Book Cover Choices: Choosing Images (avoiding THAT photo)

This particular problem crops up all the time–that one model on your cover who has been on 7000 other covers. 

In the old days, that was Fabio and it was a selling point, but now it’s not.

I was reading over on Just Creative and found an article (from 2016, sorry) that discusses needs for cover designs*. And the writer mentioned this phenomenon:


Yes, while all three covers are nice, some stock photos just get overused. (Remember, I talked about that in this post?)  And it’s not just indie publishers who have this issue. Pro publishers sometimes use stock photos, and end up with duplications everywhere.

How, as a writer/designer, can we avoid that?

Well, here’s where the image search is our friend.  I generally use TinEye, which is a dedicated image search engine. I right-click on the image and “Copy Image Address”, and then paste that into the search bar on TinEye, wait for it to resolve, and scroll through the results.  (I use TinEye so much that there’s an icon for it on my toolbar.)

Now this particular image (above) doesn’t throw up a ton of results, but there are enough to know that it has been used as a cover before…many times.

Here’s another:


Okay, that’s a screen shot from TinEye, after I searched the above image. TinEye says there are 22 results out there, 6 of which are stock images. (Leaving 16 other images.)

(Google Image Search throws out a ton more results, but it’s harder there to sort out which are stock photos, blog posts, ads, book covers… so I stick with TinEye.)

I scrolled through the 3 pages of results and saw 5 distinct covers, one of which was on a lot of blogs, so it must have been more popular.  But you can also click on that “Filter by Domain/Collection” option that’s shown in the screenshot above and ask it only to show you the results from Amazon. That really narrows it down.

But remember, an image search won’t catch them all.

If there’s enough alteration to the image or if the text over the image is large enough, that will keep a search engine from recognizing it as other images. (Also if it’s been rotated.) Image search can only give you a general idea if your photo’s overused. (For example, the photos on this Pinterest page do not turn up all the other images there when searched, mostly because they’re altered, flipped, or have lots of text that baffles the image search.)

Problem almost solved, though. Now use some common sense.

  1. If your image appears on all the stock photo sites, it may not have been used before BUT there’s also no guarantee that it won’t be picked up by a dozen other cover designers next week.
  2. Other sites that specialize in cover photo shoots, especially ones that do custom shoots, may or may not guarantee exclusivity to an image. Don’t assume. Remember to read the terms for each photo’s use.
  3. Look for a photographer’s newer images or less popular ones. (Deposit Photo has an option to search “Undiscovered” images.)

And, that’s all I have to say about image selection. Go out and create…