Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Art of the Author Photo: Why Headshots Matter To Writers


This one's for you, writers (or aspiring writers...or, well anyone who wants to have a professional presence on the interwebs). I'm passionate about having great headshots and I've outlined a few reasons why.

Common Complaints

I hear a lot of reasons why people don't want to get a professional headshot. Here are some of the most popular ones and why I don't think they stand up to the test of argument. Granted, these are my opinions so I could be wrong ;-)

I don't like my photo being on the internet...
Yes, this is a valid argument for many but I would counter that, if you really want to become a published author, there is a great likelihood that your photo will need to surface on the internet (and possibly the back cover of a book) at one point. Why not have a great photo of yourself when that becomes a reality?

People don't want to see me...
This argument is sometimes followed by "I want my work to speak for itself". Yes, your writing will speak volumes, but people are naturally curious about the author/artist behind the creation. You can make an even greater impact and connection point with a well crafted bio and professional photo of yourself.

But I love this selfie I took...
Just...no. Please, please, please no selfies!!! Sure, that photo will work for your personal FB profile and you do look cute, but is that close up, slightly grainy image of yourself what you want circulating on your professional profile? Nope! Trust me, it's not.

My >insert: husband, uncle, child, sister, coworker, dog< is a pretty good photographer...
A caveat: If they are a professional photographer, great! But, if they are just "dabbling" then chances are they won't know the best lighting, appropriate background options, or even the best settings to capture your professional headshot. Be their model, but be very picky about what images you post.

I don't have the money...
This can also be a really big roadblock to having great photos. Believe me, I understand how expensive professional photography is and I realize you can't always afford that, but be smart about what you pay for and it could be more affordable than you think. Find a special like what I offer for the ACFW and Realm Makers conferences! (Only $40 for 5 images--that's nearly a 70% discount on my regular headshot prices!)  Or save up and use those images for 1-2 years (as long as they remain current). It is worth the price, trust me.

I'm not photogenic...
I'd say this has two parts. One side of it is that you may not enjoy getting your photos taken which could make you feel uncomfortable. This will show through in your photos but not all hope is lost! Getting a great photographer who understands your discomfort and makes you feel comfortable is key. As for your part, when you are at your session do your best to relax. Think of your loved ones when you smile (or bring them along to smile at) and do your best to communicate with your photographer when you don't feel comfortable. That will be a great help to them.

I don't like how I look...
We are our worst critics! Self-image is probably one of the harder (if not hardest) things to overcome in regards to getting a good headshot. There is so much I could say to this but...honestly? You have intrinsic worth as a person because you bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26). It's not because you are trendy or have great hair or are a certain weight. It's because you are unique and made in His image. So, to this I would say it's not a roadblock to headshots so much as it's a roadblock to having confidence that comes from being loved by God for who he has made you to be. Turn to the Lord and your friends and family and be encouraged when they tell you they like how you look - because it's the truth!

The Reasons Why

I want to talk briefly about my reasons in favor of good headshots. I tried to come at these from a different perspective than just saying "because it's a good idea".

Professionalism...
Think of business people you know. They most likely have a LinkedIn profile which necessitates a professional headshot. If you are hoping to make your writing into a career you are not so far from that business person! Your writing will be your career so you should treat it as such.

A face to the name...
Never underestimate the ability a great, smiling (or not smiling) picture of you! In our photo-saturated culture people are craving a personal understanding of their favorite authors. I personally believe that's why Instagram is so crucial to writers...but that's another post. Help your readers understand you (and your books) a little better by showing off a great, professional head shot.

Confidence...
At this point I'm actually not talking about you, dear writer. I'm talking about your audience. A professional headshot helps to create a sense of confidence in you as a writer and your work. I know that when I go to a well-crafted website with good quality photography I'm more inclined to look further. I see that they take their craft (whatever it may be) seriously and that they are willing to put in the effort (and resources) into creating a top quality product (either their website, product, or book).

All the cool kids are doing it...
Ha! And by "cool kids" I mean best selling authors (and I do). It is rare to find a best selling author who doesn't have a great headshot (though I have seen some...).

I realize you could be thinking: "Well, of course you think we should have good headshots, your a photographer!" Um...yup, that's right. But it's not so that I get more business (really, it isn't!). I feel passionately about great photography because of what I see it doing for writers and business professionals. You cannot beat a professional headshot that shows off the true character and personality of someone!

So, what do you all think? Readers: Do you like being able to see genuine images of your favorite authors? Writers: Do you have a professional headshot?