Author Business & Publishing, Writing & Publishing Articles

Building Your Author Platform: Your Author Photograph

My new author photo for social media
My new author photo for social media

Your author photograph is a key part of your author platform. After all, it is literally the face you are showing to your readers, fellow authors, publishing professionals, and the world at large. However, many authors struggle with producing or choosing the right author photo for them and their brands. Don’t be one of these authors. Follow these simple steps to create the perfect author photograph for your brand.

1. Hire a professional or use professional equipment

If you are traditionally published, your publishing company may coordinate this for you. However, if you have not yet signed a contract or are planning to independently publish, you will have to arrange your photographs yourself. If possible, hire a professional photographer — just like you would hire a professional editor and/or cover designer. Sure, you can probably take a passable photo on your smart phone, but a professional photo is always better. If you will be working with a professional, check out this article with tips on working with a professional photographer from Joanna Penn.

If hiring a professional photographer isn’t in the budget right now, at least try to use the best equipment possible. For example, my husband and I bought a low-end professional camera to record our wedding. We used this camera when taking my most recent author photos. Would the photos had been better if taken by a professional and if edited by one? Probably. But they beat the old photo I used that we snapped from his iPhone at our engagement party.

Tips: If you can’t afford a professional, try asking around your local college or art classes. Likely, there will be an amateur photographer seeking to build a portfolio who will work with you for free or cheap. Alternatively, look into renting professional camera equipment.

2. Research basic portrait photography

Even if you are not taking your own author photos, do a quick Google search on the topic. Figure out the best time of day to meet your photographer or snap your own shots (Hint: the “golden hours” are early morning and just before sunset.). Learn which lenses and settings will look best for the shot you are trying to achieve. Take a few test pictures at different times of day and in different locations to sort out lighting issues. A little research goes a long way.

My old author photo
My old author photo

3.  Dress to impress — but still look like you!

Traditionally, author photos only include the face and perhaps the tops of the shoulders. Of course, waist-up or full body shots can also work in the right circumstance. However, even if you plan to only show your face in the photo, make sure you dress nicely, fix your hair, and consider wearing makeup. Looking your best not only makes the photo better; it will also make you feel more confident.

4. Keep in mind your branding

In my first author photo, I had my hair perfectly curled and my brightest red lipstick on. It was taken at my engagement party, and while I looked gorgeous (in my humble opinion), it didn’t look like me and it certainly didn’t look like my author brand. If I were a romance author, it would have been perfect, but my debut novel is a steampunk dystopian. My new photo doesn’t feature a corset or wasteland backdrop, but it looks like me and is much more genre-neutral.

What is your brand? If you are a romance author, perhaps you want to look friendly, like you’re ready for a date. If you write thrillers, maybe your photo should feature your brooding scowl in black and white. If you write nonfiction, consider working your topic into the photo. Do you write about dogs? Let Snoopy in the pic! Your imagination is the limit — just make sure that, whatever you do, it still looks professional.

My author photo for my fiction book covers and professional events
My author photo for my fiction book covers and professional events

5. Consider selecting a few different photos

While it is always good to have consistency across your branding, keep a few back up photos handy. For example, if you write fiction and nonfiction (or two drastically different fiction genres), you may want separate photos for each. Likewise, you may want a friendly, welcoming photo for your social media and a more serious or professional one for your book covers, author website, or networking events. If you use multiple photos, just make sure they both are easily recognizable as you and have a brand consistent feel to them.

In the end, as with every aspect of your author platform, your photographs are up to you. Make them as professional as you can, dress to impress, coordinate with your brand, and most of all, have fun!

And remember, if you can’t choose, asking your family, friends, or readers to help you is a great way to get your loved ones involved in your author career (without making those “non-readers” pick up your book) and a great way to market yourself!

For more on building your author platform, click here.

How did you decide what you wanted your author photo to look like? What tips do you have for authors trying to put their best “faces” forward? Share in the comments!