In this guide, we’ll be discussing everything you need to know about headshots for authors.
A good headshot photo for an author is crucial for personal branding.
We’ll be covering the following topics (click on a bullet point to jump to that section):
What is an Author Headshot?
An author headshot is a professional photo of an author, typically taken by a professional photographer.
The headshot is intended to be used for promoting the author’s writing career, not as an identification document or passport photo.
What Purpose Do Author Headshots Serve?
Author headshots are one component of your brand identity across all media types including:
- Online: Website, social media profile photo
- Print: Book covers and product images (e.g., print-on-demand book cover)
- Audio: Podcasts, audiobooks
- Video: YouTube videos, video blogs
- Signature images for blog posts/forum discussions
Why Do You Need Author Headshots?
Author headshots are much more than just nice pictures of you. They’re a critical component of your author brand and help to:
- Distinguish you from other authors and build your personal brand
- Make you “real” by putting a face on your writing, helping to humanize the writer behind the work
- Establish your trustworthiness and expertise as an author, increasing reader confidence
- Assist with search engine optimization (SEO) by making it easier for site visitors to identify you
What Does a Good Author Headshot Look Like?
An author headshot is about the size of a business card (3.5″ x 2″ or 90mm x 50mm) and should be professional in appearance.
- Clean, simple looking background, free of shadows
- Well-lit with good lighting, but not harsh
- Natural pose without forced smile or serious expression
On the Web
Use your author headshot for your profile photo on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Use your author headshot for printing on the copyright page (back of book) to match other official publication images.
When Should Authors Get a Headshot?
Authors should get their headshot when they begin planning their branding strategy.
- Begin branding early (before you write your book) to allow time to develop your personal brand identity.
- The earlier you start, the more flexibility you’ll have in choosing a photographer and setting up photo sessions.
- The optimal time to get your headshot is when you have a cover design for your book, but before the book goes “on sale.”
What Do Authors Wear for Headshots?
Avoid wearing clothes that reflect light (e.g., white or shiny fabrics) or are too large (e.g., big, billowy shirts).
- Solid background color (preferably dark)
- Clothing should be form-fitting to minimize distractions and accentuate the subject’s face
- Black clothing typically looks better than lighter colors for this purpose, especially when photographed against a black backdrop.
- The photo should not include physical accessories like hats, sunglasses, purses/bags, etc.
It’s important to wear what you feel comfortable in. You want to put your best foot forward, but it’s also important to feel like yourself.
Do I Have to Use a Professional Photographer?
You can use any photographer of your choosing; however, professional headshot photographers typically have the skills and equipment needed for this type of work and know how to create a great image that meets industry standards.
Author Headshots Do’s & Don’ts
- Choose a photographer with experience taking professional headshots
- Relax and have fun with the photographer
- Keep your headshot consistent across all media types
- Show enthusiasm for your work!
- Try to emulate another author’s headshot. Yours should be authentically you—not a celebrity or public figure. The exception would be if you are using an actor for the protagonist in your book cover headshot.
- Pose stiffly or sheepishly, as if you’re avoiding the camera
- Use images that are blurry, poorly lit, show poor composition or unflattering pose
- Make an overly serious or sad expression; it conveys the message to the reader that your writing is heavy and unenjoyable
- Pose with a prop that distracts from the face, especially a gun, a dead animal or a big fish. You want your headshot to convey passion for writing and have people eager to find out what your book is about!
Author Headshot Photography Tips
If you are the headshot photographer, here are some tips to capture good author headshots.
- Find an interesting background.
- Position the subject so light is falling on their face—not behind them, not in front of them.
- Take headshots at eye level or a bit above to minimize double chins and wrinkles. Above people’s brows makes them look angry or domineering.
- Watch for distracting elements in the background or things that pull focus away from the subject, like light stands and other photography equipment.
- Work with your subject to create an image you’ll both be happy with!
What Makes a Good Author Headshot?
Headshots that work best for authors:
- Have a solid, uncluttered background
- Show the subject in sharp focus and with properly exposed skin tones
- Use a simple but flattering pose (straight on to minimize distractions and no arms in shot)
- Avoid poses where hands or objects cover part of the face or eyes—it can look awkward and may distract from the subject’s face
- Avoid overuse of makeup or too much hair product
- Show enthusiasm for your work!
A great headshot conveys a sense of who you are as a person—so show us something different.
If you follow these guidelines, it will be easier to create a striking author headshot.
Where Can You Find an Author Headshot Photographer?
If you don’t already know someone who can help you get a good headshot, search for “author headshot photographer” to find local professionals.
How Much Do Photographer Services Cost?
Professional headshots typically cost at least between $75 to $150 per person, including the photo shoot and high-resolution digital image files.
Should I Use an Agency or Vendor?
Use of agency/vendor services is optional—you may choose to work with a professional photographer directly.
Before you pay for agency/vendor services, obtain a written estimate agreement that clearly states exactly what you’ll receive.
We hope you enjoyed this guide on headshots for authors.
This guide is also a part of our Headshot Photography Tips Hub, so be sure to check that out for further headshot photography tips and insights.
Nate Torres is an entrepreneur, growth marketer, and photographer and writes mostly on those topics. Nate used to run his own professional photography business called Nate Joaquin Photography but has since focused on the marketing and business aspect of photography although he still enjoys taking photos. Nate enjoys learning about new digital marketing strategy and new ways to think creatively. He is also a photography speaker and author on Photofocus.com.