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Using photographs instead of illustrations in a children's picture book

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This is a general question but I have noticed that almost all children's picture books use drawings and millustrations and very few use actual photographs. Is there a reason for this? When I was a child a lot of the picture books I had were illustrated with photos and I loved them! Are they unpopular with publishers? I'd love to know. Thanks!
#1 - April 05, 2016, 04:26 AM

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These days, photo-illustration is mostly reserved for nonfiction texts. Fiction PBs typically use illustrations.
#2 - April 05, 2016, 04:56 AM
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Thanks for the reply. So it's not impossible to use photos in a fictional picture book, just more unusual?
#3 - April 05, 2016, 05:18 AM

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That would be up to the publisher, unless you're self-publishing.
#4 - April 05, 2016, 07:48 AM
PRUDENCE, THE PART-TIME COW, A CHIP OFF THE OLD BLOCK, BUSY BUS series, EMERGENCY KITTENS, and more!
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Some PBs have combined photos and illustration in interesting ways.
#5 - April 05, 2016, 08:20 AM
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The recent bestsellers The Sheepover, The Christmas Wish, and the older Stranger in the Woods use photos/photo illustrations. Interestingly, the Sheepover and SITW both were originally self-published, with The Sheepover getting picked up by Little Brown after it became popular. This might suggest that readers like photos more than art directors do. I tried but failed to find a post last year (Nerdy Book Club? Mr. Schu?) with new picture books using photos, but I remember that most of the photos were of constructions, like Terry Border's Peanut Butter and Cupcake or Marcel the Shell. I remember one had photos of little fabric birds and one had photos of gorgeous cut paper creations -- maybe someone else can supply the titles.
#6 - April 05, 2016, 10:12 AM
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THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, October 2, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

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Mo Willems uses a combination of photographs and illustration in his Knuffle Bunny books, but he is an author-illustrator. And he already had some weight to his name before those came out, so I'm not sure.
#7 - April 05, 2016, 01:02 PM
Janae

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Photos seem dated really, really fast because of hair styles and clothing.  Obviously that wouldn't affect books like Tana Hoban's OF COLORS AND THINGS or other similar books, but photos of real kids aren't as enduring.  <-- That is a generalization.  Obviously there are some titles where that's not true.
#8 - April 05, 2016, 02:35 PM
VAMPIRINA BALLERINA series (Disney-Hyperion)
SUNNY'S TOW TRUCK SAVES THE DAY (Abrams)
GROUNDHUG DAY (Disney-Hyperion, 2017)
among others

Thanks all for great feedback. I have a style of creating dioramas which I photograph and then adapt in Photoshop so all this is encouraging. Good point about looking dated! I don't plan to have photos of any people/children just objects/figures. Really helpful. I'm going to look up the books everyone has mentioned!
#9 - April 05, 2016, 03:17 PM

I remember when I was a kid I was NOT interested in the books with photographs, because then I knew my mom was trying to trick me into reading non-fiction. :) (How I ended up a non-fiction writer is another story, I guess.)

To me, a photograph is a factual (and thus non-negotiable) representation of something, whereas an illustration is evocative and open to all manner of interpretation. So much of fiction is about putting yourself into a story and imagining/reenvisioning various aspects of it, and I think illustrations lend themselves to that much better.

Of course, I'm not saying there aren't instances where photographs couldn't work--just that that's strongly where my preference lies. Also, I do kind of like the mixed-media approach, for example an illustration of a girl carrying a suitcase that is a photograph. Or an illustrated boy against a photographed landscape. Something like that. 
#10 - April 06, 2016, 01:56 PM

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Although I see a lot of NF books with photographs, I haven't seen very many fiction PBs with photographs, but those that I have are beautiful with nature photography and a storyline. One book was very cute about a squirrel's adventures. I'm sorry I can't remember either the title nor the author/photographer now but she had pictures of squirrels that she waited and waited to snap. Some of them had specific objects, clearly placed where a squirrel might investigate it ... but a labor of love. I've also seen pictures of dioramas elaborating a story ... so it's definitely doable and sounds like so much fun, Peeptoe. Good luck with it.

Vijaya
#11 - April 06, 2016, 03:43 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
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Thanks guys! I m going to give it a go, no flat literal photos, no chance of mistaking it for a non fiction! I'm fiction all the way! Great support from this forum , thanks!
#12 - April 06, 2016, 07:26 PM

I would agree with everyone here, except to add that photographs kind of finalise things somewhat. Even with illustration in books, they are open to interpretation by the reader:children (and adults) notice things in an illustration that they might miss in a photograph. Maybe I am wrong but I feel that a reader might see something different on a personal level.
Also, photographs have a touch of finalization and could detract from the plot more than illustrations do.
I am probably wrong on that one too.
#13 - April 07, 2016, 04:00 AM

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I know other illustrators who photograph clay figures or dioramas. The illustration style isn't considered photography alone. That's like saying stop motion animation is photography or just sculpture. Here's a link to the agency page for my friend Mary Bono:  http://www.hermanagencyinc.com/mary_bono.htm

Others photograph cut paper. This is out there. You just have to look for it. After all, all of the art gets digitized for publication and photos or scans are the first step in that process.

Go for it.
#14 - April 11, 2016, 11:53 AM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

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I just came across the cover of this book and immediately thought of this thread. Although, maybe it's nonfiction? Either way, ridiculously adorable!

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/614ZGsEchrL._SY497_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg
#15 - April 12, 2016, 08:57 AM

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