Monday, March 2, 2015

Author Headshot Tips

I had the opportunity to get headshots at a recent Pikes Peak Writers event, which sent me into a fear spiral of sheer anxiety. As someone who avoids looking in the mirror, let alone having photos taken, I had no idea what to do. What I did know was that I've read over and over that you must have professional headshots taken or risk everyone knowing you took it yourself and not taking you seriously. Gasp, the horror! Take me seriously!

BEFORE
Up to now I've been coasting along using the selfie that currently resides as my profile picture here on the blog. That selfie was taken because I needed a photo for the blog. No makeup, but hey, at least my hair was done. It's gotten me this far, so I won't abandon it entirely, but it's not a professional photo, and it doesn't even pretend to be.

During my panic, I posted for tips on Facebook and spent way too much time reading headshot tips online. I even did a search on "author headshots" in images and studied them. I was a little freaked out when I discovered curly hair wasn't a thing in headshots. See, I have naturally curly hair. When I asked a friend of mine, who also happens to be a hairdresser at a salon, she said it's because curly hair can tend to look messy in professional shots.

Sad face.

Happily, there were plenty of tips out there, and I figured I'd compile them and pass them along in case any of you are in a position to spazz out over getting your photos taken.

In no particular order:

1. Get lots of sleep the night before. (Easy for them to say). Set it for a time where you are at your most awake/energetic. (Again, easy for them to say. That time starts at about 9 PM for me.)

2. Ladies, wear makeup. Fella's, sometimes you need to, as well. Consider going in to get your hair and makeup professionally done. (I had my hair done that morning by Christine at Total New You Salon, but did my own makeup, which was not my first choice, but there wouldn't have been time for me to get my makeup done since I was also working at the event.) Make sure the professional doing your hair and/or makeup is familiar with makeup for photo shoots, as there might be differences between those and every day wear.

3. Stay hydrated. (I can drink water!)

4. Know what colors work well with your skin tone. (I have no idea, but blue seems to work.)

5. Do not wear any strong patterns, such as stripes, polka dots, or florals. In addition, don't wear jewelry that will overpower your face. You want them looking at you, not your clothing, not your jewelry. It's a headshot, not a fashion shot.

6. Take an alternate outfit (or a couple) to change into to see what works best. I did have a different option, but stuck with the one I went in with. One of my fellow writers getting headshots kept the same outfit on, but added a scarf for some of the photos. Try some photos with a blazer/jacket on and some with it off. Mix it up.

7. Be mindful of your particular genre. Headshots for a romance author might be different from headshots for a horror author. A good photographer will take your genre into consideration.

8. Be comfortable. Be yourself. If you're comfortable, you're confident. If you're uncomfortable, it will show.

9. Don't look sexy. Surprising? A lot of tips I found said no cleavage and no looking sexy. Even for romance writers. They said it can turn off a number of readers, which is really the opposite of what you're going for in every way possible, right?

10. Go with a photographer you're comfortable with. Look at their websites/photos. Talk to people. Get recommendations. Chat with the photographer. Look at their website. I really, really, hate having my photo taken. I don't even like looking at photos of myself. But the photographer who did my headshots is someone I know, someone whose work I already knew of and respected, and someone who is excellent at chatting with folks and putting them at ease. That's the full package right there. (My photographer was Jared Hagan, who will be doing headshots at Pikes Peak Writers Conference this April, as well.)

11. Don't let the photographer over-edit. Editing some blemishes is fine, but you don't want to look like a weird plastic version of yourself, do you?

I'll leave you with a couple of my favorite shots from the photo shoot. The first two are the serious professional ones (and are the same photo), and the third one is aimed directly toward my writing horror. (Photographer: Jared Hagan. If you're in the Colorado Springs area or nearby and are looking for headshots, email jawhagan@hotmail.com.)




I'll see you guys as a co-host for this month's IWSG on Wednesday!

What do you think? Which photo should I go with? Any tips I missed? What has your experience with headshots been like?

May you find your Muse.

59 comments:

  1. Great tips, Shannon! Thanks for sharing. I vote for the second photo - you could use that for any genre, any publication. Very classy! :)

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    1. Thank you! Okay, one vote for second photo.

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  2. You know I like the last one best, even though it scares me. Nice summary, and I like that you gave us the reasoning behind some of the tips.

    mb

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    1. One vote for 2, one vote for 3. Thanks! The info is the result of the obsessive hours researching headshots.

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  3. Your headshots look great. Like your devious one the best.

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    1. Alright, that's one vote for 1, two votes for 3. The devious one, hee!

