Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries June 26, 2013 - 4:33am

Reading about the dreaded author photo in various columns and articles,  the general advice seems to be to take it seriously, use a professional photographer, aim for a genre appropriate atmosphere, and try your very best not to look completely repulsive.

I don't doubt this is good advice. But I also imagine I'm not the only one for whom the prospect of getting in front of a camera and posing without being shitfaced is entirely terrifying.

Atm, I'm debating with myself whether I should just get it over with, or go on in comfort with my webcam/candid/smartphone pics for a while longer.

What kind of author photo do you all use? Can I see some? When, if ever, does it become necessary to invest in a “professional” photo?

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters June 26, 2013 - 6:09am

I don't have a professional photo.  In fact, i use one that was taken at my son's third bithday party.  But I changed it to black and white and then just said, "good enough." 

 

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break June 26, 2013 - 6:48am

I've hired professionals both times. It's worth it. That photo you put on your book cover is going to be there forever, so might as well make it a good one. 

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies June 26, 2013 - 8:45am

^what brandon said. i'm sure you can find a photographer friend that is looking to build up their portfolio. whether you pay or not is up to you. the credit MAY be enough, but if you spend a day shooting (took me like 300 shots to get one good one) you should try to compensate the photographer. if it's a professional, and not a friend, that will be mandatory, of course.

OtisTheBulldog's picture
OtisTheBulldog from Somerville, MA is reading The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz June 26, 2013 - 9:34am

I'm lucky enough that a close friend is a pro photographer with a studio and he won't charge me. My problem is that I'm not pretty enough.

sean of the dead's picture
sean of the dead from Madisonville, KY is reading Peckerwood, by Jed Ayres June 26, 2013 - 9:46am

This is something I've always been curious about myself. I don't get it. 

When I see a book with a posed author trying to look "authorly," I giggle like a little boy laughing at his grandpa's farts. I understand that the photo has somehow become an essential part of the book (although, I have plenty of examples where there are no photos of the author at all), but I am honestly saying I don't understand why it has.

You know what it reminds me of? Music in the 1990s. Every alternative band had a pretentious photo, every industrial band had a creepy photo, every rap group had a thug photo, every death metal band posed in front of a cemetary or cornfield. And every one was so very cliched.

So, to you published types, why is it so important to have a professional photo? Why not a friend take a photo on their digital camera, or you find one that you already have and use that? I haven't gotten to a level where I would ever need a photo like that, so I'm curious...

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break June 26, 2013 - 10:08am

So, to you published types, why is it so important to have a professional photo?

The main reason to hire a pro is because you ideally want to have a high-res image that you can pass along to the publisher.

If you've ever seen an author photo on someone's book that was grainy, warped, or suffering from some kind of discoloration (something that happens a lot on self-published novels)--then that usally is an indicator that the author did the photograpy work themself.

I guess it's in the same realm of cover art or typeface layout. You have to ask yourself if the aesthetics matter to you.

Dino Parenti's picture
Dino Parenti from Los Angeles is reading Everything He Gets His Hands On June 26, 2013 - 10:20am

@Otis: Dostoevsky, Vonnegut, Kafka, Bukowski, and Welsh aren't exactly lookers. To piggy-back some on Sean's and Richard's comments above, the one thing the photo needs to do is look professionally taken, i.e. good lighting, composition, focus, etc. If you feel you have a bit of a thousand-miles-of-dirt-road thing going, I say play that shit up! I think there are too many "pretty" photos with little between the covers as it is. Authors used to look like how they wrote. Have you seen Neiztche's mug? It's as interesting as his work. And black-and-white always adds to this effect. I've had some good photographers shoot me, and I'm not always happy with the work in terms of capturing something I'd want on a book jacket because they're trying for that perfect cover shot. 

ReneeAPickup's picture
Class Facilitator
ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books June 26, 2013 - 11:29am

Jim Butcher really looks like the kind of guy who would write the books he writes. I'm not sure that's a compliment, really, but hey. Stephen King isn't really a hottie, either. I don't know. This cell phone pic with such bad lighting that I look like I worship the spray tanner (never had a spray tan in my life) is what I've generally used. I don't know why, because I know it's not a great photo. But that's only been on a website here or there. If I ever need an author photo for a real, live book... I'll probably hire someone. I guess.

avery of the dead's picture
avery of the dead from Kentucky is reading Cipher Sisters June 26, 2013 - 12:13pm

a high-res image that you can pass along to the publisher. 

This makes good sense to me. 

Otherwise, I know I could never sit through a 300 shot photo shoot.  I'm way to awkward for that sort of thing.  Not to mention I know I'll just give the exact same practiced smile I've been giving cameras since my braces came off in 7th grade. 

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries June 27, 2013 - 12:31am

I've hired professionals both times. It's worth it. That photo you put on your book cover is going to be there forever, so might as well make it a good one.

