

Canon 35mm f/2

Canon 35mm f/2

Canon 35mm f/2

Canon EF 28-135mm Zoom – Kit lens that came with my Canon 7D. It’s a lens that gets used maybe once or twice a year for charity events that I need to be farther back to capture the moment. Gets the job done with okay quality, for a kit lens. I also used this lens for a few landscape photos during the tour when I didn’t feel like using my 50mm and expanding.

Canon EF 28-135mm

Canon EF 28-135mm

Kingston 64GB CF card – Shooting in RAW you need a large card and I absolutely LOVE my 64GB from Kingston. It’s so speedy to capture and even with 700+ RAW files my camera is still at 999. Between the two 64GBs I was able to shoot four months of work and travel without clearing the cards (which of course, isn’t reccommended! Back up your files!)

SanDisk Extreme 16GB Compact Flash Cards – I used SanDisk 16s before I made the switch over to Kingston. They are speedy to capture but I found the 16GB to be lacking in the space I needed in shooting in RAW. If I was booked up with client shoots or conceptual work I found myself having to dump the cards far too often which isn’t optimal for life on the road where you might not have the oppurtinity to clear your cards as often as you would like.

Opteka Remote – I keep so many of these with me. You never know when you are going to be in an incredible location and need to take a conceptual self portrait. I tend to lose things so I keep a number of these handy just in case.

Remotes, lenses, and cards. Remotes, lenses, and cards.[/caption

Wacom Intous Pro Tablet – I LOVE my tablet. It makes getting those fine details when compositing or editing skin for fashion so easy and effortless. It allows you to be very precise in your editing. I’m thrilled with it’s wireless capabilities which makes editing on the go that much easier without having to worry about finding cords and staying connected.

Vanguard Alta Pro 263AGH Tripod with Pistol Grip – Vangaurd is incredible and has been such a support to myself and our students this tour. I love their tripods! The body is light but sturdy and the pistol grip head allows for maximum ease of movement so as to allow me to change compositions rapidly. It’s so easy to set up and has a lot of versitility for different angles that are effortless to set up!

Vanguard Personalized Wild Ones Sedona 45BL Bag – I love my bag. Vanguard was awesome and had my bag embroidered with my name and our Wild Ones logo! It’s outdoorsy enough for fantastic use while hiking, which we did a lot this tour. The top pocket allows for quick access for your camera but the back access keeps your lenses and personal belongs safe and secure which I often worry about in large cities. It also has a vent system in the back to keep you cool. It has plenty of pockets to maximum storage and I was even able to slip my laptop in there for portability.