Thursday, January 30, 2014

Got Author Picture?

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!"

Tell us what you think! To post your ideas / comments, all of which I read and try to respond to, click below where it says, 'No Comments,' or '2 Comments,' or whatever.
If you'd like to receive this blog automatically as an email, look to the right, above my bio, and subscribe there. Thanks for looking in.


  1. I'm in the cheapskate amateur category because my photo was a quickie. I've only just begun thinking about building a platform for my author self. I'm not really into it. It seem ridiculous considering I'm just another flea on the dog.

    This summer I'm going to a conference and last time I went they had a professional photographer available, so I'm thinking of having a photo made. Until then, my sorry photo will have to do.

    The line, "You actually look warm and professional!" was hysterical.

    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. You look gorgeous Elizabeth. I was considering cutting and pasting Cameron Diaz in a bathing suit.Is that cheating? Don't tell me that's cheating.

  3. personally i think my best shot is on my right side, look horrible on my left and i've never been able to take a decent a shot full frontal. it's always 50-50 but a long while ago i did think about adding an author's photo but my best photos were my wedding pictures, the occasional vacation pictures and my FB profile picture and i can't use any of those right?

    i'll just bide my time until i can get one done, but in regards to a photographer my criteria are cheap and good.

  4. Really, you have to go by your best judgment. If you have an amazing candid shot from somewhere, maybe you should use it for the time being.


Tell us your thoughts! You know you want to.