It’s really, really important to have a clear, professional photo of your face on both your website and on your social media profiles. You want a clear photo that looks professional, not like something your friend snapped on their smartphone (more on that later). You want people to be able to clearly see your face, so they can get the sensation that they’ve just met you, even though it’s just online and not offline.
Why is this so important?
Your profile photo is like your business logo. It’s part of your branding. It’s how people get to know you online, so you want to look professional. It’s also important to use the same photo on all of your social media profiles. You wouldn’t change your business logo for different websites, would you? Then use the same personal photo on every single site. Profile photos are small, and when you use the same one it looks consistent with your branding and it increases the chance of people recognizing you.
The problem is, I don’t always practice what I preach. I used to have a professional-looking photo on my social media profiles, taken by a friend back in 2008 with a great camera and lots of photography experience. Then I cut my hair short, and the photo no longer looked like me. Plus, you know, time goes on.
So for the past year, I’ve been using this photo that a friend took of me with her iPhone. It’s an outdoors shot, so you can clearly see my face, and I’ve cropped it so you can just see my face (I’m on a canal boat). As I said, profile photos are small, so you want to get the focus on your face so people can see you clearly. I use this photo on all of my social media profiles.
However, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with it because I know it’s not a professional shot. You can see what I look like, but it’s just not professional looking. So it only does half the job.
My only excuse is that I’ve been growing my hair back out, and it’s looked awful for the past…let’s just say that my last
good decent hair day in 2011/2012 was around the time that photo was taken (October 2011). Yes, I know. It’s been bad. Growing out hair is a major pain.
Until now. As soon as I realized my hair was back to looking decent again, I booked a photography session with a local photographer I worked with last year for some book shots for a client. Since I’ve just gone through the entire process (I had the photo shoot this afternoon), I thought I’d share some tips for you.
But before I move onto my list of top tips, I want to clarify something with you: you’re an author. You’re an artist, and you’re also a professional businessperson. So don’t think you can get by with a sloppy profile photo. You need to take yourself seriously as a businessperson and you need to treat your books as a business.
Just because so many other authors out there have sloppy profile photos doesn’t mean that you need to be part of the unprofessional club. Don’t think you’re exempt from having your photos done. This is all part of your business, and as such, it’s tax deductible. So be sure you get an invoice for your tax returns.
I hope I’ve made my case clear for the need for professional headshots for authors. Whether you need a photo for your book covers or jackets or just for your social media profiles, here are my guidelines for getting great professional photos.
Things to ask your photographer BEFORE you book the photo session:
- How much will the session cost?
- How many photos will you take of me?
- What color background will be used? (white, black, cream, etc.)
- How much time will I have at the photo studio? (30 minutes, an hour, etc.)
- Are wardrobe changes okay? (this is important, so you get some variety)
- How soon after the shoot will I receive the final photos?
- How will the photos be delivered? (on a CD or DVD, uploaded to a secure website, etc.)
- How many of the images will be retouched?
- What will I get? (all of the decent photos, just one retouched photo, etc.)
Things to tell your photographer before the photo session:
- What you’ll be using the photos for: your website, social media profiles, book covers or jackets, etc.
- What you’re looking for: Relaxed? Natural? Friendly?
- If you have examples of older photos of yourself that you love, send one or two of them via email. If you find professional photos of other people online that you like, send a couple to the photographer so it’s clear what style of photo you want.
- If you color your hair, have it done at least the day before, in case anything goes wrong.
- Don’t try a new haircut the day before the photo shoot, in case you’re not happy with it.
- If you regularly have facials, have one a week or so before your photo shoot, in case your skin has a reaction to anything. If you’re not into facials, at least consider exfoliating at home…a few days before the appointment.
- Wax anything on your face that needs to be waxed (lip, eyebrows) at least a couple of days before your photo shoot.
- Men, get your facial hair in order for the day of your appointment. That means shaving, beard trimming, whatever it is that you do. If you’ll have a beard in your photos, make sure it’s the length that you want it for the day of your photo shoot. Plan your facial hair in advance. It doesn’t grow much overnight.
- If it’s time for a trip to the dentist, have your teeth cleaned in preparation for your session…again, at least a few days before your photo session, in case your gums weren’t happy with the cleaning and look puffy.
- Plan the tops you want to wear for your session.Wear something that looks professional, yet natural. Don’t overdress. It’s not a glamour shot. Think: what would you wear for a book launch, a literary conference, or author interview? Solid colors look best for photos. Choose clothing that you feel comfortable in and colors that you know you look great in. If you’re not happy with anything you have, you’ll need to find something that you love, so plan in advance in case shopping is needed.
What to bring to the photo shoot:
- Hairbrush, comb, and hairstyling products if you use them.
- Makeup, even if you’ve already put it on. You may need to retouch.
- Several changes of tops, so you can get shots taken with different colors and styles. Make sure everything is ironed and that it doesn’t get squashed on the trip to the photo studio.
- Scarves, if you like them.
- Jewelry, if you wear it.
- Bach Rescue Remedy, if you think you’ll get nervous. If you’re not into homeopathic flower essences, bring whatever you need to keep relaxed during your photo session. (Except drugs or alcohol. You don’t want to be intoxicated for your photos. These are professional photos, not party photos.)
Remember, this is about YOUR FACE looking good: well-lit, friendly, and easily recognizable. The focus should be on your face, and not on your clothing or accessories.
At the photo shoot:
- If you’re a woman, do your makeup as you would naturally. If you’re not big on makeup, make an effort to put a little bit on, as it will make a huge difference in the photos. And don’t overdo it, either. Go with a middle ground. Again, this is not a glamour shot.
- Request just your head and shoulders in the photographs, as you can crop the photos even more once you receive them so that it’s just your face that shows. If you want full-body or other shots for other purposes, request those as well.
- As you’re being photographed, pay attention to your posture, especially if you know that it’s an issue for you. No slouching.
- Look at the camera. You want to be looking directly “at” the people who will be viewing your photo online. Make “eye contact”, as you would if you were meeting them offline.
- No weird hands-on-face poses. I know people do this, but trust me: just don’t. Please, please don’t. You know what I’m talking about: palm cupping cheek, or chin resting on knuckles. Do you ever do those poses in real life, when you’re not in front of a camera? Probably not. So don’t do it for your photo shoot, either.
- Serious or smiling? Again, what do you do when you meet someone in real life? Do you stare at them, all seriously? Or do you smile? You probably smile. Go with that for your photo.
Remember: your profile photos are the first impression that your online peeps have of you. It’s how they “meet” you online. It’s just one more part of taking yourself seriously as a businessperson, authorpreneur, or whatever term you prefer.
Stay tuned for my new profile photo! I should be able to access the full collection by tomorrow morning.
Did I forget anything? What tips do you have for getting professional photos done? Please share in the comments.