I wish I was agonizing over a photo for a book cover, but I suppose the same is true for every photo that goes on the internet.

 

^what brandon said. i'm sure you can find a photographer friend that is looking to build up their portfolio. whether you pay or not is up to you. the credit MAY be enough, but if you spend a day shooting (took me like 300 shots to get one good one) you should try to compensate the photographer. if it's a professional, and not a friend, that will be mandatory, of course. 

Thanks Richard. I do have a couple of photographer friends, but it would feel a bit like going to a therapist friend, so it might be worth having to pay someone to avoid at least some of the awkwardness. I've noticed though that a lot of professionals, at least around where I live, have quite rigid copyright policies, not allowing you to edit photos, reuse them without consent etc.

Otherwise, I know I could never sit through a 300 shot photo shoot.  I'm way to awkward for that sort of thing. 

That makes two of us. I don't care if people take pictures of me when I'm not aware of it (well, you know, in normal situations) but from the moment I spot the camera, nothing good is captured on film. By the 300th shot it would be downright scary.

Richard's picture
Richard from St. Louis is reading various anthologies June 28, 2013 - 1:07pm

^^well, if you're fairly photogenic, i'm sure a friend with a nice digital camera would work. i actually looked at a lot of crime/horror author photos to get ideas of what to do. the background, under a bridge, brick walls falling down, archways into the distance, turned out great. just take a lot of shots and run with it. i thought the leather coat (for me) and the cold stare fit my "neo-noir" image. just have fun with it. you do want to look "good" but not so poised that it's ridiculous (unless that's your thing!)

leah_beth's picture
leah_beth from New Jersey - now in Charleston, SC is reading five different books at once. June 29, 2013 - 4:00am

The photo I am using here, now, is one my husband took a while back. I didn't want my picture taken and was glaring at him. Now you know why no one is afraid of me when I glare at them.

I've used it for one book, though it's an ebook only and the photo is subject to change. I've also used it for various interviews, blog posts, and my own web site.

There are two other pics in the running for future use....one taken by a professional when we did some family shots two years ago, and another taken by my husband...again...he has a fancy camera.

So I think it's just a matter of hanging out with someone who has a nice camera and hoping for a little bit of luck. Beyond that, it's completely up to what you do. For example...I *love* both Renee and Avery's photos...but I also love Richard's. So....it's whatever makes you comfy. Don't sweat it too much!

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore June 29, 2013 - 11:02pm

Stay away from the clichéd brick-wall background. haha

Ditto; being a photographer myself, several of my coworkers are pros as well, so it's nothing to ask them if they have literally five minutes to grab a few shots in the studio or outside or whatever. I can pop the card right out the camera and handle the rest myself. Never really put much thought into them for that reason. But I prefer portraits that have context, where you're in a location or doing something or with a prop that illustrates some aspect of your personality.

Technically speaking, I'd recommend you don't look into the lens, and most people appear most flattering from a 3/4 angle, not head-on. Use a long lens (or the far end of a zoom) for portraits, so the background blurs to give it a little separation. You can also achieve separation by using different colors in the fore/background (though I prefer B&W), light/dark contrast, or some backlight. It's important that the photo be mutable for various uses, such as both B&W versus color, thumbnail versus large, photocopied for flyers, etc.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch June 29, 2013 - 11:50pm

The thing I keep wondering about is, how recent should your picture be? I know authors who publish a book with a picture that looks 20 years younger than what they are currently. Well I have some professionally taken pictures from 1995. I should use them, right?

(by the way, I always feel guilty if a profile picture on any kind of site is outdated by more than a year or so)

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries July 1, 2013 - 12:57pm

We're giving this a try tomorrow. If the end product is not horrific I might share a few to let you know how it went.

@Richard I'm either delusional where my appearance is concerned, or decidedly not very photogenic. I have been looking at a lot of author photos, and thought about possible backgrounds and so on. Didn't think of looking specifically at authors of my genre though, will definitely do that. And I really hope ridiculous isn't my thing!

@leah beth Haha, I'd probably need to spend a few years to get a good photo that way. Especially since my instinct is to duck and hide whenever a camera turns up. Thanks for the advice though, I'll try to relax.

@Gordon I'll stay away from brick walls, that's a promise. Regarding the technical stuff I'm pretty sure the guy I'm using would sleep with his cameras if his girlfriend would let him, so I wouldn't dare tell him what to do. It's a good point though, having to be able to use it in various formats.

@Liana I seem to remember CP advising that one takes a nice author photo while young and attractive. I guess the thing is though you'd want people to recognize you if you ever get out from behind your desk for writer related purposes. So if you're five years older and your hair/weight/sense of fashion etc has changed, it might be a good idea to get a new author photo.

JEFFREY GRANT BARR's picture
JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life July 1, 2013 - 3:13pm

< This is my author photo. I am a beautiful rainbow. 

