Photographing Your First Book

Books Carla Coulson Some of my books rubbing up against my heroes..

Nothing like a new start, a new week and a New Year that brings so many new projects and hope.

I love hope!

I have been preparing images and a presentation for the upcoming Caravan Travel Photography Workshop in Puglia and going through 12 years of images. This is such a wonderful process in itself, like looking through a visual diary of your life, moments in time, familiar faces and ones you have forgotten.

Grandfather Naples Carla Couls

I like to think I remember every photo but even I found some lovely surprises.

Trawling back through the images from now to the beginning of photography school, through projects such as Naples A Way Of Love, Paris Tango and and all the way to Italian Joy I had a thought that may just help you shoot your first book.

Carla Coulson Italian Joy

When you are at the beginning of anything you have ‘things’ that money can’t buy – endless oodles of enthusiasm, no expectations,  the joy at looking at the world as though you have just seen and ‘felt’ it for the first time and shooting what you love.

Sunbaker Carla Coulson Italian Joy

The cameras I invested in in the early years were like new toys for me and I couldn’t get enough of them. My underwater camera meant even at the beach I could explore photography from a new angle.

Carla Coulson Italian Joy

The photos that ended up in Italian Joy were a product of innate curiosity of life, the burning desire to take photos that said or made you feel something, sheer unadulterated happiness and untiring enthusiasm that would have me out in the rain, the wind, the snow… asking fishermen (that I didn’t know) to board their boats and shoot them.. holding my breath and shooting ladies underwater.. treading water whilst kids jumped off the rocks one after the other waiting for that perfect moment ….and stalking lovers in train stations.

Italian Joy Carla Coulson

The photos I took in those early years are still some of my favourites because they were taken for sheer pleasure and love of photography with no end use in mind. They were photos born of freedom.

And this my dear friends is your advantage when shooting for a ‘probable’ first book.

Carla Coulson Italian Joy

Some things I notice in my photos looking back:

1. I shot ‘my’ world, the people around me, people who would give me access, my friends, family, Florentines and Popi

2. I was obsessed with movement, I shot vespas over and over again

3. I was also obsessed with religious iconography in Italy and drawn to every tabernacle on a street corner, statues of Madonna’s in churches and religious art (I have thousands of images).

4. I loved the innate elegance of Italians and would stop well-dressed people in the street and ask if I could take a photo (yep I was obsessed).

5. I loved shooting love in all it’s expressions…

6. I shot things that made me laugh (still do)..

7. I shot almost exclusively in the early years in black and white…(and I never felt the pressure to shoot in colour)

Made in Italy Carla Coulson Italian joy

 All Photos Copyright Carla Coulson Italian Joy

So here are are some tips if you are at the beginning of your photography career and hope one day to shoot/write a book.

1. Shoot what you love and don’t question it.

2. Shoot what is accessible and don’t ask yourself where it will fit?

3. The world needs original books so if you think it isn’t mainstream enough.. Keep shooting you are probably onto something.

4. If you are shooting a well known subject put your spin on it.

5. Take the photos you love and trust your inner ‘photographer’s voice’.

I hope this little insight helps you on your path.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” Elliott Erwitt




Please share if It may help someone starting out..

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9 years ago

You now I think you’re amazing – now I think you’re just the best!

9 years ago
Reply to  Sarah

Whoops – know not now!

9 years ago

A truly inspiring piece. The kind that gets you all worked up inside to do something about it… You know, that mixture of envy and motivation and ‘of course that’s the way to do it’.

Thanks for your generosity.

9 years ago

Wonderful post and fantastic pics 🙂 That quote of Elliott Erwitt’s is one of my all time favourites.

Peggy Braswell
9 years ago

I know at the beginning of each new project,be it design or photography, it is all the same! excitement!

La Contessa
9 years ago

One through five are in ALL your BOOKS!
Did i tell you the ITALIAN husband finally finished the latest book and really truly enjoyed every word and photo!It brought many memories back to him.

9 years ago

I enjoyed you posting, both the images and the text.

Francesca Muir
9 years ago

Wonderful Carla and so inspiring to those of us aspiring to being published. A question: Did you get written permissions for all the photos in your books – your first book especially? And do publishers alwasy ask for them? Love Elliott Erwitt’s quote. Thank you! F xx

lisa | renovating italy

Wonderful and i’ll hear your voice in my head each time I doubt myself…..with that and my ‘fierce’ aunt giving me a kick up the bum and now even Carina nagging me….well you know!!!

9 years ago

so true Carla .. thanks for helping to keep the passion alive! xo

9 years ago

This is fabulous! I’m going to bookmark this post xx

Paula Franco
9 years ago

I love your posts about “how to start”… or “going pro”.
I have a question, should we be asking people we picture in the street for a written authorization in case we want to publish a book later and use their picture ?
How do you proceed ?

8 years ago

Carla, the world through your eyes is beautiful.

Please keep writing… keep photographing, I love where you take me.