Friday, August 14, 2015

Your Author Photo

Once you have decided to become an author, whether that is through a publisher or your own marketing savvy, at some point you will need an author photo. In fact, it's probably good to have one even before you get started with publishing. I recently read a great book about self-publishing called The Sane Person's Guide to Self-Publishing by Catherine Ryan Howard. She's quite successful with self-publishing, and I found some great tips in her book. One of which was to create your author presence before you release your book. Something I never thought to do.

But if you plan to self-publish, or even if you don't, it's always a good idea to get into the writing community beforehand. For that, a photo would be most useful.

So how to get your face looking good in this photo? Because lets not lie here, just like we all judge a book by its cover, we also kind of judge faces. It's what we do as humans. So its my opinion that your photo, your first impression if you will, does hold some importance.

If you've got money to burn, you could get it done professionally. There are lots of options for that--a full on photo shoot with locations and such. The little photo place in Wal Mart with all the corny angel baby pictures on the wall. Whatever strikes your fancy and tickles your wallet just the right way.

OR if you're like me, you don't have cash to drop on beauty shots. So how to make your picture look great and still professional? Here are my best tips below to give yourself a good looking head shot:

1.) Put some thought into your appearance. If you're taking the picture on a random day with your hair in a pony tail, or after you get home from work and you look like you haven't slept in four days (because you've been up at all hours writing), it's not going to turn out as well. I know not every woman is into makeup and primping, and most guys don't give a flying fart what their hair is doing, but for this, for me give it a go. The more care you put into your appearance the more professional this will look. Pick a nice outfit, do something with your hair or makeup. Just be neat and tidy, and don't wear a grungy t-shirt (or any t-shirt really...v-neck might be an exception), and please no sunglasses.

**Side note: What we want is professional. As self-published or Indie writers, our curse is that we lack of the big dog support behind us. So what we want is for readers to look at our books and at us, and think, "Wow, they look legit!" Dress for the job you want. Take an author photo for the gig you desire.**

2.) Pick an ideal location. It doesn't matter what kind of camera  you have, really. If you have a friend with a high-pixel camera then call in a favor, but if that isn't within your means, then the right lighting and location will do wonders. Natural sunlight is best. It brings out the best in us, and it looks the most professional. So you can't go wrong with a nice outdoor location. You can even use your webcam, but make sure the background is neutral and the sunlight is flowing. I've seen some author pictures where they look like they're in their basement at night and taking a selfie. Not professional.

3.) No cats. I mean it.

4.) Natural positions look best. The hand shelf, or the thinking pose, or the well-placed hand are, at this
point, pretty outdated. Make the shot from the chest up, and do your best to be relaxed and natural. If you're smiley (like me) pull out the grin. If you're more comfortable not doing that, then go for it. Just as long as its you and its comfortable, that will come across in the photo.

5.) Get a good angle. Angling the camera from above is always pretty flattering. Not too much, but just enough that you get all the pretty angles of your face will usually look good. Angling from below is not suggested. You can do it head on, but my suggestion is to try a few different ways. Whether you're having a friend do it or you're using your webcam, try a few different angles to see what turns out best.

6.) Another tip I picked up from Catherine Howard (it made me laugh, but it might work for you) is to color coordinate with your blog or website. Cohesive things like that are what lend a professional air to your author presence.

For my current author photo, I had my sister take it. We were in the snow (hence the white behind me) and it was sunny outside. I did up my hair, put on some makeup, and angled that sucker up high. Bam. Decent picture.

Want to share your author pic? How did you come by it? Any tips to add?


  1. As long as it's a nice picture it's really not that important.I thought it was until I took a look at top author's pictures. Nothing special.

    1. Usually "nice picture" is subjective, but I agree with you. As long as its clean and clear, and semi-professional, its all good. The point, in my opinion, is to look like we're professional, published authors, and those authors who were picked up by big names usually have a tasteful picture to go along with their books and website. I wish appearances didn't matter, but if I've learned something about marketing, they really do.

  2. Professional pictures do make a difference, but needn't cost money if you know someone who knows how to use a camera, frame a shot, and get the lighting right. SD

    1. Exactly right! Like Brian D. said, it doesn't have to be anything special, but taking some care with the photo will make a difference!

  3. Alyssa,

    One of the best self help blog posts I've read in a while. I'd already had pictures taken - they were part of my wedding pictures and with a bit of a crop here and there, I found several great - well great as a picture can be for me that is - one I plan to use.

    But this isn't one of those - hey get a good photo blogs, you gave some really great tips - very impressed.

    Are you okay with me sharing this??


    1. I'm so glad you found it helpful! Please do share!

  4. Sage advice. I went to Sears for mine. Four photos, $50.

  5. Good post. I desperately need to get a "real" photo since mine is currently a selfie from my webcam. My hubby is actually a pretty good photographer. It's finding time to do it without the kids photo-bombing me that is the issue. :)

  6. So you know. I went down to the boardwalk in Staten Island with a cheap digital camera, took about twenty pictures and picked out the best one. Total cost - ziltch-o. Later I looked at the pictures of the top writers in my genre. Mine was as good or better. The thing to take away from this is $0.