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  4. My "headshots" have been photos my significant other has taken of me with a camera phone. Usually from very far away or at a angle where you can tell it's a person, but maybe not which person.

    All of your shots are great. I really love the first one, but the third is perfect for an author of horror.

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    1. Funny--that's been my approach., too! I'm going for the Lemony Snicket approach--so no one can actually tell who I am :)

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    2. Is this a planned thing or just how it has worked out? I'm counting your vote as 1.5 for P1, 2.5 for P3.

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  5. Such excellent tips here and some I wouldn't have thought of. I like the first shot in color the best, but I can see where that last shot might work well for a horror work--you look like you're up to something devious in that one and if it's horror, you probably are.

    I have a video interview coming up on my Wed. #IWSG post at
    Tossing It Out
    and my guest mentions some things about publicity photos.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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    1. I'll have to come check out the video! 2.5 votes for P1, 2.5 for P3

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  6. Wow, those turned out great, Shannon! Shame you couldn't let the curly hair go.
    Don't look sexy. Not a problem...

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    1. Haha, I had to put that in since someone I was talking to mentioned they needed to go back and do sexy author photos. Not so much.

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  7. I did a post like this for last years A to Z. :D I love love LOVE the first picture! The colors are amazing and look great on you.

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    1. I like that your headshot has a different background. The orange is fun. Perfect post for A-to-Z! 3.5 votes for P1, 2.5 for P3.

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  8. Your tips paid off! I love those headshot. I'm taking note of all you wrote.

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    1. Your headshot is perfect, Lee. I don't think it needs improving.

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  9. I don't have any problem not looking sexy but I have to say. I like your selfie but that's just me. If I have to pick one of the professional, both of the first two are great but the last one would also fit well with your horror stories. You look like you know something the rest of us don't.

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    1. Right, not a big problem for most of us, eh?

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  10. Wow, that's a lot of rules. They make sense, though. I just think of Brian's cheesy author photo on Family Guy. The lesson there? Don't use ridiculous, cliched poses.

    I love all of them, but that last one is very sinister. It's a great look for horror.

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    1. Excellent photo. I should have done one just like Brian. The muscles on that dog.

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  11. Those look great. I do like the seriousness of the horror one. I am never comfortable in front of a camera, and even less comfortable wearing make up. Always makes my eyes water.

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    1. I have a big issue with mascara. I can't find one that doesn't make my eyes itch. Blech.

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  12. You are very photogenic. Your photos turned out great! Even your selfie looks good. My face always ends up looking bloated and twice as fat.

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    1. Thank you! I'm betting your photos look better than you're giving yourself credit for.

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  13. I think the whole photo thing is so... messed up. I don't care what you look like if you write good words. I mean, Dickens didn't have a head shot. Nor did Shakespeare. I think I'm going to post a photo of just my hand. Or, maybe, my big toe. The left one; it's more attractive.
    But I do like that last photo of yours.

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    1. You know what's really messed up? I read an article (this was awhile ago, so I don't have the link) that said appearance in author photo matters more for a woman than for a man, and that an unattractive woman will sell fewer books if her author photo is on her book. I sure hope that's not true. I don't look at an author photo before I buy the book. I imagine if someone looks cocky or mean that could impact it, because humans are visual creatures and key to facial expressions, but pretty? Ridiculous. Also, I think you should go with the right big toe, because it probably has more personality if the left one is the attractive one.

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  14. I agree with Andrew! I have not gone and gotten a professional photo, and don't much want to. Since I never wear makeup, I'd have trouble with that one, and I'm not very good at looking, oh, all professional and put together. Better to use a photo of my left big toe (that's my better toe, too, Andrew! The right one has scars).

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    1. I'm telling you, scars give you personality! You should go with the right one. I don't wear makeup either (thus the original selfie). When I was running in-person events, I wore makeup once per month (or more if we had additional events). Though I do put on makeup to go out on a date with my male half. And I have no idea how to wear foundation. I'm totally clueless.

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    2. You have a point. I will go for personality and use the right toe.

      I have never learned to wear makeup at all. As in none. So it's not surprising that I am a little freaked out by the idea.

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  15. I vote for the last one, just because it makes us wonder what going on in that head, a good thing for an author. . . The first two look professional but don't look as creative. I also always prefer black and white as in #2.

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    1. I've seen a lot saying black and white is good for actual book covers. Looking at books, I'd say that's typically what they go with.

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  16. Good tips, Shannon. Will remember them.

    I love the first photo. But the third one is also a good one.

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    1. Thank you! I'm hoping it saves someone from having to read fifty articles (good as they are) to figure out what to do.

