When I speak or do writing workshops, I often use PowerPoint slides with pictures as well as bullet points. I almost always put in one of my current head shots, and as a side piece of advice I'll say, "Get a good author picture taken."
Authors who create a head shot by cropping themselves from a snapshot, or get their kid to shoot one, almost always get a result that screams, "Cheapskate amateur!"
You'll use your head shot not just on the jacket of any book you write, but for your web site, social media pages, promo for readings and other gigs, etc. You want one that makes you look professional, therefore
you need professional help. [Photo by Thomas Bender.]
Take my advice:
1) Look into local photographers. Check out their work, ask questions. For my most recent shots, I chose a friend who's a professional news photographer.
2) Pick a day well in advance, and book the photographer for just after lunchtime.
3) Book a hair appointment and a makeup appointment for that morning. I asked my makeup artist for a natural look, and after about an hour of intense effort, he achieved it. Guys too should consider a professional makeup job, to even out their skin tones.
4) For girls, buy a tube of the same lipstick your makeup artist uses, so you can refresh your lips after drinking or eating. For guys, unless your artist puts lip color on you, use Chap Stick or such to keep your lips from looking dry.
My photographer came to my house with portable lights and reflectors. We tried different settings—dining-room table, chair in the living room, outdoors. The key to being a good subject is to relax. At times I tried to conjure feelings of amusement, love, and enthusiasm, and that seemed to work.
What to wear? Simple is best. Remember your picture might be viewed in a small online format, so gorpy stuff won't scan. Light colors help bring out your face and your hair color. A dark shirt or top can, when viewed in a thumbnail on line, just look like a dark blob or shadow.
Today's digital photography is a godsend compared to olden times, when you pretty much had to sit for a studio portrait. The guy would take six exposures, and you'd look stiff in all of them. You'd pick the least-horrible one and live with it.
A good photographer today will make dozens, if not hundreds, of exposures, shooting rapidly at times to capture the nuances of their subject's fleeting expressions. I'm not naturally photogenic, so it was great to have hundreds of shots to choose from. I tell audiences that of the 400 shots the photographer took, in 396 of them I look like Norman Bates's mother. Always good for a laugh. But we caught lightning in a bottle a few times. My agent, upon seeing the shots I chose, exclaimed, "You actually look warm and professional!"
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