Today’s guest writer is Emilie Haney, a freelance writer, photographer, and graphic designer living in Northern California. She’s a member of ACFW and writes young-adult fiction. She’s got a soft spot in her heart for animals and a love for the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. In her spare time, you can find her designing fun, bookish items for her Etsy and Society6 shops, all while drinking too much coffee. Connect with Emilie on Instagram at: www.instagram.com/createexploreread.
Your smile says a lot about who you are. Is it small and mysterious, hinting at humor? Is it broad and wide, showcasing your jovial personality? Or are you a nonsmiler who strives for congenial anonymity while still being in the public eye? Whatever your smile (or no-smile) preference is, you must make sure it’s out there for the world to see in a bright, high-quality headshot.
For almost seven years now I have been the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) Conference photographer. This means I’ve had the pleasure of photographing hundreds of writers during headshot sessions I offer at the conference. These writers have ranged in experience from being at the beginning of their writing journey to New York Times best-selling authors. You know the thing they’ve all had in common? They’ve recognized the need for a professional-quality headshot.
I don’t like having my photo taken.
I am not very photogenic.
I need to lose weight first.
My photo is only five years old.
I’m a writer, I don’t like being in the public eye, I’ll let my writing speak for itself.
Yes, I’ve heard all of these excuses; and I’m sorry to say, none of them are valid reasons not to have a great headshot. I know from experience that agents and editors notice when a writer has made it a priority to have a professional-quality headshot taken. It shows investment in your writing career. It also gives them a window into how you will present yourself, whether that be to other writing professionals or to future fans of your books.
While I realize that it can be difficult for some who absolutely do not like having their photo taken, a great photographer will help you feel at ease. That is my number one priority when I meet with clients at conferences, and I know from experience that it is possible to capture even the shiest person in an engaging image.
Here are four pieces of advice I have to those interested in taking a great photo:
1. Smile like you mean it.
As I mentioned, there are many types of smiles, including the “nonsmile”; but make sure whatever you do is natural to who you are as a person. You may also consider your brand (i.e., a suspense/thriller author may want a more serious image), but this is not always necessary. At all costs, make sure you are represented in a genuine way.
2. Showcase your personality.
Don’t be afraid to show a little personality. Perhaps a laugh or a relaxed pose or you with your favorite mug. There is no right or wrong way to do this, but whether the image looks genuine or not should dictate whether you choose to use it as the “face” of your brand or marketing. These photos can also be used as secondary images on websites or social-media pages.
3. Think through what you’ll wear.
When my clients ask what to wear for their headshot session, I suggest they choose something they are comfortable in, but also something that represents the image they are interested in presenting. A business professional will likely want a dressier image than someone who wants to come across more casually. I recommend staying away from light colors or intense patterns as those can draw the eye away from the focus: your natural smile!
4. Make sure it’s professional quality.
No cell-phone shots or Aunt-Gertrude-who-says-she’s-a-photographer images (unless she really is a professional photographer). If that means paying a professional, do so! You can often find discounted prices in the off-season, pay for photos at writers conferences at a discounted price, or even ask for a smaller photography package that includes fewer images. Whatever you do, be respectful of the photographer and the fact that it is their business and livelihood.
Wherever you are in your writing journey, know that your readers (or potential readers) will want to see images of you. They’ll love cell-phone pictures and real-life shots shared on social media, but they will also expect a professional image on your book covers and your website, as will your publisher. Be sure the headshot you use is current; is high quality; and showcases your genuine, picture-perfect personality.
The Christian Writers Institute has a good 45-minute video course called “Ten Photo Secrets for Bestselling Authors.” It is only $6 and will help with your headshot appointment.
If you’re interested in updated headshots and will be attending the ACFW Conference in San Antonio this September, consider booking a 15-minute session with me. I promise we’ll have a great time while creating genuine, professional images.