Saturday, August 1, 2015

3 Elements of a GREAT Headshot

It's that time again. Writer's conferences are coming up and every author is a-buzz thinking about what classes they will take, what appointments they will make, and whether or not they want to make a headshot appointment. Oh wait, maybe I'm just thinking about that last one since I'll be doing photography at the Realm Makers Conference and the ACFW Conference ;-)

Either way, I love talking about photography and I thought it would be helpful to give a few tips to my writer friends about the elements of a GREAT headshot. Whether or not you're getting photos taken at the conference or elsewhere, think through these things.

3 Elements of a GREAT Headshot 

3) The Photo
This first part involves a few things: quality of the image, composition, and background.

Quality
Hire a professional. I know, I hear you. "But Emilie, they are expensive". All I'll say to that is check out this post.
Composition
A professional photographer will help position you, but it doesn't hurt to take a look at other images online to know what you like. It can be helpful to have a few close up shots as well as a few further away. If that's something you want, just communicate that to your photographer. Take a look at this Pinterest board for some great ideas.
Background
Again, this should be something your photographer is looking out for, but don't feel constrained to make your background fit a specific style. I understand that, if you're a suspense author, you may want something a little more eerie, but it's not a requirement. I personally believe it's more important to have a great quality image than it is to have something that represents what you write.

2) Style
So you've decided to get a headshot done...what do you wear? That's a great question and I think you've got a few routes. Which route you take will depend on what image you want to portray.

Business Professional
This gives off the impression that you are a professional at whatever you do. It's great to have a professional look, but you may want to mix in a few "less professional" looking images that showcase some of your personality as well.

Business Casual
This tends to be the most common type of style for author photos. For ladies, a nice blouse, possibly a blazer, and a few accessories. For men, typically a button up without or without a jacket. It says "nice" but also relaxed.


Casual 
Casual will vary depending on your definition. I think t-shirt and jeans. But, I say that and you can dress that combo up pretty nicely as well. I would just stay away from the casual that is "sweatshirt and ratty (not trendy) jeans" ;-)


A word about style: Think about your audience and your brand as well! For example, someone like Michael Hyatt has many different types of headshots/images that range in style between Business Professional to Business Casual. You could make the case there are some "casual" shots too (though I'm not sure if button up is really casual). The main reason I'm pointing him out is he knows his audience. He speaks to those hoping to reach into the business market and wants his headshots (and all images) to show that he's comfortable in that world. As a writer, consider who you're reaching out to. Who's your audience? What do you want them to see about you? What's your personal style? (Note: If it's sweats...maybe dress it up a bit tough ha!).

1) Personality
So, this is where the magic happens (in my photographers opinion). Sure, you can pull together all of the great elements of a photo combined with dressing up in some great clothes, but the person being photographed steals the stage every time. That's YOU.

The #1 thing you must convey in your headshot is your personality. I realize that it's just a picture and not a living representation of you, but (aside from meeting you in person) your headshot makes your first impression. Don't be scared though, a good photographer should be able to recognize a genuine smile vs a forced one. Don't make them do all the work though. Be sure to take time between photos to relax your smile, and when possible think of funny or amusing things to create a genuine smile.

So there you have it. The top 3 elements of a GREAT headshot (in my opinion). If you'd like to read more about headshots take a look at these posts about what you're saying with your headshot: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

If you're attending Realm Makers (August 7-8) or the ACFW Conference (September 16-19) check out my website about details or getting an appointment with me!