For Writers - Hiring a Professional Photographer for Author pictures (no cell phone pictures, please!)
Read time: 3 minutes
As a cover artist I have seen so many unprofessional author photos. I can’t even begin to stress the importance of having a professional author photograph. Something taken from someone’s cell in 2007 when you were dressed up for a party and looked amazing does not count. For one thing, that picture is the size of a postage stamp. Technology has moved so far beyond that, not even the small picture on the back of your print book will allow it to work. Second, it’s not a professional picture. Stress here is on the word PROFESSIONAL. Your daughter with her cell phone on your front porch, or your sister snapping that super fun picture the last time you ate dinner together, won’t work either. Sorry.
If you’re deciding to publish, then you’ve decided you’re going to be an author. Not a hobbyist, but an honest-to-goodness author where people will pay to read what you write. You’re going to be a brand. Your name will be associated with a product you created.
Why would you not hire a professional to put your best face (literally) before the world? Before your readers? Do they not deserve a decent picture of you? Every New York published author has a professional picture taken. Some of them do it with their dogs. Some have a lot of fun and do a themed session (Sherrilyn Kenyon on her throne comes to mind). I’ve seen pirate-themed author shots, and I’ve seen the normal studio headshots, too. All those work. Just get someone who knows what they’re doing!
When looking for a photographer, definitely set a budget. You won’t need more than a 15-minute session with a handful to choose from, settling on one decent picture with digital and print usage rights. Photographers vary in price, but there is a photographer for every budget. Just be sure to look at their work, as not every photographer who claims to be professional actually knows what they’re doing. (Hint - photographs should be free of harsh shadows, hot spots or uneven lighting. If the photographer says they need to take the pictures in noon-day sun for the best ‘light’ walk away. Quickly.)
Ask friends and family for recommendations, but also do a general hashtag search on social media for photographers in your area. Like any type of art, the photographer’s work should pull you in. Be up front with your needs and your budget. A lot of photographers will work things out with you. If not, ask if there is anyone they could recommend. They may have a friend who needs to add to their portfolio and has talent and quality. When I was first starting on my professional journey, a lot of my photographer friends did this for me, so I know it’s a great way to find an affordable, good photographer on a budget. They may even do it for free. Yes. Free. Student photographers are also a great resource. They may not be perfect, but they're learning the trade and need the experience. Look at what they've done so far, make sure it's professional, and work with them if you need to as an alternative. Helping someone else grow in their professional journey while you grow in yours is always a win.
Again, why does this even matter? Because, you will use this photograph (or photographs if you’re able to keep more than one) on your website. Your print edition. At the end of your digital edition. When you do book tours. On your social media. In your media kit that will be required to submit your title for review on some websites and blogs. This will be your face to your readers. The only visual connection your readers will have in a digital world. If you’re planning on having a social media presence, then they’ll see more of you. But the first thing they’ll always see will be your profile picture. Let it be a good one. When someone orders your print copy and they go to look for your author photo (and oh, they will), you want it to be the best image you can present.
Treat your author brand with respect and invest in a professional author picture.