With so many things to consider when designing a book cover, many do not realize that choosing the stock photography for the design can be the most time consuming and difficult task of the process. However, choosing the right photography for your design will be worth every agonizing second.
So where do you start?
1. Start with brainstorming. Consider what you want featured and who your audience is. Do you want a dark or a light design? Night or day? What should the background be? Is there an object in your novel that should be featured on the design? Do you want one model or multiple characters on the cover? How much of the character do you want (head, upper body, full body).
2. Take some time and look for existing cover designs that have the right feel to you. Find covers with elements you like and do not like. Save these links to share with your designer.
3. Consider your audience. What are the current trends in design for your genre? What, if any, of these trends would you like to see in your design. Would you prefer to veer away from the trends?
4. Browse for stock and make a gallery or lightbox of images you would consider. When looking for photography keep the book orientation in mind (a horizontal image will likely need to be cropped). Also consider photography for future books in a series and for print design.
5. Be ready to make concessions and be flexible. It will be next to impossible to find an exact character match or background. Focus instead on finding photography that has the right feeling. Try not to get stuck on small details. If you find the perfect image with minor exceptions, ask your designer if it can be corrected.
6. Not everyone will love your choices. Design is very subjective and everyone will have a different option of your choice for stock. The more people you ask the more frustrating the process can become. If possible, find a wide variety of imagery and use others opinions to help eliminate some of the stock options.
So where should I get my stock?
There are infinite places to look for stock photography. A simple web search for "stock photography" should give you a good starting point for professional stock suppliers, such as Dreamstime.com. Do a quick search on a few stock websites to find one that is comfortable for you. Make sure to check pricing and read the image usage and/or licensing agreements as well.
Stock photography can also be found on individual model sites, as well as, on DeviantArt.com. Make sure to read the usage agreements carefully on these sites as they can be more strict.
What size should I get?
My recommendation for sizing is to get large resolution images or bigger. Small and medium sized images will not have enough quality for design sizes that work with most ebook websites and would not be usable for print design. Remember that images can always be made smaller, but not bigger (except for vector illustrations). If you are unsure of the size your designer will need, ask before making any purchase.