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How to Avoid Lame Author Portraits

The biggest contributor to the look of your author website is the quality of the photos. Unfortunately, most author websites have terrible photos.

Here are some tips of what to do and what not to do when looking for a photographer.

Before the Shoot

  1. Find a photographer who can capture your personality. You don’t want to look like an insurance agent. A good photographer will get you laughing. A better photographer will want to know all about your book before taking any photos. Remember, your photo needs to “fit” with your book’s theme and cover.
  2. Find a photographer who can help with your wardrobe. You want to bring several outfits to the shoot. A dozen outfits is not too many. You may not wear them all but it will give the artist more paint for his pallet.
  3. Avoid photo factories. You know those places at the mall? Avoid them. You want the personal touch not an assembly line. If the word “next” is ever uttered by the staff, you’re in a photo factory.
  4. Don’t use your brother-in-law. Yes I know he just bought a fancy new digital camera. Resist. There is a lot more to a good photo than the equipment.
  5. Pay the photographer for the session instead of per photo. This way you get all the photos instead of just a few. It will cost more up front but you will be glad in the end.
  6. Make sure to buy the rights to reproduce the photos. The last thing you want is to have to track down and pay the photographer every time you want to make a copy of your portrait. Settle this with your photographer before the session.

During the Photo Shoot

  1. Use different backgrounds. Get images both inside and outside. Variety is the spice of life.
  2. Get your “portraits” shot in landscape. You can always crop landscapes into portraits but not the other way around.
  3. Get shot outside and inside. Remember, you want a lot of photos in different settings.
  4. Pose differently. If you have the same pose in every shot, you only have one image.
  5. Get some white background shots. There is a lot you can do with a white background. Photoshop + white backgrounds = all kinds of awesome.

After the Shoot (How to Pick the Best Picture)

  1. Get high resolution versions of the photos. Your publisher and web master will thank you.
  2. Get a second opinion. It can be overwhelming to go through a thousand photos of yourself by yourself.
  3. Realize your husband/wife is biased. Your agent will give you more helpful feedback than your spouse. Your spouse is looking for photos that capture you in the way they love. Your agent is looking for photos that will help you sell books.
  4. Send your agent the short list. Once you narrow your images down to about a dozen, send them to your agent or publicist. Don’t send her all thousand photos.
  5. Get the photos retouched. You want to look your absolute best. This does not have to be expensive. PicWash costs as little as $7 a photo. ReTouchMax costs $10. Your photographer might offer to do it but chances are they will just send it to one of the discount places anyway.

About Thomas Umstattd

Thomas Umstattd Jr. is the CEO of Castle Media Group the parent company of Author Media. You can follow him on Twitter @ThomasUmstattd. and on Google+ He loves helping people use technology to change the world.

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3 Responses to How to Avoid Lame Author Portraits

  1. Gregory #

    Here is a website that can help you find local photographers http://www.respond.com/photographers/find.html

  2. Hi Thomas,

    This was a pretty good article! It's nice to read advice that jibes with what the photographers wish clients knew! I would like to make a suggestion – instead of paying separately for the images to be retouched, hire a real professional. They would never let an unretouched image leave the studio. Also, a great place to find a photographer is through PPA – the Professional Photographers of America. You don't have to register to join, and you can select a certified professional (certified photographers have passes a very difficult exam and gone through a pretty tough image review – it's the best of the best). Their website is http://www.ppa.org Thanks for posting this article and encouraging authors to use good images, and not snapshots! Photographers (and book lovers) everywhere appreciate it!

    Liz Vance, CPP, Cr.
    Oh Baby Photography
    Arlington, Virginia

  3. I am very interested in working with authors to create a compelling and authoritative portrait, if you are a writer in Ontario please contact me via my website

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