In Pictures: Should Books Be Pushed to the Back?

Books Be Pushed to the Back

Have you ever tried showing off your book collection to a friend or having a bookcase as your Zoom background? If so, then you know how important it is that a bookcase be well-organized for display–but does that mean the books are pushed all the way to the back of the bookcase, or can you leave them natural?

As a general rule, photographers will place books to the front of the bookshelf before doing a photoshoot. It creates a cleaner look, and it also helps with getting a better lit bookcase. Photographers also employ further tactics and methods to create a truly aesthetically pleasing bookcase.

There are several other techniques photographers use to make a bookcase ready for a photoshoot. Pushing books to the front is a good start, but not the only thing that can make a noticeable difference. Keep reading for more photography tricks.

In Photos: Should Books Be Pushed to the Back?

During a photoshoot, books should always be pushed to the front for a cleaner look. It also helps with getting a better lit bookcase, as demonstrated by Mrs. J in the Library

The better lighting also helps the individual colors of the books stand out. This is also a useful trick during a virtual meeting as it makes your background look more organized, thus making you look organized.

Reasons for pushing books to the front:

  • Better lighting
  • Book colors stand out more
  • Books appear better organized

By pushing books to the back, you get none of these benefits—and when it comes to photography, lighting is everything. What other things should you avoid or embrace?

In Photos: Should Books Be Placed Backwards?

There’s a bookcase trend making the rounds that may surprise most people and disgust most people too. According to The Guardian, this new trend requires placing all the books in a bookcase backward, meaning that the book spines are facing in and the pages are facing out toward you. 

Many of you may be thinking, “how can I get the book I want to read if I can’t even see the title?” Well, this trend is mainly for artistic purposes and not practical uses.

It’s used by photographers to create a more consistent and organized look. All the viewers will see are the pages and no titles or spines. It’s not meant for avid readers and mostly done for photos or annoying your friends when they want to borrow a book.

After you decide whether or not to place your books backward you’ve got to figure out what to do with any extra empty space you may have.

Decorating a Bookcase for Photos

Decorating can be tough when it comes to making something appeal to everyone. Photographers and interior designers need to be able to reach mainstream audiences while not scaring them away like so many are with the backward bookcase (they’ll warm up eventually). 

Interior designers and photographers seek three attributes in order to accomplish this. They look for bookcases that are organic, unique, and balanced.

Organic Bookshelves

Look for objects that bring in a natural and welcoming feeling. Here are some examples:

  • Plants. Using plants gives a more natural look that makes the entire space feel warm and welcoming. If you don’t want the hassle of caring for a real plant, then interior designer, Nina Takesh, recommends faux plants. Doesn’t matter if the plants are real or fake. Just put some green it there!
  • Anything brown or wooden. Home Staging TV  also recommends having brown and wooden objects on your shelves. This is a great alternative if you don’t have any plants. These also bring a warm, natural, and inviting feeling. Use things like fake branches or cut off some real ones as Nina Takesh suggests

Bring in nature and many people will be attracted to your bookshelves like flies to a light.

Unique Bookshelves

Make sure to keep everyone on their toes. You want to have something new and different on every shelf. Here’s how to do that:

  • Using Odd Numbers Home Staging TV advises putting objects onto shelves in odd numbers to add a bit of randomness, Instead of grouping two Rubix cubes onto a shelf put one, three, or even five! Stay away from evenly numbered objects
  • Different Sizes and Shapes Another great tip from Home Staging TV is to use all kinds of objects. Big, small, flat, round, and everything in between. This will add plenty of uniqueness to your bookshelf without even trying
  • Texture A tip from Nina Takesh is to not neglect texture. Have items of different textures. Diversifying textures will add to the uniqueness. Maybe one ball is smooth and another is full of holes. You could have a ball with a rough surface or even a ball with a spikey surface if you’re feeling adventurous
  • Colors Having a single color palette is attractive and a good idea too, but putting some color onto the bookshelf can make it seem like an artist painted the photo. It gives a viewer some variety and appreciation for detail if used sparsely. So splash some colors on there!

Keep your bookshelf unique by having each individual shelf unique. Variety and diversity are key to beauty as a whole.

Balanced Bookshelves

When decorating your bookshelf you want to keep things balanced. This may be difficult to do while being organic and unique. Here are some tips: 

  • Repetition Home Staging TV shows that lining up the same type of objects onto a shelf gives a nice look for the overall shelf. You aren’t limited to just items but can use repetition in colors and even in height. Instead of putting three similar gold vase across on a shelf try putting them vertically up and down the shelves
  • Texture Nina Takesh, recommends balancing your textures as well. Back to the ball example. One ball is smooth, rough, full of holes, or spikey. That’s balanced already for you, but objects like fake plants can be too. Some plants come with few leaves and others come with many leaves. Unique textures balance themselves out
  • Colors Takesh prompts that black stands out and should be used effectively by not putting too many black items otherwise it won’t stand out anymore. Gold is even less used because it really pops out, so put one or two gold items onto a shelf and leave it at that. Brass is also a good compliment to your gold. Again don’t overdo it!
  • Take a step back. A powerful tip from Home Staging TV is to just take a few steps back and take in the whole scene. Check for symmetry for a balanced look
  • Asymmetry is cool too. Don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. Putting knick-knacks on your shelves in random places can give a natural “wasn’t trying too hard” look, but remember not to overdo it. You don’t want to throw off the overall balance

You don’t want to overdo the randomness of your bookshelf but have just enough to make it seem like a natural and balanced image.

Prepping Bookcases for a Photoshoot: Roundup

Taking photos of bookcases and books becomes much easier when you put this advice into practical use. 

Stick to the basics of keeping your bookcases organic, unique, and most importantly balanced. If you do decide to push your books to the back or place them backwards make sure all of your books are doing that to keep the overall balance. 

Otherwise, it won’t look like one cohesive image and make certain sections look out of place. Balance is the real key to making a bookshelf picturesque and ready for photos. 


Hi there! I’m Alex, the one behind this website. I ran and operated a Local Furniture Store in Southern California. The store opened in 2010, during the “Great Recession,” It is still thriving today; however, I have dedicated my time to helping our online customer base. My primary focus is to help you with all your furniture & mattress questions.

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