As an author pursuing publication, have you thought about the fact that you’re going to need a professional headshot? Many people brush off the idea initially, thinking they can have a friend take some nice shots in the backyard. That might be true and you may think your snapshot looks great, but many people will perceive it as a snapshot or an amateur photo. You don’t want the look of an amateur – you’re a professional all the way. A great headshot is key to presenting exactly the right image to the world – whatever you want that image to be.
If you’re already contracted with a publisher, you should get your headshots right away. But many bloggers and people with online presence would benefit from a professional photo as well.
Here are a few tips:
→ Be sure to get a digital file without any copyright/logo on the images as well as written rights to the images. If you take a CD to a lab to have pictures printed and there’s a logo on the image, they won’t print them, assuming you don’t own copyright.
→ Ask if you can get the image in both high and low resolution. That way you can select which to use for what purpose. Some websites need a lower resolution image (Twitter, FB) and it’s handy to have both options.
→ Avoid over-photoshopping. You want to look your best, but it’s even more important to look real. Don’t let the photographer airbrush the life right out of you. On the other hand, it’s important to select a photographer who is skilled in digital artwork. Everyone needs some touching up, even if it’s just to correct the lighting or get rid of a shadow.
→ Talk to the photographer in advance and make sure they’ll allow several poses and at least two wardrobe changes.
→ Don’t plan to do your headshots at the same time as your family portrait. These are two completely different kinds of photography, and most photographers won’t do it.
→ Avoid places like Sears, JC Penney, Olin Mills, or Glamour Shots. You need a situation in which the proper time and care can be taken, and in which you have more assurance that the photographer is skilled specifically in professional headshots.
But what about cost?
Most people assume the cost will be prohibitive, but you should be able to find a professional photographer who will charge around $125 for the sitting and the final digital image on CD. Here are some ways to try and pay even less:
(1) Get together with a group of friends who all need headshots and engage a photographer to do them all at one time in one location, such as a local park;
(2) Find a professional photographer who does good work but is newer in the business, and see if they’ll give you a rate less than the more established photographers;
(3) Some writers conferences have a photographer available who will do your headshot for a nominal fee, less than $100.
(4) If there is a local photographer whose work you love but they’re very expensive, you could always see if they’re open to barter. Do they need someone to write or edit copy for them? Do you have other skills or services you could offer?
Don’t be thinking that a headshot is an indulgence or that it means you’re overly concerned with appearances, or any other nonsense your brain might be telling you. It’s a professional investment, and it matters.
Q4U: Do you have a professional author photo yet? Why/why not? What are your thoughts on headshots?
P.S. My friend and client Megan DiMaria, who’s worked closely with a high-end photographer for years, helped with the post. She also has two posts on her own blog, much more detailed than mine, talking about how to find a photographer, how to dress and prepare, and how to tell a good headshot. Read them here and here.