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries July 2, 2013 - 7:36am

That you are, my friend.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries February 15, 2014 - 8:06am

Somewhat surprisingly, I have survived the day. We've been shooting in swamps, on gangways running under highway bridges, and, although - I know realize -, the first picture here might look like it has a brick wall in the background, it's actually shot in an old mine. I figured it might be good to have one close-up and one full body shot, and these are the top candidates so far (still waiting for a few edits). I wonder though, would it be better to have them in b&w?

 

 

 

Courtney's picture
Courtney from the Midwest is reading Monkey: A Journey to the West and a thousand college textbooks July 2, 2013 - 2:52pm

My current photo is the one that can be found on my Twitter:

My boyfriend's a photography student, I like his work, and this photo is interesting enough that I felt it could warrant breaking most of the rules. Also, I have it in every version imaginable since I'm using his computer right now, as we speak.

I got over my photo-shyness quick when I started dating a photographer. He pretty much plops me down wherever, tells me what to do with my face, and goes to town while I tell him a story.

Liana's picture
Liana from Romania and Texas is reading Naked Lunch July 2, 2013 - 3:15pm

Linda, I really love the pic on the stairs.

Courtney, awesome!

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore July 2, 2013 - 4:48pm

Yeah, that's a good pic on the stairs, Linda. I'd use a closer crop of it for your author headshot.

Brandon's picture
Brandon from KCMO is reading Made to Break July 2, 2013 - 5:43pm

Yeah, that one of the stairs is great. 

JEFFREY GRANT BARR's picture
JEFFREY GRANT BARR from Central OR is reading Nothing but fucking Shakespeare, for the rest of my life July 2, 2013 - 6:26pm

Linda, those turned out great. 

 

Courtney, yours is groovy, except for one thing. Smokers are jokers! There, now you know.

Bekanator's picture
Bekanator from Kamloops, British Columbia is reading Ugly Girls by Lindsay Hunter July 2, 2013 - 7:04pm

@Linda - I don't think black and white is necessary for the staircase photo. The greys standout most, so having a bit of muted colour in the background is nice. Also, you look very authour-ly in the photo. Envy ensues.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries July 3, 2013 - 2:45am

Thanks for the feedback guys, it's really helpful.

@Courtney, cool composition, it's quite a brain exercise trying to figure out what you look like.

@Bekanator, I agree, and I think the photographer darkened/muted the image around the edges hoping I would keep it in color. Haha, well I suppose author-ly like is a good thing in this context, thanks.

Matt L.'s picture
Matt L. from Texas is reading Tenth of December: Stories July 5, 2013 - 9:27am

So, I’m late to the discussion. What’s new, right? Just wanted to chime in and say that I like that second photo quite a bit as well. Nice composition and I’ll second @Bekanator that with the muted colors you probably don’t need to go black and white. And a good suggestion by @Gordon Highland to crop it for your headshot.

For some, getting in front of a camera is like public speaking – they fear it more than death. But you did it and the pictures turned out great. Way to go!

Oh and @JEFFERY GRANT BARR, from one bearded man to another, you are most certainly a beautiful rainbow.

Tim Johnson's picture
Tim Johnson from Rockville, MD is reading Notes From a Necrophobe by T.C. Armstrong July 5, 2013 - 7:34pm

Linda, your pics look great. I like the one on the stairs, and you probably could crop out a headshot from it. I'm not sure about the flash on the first one. It might look cool in B&W. Just an idea.

I haven't done any professional photos yet. I'm waiting to get skinnier and grow more hair on my head. Unfortunately, nature doesn't seem to want to cooperate. :-/

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries July 6, 2013 - 9:59am

@Matt, thank you, I appreciate your thoughts. And beards are indeed awesome.

@Tim, it does actually work better in B&W, and I'll probably use it like that, if I end up using it.

If you spend some cash on a really good portrait photographer, nature shouldn't have to cooperate. I paid mine with a bottle of Bulleit, and forced him out of his element a bit, so all in all I think I got a good deal.

Jonathan Riley's picture
Jonathan Riley from Memphis, Tennessee is reading Flashover by Gordon Highland July 9, 2013 - 7:17am

Those are great pics Linda but my favorite is on the other thread where your head is in a cross. But for an author pic I agree with the concenus of  the stairs pic. I have a friend who has a great cam and is a semi pro photographer who agreed to do a shoot with me just for her portfolio. Your thread inspired me. I'm going to lose 20 lbs first though. Down 5 already. I should probably get them taken in a couple months. I may post my faves here and let you all help me pick.

Linda's picture
Linda from Sweden is reading Fearful Symmetries July 10, 2013 - 4:48am

Thanks Jonathan. I also kind of like the silly picture, but it would definitely not be genre-appropriate. I'm glad the thread inspired you, and congrats on shedding the 5! Hell knows, life's full of distractions.

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