Dear Agony Editor,
I have a book coming out and need to have my picture taken. Any suggestions about what makes a good author photo?
Dear Camera Shy,
I’m glad you asked. Most authors focus on their writing. Fair enough, but a slick author photo (in colour, black-and-white, print, and web versions) will help your book’s publicist, help the author festivals you’re invited to, and help Variety magazine when it announces Oprah has bought the rights to your book.
It could be the only way that readers encounter you. Your author photo is your statement of how you want others to perceive you. So the way you present yourself visually to the world is important.
Rather than opting for that vacation photo of you in the Tilley hat standing next to a donkey, I suggest hiring a professional photographer. If you’re not sure where to start, look for author photos you like. Usually, the photographer will be credited, so you can check out that person’s website to request quotes.
Having said that, a session with a professional will run you on average about $350. If that’s not in your budget, consider getting a friend to take your photo.
I spoke to freelance photographer and Ryerson instructor Thomas Blanchard for some tips. Don’t wear clothing that might clash with your background, he said. Also, pick three options of clothing that are wrinkle-free and fitted. Be aware of any objects behind you; otherwise it might look like there’s a tree limb growing out of your head. (Never a hot look.)
Shoot in the shade to avoid harsh shadows, keep your jaw pulled forward to create more of a jawline, and shift one shoulder forward to avoid that mug-shot aesthetic. Most important: relax. Put yourself in an environment that makes you comfortable and confident. Think warm thoughts of family, pets, and hobbies while your photo is being taken.
My last bit of advice? Keep your author photo current. Time gets the better of all of us, and there’s nothing more terrifying than meeting a writer in the flesh and realizing their author photo was taken in 1978.