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  17. Great post Shannon. It reminds me about my own (using a temporary one) and how I need to get a professional head shot. Personally, I like the first two but the last one has this Alfred Hitchcock feel to it.

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    1. I can't complain about a Hitchcock feel! Is your headshot the one on here? It's tiny, but it looks good from what I can see. You have a great smile.

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  18. Fantastic tips, and wow, incredible photos. I like the third picture. It's like you have a little mischief in your eyes!

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  19. What a great post! Thanks for the tips.
    (I'm using a photo my husband took.)

    The first one is my favorite.

    Thanks for co-hosting. :)
    IWSG #142 until Alex culls the list again.

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    1. I always feel cheesy making my husband take a picture of me. Because I'm weird. Your hair looks cute in the pic on here. (Again, tiny picture from my view, so hard to tell much.)

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  20. My author photo is also a selfie! LOL I like the first one best!

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    1. Nice! LOL! You know, my selfie has worked for me for a couple years, through blog guest posts and the like. It has served me well.

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  21. All the pictures look great! The middle one is my favorite. Just dig the black and white look. But, I must admit, I also like the one you took yourself. You're very photogenic.

    Thanks for co-hosting!

    Elsie

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    1. Thank you! I imagine it has a lot to do with the person on the other side of the camera.

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  22. Like Melissa, I'm using one my hubby took. Shannon, you're beautiful. Love the first photo!!! Thanks for co-hosting and thank you for the great tips!

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    1. Thank you! I figure having your photo taken by someone who loves you and knows the real you can't go wrong.

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  23. Go with the first Black and White one! The color is good and should be kept for places that need color, but I think using B&W is the way to go on the Internet... Great shots!

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    1. Even though it's not winning the polls, the b/w middle one is the one I've been advised to use elsewhere.

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  24. Amazing info on headshots. Who knew? I didn't know it was such a big deal. I didn't go to a photographer for my photo because I couldn't drive my '95 Mustang into the studio. So my daughter took several pics of me and my red convertible. I get quite a lot of comments about it too. As for my choice of your photos, the first colorful one makes you seem friendly, but I do like the shades of the second B&W. They are both beautiful photos of a pretty lady.

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    1. Hey, you can never go wrong with a Mustang in the photo!

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  25. I like the shot in the middle best, since it has the best lighting and focus, in my opinion.

    I almost never wear makeup anymore, and only wear makeup besides nail polish for a super-special occasion, like a wedding. Not only am I lazy, but I have naturally creamy skin which doesn't need enhanced through makeup. If I ever marry, I'll be covering my hair, so I'd need to select the right tichel (scarf) for a headshot.

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    1. While I wear makeup a bit more than you (once a month or so), I'm not a big fan for me personally. But I did it for the headshots. Would you do the tichel in author headshots, as well?

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    2. There'd be no choice, as after marriage, a woman's hair can only be seen by her husband, other women, and immediate family members. There are some absolutely gorgeous ways to wrap one's hair with multiple scarves.

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  26. I love the little acceptance crowd of villains you have going on there. The idea of rewarding yourself for rejection is awesome, too. It sure worked for James Dashner :) Your new headshots are great, but I like your old one, too. Thanks for the links!

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    1. I love my villains! They have so many out there. Yes, look at him, he has movie deals and everything.

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  27. Nice headshots! All of them look good. The third one is scary and does the job well. I like the first one best because it pops with lots of color. Yet,I still have a biased preference for your b/w butterfly photo...probably because I'm so used to it. Hopefully it will remain a staple for your blogging and social profiles, at least :)

    As someone whose been involved in the casting process for my own films as well as other people's films, I'd like to point out that Tip #7 is spot on! While there are general best practices for getting headshots made, the definition of what a good headshot is very well depends on what the headshot is being used for (a real estate agent's website, a new local bakery's online store, an authors debut novel, a SAG actor who aspires to be the next Tom Cruise, etc.), or at least, that's what I've observed.

    Over the last few weeks, I've been working on an upcoming blog post (on what was originally a rant about actresses and actors sending me selfies in place of headshots) about recent experiences with casual photo submissions from people looking to work on a production. I still have yet to figure out a title for it but hope it helps shed some light on circumstances when casual photos work and when they can lead to missed opportunities.

    ~Nicole

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  28. I love the first one. I don't care for the horror one, but I don't read it either so that may be the problem. I am sad that you said no cleavage because I want to get mine done in my Renaissance garb and it does have a cleavage thing going on. I also have curly hair, but will probably go with it anyway. Maybe I don't follow directions well. Thanks for the tips and good luck from an IWSG blog hopping friend.

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