Even the shyest among us need an author photo for our book cover, marketing promotions, and for Mom to point to when she brags to the neighbors about having a published writer in the family.
Having seen tons of bad author photos, let me start by telling you what NOT to do:
1. Don't have your cat/dog/bird in the photo unless they contributed to writing the book.
2. Use a recent photo or at least one that could pass for recent. If your bio says you've been in the IT industry for 25 years, don't try to fool me with your wrinkle-free face. (Or at least let me know which eye cream you use.)
3. No selfies unless you're a teenage pop star writing an autobiography.
4. Go easy on the props. It's not a garage sale.
With that out of the way, let me share four easy tips to get a great, natural photo. Whether you hire a professional (recommended, if you can afford it) or rope your significant other/aspiring photographer friend/dog into doing it, prepare beforehand with the following tips:
1. Pick a neutral outfit. I know I said not to use a photo that was 25 years old but at the same time, you want this photo to last at least a few years. Don't wear anything too flashy or trendy that will date the photo in six months. Also, you don't want anything detracting attention from your beautiful face. For my photo, I chose a plain gray sweater that was flattering but didn't stand out.
2. Pick a setting that reflects your personality or your books. For my photo, I chose a typical French cafe, since I write about living in Paris. Having the Eiffel Tower in the background would be going overboard but I did want to instantly convey the French connection to my readers. If you write action-adventure, try an outdoor backdrop. If you write chick-lit, an indoor setting with a light, bright background can help convey your tone.
3. Choose one prop, maximum. The majority of photos look perfectly fine without a prop so don't force this. When in doubt, leave it out. But since my photo was in a French cafe, I figured it would be appropriate to have a coffee in front of me. If you're a romance writer and are known for your love of wine, a glass of red could be a nice prop and give you something to do with your hands. Or if you're a mystery writer, having books in the background (a home library, maybe) can be a nice touch.
4. Practice your pose at home. My husband took literally 100 shots of me in different poses before I found the perfect one. Try tilting your head at slightly different angles, lacing your arms and hands in various positions, and varying degrees of smiles/half-smiles, until you find the most flattering shot. Then copy that pose exactly for the real shoot. Don't forget details like wedding rings (make sure it's not turned at a weird angle) and flyaway hair.
Once I had all this in place, we were able to take my maniac of a son to a bustling French cafE9 and pull off the perfect shot in just minutes, before my son had emptied all the sugar packets from the nearby tables. If I'd had to try out different poses and go through several outfit changes at the cafe, it would have been a disaster! True, we could have hired a babysitter and I could have even hired a photographer. Where you spend your money is up to you and your budget. But you'll still want to follow the four tips I outlined above to maximize what you get out of your photo shoot.
About the Author:
Vicki Lesage is an IT Director by day, writer by night. And a full-time nerd. She loves fondue, wine, math, and zombies. She lives in Paris with her French husband and rambunctious son. Her first book, Confessions of a Paris Party Girl, is a humorous account of the ups and downs of her life in Paris. She's currently working on a baby-focused sequel, in between chasing her son and downing massive amounts of coffee.