Saturday, September 6, 2014

What are you saying with your headshot? (part 3)

On to part 3 of this mini-series about headshots and photography. Check out part 1 about why you need a professional headshot and part 2 about what to do to prepare for your headshot session.

If a picture is worth a 1000 words, what are you saying with your headshot?

We've talked about why you need professional headshots and what to do during your session, but now let's focus on what you'll see.

Who are you?

The best thing that your headshots can show is who you are. Below are 4 pictures I took at the ACFW conference last year. They are broken up into 2 categories though it's all the same person - the lovely Amanda G. Stevens (a new author at David C Cook). As you can see, the top two show a lovely, smiling Amanda, while the bottom show a more mysterious, yet no less lovely, side of her. They are all completely her, but they give off different feelings.

Amanda can use any of these photos interchangeably, but we did a few different "looks" so she can choose what fits.

When you're thinking about taking your photos, think of your style of writing. Amanda writes dystopian literature and, though her lovely smiling face is great for Facebook and other things, the mysterious look also works really well with her genre.

Elizabeth Goddard's tagline is: "Escape to Adventure, Romance, and Suspense"

As you can see from her headshot, the photo is uniquely her - with a cute jean jacket and big smile - but it also fits the tone of her website

Tosca Lee is another author who has a distinct style. Being a former model (isn't she beautiful?) she was comfortable posing, but she also knew what type of image she wanted to portray. 

Speaking of which,The Legend of Sheba: Rise of a Queen is AMAZING and you should probably get a copy ;)


Once you've figured out what it is you're saying (your "branding" to use a marketing term), you need to know a few things about your photos. It's definitely the trickier, technical side of things you never considered about photography... No, it's not all just taking photos and handing them over. There are a lot of things for you, the author, to consider when signing a contract or accepting a session with your photographer.

 **Please note: I do not pretend to be an expert on this. I am just going off of my own personal research and experience with my business to hopefully help point you in the right direction. These are helpful suggestions, nothing more :)


What are you getting? 
The best question to ask any photographer you work with is what you are getting by signing your contract and paying your fees. Likely, you will not receive full copyrights to your images. That's natural so don't worry. The photographer retains the copyrights because the images are their artwork. Instead, you will most likely receive a copyright release which allows you a certain type of access to your images.

(think weddings, senior photos, family photos)
For many photography sessions that offer digital images, a non-commercial print release is included, which allows you to print the photos through the lab of your choice but not to sell the images for profit (you didn't take them, they aren't yours to sell). Most photographers compensate for offering digital images by making the disc relatively expensive due to the fact that they will lose any further sales by handing over the digital images.

More common is the option to purchase prints/albums through your photographer or to purchase media-friendly images for personal use at a higher cost. It is typical for the media-friendly images to include the photographers watermark as a means of promotion for the photographer. Their images will circulate the Internet and, without a watermark, no one will know who took the image. Think of it like an artist's signature.

(think magazine covers or stock photography)
For commercial photography, a photographer is taking a photo that will be used in a commercial capacity. If the photographer is selling it, they are typically compensating their models (this compensation could be photos or money) because they themselves will gain compensation from the photo. An author will be using the photos for a type of commercial use - you aren't selling the image, but it is on something that will sell (ie: a book). That's where things get a little tricky.

What you as an author will want to clarify is that you need a limited liability release for commercial purposes. 

Don't get confused with the terminology here - you are not purchasing the copyright to your photos, just the ability (the release) to use them for commercial purposes (on book covers or magazines etc.). A photographer almost never sells the copyright (and if they do, we're talking a large sum here). With a limited liability release, it means that the photographer is released from responsibility of the photo and how it's circulated, though they still retain the rights to their image.

And a note to authors: Should you have photos taken and they are used on your books, credit your photographer where possible. I know that sometimes your publisher will not be able to do this - I've looked at many books and cannot find anything about who took the authors photo. that fair? Not really. What better promotion for your photographer than to be attributed to the images they took? Just a thought from a photographer ;)

Model Release

Another aspect of your author headshots could be a model release. Should your photographer ask you to sign one, you can always inquire as to why they would want to do this, but it is very typical and a safety precaution for them. There are many reasons, but here are a few:
  • Image use on a blog or website for promotion (most common) 
  • Image use on printed materials for photographer (again, for promotion)
  • Image use for stock photography or sale purposes (this is typically part of the agreement)
Personally, as a photographer, I ask my clients to sign a model release so that I can use their images for promotional sake. Like the photos in this post - I can use them as examples because my clients signed their permission. This release also acts as protection to the photographer so that they cannot be sued for using the photos they have taken.

So, there are some tips from a writer and a photographer about headshots. Did you find this mini-series helpful? What are your thoughts about headshots? I'd love to hear from you in the comments below!

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